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March / April 2003

Placement of discs

It is early February, and another row of discs is being winched up into place on the lower hemisphere of Matrimandir. This row, the third below the equator of the sphere (see drawing below, location [1]) is well under the inward curve of the globe, so that as we work to fix each disc we see the curve of the building arching out overhead. When this row is finished we will start the measurements for fixation of the discs at the very bottom of the sphere and work upwards to meet the rows above. This will allow us more time to finalize the intricate job of preparing the base frame and details of the decorations that fit around each of the four main entrances to Matrimandir. At the end of February, a total of 1,108 discs out of 1,400 have been fixed on the sphere.

White marble slabs for pool under structure

Underneath the sphere, on top of the concealed water tank below Matrimandir, beginnings are being made to plan in detail for the construction of the 7m diameter pool that is proposed to be created there in white marble slabs. (see drawing, location [2]). This pool will receive the focused beam of the sun's ray after it has passed through the Inner Chamber and down through the center of the central staircase. In a very symbolic representation, the light of the Sun, the Truth, is descending visibly here to touch and illumine Matter at its most concrete level in the shaded pool below Matrimandir.

It will be wonderful, in perhaps a year or so, to be able to sit here on the cool stone cladding around the pool and watch the sunlight play in the moving waters of this "thousand-petalled" pond.


Meditation rooms inside the petals

From this point near the pool below Matrimandir, the inner slopes of the twelve red sandstone petals sweep outward and rise upwards towards their peaks overhead.
Inside each of these petals a meditation room is under construction (see drawing, location [3]). This past year has seen a great burst of activity in these rooms. The work done has been to perfect their spheroid shapes by plastering the interiors of the domes and then to begin to install the benches and marble flooring that are common to each room. After the marble floors are laid, each room will be painted in the distinctive colour representing each of the qualities as given by Mother:

Sincerity: light blue,
Humility: deep green,
Gratitude: pale green,
Perseverance: pale yellow,
Aspiration: orange yellow,
Receptivity: orange,
Progress: orange-red,
Courage: red,
Goodness: reddish violet,
Generosity: pure violet,
Equality: blue violet,
Peace: deep blue.


Small 'Existence' petal

Outside the petals, and just in front of the workshop, the solid red Auroville earth has been shaped to form the wide low base of the small petal of Existence, the eleventh of the set of twelve which surround the Matrimandir (see drawing, location [4]). On February 20th, the day before Mother's birthday, in a full-day of concreting, this shaped earth was covered with a solid concrete foundation layer. After adding a second layer of concrete, we will clad this small petal with slabs of red Agra sandstone in the same way that the other small petals and the Amphitheater have been clad.

Imminent departure of the workshops..

The twelfth and last small petal remaining to be done poses a challenge for us; because in order to shape and concrete it properly we have to remove our carpentry section, marble storeroom, and generator rooms! The Matrimandir structure is now coming right up to our workshop floor saying: "Get ready! - it's soon time to move!"

The Matrimandir in its entirety is stretching out and pushing to be fully manifest as soon as it can!


April 2003


In 1969 the Mother said in one conversation: "It has been decided, and it will remain decided, that the Matrimandir will be surrounded with water". She knew that it would take time, that the question of how to get the water to fill this lake was a part of the much larger question of how to find enough water to supply the growing city-to-be that she envisioned..


Experiments in pond sealing

The subject of this newsletter is not how we are going to get that water (this we have touched in our letter of December) but rather how we will hold it, how we will try to keep it from soaking into the thirsty red soil, once we have got it.

Here lies a major challenge, and one that has touched off innumerable experiments in pond sealing since the very beginning of Auroville. Besides the obvious approach of simply creating a cement or concrete basin (which experience has shown are much too prone to cracking to be useable in the long run), we have been very much drawn to various approaches which are more natural , using some sort of clay layer to accomplish the task.

