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Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

CRITICAL APRAISAL

SAMYA RANJAN NAYAK 1502106042


At the very centre of Auroville one finds the 'soul of the city', the Matrimandir, situated in a large open area called 'Peace', from where the future township will radiate outwards. The atmosphere is quiet, charged and beautiful.

To find one's consciousness.. The Matrimandir is there for "those who want to learn to concentrate..“ "No fixed meditations, none of all that, but they should stay there in silence and concentrate. A place for trying to find one's consciousness." The name ‘Matrimandir’ means literally ‘Temple of the Mother’. According to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching, the ‘Mother’ concept stands for the great evolutionary, conscious and intelligent principle of Life, the Universal Mother, which seeks to help humanity move beyond its present limitations into the next step of its evolutionary adventure, the supramental consciousness.

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville


The Matrimandir can be viewed as a large golden sphere which seems to be emerging out of the earth, symbolising the birth of a new consciousness. Since the past 45 years, Matrimandir's slow and steady progress towards completion has been followed by many.

A conversation with The Mother Roger Anger: Why do we build Matrimandir? For the great majority of Indians there is no need for an explanation; they know from their background; it is for the Westerners and the Americans of whom one in a million is able to feel that it is necessary. Roger Anger: Will the Force more specially be concentrated in Matrimandir? The new Force works everywhere, especially in this room. You feel it, don't you? There is here a density capable of performing miracles, but few are able to feel it, to perceive it. Sri Aurobindo and I have concentrated this Force on the whole town; it is palpable, perceptible as a very concrete perfume which penetrates, but one must be able to feel it, to receive it. But no miracles as people would like to see; for them to believe, they need material proofs without which they deny. Build Matrimandir; put in place my symbol and Sri Aurobindo’s and the suspended ball. I take it upon myself to make it into a very strong centre. Only those who are capable will perceive it.

Roger Anger (Principal Architect) (1923 - 2008)

Mirra Alfassa (The Mother) (1878 - 1973)

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville


It all began with a vision the Mother had in January 1970, which was taken up by Roger Anger, the French architect she chose for the project. After this, Roger presented her with various possible designs, and in 1971 the final, approved globe model for the structure was presented to the Mother and to the residents of Auroville, and work could start. The foundation stone was laid on February 21st 1971, and the practical work of overseeing the engineering requirements for the construction was given to the Aurovilian architect/engineer Piero Cicionesi who lead the development up till the completion of the Inner Chamber. The construction the main building was completed in 2008.

Located adjacent to the Matrimandir and central banyan tree at the heart of Auroville, the Amphitheatre has as its focal point a marble-clad urn containing soil placed in it by representatives of the 124 and 23 Indian States that participated in the Auroville inauguration ceremony in 1968. Rainwater is evacuated by gravity towards the northwest by an underground pipeline.

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

nations


Architectural Concept

Roger Anger had three images in mind when he designed the Matrimandir in 1970: First image: Brahman’s primeval ‘egg’ The architect gave the shape of a flattened sphere (horizontal diameter: 36 m, height: 29 m) to this ‘egg’ of creation by rotating an oval, a ‘shalagrama’, an ancient Tantric symbol symbolising ‘the unity of creation’. This is indeed a fitting symbol for the ‘soul’ of a city dedicated to realising “an actual Human Unity”. Second image: a radiating golden supramental sun emerging from matter The architect represented the Matrimandir as the meeting point between matter’s aspiration arising from below and the Divine Grace descending from above. The Divine Grace is represented by a ray of sunlight which it caught by a heliostat and beams through the Matrimandir from top to bottom. The Matrimandir itself represents the combined effect of the Divine Grace and matter’s aspiration, which produces the new – Supramental – consciousness emerging from matter (the earth), breaking the crust of the earth and creating in the process two crater-like shapes (a large one followed by a smaller one) and ripples all around (shapes of the garden plots). What emerges is a golden supramental sun which radiates in all directions (symbolically its 12 rays are represented by 12 radial pathways which break through first and second craters and other ripples). This radiating sun represents the new consciousness which emerges to illumine the earth with its new Light. It is gold because gold is the colour of the Supramental. Third image: A lotus in full bloom ‘Aurobindo’ in Bengali means ‘lotus’ and, according to Sri Aurobindo, “The Mother is the Consciousness and Force of the Divine – which is the Mother of all things.” As the lotus symbolises the ‘Divine Consciousness’ the Mother’s symbol represents a lotus in full bloom and the architect gave this shape to the Matrimandir and its surroundings. Hence, the 12 segments of crater which surround the Matrimandir are called its 12 large ‘petals’ and are followed by 12 small ‘petals’ and all the plots in the gardens are contoured to represent more petals of this lotus in full bloom.

