Newsletter June 2007
Right at the beginning of May we entered the period known in Tamil Nadu as ‘Agni Nakshatram'. These 25 days are said to be the peak of the summer season. Hot winds blow in from the southwest off the dry plains of Tamil Nadu while the temperatures reach 40° C and above. On the Matrimandir site work continues despite the oppressive weather….lemon juice is the order of the day, and kujas of fresh water are posted at many points as litre after litre trickles down thirsty throats to replenish the body fluids sucked dry by the scorching winds.
But still, one smiles as the work inside Matrimandir moves steadily towards completion. Recall that last February, one of the two spiral ramps leading up to the Inner Chamber had been fitted with its curved glass panels and wooden handrails. Many of the inner skin panels too had been installed, giving the interior space of the globe an almost-finished look. Now, work on the second ramp parapet is well underway, with the glass panels already in place and the work of installing and painting the handrails quite advanced. Once the parapet work is over, the scaffolding around the ramp can be removed and the inner skin team will be able to fit in place the remaining 150 or so prefabricated triangles of translucent white fabric. By August the interior space of Matrimandir below the Chamber should be completed and we will see that space – wide and uncluttered – as we have never seen it before.
In the inner skin workshop, just outside the oval of the gardens of Matrimandir, an interesting change has taken place over the last few months. This building used to be the “gilding workshop” and for three years it was the site of the highly organized production and gluing of some two million golden tiles for the gold discs which are now mounted on the Matrimandir.
Once the production of golden tiles for the discs was over, the workshop space was converted for the production of the 756 inner skin panels – a precise work of cutting and joining aluminum profiles and fitting the white glass-fabric onto them.
Now, after two years of work, during which all the inner skin triangles were produced, the building is again going to be being used for gold tile gluing. This time the entrance panels with their faceted base plates and very large discs will be put together here. Some of the thousands of new tiles required for this work are now being made at a factory in Pondicherry where this unique gold tile technology is being applied. It is a good time to explain a bit more about these entrance shields, as we will be following their production and installation over the coming months.
The sketch below is an artist's rendering of how one of the shields will look once it is installed over one of the four main entrances of Matrimandir. It surrounds and marks the entrance, highlighting the opening in the pillar through which one enters.
The overall design for each of the four entrance shields is the same, with one major difference: the central feature of each entrance panel, a large four-petalled disc, will hold at its center a particular geometric shape (circle, triangle, hexagon or square) related to the orientation and significance of the pillar upon which it is fixed. Each of these shapes will have a separate color.
The Mother had given names to the four pillars of the Matrimandir: North – Mahakali, South – Maheshwari, East – Mahalakshmi, and West – Mahasaraswati. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, these four great Personalities of the Mother are:
“One is her personality of calm wideness and comprehending wisdom and tranquil benignity and inexhaustible compassion and sovereign and surpassing majesty and all-ruling greatness.”
“Another embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistible passion, her warrior mood, her overwhelming will, her impetuous swiftness and world-shaking force.”
“A third is vivid and sweet and wonderful with her deep secret of beauty and harmony and fine rhythm, her intricate and subtle opulence, her compelling attraction and captivating grace.”
“The fourth is equipped with her close and profound capacity to initiate knowledge and careful flawless work and quiet and exact perfection in all things.”
Below in summary are the names, significances and geometric symbols for each of the four pillars of Matrimandir:
North Mahakali Strength Square Red
South Maheshwari Wisdom Hexagon Orange
East Mahalakshmi Harmony Circle Pink
West Mahasaraswati Perfection Triangle Blue
Thus, the square in the center of the large disc on the north pillar will be red, while the hexagon on the south will be orange.
Besides the works of ramp finishing, inner skin installation and entrance panel fabrication, there are several other activities underway which are also absorbing the team's attention:
- In the vestibule of the West entrance to the Inner Chamber, finishing work is advancing as large glass panels are installed on the ceiling and service door to allow indirect lighting of this space. On the East, the marble work highlighting the Chamber entrance and a part of the floor is almost complete. Then the “glass and lighting team” will move over to this side to finish the space.
- Above the Chamber, a team of painters has been busy for some weeks giving a final coat of paint to the entire top surface of the chamber ceiling and to the service walkways that rest on the Chamber roof and circle the interior of the building. That whole space now looks fresh and clean. You might know that the ceiling of the Chamber was cast in concrete in 1978, 29 years ago!
- Also up there on the top of the Inner Chamber, the metal workshop team has been installing a set of movable “suspension bridges” that will allow access for maintenance to the upper reaches of the inner skin. These lightweight aluminum bridges are designed to be stored on the Chamber roof when not in use and will swing out high over the ramps to reach openable triangles of the inner skin when maintenance is required.
- The joints between the slabs of red Agra sandstone, with which each of the 12 petals surrounding the main building is clad, are being sealed. This work has been going on for several months and is about two-thirds ready. It involves one team to build up pipe scaffolding along the steep sides and front slope of the petal, and a second team to remove any black algae growth with a high pressure water cleaner. Then a third team consisting of masons comes in to rework the grouted joints between the stones and finally, a painting team applies a coat of silicone-based water repellant which will keep the petals algae-free for four or five years. This work will take another few months to complete.
- Inside the Petals, the ovoid meditation rooms are being finalized. All of them have been given their first coat of colored paint, each room having its own distinctive tint corresponding to one of the colors of the Mother's symbol. All the rooms now have their shields installed. You may recall that these shields, which are placed in front of the window vents in the meditation rooms, are 1.6 meters wide, oval shaped and made of translucent polyester. The unique design on each shield has been inspired by the room's significance, e.g. Sincerity, Peace, and so on. One by one these rooms are being fitted with custom-designed air-conditioning systems (a refreshing thought in this month of May!)
- Around the borders of some of the garden areas, the recently planted plots of grass continue to spread and grow thanks to water being supplied via our new high tech irrigation system which has been installed over the last 12 months. The sequence and frequency of watering in different garden areas is controlled by a central computer. The weather station linked to this central control gives hourly readings of temperature, humidity, wind speed and rainfall and is designed to restrict watering if conditions like high winds or rain make watering unfeasible or unnecessary. (The station recorded temperatures in excess of 42° C in the gardens in the middle of May!) As the days go by we become more and more familiar with the nuances of operating this sophisticated system.
- In preparation for more grass planting in the gardens when the temperature and hot winds subside, our production of compost mix has been significantly boosted by the recent acquisition of a second mechanized compost-sifting machine. This machine is quite a bit larger than the one featured in April's newsletter. It is fed by a moving conveyor belt and has a second conveyor to take the sifted material and load it directly onto a waiting tractor. Suddenly the garden team has moved into high gear with this new arrival!
Needless to say, all this continued flow of activity requires too a continued flow of funds to keep it all moving. Your support is essential to the work and, as always, is very gratefully received.
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;