Newsletter June 2006
Every year, on the 4 th of April, the rays of the rising sun enter a ‘window' in the East pillar of Matrimandir and come through the Chamber door to strike the globe and Sri Aurobindo's symbol directly. Seen from near the doorway, the symbol glows brilliantly for a few moments as the sun's rays touch it and then the light very gently withdraws.
Seen from the opposite side, the first ray of sun strikes right in the centre of the crystal, and radiates a bright orange light (the symbol-color of Auroville) all around in the white circular room.
It was on this day, in 1910, that Sri Aurobindo came to Pondicherry . The entire concrete structure of Matrimandir has been oriented so that the East pillar faces the direction of the rising sun on just this day. This orientation was selected by the Mother in 1971.
On top of Matrimandir….April 29, 2006
On the top of Matrimandir a surveyor sits cross-legged on the grey polyester lid which will house one of the fixed mirrors of the new heliostat - the sun-tracking system that will soon bring the sun's ray down into the Inner Chamber again.
He adjusts his instrument, sighting down through it to the concrete cap of the building and directs his assistant to “move just a little bit to the side” and to make a tiny mark on the concrete.
We are drawing a line on this concrete cap, not just any line, but one that points, as precisely as we can determine, to the true North Pole.
The new heliostat, like the old one that was used until now, is a computer-driven mirror that tracks the sun, reflecting a single ray down into the Chamber. But in order to follow the sun the computer has to have a fixed starting point, a frame of reference, and this reference is the line which points to true North. We could not simply use a compass to find this line as a compass would automatically point to the magnetic North Pole, which is not the same as the geographic North Pole. We needed a much more accurate way of finding it.
So first we called in a survey team with a GPS (Global Positioning System), that modern wonder of electronics that gives the precise position of an object by referring to the array of orbiting satellites hundreds of miles overhead. The G PS was able to tell us the exact position of the Matrimandir on the earth (its latitude and longitude) but then, the next question was how to mark the North-South line from this known point. We needed a second fixed point to work with, so we went with our GPS to the roof of the Town Hall building, some 300 meters north, and fixed our second position there. Having now two points with accurately known positions, it was a simple calculation to determine the placement of our North-South line in relation to our two known points. And today, using a Leika electronic survey tool, with its accurate laser sighting mechanism, we made the final step of lining up these two points and, using that alignment as a reference, the surveyor turned his instrument the calculated number of degrees westwards to point to true North. Thus, finally, we could mark that line on the concrete cap of Matrimandir and will use it to set up the heliostat system.
One of the persons involved in this operation remarked that some 34 years ago he had worked with a big plumb bob on a string in the center of the Matrimandir excavation to mark the first positioning for the concrete pillars of the Matrimandir structure, and now here he was again marking another line, this time with the aid of laser tools and satellites, to help with this final phase of the work on Matrimandir's Inner Chamber
As if a cycle is being completed, a circle is being closed.
The outer skin and discs
Another construction milestone was crossed recently when we prepared to redo the waterproofing on the last section of the outer surface of Matrimandir by removing the final rows of discs there, high up on the southeast side of the structure.
Henceforth no more discs will have to be removed from the structure for this work and our disc team can now concentrate solely on the job of re-fixing discs in the finished areas of the outer shell.
Below Matrimandir there are two sections where the final rows of discs have not yet been placed, so this work can now be taken up too.
The whole job of disc fixation is well on track for completion within this year.
Below the Matrimandir
Standing beneath the Matrimandir next to the marble lotus pool, when one looks up now towards the bottom of the sphere of Matrimandir, one sees the newly finished Mother's symbol in white marble. The symbol itself with its projecting white rings and radial lines is about three meters wide and is surrounded in turn by a second circle of marble cladding lying flat against of the curved surface of Matrimandir.
Observed from the pool beneath this new symbol, the whiteness of these two marble surfaces – the lotus pool and the Mother's symbol – seems to echo the space inside the Inner Chamber.
This open area below the Matrimandir promises to be an interesting space in the months ahead once all the construction pipes have been removed and the lotus pool has been filled with water.
Out in the Gardens
While work on the inner skin advances and the fixing of the heliostat is underway on top of Matrimandir, there is activity too in the gardens as the installation of the irrigation system moves towards completion. The gardens are actually quite messy at this point, with trenches having been dug everywhere for laying pipes, putting fittings for electronic control valves and placing the first sets of sprinklers.
On the edge of the gardens, in the sector called ‘Progress', stands our new weather station. It is already functioning and records hourly measurements of rainfall, humidity, wind speed and direction and sunshine intensity. This weather system is linked to the main irrigation control system and will modify the automatic watering schedule according to the prevailing weather. This close monitoring and control will save us a lot of precious water in the years ahead.
Completion of the installation of the irrigation system is now projected for midsummer.
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