Roger Anger

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville


The Matrimandir took 37 years to build, from the laying of the foundation stone at sunrise on 21 February 1971 - the Mother’s 93rd birthday - to completion in May 2008. The Matrimandir is a flattened sphere (supported by four pillars) which is 29 m high and has a diameter of 36 m. Its vertical section is an oval, an ancient Tantric shape called “Shalagrama”, which symbolises the unity of creation. The Geodesic dome is covered by golden discs and reflects sunlight, which gives the structure its characteristic radiance. Inside this central dome is a meditation hall known as the inner chamber - this contains the largest optically-perfect glass globe in the world. The Matrimandir, and its surrounding gardens in the central Peace Area, is fully open to the public.

LEVEL 1 (+ 0.25)

LEVEL 2 (+ 3.45)

First level entrance of one of the twin central spiral staircases

LEVEL 3 (+ 12.80)

Second level and spiral ramps

Vertical section of Matrimandir

Meditation Room inside the ‘Petals’

Each of the 12 petals surrounding the matrimandir has a meditation chamber inside.

Below the Matrimandir, the architect initially wanted to build a lotus pond, BUT when he realised that lotuses will not bloom in the shade, instead of plants, he used 216 petal-shaped marble slabs to create a pond over which water flows from the outside towards the centre. At the centre of this pond, there is a crystal globe (17cm dia.) which will receive the beam of sunlight which transits Matrimandir from top to bottom, as if to ‘illumine the depths’.

‘Lotus Pond’ below the Matrimandir

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

Inner Chamber

Heliostat in operation early morning


Matrimandir construction photos from 1968 to 2008 The Matrimandir was designed by the architect Roger Anger, apart from its Inner Chamber, which the Mother repeatedly saw in visions. T. K. Santhanam, scientist at the Structural Engineering Research Centre – Madras calculated its structure. The Aurovilian architect Piero Cicionesi prepared all the working drawings and supervised its construction1 which was carried out by Aurovilians and local villagers working together. For several years, Aurovilians, Ashramites and workers from the nearby villages were working together, first at the digging, then at the building and at the completion of the Matrimandir, "the Soul of Auroville". 1968, amphitheater after the inauguration ceremony

The lonely banyan tree

Excavation work

The survey team

Members of Ashram working on the site

Foundation work begins

The pillars completed

The outer skin in the making

Excavation in progress

The foundation

The inner chamber walls completed

The outer skin completed

Preparing the ground

Excavation in progress

Scaffolding rising

Space frame work begins

Golden disk work begins from the top

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

Ready for building the foundation

The four pillars rising

Space frame work in progress

Golden disks in progress

Foundation stone laying ceremony

The pillars halfway

Space frames completed

Dawn-fire near the completed Matrimandir


Matrimandir under construction 1971 - 1992 1. The ribs - Main structure

1968, amphitheater after the inauguration ceremony

Overall Scaffolding of Level 1

Concreting at 10 meters below ground-level

Shuttering work at Level 1

Steel work at Level 1

One of the Piers (1973)

Level 1 in a later photo

Mixing Plant

Level 1 and 2 completed

June 1976

Section on one Rib

The principal load carrying members of the superstructure are the four pairs of sickleshaped, 38m high reinforced concrete piers. Every other component is supported by these piers. Each pair of piers is 2.1m. Their thickness is 40cm above ground level and varies from 40cm to 70cm below. Basic Rib structure

All the 4 Levels are completed (1976)

Constrution of the Dodecawall

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville


Matrimandir under construction 1971 – 1992 2. Space frame - Outer cover (1979 – 1987)