Existing water network

Auroville, remember, is surrounded by one of the most well built and widespread networks of manmade lakes in the world. These village tanks, the pride of Tamil Nadu have been the mainstay of rural agriculture here since antiquity. Almost every village is sustained by a large seasonally fed lake which catches and stores the monsoon rain within the confines of a large earthen dam, called a 'kolam'. During the hot summer months these kolams slowly release life giving waters to the crops of rice that are grown down slope from these reservoirs.

Need for all-time full lake

But these lakes, though inspiring in their demonstration of the possibilities, are definitely seasonal…..they are brimming full in December (if the monsoon has arrived and delivered its wealth of rain!), but by May they may well be completely dried up. They have provided enough water for the growth of the crops, and their job for the season is thus fulfilled.

At Matrimandir, however, the need is to have the lake full, or reasonably full, of water all the year round. And thus we need a lakebed capable of holding the water, of not letting it seep through. The village tanks are semi-sealed by the effect of the accumulated silt and clay deposited by the inflowing waters over decades, but that seal is not effective enough to hold the water in for the full year.

Scientific studies

To study this problem of sealing scientifically, help has been taken from a well known German institution, the LGA, who have a considerable experience in various techniques of lake sealing. To them we sent samples of the soils that are found at different depths in the ground here (near the surface one finds the famous red earth of Auroville, but deeper down, say below two or three meters , there are more gravelly soils and yellowish clays).

The results of their studies showed that the red Auroville soil, when mixed with just two percent of a pure clay called bentonite, could be formed into a top quality seal for the future lakebed!


In mid March two experts from that German company arrived in Auroville to help the Matrimandir team conduct a first trial using their proposed technique to seal a small lakebed at the edge of the Inner Gardens.

The test pond under preparation
(the large mound covered with plastic is the mixed red soil
and bentonite being protected from the sun).

The completed test pond.
The circular basin at the lower right corner of the pond is

a water-filled device used to monitor the rate of evaporation.


Last year, on the south eastern edge of the gardens a large excavation had been made (50 meters wide and 4 meters deep) to begin in earnest the Lake project.
Now, in the center of this crater, we have dug out a second smaller depression (8 meters x 8 meters x one meter deep) which was to be the site of our trial.

Description of the process

The critical aspects of the new method of sealing are to first create the proper mix of red soil and bentonite, with just the right amount of water added , and then to compact it in layers of twenty centimeters of so. First the flat layer to cover the bottom is laid and compacted, and then the more time consuming process of building up thick walls in the same material is begun.

For the process of compaction, we used the old heavy road rammer that we have on the site. In future, for a larger job, a much more specific type of compactor, called a 'sheep's foot compactor' because of the specially shaped metal protrusions on its base plate, would be required. The German experts were at first horrified at our diesel driven monster, but soon enough they had come to appreciate the effectiveness of this old relic!

Learning the trade..

The building up of the sides of the test pond took several days as everyone learned the techniques and tricks of handling the clayey soil mix and the road rammer, but finally the job was done. During the whole process of constructing this test sample, which was carried out under the full burning sun, great care had to be taken to keep the earth mix from drying out. That would have resulted in the formation of unrepairable cracks in the mud structure which would have meant the defeat of the whole purpose of the project. Once the work was done and the pond filled with water, then it was safe from this principal danger, except for the exposed top edges of the side walls. To protect these, a thin layer of plastic was used to cover them, and this in turn was covered by a thick layer of pebbles.

Monitoring the water level

Presently the test pond is ready and we are in the phase of monitoring the level of water in the pond. We will see if the level of the water drops at a rate which is more quick than the rate due to the natural evaporation of water from the upper surface of the pond. If it does, this would mean that water is being lost through the bottom of the pond.

We are very hopeful, based on the experience of the German consultants and on the tests that they have done with our soil, that this experiment will prove successful!

In our next news letter we will give you the report on the progress of this work. If successful, this experiment will literally pave the way for a much larger test in the months to come.

Contact: matrimandirauroville.org.in

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