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Matrimandir, Auroville

Introduction

Evolutionary Principle
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 intelligen
t principle of Life,
the Universal Mother, - which seeks to help humanity move beyond its present lim
itations into the next
step of its evolutionary adventure, the supramental consciousness.
At the very centre of Auroville one finds the 'soul of the city', the Matrimandi
r, situated in a large
open area called 'Peace', from where the future township will radiate outwards.
The atmosphere is quiet
and charged, and the area beautiful, even though at present large parts of it a
re still under construction.
As yet incomplete, the Matrimandir emerges as a large golden sphere which seems
to be rising out of the earth,
symbolizing the birth of a new consciousness seeking to manifest. Its slow and
steady progress towards
completion is followed by many.
The Principal Architect
Roger ANGER Architect. Roger Anger has executed more that forty major projects i
n France and abroad and has been
rewarded with several prizes. Currently he is particularly interested in town-pl
anning issues and has been charged
by the Indian government to design commercial centers and cities linked to indu
strial complexes. Since 1986,
he is engaged in the conception and realization of the project of Auroville, an
experimental city in the south of
India, where he is currently completing the world-renowned meditation structure
known as the Matrimandir.

Roger Anger, who had received the Mother's instructions regarding this aspect of
Matrimandir, has worked out the
technical details: The diffuse sunlight behind the golden disks should shine thr
ough the 800 portholes in the
ferrocement skin, illuminating 800 translucent orange-pink triangles, which form
the Matrimandir's Inner Skin.
Although the shape and size of these translucent triangles is determined by the
triangular beam structure, the
beams and portholes should not be visible through the Inner Skin. The whole insi
de of Matrimandir should be filled
with this orange-pink glow, coming from all sides, and no design-element or det
ail behind the orange screen
should disturb the peaceful impression.

Symbolism
The Matrimandir wants to be the symbol of the Universal Mother according to Sri
Aurobindo's teaching.
Inner Chamber

The spacious Inner Chamber in the upper hemisphere of the structure is completel
y white, with white marble walls
and white carpeting. In the centre a pure crystal-glass globe suffuses a ray of
electronically guided sunlight
which falls on it through an opening at the apex of the sphere The four pillar
s that support the structure of
Matrimandir, and carry the Inner Chamber, have been set at the four main directi
ons of the compass.
Maheshwari (South Pillar)
One is her personality of calm wideness and comprehending wisdom and tranquil be
nignity and inexhaustible
compassion and sovereign and surpassing majesty and all-ruling greatness.
Mahakali (North Pillar)
Another embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistible passion, her wa
rrior mood, her overwhelming will,
her impetuous swiftness and world-shaking force.
Mahalakshmi (East Pillar)
A third is vivid and sweet and wonderful with her deep secret of beauty and harm
ony and fine rhythm, her intricate
and subtle opulence, her compelling attraction and captivating grace.
Mahasaraswati (West Pillar)
The fourth is equipped with her close and profound capacity of intimate knowledg
e and careful flawless work and
quiet and exact perfection in all things.
The Mother's Symbol and the Petals
The meditation rooms inside the twelve stone-clad 'petals' surrounding the Matri
mandir carry the names and
colours of the 'petals' in the Mother's symbol:
These are:
Colours of Meditation Rooms
The above mentioned names and colours have been integrated into the sequence of
the meditation rooms which are
being completed inside each of the twelve petals surrounding the structure in th
e following order:

Sincerity - light blue


Peace - deep blue
Equality - blue violet
Generosity - pure violet
Goodness - reddish violet
Courage - red
Progress - orange red
Receptivity - orange
Aspiration - orange yellow
Perseverance - pale yellow
Gratitude - pale green
Humility - deep green
(When moving from the south axis towards the east axis, the Humility room is in
the first petal.)

Sacred Geometry
What in terms of `architecture' makes the Inner Chamber a special place?
It was ten years after Mother first expressed her vision of the Inner Chamber th
at it was found by chance that the Golden Section and the proportions of the Gre
at Pyramid are precisely incorporated in its cross section (fig 1).
It was also discovered that Sri Aurobindo's symbol fitted exactly into the Shala
gram, the form in which Matrimandir has been built (fig.2). (A shalagram is an a
ncient symbol described in Hindu Cosmology as 'the Egg of Brahman' from where th
e creation has sprung forth). In other words, there are two triangles with the s
ame proportions as the Great Pyramid inside the Shalagram
The energy field inside the Great Pyramid is located at one-third of its height
(the place where the King's Chamber is situated). If we project this to the two
triangles inside the Shalagram, we get a band of about 110 centimeters where the
energy field will be concentrated. This band will be in the Inner Chamber, prec
isely where the people will sit. fig 3.)
The Gardens
There are twelve gardens surrounding the structure, converging around it in the
huge petal crown from which the Matrimandir arises. In 1969, when discussing t
he gardens, the Mother indicated that they would have to be of such quality and
beauty that people visiting them would experience, physically and concretely, th
e significance of each garden:
Garden Names