Level 1 - 1979 -The structural Space Frame of the outer cover is taking off from here

Some of the 1072 Precast Beams on the ground

The first level of nodes

How the Space Frame is joining the Ribs

Steel details

Successfully Crossing the equator

Piero sharing a light moment at the Equator

Lifting the beam

Transport of a 500 Kg beam

Down the ramp

Precision

View of one sector of the Outer cover

Handwork

At the equator

In situ ferrocement joint

Concreting

The constructions of the space frame took nine years

1072 Precast Beams

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

Close to the summit

470 nodes

Overall view of the structure

Detail of the Space Frame

One of the 470 completed nodes

1987 - The elegant design of the Space Frame

Flying over MM The top slab was cast in 1988


Matrimandir under construction: 1971-1992 3. Ramps 1974-1978, outer shell, gold discs

One of the sections to be assembled and joined on site

Work on the Ramps

View of the Ramps

Ramps

In 1980, the steel structure of the twin spiral ramps and, later, the construction crane were manufactured in the Matrimandir workshop. They were installed at their respective places the same year. The sides of the structure (steel trusses) of the spiral ramps are covered with ferrocement. Their lower face is covered with particle board panels and their upper face with aluminium honeycomb panels (similar to those used for the floor of commercial aeroplanes) on top of which a white woollen carpet has been fitted. The parapet is curved ‘white’ glass with a white wooden handrail on top.

The Ramps were completed in 1978

Main details of Ramp

The gold discs Disc frame: - Stainless steel tubes Disc material: - stainless steel sheet Gold leaf: - 28 gm of gold per 1000 leaves Leaf size: - 85 x 85 mm Total number of discs: - 1415 Small convex discs: - 954 Large concave discs: - 461 Average diam. (large discs): - 2.3 meter Average diam. (small discs): - 1.5 meter Ferrocement triangles being installed to create the Matrimandir’s outer shell About 2 million golden tiles (4.5cm x 4.5cm) were made in a Matrimandir workshop. A very thin gold ‘leaf’ (24 carat) was placed between two sheets of glass and this sandwich was then heated at a high temperature in an oven to fuse together glass sheets and gold leaf. Altogether some 20kg of gold were used to produce enough tiles to cover the 8,000m² surface of the discs. 1.6m diameter discs used 1,024 tiles while the largest ones (2.4m diameter) used 2,200 tiles each.

Ferrocement or ferro-cement is a system of construction using reinforced mortar or plaster applied over an "armature" of metal mesh, woven expanded-metal or metalfibers and closely spaced thin steel rods such as rebar. The metal commonly used is iron or some type of steel.

Outer Face - Tile pattern on a golden disc

The flattened sphere is covered with some 1,400 golden discs to symbolise a radiating golden Supramental sun. Approximately one third of the discs are concave and large (their diameter is 2.3m or 2.4m); two third are convex and smaller (their diameter is 1.3m, 1.4m, 1.5m or 1.6m). Each large disc weighs 210kg.

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville


Matrimandir under construction: 1971-2008 4. Columns, flooring, inner skin, crystal globe, heliostat

Meticulous preparation of each column

The delicate phases of lifting one column

Mounting the white slabs

Marble is coming from Lasa (Italy)

Guiding the column in place

Door made out of a 200kg marble slab

The 12 columns are fixed on the floor

The marble cladding

To create a translucent inner skin of this particular colour, a very special white fabric (made of fibre glass woven in a sophisticated manner) has been stretched over 756 triangular frames (made of aluminium profiles especially extruded for this purpose). Coloured foil of the precise colour has been placed on the outer shell’s 700 portholes to filter the natural light that enters in through them in the daytime. At night time the coloured light is provided by 1,320 electronic modules. (Each one powers 4 low-consumption Light Emitting Diodes of the 3 ‘fundamental’ colours whose respective intensity is adjustable very precisely by a computer.

From inside, the Matrimandir is a translucent sphere, except between each pair of ribs where the concrete shell is decorated with a mosaic of white marble whose joints are made of golden tiles. Water runs down in the middle of each rib along a narrow channel of golden tiles; at the end it falls and is pumped up again.

