Searching for Pebbles
Several members of the Matrimandir gardens design team walk under the noon sun through a deep canyon cut into the red earth of Tamil Nadu. They are looking for pebbles for the Garden of Existence of Matrimandir.
The canyon is truly impressive, considering that it is entirely man-made, for the traders in earth and gravel have carved out a huge hole in the flat plain near the village of Kurumbampet close to Ousteri Lake . The canyon is about 70 meters deep and 300 meters wide at places, and extends for almost a kilometer. Looking up at the rim, one can see the edges of a forest of cashew trees that hang, some of them precariously, over the edge of this man-made canyon; indeed, in several places the vertical walls have collapsed, resulting in fan-shaped piles of debris tumbled into the space below.
The team from Matrimandir is looking for ancient beds of river pebbles, or perhaps seashore pebbles, that now lie embedded deep in the earth. We spot several thin layers, running like ribbons through the dense red earth on the walls of the canyon.
At one edge of the excavation, huge machines are scraping the cliff walls and pushing the loosened earth into piles, from where it will be loaded onto an almost continuous stream of lorries carrying their loads slowly up narrow tracks to the top of the canyon and away to customers all over Tamil Nadu — to be used as landfill mostly.
Where there is a pebble-rich layer, the material is kept aside and a team of workers slowly screens it by hand, carrying chetties of pebble-filled earth and throwing them against tilted metal screens. This is a tough job down here in the excavation under the hot sun.
The team from Matrimandir looks at the scene, in awe of the physical gash that man has cut into the earth, at the continual movement of the lorries and at the hard lives of the workers here. There are beautiful touches too, for in the deepest parts of the canyon layers of finely veined and richly colored clays are exposed. Fragile to the touch, they are captivating to see, with deep purple layers less than a centimeter thick alternating with soft browns.
Finally we climb out of the excavation and go to examine the stockpiles of cleaned pebbles stored at ground level. Dealers show off their stocks to us, like vendors in a vegetable market, with many different piles of carefully graded sizes, ranging from the smallest (under a centimeter), to the largest (about 10 centimeters in diameter). It is the latter that we are looking for to fill a part of the flat oval shape surrounding the large rock at the center of the garden of Existence .
Actually, we have been searching most of south India by e-mail for different suppliers of pebbles for this garden work. Several companies have sent samples to us, and our design room itself begins to resemble a pebble beach!
India has an endless supply of natural mineral wealth, as we are just beginning to discover. Already we have stones ranging from the most dazzling white, smooth-tumble quartz pebbles to the honey-colored naturally round stones from streams in the Himalayas , and many more. And we have recently received samples of a wonderful variety of rocks from the beaches of Bali , Indonesia . The gardens of Matrimandir will make use of the most beautiful stones we can find and will surely have a collection of pebbles gathered from all over the earth.
Placing pebbles in the garden of Existence
But for the moment we are starting locally, with these excavated pebbles from the ground of Kurumbampet. Along with them, in the garden of Existence we will use about 12 tons of those beautiful off-white pebbles from the Himalayas and then, just close to the large rock itself, we will use some of the special stones from Bali….Who knows? Over the years our selection may be changed and refreshed as new collections come to hand for, as we have said several times, these gardens will be evolutionary by design, so that they can grow more beautiful and meaningful as time goes by.
A pool takes shape in the garden of Consciousness
While the search for pebbles was going on, some solid steps forward were taken in the garden next to Existence, the garden of Consciousness .
Concreting the pool in the garden of Consciousness
On Feb 11 th , starting at 6 am, a 14-hour concreting began to cast the curving pool in the outer part of the garden. With some 60 people working together from early morning until 8 at night, the base and sides for the 60 sqm pool were cast. It was wonderful to be in one of those chetty lines again, tossing pans of concrete through the air for your neighbor to catch and pass on. For decades at Matrimandir this human chain has been a sure way to strengthen links between us. People who otherwise might not have shared a moment or worked together at all become linked immediately through the centering force of the Matrimandir — to each other and, more importantly, to the goal we are all pursuing here. This goal is something we do not often speak about, but it is always there underlying all that we do beneath our daily activities and surface concerns. It is what we are all really working for here in Auroville.