Existence
Consciousness
Bliss
Light
Life
Power
Wealth
Utility
Progress
Youth

Harmony
Perfection
A - Matrimandir
B - Garden of Unity
C - Ampritheatre
D - Rose Garden
Construction Phases
1970
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 glo
be model for the structure was presented to the Mother and to the residents of A
uroville, and work could start. The foundation stone was laid on February 21st 1
971, and the practical work of overseeing the engineering requirements for the c
onstruction was given to the Aurovilian architect/engineer Piero Cicionesi who l
ead the development up till the completion of the Inner Chamber.
Matrimandir Site Survey
From 1971 - 1973
Excavation and Foundations
Beginning of Excavation
Final Stage of Excavation
Research into the design of the structure went on simultaneously with the excava
tion of a ten metre deep crater at the centre of Auroville for the foundations.
Consultancy for the structural design was graciously given by Dr. T.K. Santhanam
of SERC (Structural Engineering Research Centre), Chennai. The detailed constru
ction drawings, the design and fabrication of the staging and shuttering, as wel
l as the overall organisation and execution of the construction, were done by th
e Aurovilians under the guidance of Piero.
The foundation stone was laid at sunrise on 21st February 1971 - the Mother s 93rd
birthday. The excavation was started in March by Aurovilians and Ashramites, bu
t was later taken over by a paid local work force more equal to the task.Construc
tion of the sphere started with the erection of a steel-pipe scaffolding, anchor
ed on the foundation. The scaffolding reached a height of ten metres to support
the 400 ton weight of the first slab of the sphere. Wooden scaffolding and tempo
rary towers for hoisting had to be erected on the four pillars. Steel mountings
to hold the discs planned for covering the outer surface of the finished structu
re had also to be fixed in a regular pattern.Then came the concreting for the fir
st slab, which went on without rain interruption for six days during the peak of
the monsoon season. It was completed at the Western pillar summit at 7.25 p.m.
on the 17th of November 1973, in perfect weather.
From 1974 - 1979

The Pillars
Scaffolding for the Pillars
The Pillars Coming Up
Inner Chamber Work
During January and February of 1974 preparations proceeded for concreting the fi
rst layers of the four pillars which would form the framework of the sphere. Cas
ting of the second level slab was completed in March 1974. During the autumn of
1974 construction entered a new phase with work on the four pairs of cantilevere
d arm-brackets joining together the four rib pairs in a ring-beam at the centre;
situated more than 14 metres above ground level, these brackets and this ring-b
eam would support the floor of the inner chamber. This beam was cast in December
1974.By the beginning of 1975 work on the ribs at all four pillars had reached t
he half-way point after a steady succession of concretings. By September 1975, t
he ribs had begun to curve inwards and upwards and preparations were underway to
join the ribs in a ring beam at the top of the sphere. This beam was finally ca
st in a two day concreting which began on the 28th of May 1976.
At 29 metres above ground level a final ring-beam supports the roof of the inter
ior chamber. In June 1976 the pipe scaffolding was taken down and for the first
time the interior space of the Matrimandir was visible.Concreting of the floor o
f the Inner Chamber took place in November 1976, and the work on the walls of th
e Chamber began. These were poured in layers using a specially fabricated steel
shuttering.Simultaneously, ramps which would join the second level to the Inner
Chamber were being fabricated in sections in the Matrimandir workshop.Constructi
on of the roof began quarter by quarter, and was cast through numerous concretin
gs over the next two years.
From 1979 - 1987
The Space Frame
Space Frame Structure
Outer Skin
The space-frame to support the skin of Matrimandir is a grid of triangles of var
ying sizes which runs the length and breadth of the sphere. It allows for a doub
le skin, and though many possible materials could be used to cover the triangles
of the space frame, the original plan was for cement inside and outside (subseq
uently, ferrocement was chosen as the most adaptable material for the outer skin
and tinted glass for the inner skin). The outer skin will finally be covered by
golden discs. Precasting of the 1,200 concrete beams that form the grid began a
t the end of 1979. Fitting them took 8 years, and was completed on 15th August 1
987, Sri Aurobindo s birthday, making that one of the most spectacular aspect of t
he structure.
Meanwhile, the ramps were completed and underwent a successful loading test of 2
0,000 kg on the first ramp. In 1985 news came from AVI Netherlands that Zeiss (G
ermany) would be able to manufacture the crystal globe planned for the focal poi
nt of the Inner Chamber. During the same period the Italian marble quarried in 1
977 from the mountains of Lasa, near Bolzano in northern Italy, and destined to
grace the walls of the Inner Chamber, arrived. These pure white slabs of marble

