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Newsletter August 2004

Digging for Perfection

During the last months we have been telling to you about how the workshops on the eastern side of the Matrimandir were shifted out of the Oval area of the Inner Gardens .

Consequently, in June we were able to bring in an earthmover, a small excavator, to the cleared area to shape the last of the small petals that ring the Matrimandir. This small petal lies within the garden area named “Perfection” and is bordered by the gardens of “Harmony” on the south and “Existence” on the north.

The land of the gardens area slopes down naturally to the north-west. The level in the east is well over a meter higher than that on the western edge of the Oval, so the shaping of the eastern edge of the gardens requires that a large volume of red earth be removed to reach the “zero level” of the path around the gardens. In order to finish this digging in a short time, we called for the earthmover.

Thirty-four years ago, when the original crater for the foundations of Matrimandir – some 14,000 cubic meters - was excavated, the option of mechanical excavators was simply non-existent and the entire job had to be done manually. But some of the best memories come from that period of physically working on the Matrimandir!

In less than a week of intense work by the excavator, the shaping of this last low petal has been completed and now our gardens team has to give the final contouring to this wave-shape of earth. Once that is over, it will be the mason's turn to lay the concrete foundation on the sides and the crest of the petal that will finally be surfaced with red sandstone like all the other petals.

The earthmover at work in the garden of Perfection

Getting ready for December

It is planned that in December, or soon thereafter, we will start work on the ceiling of the Inner Chamber to reduce the present nine openings there to a single central opening. To do this we will have to reroute the AC ducts towards the center; we will have to change the location (and type) of artificial light that now shines through the four openings in the ceiling; and lastly, provisions will have to be made for the installation of the new permanent heliostat that will bring the sun's ray into the Chamber.

To execute this work will take at least three months, during which time the Chamber will be filled with scaffolding, protective shields for the central symbol, the columns and the carpet. Therefore, during this period of alterations the Chamber will not be open for concentration. However, it is hoped that at least three of the meditation rooms inside the petals will be ready by then so that people who want to meditate can sit there.

The three meditation rooms named “Equality”, “Peace” and “Sincerity” are being readied to meet this deadline.

What needs to be done to get these rooms ready? Several things. These include the final levelling of the marble floors inside the rooms; completion of the painting of the domed ceilings (each has its own distinctive colour corresponding to the room's significance); installation of the lighting; and installation of the AC in each room. Several elements also remain to be completed in the corridor outside each meditation room.

Entering the petals today, one sees a bustle of activity, with painters spreading their colours, artisans from the workshop installing different doors, the marble team giving a final touch to the floors, and the electricians working out the final design details for the AC and lighting. It is a considerable concentration of activity!

Carrying granite slabs to the cutting machine

Granite, Granite, Granite!

For many of the early years the materials most commonly in use at Matrimandir were concrete and steel. Then came the years of working inside the Chamber, where marble, crystal and the pure white wool for the carpet were the chief ingredients.

After that came period of disc making, and the new materials for us were glass and gold, in the form of the super thin sheets, that were used to make the two million tiles that cover the round discs mounted on the outside of the sphere.

And now? The material of the day is granite: granite in blocks, granite in slabs and even thin sheets of granite.

The granite-cutting machine in action

There are many quarries in our state Tamil Nadu which mine granite for local use and for export. From these not too distant quarries, we have been supplied with granite in several sizes according to the various needs. Here are some of the ways granite is being incorporated into the work:

  • The flight of steps leading down from each of the four main entrances will be clad with thin sheets of “flamed granite”. This is the name given to a piece of granite whose surface has been treated by the application of heat, causing small flakes to pop off and yielding a uniformly rough, non-skid surface.
  • To mark the foot of these steps the architect has designed a pair of sculptured granite blocks. Two of these blocks have so far been placed, and the others are being carefully crafted in a nearby workshop.
  • Then come the pathways; there are a few thousand meters of pathways in the Inner Gardens area, and a good portion of these are to be clad with a combination of granite and red sandstone slabs. The design for all these paths is still evolving, but one thing is sure: we are going to need a LOT of granite! This need has recently prompted several field trips to granite-cutting facilities nearby (and in Chennai) to bring ourselves up to date on how best to carry out the huge job of cutting, as well as the best machines to do the job. We have two big saws with moving tables that run on rail sections set up for cutting stones on the site. (The first one was bought to trim the marble for the Chamber floor in the early 90's and the second was brought in a few years later to help with the cutting of the acres of red sandstone to clad the petals and the Amphitheater). But cutting slabs of granite, some which are as much as 15 centimeters thick, is a tougher job by far. At the moment we are able to trim to size up to 30 slabs a day, but this is just a chip off the mountain when compared to the enormous requirement we have.

So all options are being explored, whether it be purchasing a new and bigger saw to increase our cutting capacity, or ordering ready-cut and finished slabs from local dealers, or sending our stocked rough slabs to nearby industrial units for processing. The months ahead are going to see a lot of action on the granite front!

We deeply regret the passing of Shri Madanlal Himatsingka on the 30th of July 2004 at Bangalore . Madanlalji's tireless efforts to raise funds for the construction of the Matrimandir will be remembered here with gratitude.

A silent gathering in his memory was held under the Banyan tree on 31st July.



M A T R I M A N D I R - A U R O V I L L E   6 0 5 1 0 1 -
T A M I L N A D U - I N D I A
Tel. (91) (0413) 262-2268 (sectt); 262-2228 (finance); 262-2153
(workshop); 262-2373 (info). FAX: (91) (0413) 262-2053;

email: matrimandir@auroville.org.in

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