It was a wonderful day, refreshing, binding, and accomplishing too the very practical task of making concrete the centerpiece of the garden of Consciousness . At the larger end of the pool a set of concrete pillars now rise up about a meter above the level of the pond's top rim. From these a fountain of water will flow down into the pool and then overflow the edge at one point, cascading down a series of seven steps to the lowest point in the garden. The seven steps represent the seven levels of consciousness of our being.
The innermost section of this garden has already begun to receive its plants for, as the summer approaches it will become too hot and dry to transplant more from our nursery. The flowers that have been planted here so far include three varieties of Crossandra. Mother named the orange variety: “Supramental influence in the Subconscient”, the bright yellow one “Supramental Light in the Subconscient” and the pink one “Psychic light in the Subconscient ”. And on the outer edge of the raised earth beyond the pool we have planted two Champaka shrubs — “Divine Smile”(white) and “Supramentalized Psychological Perfection” (golden yellow) as well as another small tree with the significance “Supramental Action”.
Still to come is the flower that the Mother had selected to signify this garden, the large double golden-yellow Hibiscus which she named “Supramental Consciousness”. Her comment on this flower: “Gloriously awake and powerful, it is luminous, sure of itself, infallible in its movements”. These Hibiscus shrubs will be planted in a band along one edge of the pool.
Over the next few months the pool's inner surface will be clad with green stone slabs while the fountain and the seven steps leading towards the Matrimandir will feature beautiful white granite brought from Krishnagiri, near Bangalore .
It is a joy to watch the beauty of these gardens unfold as they are created, one by one. It is like seeing a flower with 12 shapely petals unfold itself slowly to face the morning sun….
Message for beginning of the excavation of the foundation crater for Matrimandir
In our February Newsletter summarizing the 40-year history of the construction of Matrimandir, the year-long phase of digging its foundation crater was described. March 14 th was the actual date when that work began with handful of Aurovilians. On this occasion, the Mother had given the message below:
The fraternity of
The aspiration towards
in joy and
The 40 th anniversary was marked by a gathering of some of those who had participated in the early years of building Matrimandir, a few of whom were present during the very first days of the digging the foundation crater.
Caring for the Banyan tree
The Banyan tree at the center of Auroville is about 100 years old. It was certainly here long before the inauguration of Auroville and stood alone on the empty plains. It was, it seems, a favorite spot for travelers to rest for a while in the shade en route to the markets in Pondicherry . The central trunk of the tree is now two meters in diameter and may live – so we hear - for some 400 years! There are a few dozen secondary trunks which will support the canopy when the main trunk reaches the end of its life in that distant future.
One problem we are facing today is that the central trunk has become hollow due to age, and inside it, as well as higher up in some other cavities in the canopy of branches, fungus rot has set in. Over the years this problem has been treated with natural remedies, to slow down the natural process of age-related decay. To make sure the central trunk can reach its maximum old age, our gardens team is undertaking another treatment for the fungus problem.
The places under attack must first to be cleaned by gently scraping the layer of fungus and accumulated dirt to carefully remove them. Then the surface is brushed and sprayed with a special natural anti-fungicide mix. This mix, tested extensively at other places in India , is made by boiling seeds of the castor tree with needles of the casuarinas tree. After drying, the treated cavity is coated with a paste made up of one part fine sand, one part clay powder, and one part fine red soil. A bit of vermi compost is also added!
Our gardens team working on the Banyan Tree.
So, our gardens team armed with ladders, scrapers, buckets and enthusiasm went to work for several days on the Banyan at the end of March. One person even had the job of fully entering into the hollow in the main trunk of the Banyan to clean out the fungus accumulated there. It was a wonderful exercise, and one that will have to be repeated each year in order to keep this great Banyan strong and healthy. Anyone wishing to have the exact recipe for the preparation of the anti-fungal spray described here may contact us for further details; we will be happy to send you a complete description of the process.
Address for donations and correspondence:
(Please make your cheque, money order or DD payable to ‘ Matrimandir ')
MATRIMANDIR – AUROVILLE 605101 – TAMIL NADU – INDIA
Bookings: Tel (+91) (0413) 262-2268; accounts: 262-2228