were stored underground in the amphitheatre for several years, before finally be
ing mounted on the walls of the Chamber. An enlarged planning team was also work
ing on the design of the inner gardens.
From 1988 - 1991
The Inner Chamber
Gold Discs
During three years of concentrated work the Inner Chamber took shape. During 199
0 the twelve columns were given a lengthy treatment to give them the perfectly w
hite matte finish desired. The first stages of preparing the symbols - to suppor
t the crystal globe - went on simultaneously with laying of the marble on the fl
oor. Over 1,200 of slabs of white marble were mounted, and slowly the colour of
the lower reaches of the twelve-sided Chamber was changed from cement grey to da
zzling white. Staircases that enter the building through each of the four pillar
s up to the first level were meanwhile under construction.
A new spiral staircase was begun, to connect the first level to the second, wher
e the spiral ramps that lead to the Inner Chamber begin. Each of the four pillar
s required a substantial extension at the base. This had already been done for t
he Mahakali pillar (to the north) and in June 1990 the concrete was poured for t
he Maheswari pillar (to the south).
Then came 1991, the year of the crystal. It was hoisted in a wooden crate with a
plexiglass top, visible to all, and on August 15th that year - Sri Aurobindo's
birthday Special consultancy and support for this work was given by Paolo Tommas
i who has been involved in the conception of Matrimandir and its Chamber from th
e very outset.
Three Major Works
A large Auroville construction group took up the three major works of producing
the ferrocement elements for the outer skin, building the twelve outer petals, a
nd tiling the existing Amphitheatre with natural red stone from Agra.
The Petals

The twelve stone-clad 'petals' around the Matrimandir form an intrinsic part of
the complex. This is not only so because they add to the image of the New Consci
ousness breaking forth from Matter, but also since they - as the main structure
itself - are to be centres for 'silence and concentration' with meditation rooms
built inside each of them. Once completed, each of these circular spaces will c
arry the name and colour of one of the 'petals' of the Mother's symbol, so that
users can choose the appropriate space according to their need of the moment.
The petals are fanning from the promenade around the pond beneath the Matrimandi
r and extending for over forty meters, gradually descending to ground level and
the inner gardens. There are twelve pathways between the petals, four of which l
ead directly into Matrimandir via staircases between the pillars, and eight of w
hich lead to the pond underneath. Each petal will contain an egg-shaped meditati
on room corresponding in colour and vibration to qualities like sincerity, aspir
ation and others. Circling the big petals there are twelve smaller, mainly grass
covered petals, which lead onto the inner gardens.Making the foundations of the
petals started in 1992 and today the twelve petals are completed. Red Agra stone
has by now covered most of them.
The first meditation room in the first petal, on the left side of the main entra
nce to Matrimandir,is nearly completed.
The Columns

The columns arrived at Matrimandir in the beginning of January 1990.They were 24


-inch diameter, galvanised, seamless steel pipes, 8.65 mtr long, weighing 830 kg
each. The painting job appeared straightforward and the first two were done com
pletely in a couple of months. A dedicated team started putting in extra time, a
few infra-red lights appeared to help the drying, and then even an electric pol
ishing machine arrived to speed up the work. There are an average of 15 coats of
paint on each column with finer and finer sanding between coats after which the
final polishing was done.
The Gold Discs

