Steps forward in the Garden of Consciousness
Gardens, we are coming to understand, are not simple things to build. Even when the difficult step of designing a particular garden has been completed - and this step by itself may take years to accomplish, then come several stages of detailed work on the ground to execute the garden. In other words, it is not just a matter of arranging some plants in a pleasing manner on the ground.
The earth must be contoured, to create the slopes and hollows and places for future paths and ponds as required…this is the first step. Then, bearing in mind the intended planting scheme, the irrigation system's pipes must be well buried in the earth before any compost or topsoil is laid on it. Then the heavier works will be done, depending on the garden design. These tasks range from laying the borders for a pathway to constructing the foundations for a pool. And along the way you will have to decide if your pool is to be natural and living, with plants and fish to keep the water clean, or if it is to be a clear pool featuring decorative stonework instead of living elements and therefore requiring artificial water filters. You may choose to make your pond base from natural elements like clay, or go in for an artificial touch by using plastic liners to hold the water; or you may opt for a more solid approach and use concrete or lime to create the pool. All these and many other options are available for garden designers to choose from. One garden may be done in one way and the next in another, - as the designs may call for different approaches to the work. So it is with the garden of Consciousness. The form of the main upper pool has been cast in concrete, while the lower one, at the base of the seven interconnecting pools, will be made using HDPE lining material. Different materials are tried out, different approaches to the creation of the garden: we build, we learn, we listen to the need of each occasion.
The completed granite cladding on the fountain base in the garden of Consciousness
Today the upper pool is well advanced. The central square enclosure for the main fountain has now been fully clad in slabs of white granite. The shape of the seven descending pools that slope down from it has been cast and will next be finished with pebbles and white granite slabs. The curving pathway at the inner edge of the garden has been layered with plastic (to stop the growth of a persistent kind of weed) and then covered with small pebbles, to give an appealing natural aspect. One can already sit on one of the three cubical granite benches there and imagine the splashing fountain in the large pool beyond.
The basins for the set of descending pools were cast on July 15th 2011
Many of the plants are already in place while some of the ground is still bare, soon to be covered by the HDPE plastic sheeting which will be covered with pebbles and filled with water to create the lower pond. There is a steadiness to the advance of the work, a regularity in the progress in creating this garden.
A golden spiral comes alive in the garden of Existence
If you happen to look, in the early morning hours, at the central area of the Garden of Existence you will see one or two people doing something unusual. They are quietly gluing golden tiles on a thin aluminum strip that spirals its way from the center of the garden outwards.
Fixing gold tiles on the spiral in Garden of Existence
The tiles being used are the same as those that cover the outer surface of Matrimandir. In fact, they are left over from the two million gold-in-glass tiles that were manufactured here on site during the disk gilding process. At that time, there were some tiles that were not suitable for use on the discs and these were kept aside. The garden team has now included these tiles in their design for the first gardens, to create a sort of golden thread that runs through all of them and links them together.
The idea is being tried out here in the garden of Existence, and each day two or three meters of this golden line are carefully glued in place. A few more weeks and this special feature of the garden should be finished. When it's done, we will be able to arrange the rest of the field of large white Himalayan river pebbles through which the golden spiral runs. Meanwhile the concealed lighting lining the pathway has been installed and the pool and fountain under the large central stone have also been illuminated. As often happens when it comes to the finishing touches of a construction, be it a house or a garden, some experimentation, trials, and a good amount of time is needed before a pleasing effect is achieved that can stand the test of time.
Meanwhile, in this same space the gardeners are quite busy, for the plants need constant care: trimming, transplanting, spraying (with natural products!) to keep down pests that might have been attracted to these fresh areas of green. Those of us who have been busy working with stone and concrete and marble for so many years are quickly learning that caring for one of these gardens is a job that requires a constant presence and a committed love for the green and flowering children of Nature. Our team from the Matrimandir nursery, long familiar with these needs, is busy educating all of us on how best to care for the new life that is developing here in the gardens.
Behind the scenes at Matrimandir
Coming to the Matrimandir as an Aurovilian, guest, or visitor in the morning, you will probably notice the construction activities in the gardens on your way to visit the petals or the still whiteness of the Inner Chamber.
