The main trunk of the Banyan tree, which stands at the center of Auroville, is encircled by a stainless steel ring bearing a message which carries a huge significance for Auroville. In brass letters, the Mother's message is written in both French and Tamil: “Auroville, the City at the service of Truth”. She gave this message on the occasion of Auroville's inauguration on February 28th, 1968, and the ring bearing the message was to be put around the tree.
To display such a profound message at the very center of the city implies a huge responsibility for Auroville, for it calls to us, it reminds us constantly that this is what we have to live up to here, to be at the service of Truth -- in our lives, in our aspirations, in our dealings with everything around us. If one reflects upon this, it is truly a great challenge....To let no falsehood enter, under any disguise whatsoever, into any facet of or lives, individual or collective... In fact, it is a call for the entire city of Auroville to be constantly engaged in the strictest of yogas, to follow a unique and rigorous tapasya...to be always aspiring for and working towards the manifestation of Truth in all its aspects.
We show here the message from the Mother that She wrote shortly before the inauguration in 1968. It is written in French and says in translation, “To be put around the tree: Auroville, the city at the service of Truth”.
The ring around the Banyan tree today is the same one that was put around the tree in 1968. Actually, it was removed soon after the inauguration, in all likelihood due to concerns that the brass and stainless steel might disappear from the tree, as there was not a single Aurovilian living in that area to protect and safeguard the valuable ring. People would come to live in the immediate area of the tree when the Matrimandir workers camp was built, in 1971.
The ring was recovered from storage sometime in the ‘90's and was again put around the tree where it remained for a number of years. Later on, with the development work going on around the tree, the ring was removed and placed in front of the Town Hall, a few hundred meters north of Matrimandir. With construction of the Garden of Unity moving strongly ahead during the past year, the ring has once again been put around the tree, to bring back to Auroville's center this incredible message that the Mother gave, to us and to the world, in 1968.
Progress in The Gardens
This summer was virtually a non-summer. The hot land winds and scorching clear days put in a very restricted appearance this year and instead, the gardens were blessed by a wonderful series of rainy spells and cool days. The young plants in the Garden of Existence and Unity too flourished under these benevolent conditions. As the shrubs, flowers and grasses took root and grew over the last months, the work on the paths and other landscaping features in these gardens moved steadily ahead.
The team shifting the granite cubes into place with the help of a crane
One notable event was the delivery of three large white granite cubes for the garden of Existence. Unloaded and positioned by a crane, while the setting sun shone amazingly red from under a cover of dark clouds, the one ton 80 cm square stones have added a strong design feature to the nearly complete garden.
As we are finalizing the ongoing plantation of this garden, our attention goes to the field of gray and white quartz pebbles that occupies the central area of the garden, surrounding the large upward pointing granite rock that rises from its epicentre. Experiments using plants that can purify and oxygenate the pond water for the fish are underway to create a healthy ecosystem for the small fountain which shoots up a jet of water, just beneath the raised end of the big rock.
Funding for the gardens
We have been showing you the development of the gardens in our recent newsletters, but have not mentioned how much all this is costing! Building a garden is not just a matter of planting the flowers and bushes which are what you will finally focus on...there is a lot more to it. There is, first, the levelling and contouring of the land, the laying of infrastructure such as water and electrical lines and the creation of the foundations for any structural elements. Even though the gardens are to be evolutionary in character and thus not too heavily embedded in the land, some elements such as ponds, or certain types of pathways require the execution of substantial civil works. Then there is the outer dressing up, using whichever special types of stones are chosen, whether for pathways or as design elements, such as the large central stone or the solid stone cubes in the garden of Existence . And then, for the plantation of the garden, organic compost is required, and to produce the high grade of compost that we wish to use in the Matrimandir gardens to provide a good base for a variety of plants for several years to come, a lot of material input and mixing action is required. The production of this compost is actually a considerable cost factor in the construction of the gardens. And finally there are the plants. For the early stages of the gardens of Unity and Existence, we were able to draw upon the stock of plants built up over many years in the Matrimandir Nursery, but that stock was quickly used up as we really began to get into the planting phase, so plants had to be purchased from surrounding nurseries in Tamil Nadu. As the building of the gardens proceeds we will surely be looking far and wide for the most interesting plants and mineral elements to include, for the Mother even said, in one conversation concerning the Gardens, how they would be so marvellous that even semi-precious stones would be used in their development!!
Thus you can see that significant funding will be needed to do the job. Just to give you an idea, the garden of Existence has so far cost about 15 lakhs ($33,500) to build, and still we have to procure the pebbles needed to fill the central level area around the large stone. The final cost may be about Rs 20 lakhs ($45,000). There are eleven more of these garden areas to be built, in addition to other areas which need to be developed beyond the amphitheater and the Garden of Unity . All this is to say that the funds required to construct the full set of gardens at Matrimandir are considerable indeed, and help is needed from all who can contribute. As always, your support for the growth of Matrimandir is very much appreciated.
