Newsletter February 2007
Sunday, January 21st, 11: 30 am…inside the sphere of Matrimandir. It is not at all quiet here, for today, as on previous Sundays, teams are working overtime on the ramps, inner skin and scaffolding to bring the interior of Matrimandir to completion. The air is full of the sounds of hammering, clamps banging on scaffolding pipes, and vacuuming as the three teams go about their work.
One of the two spiral ramps leading to the Chamber has been fully fitted with its decking of lightweight aluminum panels. The second ramp is close behind, with most of the panels having been cut to size and fit in place as on date.
Today the ramp team is busy fitting the wood-fiber paneling on the underside of one ramp. These panels, whose edges have been cut to follow the upward curve of the ramp's spiral, are being screwed onto the teakwood frames that are bolted on to the lower surface of the ramp.
The sounds of an electric drill and the team's conversation drift through the air.
From higher up, the sounds of the two other teams echo downward.
The inner skin team is at work up on the southwest quadrant of the sphere. The floor of the Inner Chamber hides them from our view down below, but the noise of their work bounces down along the curves of the sphere, making each sound clearly audible.
This team is doing the final touch-ups on the rows of the inner skin panels that have been installed just a few days earlier. Strips of white plastic are being fitted into the narrow spaces between each panel, and then the thin plastic sheets covering them are being removed. Those sheets had protected the panels during their journey from the workshop along the dusty garden paths.
This work is completed row by row as the team moves downwards, and the scaffolding pipes and work platforms can finally be removed, exposing the beautiful curved and faceted surface of the inner skin fully.
This job of removing this scaffolding is what the third team is doing here today. At the moment they are working on the northeast quadrant of the building, at equator level. The team members have to be extremely careful as they work, for the least mishap, or careless movement of a pipe or plank can damage the now unprotected glass fabric of the skin panels.
By the end of today's work, three quadrants of Matrimandir's inner shell will have been cleared of scaffolding right down to the level of the equator. The effect is enchanting: the morning sun enters through the round colored windows of the outer skin, fully illuminating the translucent inner skin with an orange glow. Later, after all the scaffolding has been removed from the interior of the building, the color tone on the windows will be adjusted slightly to give the skin its permanent shade, the salmon-pink that the Mother had long ago chosen for the inner skin, the same color as the hibiscus flower which She first named “Joy of Supramental Love” and later renamed “Auroville”,
All here is in process, all is moving forward.
The inner skin becomes more and more visible as scaffolding is removed
As soon as the wooden under paneling of one ramp is ready a team of painters will move in to give it a white finish. The ramp team is already focusing its attention on the details of the glass parapet panels. Last month a factory in Chennai has made most of the panels for the parapet of the second level. They same factory is waiting for the last details of the ramp measurement to begin fabricating the ramp glass. This factory uses computer aided manufacturing so once the measurements are given, the production will be swift. The installation of these glass panels will begin in early February.
The white-painted wooden handrail that will sit on top of these glass panels is already being made at a unit of the Ashram in Pondicherry . Their carpenters come and go with the latest batch of handrail sections they have made, checking lengths and curvature.
The ramp carpet itself, which will cover the aluminum decking ramp from the second level up the 50 meters of ramp to the Chamber door, has already been woven and a waits shipment to Auroville in a north Indian factory.
And finally, near the Chamber doors, in the vestibules adjacent to the door, work is well underway to finish the details of marble decoration that have been studied and finalized by the architect over the last few months.
Noon time at Matrimandir: - the teams put down their tools and troop down the aluminum top of one ramp, leaving the building for lunch. The interior space here falls silent.
Looking up at the concrete floor of the Chamber, the sun's ray is visible, having traversed the small opening in the center of the floor just below the crystal globe. The ray, clearly visible in this wide space, passes vertically downwards through the center of the marble clad spiral staircase at the middle of the second level. There it disappears from view, but continues downward until it reaches the marble pool beneath, centered in the plaza between the four massive concrete pillars that support the entire golden sphere of Matrimandir.
In a few moments the teams will return to work, having finished their mid-day meal. The big push to bring Matrimandir's interior as close to completion as possible by Mother's and Auroville's birthdays at the end of February will continue.
For the moment there is a complete silence. One feels the calm joy that pervades the work site as we meet the each day's challenges and see that, yes indeed, soon the interior of Matrimandir will be complete.
Outside the sphere, the work is also in full swing. There is a big push to replant new grass in the slopes of the twelve petals around the building and in the garden of Unity near the Banyan tree.
Load after load of compost mixed with topsoil is brought in by tractor-trailer to fill up these areas with a 20-cm-deep layer. Teams of workers fill in the rectangular areas to be planted and carefully level the ground to receive the grass seed which has been specially brought from the USA . After seeding, the areas have to be kept constantly damp for several days, so a team is kept busy with the job, using fine spray nozzles on long hoses. After a few weeks when the grass has grown strong we will be able to let our automatic sprinkler system take over this work.
In the garden of unity, the process has been different, with grass sods being transplanted from already developed areas. Last Sunday, while the three teams were working overtime in the structure, there was a group of 50 volunteers in a very happy mood engaged in transplanting grass onto the last of the 6 circular “islands” of the Garden of Unity .
All in all, it was a very fine morning indeed.
Volunteers at work in the Unity Garden
VISITING MATRIMANDIR IN FEBRUARY
The work inside Matrimandir is now in full swing, in particular in the Chamber's two vestibules. For this reason the Chamber will remain close until February 21 st . During this period at least two petals will remain open for meditation.
From 21 st February onwards at least one of the two ramps will be useable to provide access to the Chamber. Matrimandir won't be fully complete on 21 st February, there may still be some scaffolding inside and all the inner skin triangles may not be in place yet, but the interior will be clearly visible for all to see. On the 21 st itself, our donors and white pass holders may visit the Inner Chamber between 2 pm and 4 pm but advance booking is necessary. If you want to visit here that day, please phone 262-2268 or 262-2204 between 9 and 10 am on or after Sunday, the 18 th of February to book one of the half-hour meditation slots available. Children under 10 must remain outside. It looks like we will revert to the previous booking arrangement and timings for the Chamber from the 22 nd , with the difference that we may have half-hour slots rather than one-hour for the week from 22 nd til 28 th February.
Address for donations and correspondence:
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 ; 262-2228 (finance). FAX: (91) (0413) 262-2053;