But behind the scenes there is a supporting infrastructure which is seldom seen by the passer-by. This support ranges from the team of Aurovilians busy with an impressive lineup of washing and drying machines in the laundry section, constantly at work to keep all the socks and cushion covers for the Inner Chamber as clean as can be, to the large team of gardeners who use a wide array of garden equipment to maintain and build the gardens. There are masons active at the stone cutting machines, out of sight but still being used to prepare stone slabs for the cladding of the garden pathways and pools. The variety of facilities kept ready behind the scenes is quite complex and impressive.
In rooms under the Amphitheater on its eastern side our electrical team oversees the array of panels which receive power - from the state electricity grid, or from the two large generators or from our 36 kw solar plant, and direct it towards different loads - lighting, pumping and workshops around the site, as well as to the air-conditioning in the petals and in the Matrimandir itself. All this happens quietly and is unseen by the many people who move through the site each day.
There is a catering section which produces huge quantities of tea and lemon juice for the 160 people working each day on the site, and there are workshops engaged in producing or repairing a wide range of metal devices that may be needed as the project continues to develop. There is a cycle repair shop and a carpentry shop. A vast section produces abundant and rich compost for use in the gardens. Then there is, of course, the entire Matrimandir nursery where plants have been and are being propagated and grown for the future gardens.
There is the team of volunteers who clean the golden discs of Matrimandir. Suspended from climbing ropes and harnesses, they move securely down from the top of the structure in the cool early morning air, polishing the discs to remove the dust and soot that settle continuously on them.
The disk cleaning team in action.
Recently this team made an experiment using a set of garden sprinklers to target a bee's nest hidden behind the discs. They succeeded, eventually, in persuading the troublesome and dangerous insects to fly away.
Then there are the offices, some for accounting and for ordering and receiving construction materials and others for the essential work of corresponding with the many donors worldwide who support the growth of Matrimandir. More visible is the team which organizes the reception of the many visitors who come daily to experience the Matrimandir.
The number of people and the facilities supporting the growth of Matrimandir and maintaining it are many and continue to grow. In time, many of these activities will be shifted off-site to more permanent locations within the city center, but for moment they are situated on the periphery of the nine-hectare Oval. Every day each one fulfills the role which has developed for it over four decades of Matrimandir's growth. Some are old venerable services, having been around in some form from the earliest days of construction; some are new and serve new needs and functions on site, but all form part of a closely knit web which supports and maintains the daily life and the growth of Matrimandir.
Experiments are ongoing to create a fountain in the Unity garden pond.
Looking for the Charm of Auroville
A team from the Matrimandir gardens recently went on a trip to Bangalore in search of “the Charm of Auroville”. This is the significance that the Mother gave to a variety of large light pink Hibiscus with crinkled petals, which she also called “Charm of the new creation”. Out of the 898 flowers which the Mother had named, 57 were varieties of hibiscus, mostly hybrids, and they had come from far and wide. These plants are a bit delicate, and under the rather harsh conditions of our area with the hot summer sun and land winds and the annual monsoon many plants have been lost over the last forty years. Our nursery, with its role of supplying the plants needed for the future gardens of Matrimandir, was missing many out of the original plants and was very keen to have them all on hand again. So, armed with color photos of the missing flowers they set out to hunt, not only for the “Charm of Auroville” but also for the “Usefulness of Auroville”, “Power of the Future” and several others. Some 30 different flowers were on their list to find and bring back to Auroville. An earlier trip to nurseries in Bangalore had been promising, but it being out of season, many of the plants were not flowering then. As there is a huge variety of colors and petal shape combinations among the general Hibiscus population, it is absolutely essential to see the plant in bloom and not just take a seller's word for it, before being able to confirm the identity of a particular plant. This time, the Bangalore nursery called us, for the plants were mostly in bloom. Within three days our team had successfully identified and purchased 23 out of the missing 30 hibiscus. Full of smiles at having recovered so many of the missing varieties, the team was well satisfied with the trip, and have now narrowed down those on the “missing” list to just seven! We hope to recover them all in time.
Matrimandir Newsletter can be sent to you by e-mail
We would like to remind all of you that you can receive the Matrimandir Newsletter by e-mail instead of as a hard copy by post. This saves on paper and postage and, as a bonus, you will be able to see all our photos in color! Please let us know if you would like to receive the newsletter by e-mail instead of by post. Just e-mail us at email@example.com
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MATRIMANDIR – AUROVILLE 605101 – TAMIL NADU – INDIA
Bookings: Tel (+91) (0413) 262-2268; accounts: 262-2228