Disc Frame
Stainless Steel Tubes
Disc Material Stainless Steel Sheet
Gold Leaf
28 gm of Gold per 1000 leaves
Leaf Size
85x85 mm
Total Number of Discs 1415
Small Convex Discs
954
Large Concave Discs
461
Average Diameter (Large Discs) 2.3 meter
Average Diameter (Small Discs) 1.5 meter
The outer skin of Matrimandir is to be totally covered by decorative, golden, co
ncave and convex discs. Mounted onto the structure by a system of metal rods, th
ey will have the practical function of shading the building from the strong sunl
ight of south-India.In August 1995 the gilding of the discs started under the gui
dance of a master gilder from Germany. About 461 big convex discs (2.3 m diam) a
nd 954 small (1.4 m diam) concave discs were to be produced. Over 100 discs were
made using the method of gilding which the master gilder taught the workers at
Auroville, before it was discovered that this method might not be suitable. Bird
s and bees, attaching themselves to the gold discs forced a reconsideration of t
his method of gilding.
By October 1996 no doubts were left about the best solution for the golden discs
. After several months of research in Asia and Europe, the method was chosen of
encasing the gold leaf between two thin layers of glass, sealed at the edges, to
yield something like a 4 x 4 cm gold 'tile'. It offers a solution which answers
not only requirements of durability but also easy maintenance. The gold will be
safe inside the glass which can be scrubbed, brushed and sprayed. Replacement o
f one or more of the gold tiles can also be done easily.The gold leaves are manu
factured in Germany and are of a high quality (28 g of gold per 1000 leaves). Ab
out 18 kilos of gold will be required - 750,000 leaves in all, of about 85 x 85
mm and of 8 microns thick.As of December 2000, 852 golden discs have been mounte
d on the structure's skin.
The Crystal Globe
The crystal for the Matrimandir arrived in Auroville on 26-4-91 at 10.15 p.m. It
was moved into the Matrimandir's Inner Chamber the very next day at 09.45 a.m.

The size of 70 cm diameter was marked on the original plan that Mother had drawn
for the central object in the Chamber. In July 1983, the searchlight fell on th
e firm of Schott in Mainz, and somewhat later on Zeiss in Oberkochen, both in Ge
rmany. These firms proposed the type of crystal - optically perfect glass - with
the name of Bohr Kron 7. On the 8th of June 1984, Zeiss presented the study, an

d gave the estimate: approx. 230,000 German Marks.On May 12 1987, Schott wrote to
Zeiss that the cast has been done, and that the mould was being cooled. When tw
o months later a visit to Zeiss was made, it appeared that this casting was the
second one, - the first one having failed for unpublished reasons.
The casting at Schott's in Mainz lasted 15 hours, and was done in a special form
of refractory stone, held together by seven metal bands, which was placed on to
p of a platform built of iron and steel. During the casting process the glass in
the form was kept at a constant temperature. After 15 hours the rough casting i
n the form of a massive dome with a diameter of 80 to 85 cm and a weight of 1100
kg was finished, after which it was cooled down extremely slowly (to avoid tens
ion) in an annealing furnace for a period of 5 weeks. The rough form had to be p
olished on two sides, in order to test the quality of the glass. Finally, at the
beginning of 1991, it became clear that the process to deliver the globe could
be started, and in April of the same year it reached its destination, the Chambe
r.
The seventy centimeter diameter 'crystal' globe, the only one of its kind, is th
e biggest optically perfect glass globe ever made in the world. On arrival at Ma
dras Airport in April 1991, it was passed through customs in record time and dri
ven straight to Auroville. The next morning it was hoisted in its packing crate
up to the Inner Chamber.
Mother said that four of Sri Aurobindo's symbols - standing upright and joined t
ogether at the corners - should carry the crystal globe in Matrimandir. During t
he time that the symbols were being manufactured (between 1992 and 1993) the cry
stal was placed on top of a prototype of the four Sri Aurobindo symbols. In 1993
the prototype was replaced with the finished symbols
The Heliostat and Lens

The heliostat is controlled by a computer program, which moves a mirror across t


he sun's path every day. This mirror projects sunlight into a lens, that project
s the single sun ray down on the crystal. To make sure that the ray strikes the
crystal exactly in the centre, a photo sensor is installed in the path of the ra
y itself and relays the data on the ray's position to the computer, which in tur
n will adjust the ray to the correct position if necessary.
The heliostat, fixed on the top of Matrimandir, is a device for tracking the sun
and projecting a single ray of sunlight onto the crystal globe inside the Inner
Chamber. The amount of light and heat on the crystal globe was studied by Frenc
h and German engineers. The present heliostat was fabricated at Matrimandir itse
lf and its components were ready for assembly in September of 1993. Tests were c
arried out to satisfaction by August 1994. In May of the next year a 45 centimet
er diameter lens with focal length of thirty meter (manufactured in India) was i
nstalled for focusing the sun ray in a converging beam that strikes the globe in
side the chamber.The gilded symbols of Sri Aurobindo supporting the globe have a
base with a small hole and a second lens, which refocuses the light beam to beco
me visible in the lotus pool under the Matrimandir.