Inner Chamber - The columns

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Inner Skin Crystal globe (70cm diameter, 400kg)

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The role of the heliostat is to always reflect a ray of sunlight down into the Chamber. It consists of 3 mirrors: a mobile mirror (azimuthally mounted and connected to a computerised tracking system), and two fixed mirrors. When the sun is hidden (at night or on cloudy days), electrical spotlights are used to create the same effect. The two large GRP covers which protect the second and third mirrors are painted in white.

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

Matrimandir sectional model

It has a 12m radius. The floor is covered with a white woolen carpet. The wall is 8.65m high. It has 12 facets which represent the 12 months of the year and are clad with white marble. Its white ceiling also has 12 facets each one resting on one of the wall’s facets at 30 degrees angle upwards towards the center. Two double doors of thick white marble slabs. When closed the doors are more or less invisible. It has 12 large steel cylindrical columns of 60cm diameter covered with white lacquer which stand halfway between the center of the room and each one of its 12 corners.

It had no windows and is fully air-conditioned. This is done to attain complete silence inside the chamber. The only light is that comes from a vertical beam of light which is slightly golden. This is normally the ray of the sun which is reflected down into the chamber by a heliostat which computerized tracking system keeps it precise. Electrical spot lights create a similar effect at night and on cloudy days.


Matrimandir PRESENT Background Facts and Figures Gardens oval of 22 acres contained within a site of 63 acres 60 Aurovilians working on a daily basis 110 paid workers 120 Aurovilians also volunteering during the month Visits to the Matrimandir viewpoint about 700,000 per year Visits to the Inner Chamber approximately 86,000 per year They estimate that 20,000 to 25,000 cubic meters of water can be harvested from the oval from one meter of rainfall. Inside of Matrimandir during construction

Inner Chamber: Is inscribed, with its 12-faceted walls, in a 24 meter–diameter cylinder. Wall’s height: 8.65 meters Ceiling’s height at the centre: 15.20 meters Crystal globe: diameter: 70 cm Cube stand: 40cm side Distance between opposite columns: 13.5m Flattened Sphere Horizontal diameter: 36m Vertical diameter: 29.00m Junction of pillars & first slab are at ground level. Foundation depth is 9m below ground level. 768 triangles 1,423 golden discs 12 Large petals Comprised within a circle with a 49m radius. Height: 6.50 m. 12 Small petals Comprised within a circle with a 76m radius. Bottom pond 7.30m below ground level. Future Oval Island: 10 times Matrimandir vertical section: 360m x 295m 12 large petals & pathways between them: 1st circular pathway (Service Path): 12 small petals and radials between them: 2nd circular pathway (Garden Path): 12 Radials beyond 2nd circ. path: Amphitheatre: Oval pathway: 12 Gardens & other planted areas: Total area of Matrimandir Island:

Piero, Ramanathan, Alain, Roger

7,540m² 310m² 10,287m² 480m² 2,011m² 7,509m² 3,418m² 55,589m² 87,144m²

Some patches of lawn are planted at the outer side of the large petals – by the Service Path. Some patches of lawn are planted at the inner side of the small petals – by the Service Path. Part of the 12 Gardens may occupy part of the outer side of these areas.

Prime Minister’s Visit: 25th Feburary 2018

Matrimandir FUTURE “It has been decided and remains decided that the Matrimandir will be surrounded with water. However; water is not available just now and will be available only later; so it is decided to build the Matrimandir now and surround it with water only later; perhaps in a few years’ time. As regards the Matrimandir itself I have selected our plan which agrees with the vision I had of the inside and has my full approval. Therefore there is no need to worry. The Matrimandir will be built now and water brought round it later.” -Mother, 28 March 1970

Present site of Matrimandir

A Reception pavilion was envisaged by Roger to be at the outer Western edge of the lake. All Aurovilians and visitors to Matrimandir would pass through this gate way

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

Reception Pavilion: A detailed conceptual drawing by Roger


User review

Sarah Victoria & Jenny Vitense, Germany One of our friend told us to visit Matrimandir. It was a great experience. The inner chamber was so quiet that we could even hear the sound of our own breathe. A beautiful place to concentrate.

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville


a “universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.�

Matrimandir The

soul of Auroville

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