Garden of Unity
In our June newsletter we had described how the area around the Banyan tree had changed gradually over the last 42 years, since the inauguration of Auroville in 1968. Today we can show you how the Garden of Unity near the Banyan tree looks now that the major outlines are in place.
In the Unity Garden area, the six “islands” within this garden have now been planted,and the islands are neatly linked by curving pathways clad in white slate and red sandstone tiles. A very detailed and specialized work is proceeding quietly next to the large pond at the centre of the garden. This is the stone-cladding of the cascade which will direct a stream of water from the top of the mini-amphitheatre steps down a 5-meter long sculpted channel towards the circular pond. Granite slabs, specially chosen from a quarry near Bangalore , are being individually cut and laid over a cement base to give the finishing touch to this cascade's complex geometrical form. It is truly a labour of love and a test of the skills acquired after laying marble slabs within the Matrimandir structure over many years.
One of the ‘islands' in the Garden of Unity
The 12-meter wide circular pond in this garden is the one aspect which is not yet completed, as we have yet to construct the complex fountain within the pool. Trials are well underway for the development of the fountain. The elaboration of the technical aspects of this pool-fountain complex continue to pose several challenges to our designers!
The present planting scheme in the garden displays a deliberate progression of colors, with blue and pink being dominant on the island towards the north, moving through red and orange in the central islands, to yellow and white on the southwest side. The plants used so far all hug the ground, so as not to lose the carefully contoured aspect of the six ‘islands'. Some of the plants that Mother named are being used in this garden: Unostentatious certitude, Integral ananda, Prayer, Krishna 's ananda, Psychic light in the subconscient.
Once again, we would like to mention the evolutionary nature of the gardens, for they will grow and change as we ourselves grow and change....The time scale of this process of change is as yet unknown, but it can be said that already, over the last three years while developing this garden, the planting scheme has been completely modified more than once. Trials are also continually underway to see which flowers and shrubs can actually flourish under the difficult climatic conditions of this fully sun-exposed area. This constant exposure has been, for many years, the focus of countless discussions on the different approaches to garden design here. Roger, the architect of Matrimandir, always favored a very open unencumbered garden; he wished very much to keep the view of Matrimandir unobstructed , so that it could be seen clearly from every part of the surrounding city core (beyond the planned lake which would surround the entire gardens oval). Thus, Matrimandir will be the very visible and ever-present symbol of Auroville's aspiration radiating outward from the center into the lives of everyone in the city area.
An apparently contrasting point of view emphasises that the Matrimandir, being a place of quiet sanctuary, should be somewhat protected from the penetrating gaze of the world outside the gardens oval. This would be possible by using tall trees and shade-providing bushes, which would allow the Matrimandir to be gradually discovered by visual glimpses, by tantalizing avenues of view, and which would augment the feeling of its being a protected, more sacred zone at the city center.
This discussion continues today: “Why should only the Center be sacred?” “Is not the sacred meant to penetrate our entire lives, every aspect of living in this city at the service of truth?...therefore, why shield the Matrimandir from the surrounding core of the city?” And this argument is balanced by the very real fact that today our city centre is an increasingly busy place, full of life's bustle, from the intense activities of the administrative zone on the North, to the diverse activities of the solar kitchen and kindergardens on the Southern side. So, perhaps an isolating zone, a buffer, is really needed...
The Mother had spoken clearly at one point about having tall trees at the edge of the gardens: “...towards the boundary of the gardens I wish to have huge trees, like palms, various ferms, neem Indian cork trees, eucalyptus and many other beautiful big trees. They all represent Unity and Aspiration.” But later on she spoke at length with the architect about the development of Matrimandir, and She gave him the work of manifesting it. As always, a synthesis of different facets of the truth is needed to move towards the widest Truth.
Thus, as with all things in our lives here, we have to move ahead in a very surrendered and open way. What is appropriate today may well be inappropriate under the different conditions and the different understanding of tommorow. This is one marvelous aspect of the adventure of Auroville that we live each day. The garden of Unity makes us ever more aware of this fact. If we can be sufficiently open, if we can be simple and ready for the joy that awaits us in an environment growing always more and more to reflect the truth of Auroville, then the garden of Unity will surely be more and more what it has to be.
Cladding the cascade next to the pond in the Garden of Unity
Address for donations and correspondence:
(Please make your cheque, money order or DD payable to ‘Matrimandir')
MATRIMANDIR – AUROVILLE 605101 – TAMIL NADU – INDIA
Bookings: Tel (+91) (0413) 262-2268; accounts: 262-2228