In the Chamber Vestibule
It is 5:25 pm on a Monday evening in October.
I am sitting on the wooden bench in the outer vestibule of the
Inner Chamber. It is a very special spot indeed, for only from
this bench, a few meters outside the Chamber, can you see at a
single glance both the white interior of the Chamber and the grey
wall outside. More than that, from the same spot you can see the
whole upward-sweeping curve of the inner skin of Matrimandir.
The vestibule, some 2 meters wide and 6 metres
long, is built in between the massive double concrete ribs that
rise upwards and form one of the four structural arcs of Matrimandir's
sphere. The other vestibule, outside the chamber on the western
side, is not yet accessible for entering or leaving the Chamber,
for the ramp on that side has not been made usable yet.
Here, where one sits on duty at the eastern
door, people put on white socks (to keep the Chamber carpet clean),
then pass through two sets of doors to enter the Chamber. The
first is a curtained mesh door that keeps the bugs out and then,
a couple of meters further on, the two large white marble doors
are set flush with the inner face of the Chamber's marble walls.
From my station this evening I can see through
the partly open curtains of the mesh doors. Inside the Chamber,
two dozen people are sitting in concentration. I can see the crystal
globe on its stand of Sri Aurobindo's symbols. Behind the globe
stands one of the 12 stately round columns that ring the crystal
in a wide circle, and the far wall of the Chamber appears as a
hazy whiteness. All is white: only the crystal's stand is gold.
There is a complete stillness, a quietude,
- the massive peace of the Room occupies the outer vestibule as
Suddenly, into this dense silence, there comes
the thrum of the start of a heavy downpour. The sound of the rain
rises in intensity, increasing to a velvety roar.
One is wrapped completely in this cleansing
sound, as it answers the silent flood from the Chamber's interior.
After some time the sound of the rain begins
to dissipate as the monsoon clouds drift further away. My attention
is drawn to the inner skin. The full sweep of the concrete space-frame
has been covered with a translucent layer of tracing paper. For
one year we have been using this simple 'screen' to test samples
of glass and fabric as options for the coloured inner skin. The
most recent tests, using a newly available fabric made of glass
fiber embedded with a silicone resin, have proven to be very positive.
We are now proceeding with this option, and should soon be able
to see a large section of the inner skin completed in this way.
The fabric will be mounted in the aluminum profile frames which
are already being fixed in place. It will be a light weight and
relatively quick-to-assemble solution to a challenge that has
long proved difficult to resolve.
Still on my wooden bench, looking through
the mesh doors to the whiteness of the Chamber, I hear from behind
me, outside the Matrimandir, the call of a peacock after the rain.
The call is lone and distant, coming from far off in the forests
that surround the Matrimandir gardens area. The forests will have
welcomed the heavy rain, for the year has been very dry. The peacock
In between the peacock's perch in the forest,
and my own in the vestibule lie the workshops of Matrimandir,
east of the sphere. These last two months have seen a lot of activity
there. This was because some of the workshops - mainly those concerned
with marble work and carpentry, as well as our stockroom and generator
room - were in the way of the construction of the last of the
12 'small' petals of Matrimandir. This petal will form a part
of the garden of "Perfection". By making small additions
and extensions to one large workshop lying just beyond the petals
area, we have been able to make space for all the sections that
had to be moved (except, perhaps the generator!).
All the marble and carpentry materials have
been shifted and the roofs and walls are gone from several of
the sheds that were in the way. Only the foundations and pillars
are left to be removed. Some of these foundations have been in
place since the very first years of Matrimandir - 1971 and 1972,
so their disappearance marks a significant state of change here.
The memories of all that has happened here over the decades, under
these roofs and within these walls, are fond indeed…..
It will not be too long, two to three years
we believe, before all the remaining workshops will have served
their purposes and can then be removed to make way for the growth
of the 12 beautiful gardens of Matrimandir.
The workshops will go, and the gardens will
grow up, but some things will not change, like the sound of the
rain and of the peacocks calling in the forest, and the silent
whiteness of the Chamber at the center of it all.