Newsletter October 2007
The early days of August saw two long awaited events materialize at the same time. The first was the arrival of the team to fit the white woolen carpet on the two spiral ramps leading up to the Inner Chamber. The second was the lifting of the massive base plate of the new crane up to the top of Matrimandir.
The lifting of the base plate, weighing some 2.8 tons, was a project that had been thought about and planned for almost two years. Blackboards had been filled with drawings of various types of scaffoldings, thoughts of employing military helicopters had been entertained….for the job was to lift a weight that was more that two times heavier than any weight we had lifted in the long history of the Matrimandir construction. Finally we adopted the approach of using a steep slope made of scaffolding, up which the massive stainless steel plate could be winched by hand.
During the months of June and July this pipe scaffolding was built. We have shown you photos of this work in progress in our previous newsletters. Finally, on August 7th, the long anticipated day arrived. The big plate had been ushered to the base of the sloped scaffolding using a crane brought in for the job. This crane, by the way, could not have lifted the plate directly up to the top of Matrimandir, nor could any other crane locally available. In this rural environment high lifting cranes are simply not to be found. Furthermore, the shape of Matrimandir and the surrounding petals make it impossible to bring a high lift crane close enough to the lift point.
The base plate waiting to be lifted up
Early in the afternoon teams of people climbed up to the wooden platform on top of Matrimandir. The biggest hand winch that we could find in Auroville was fixed up there.
With four people cranking on each side of the winch handle, the lifting began.
The base plate began its slow ascent. It became apparent early on that this winch was being strained to its very limit, as the winch body was seen to flex and deform with each turn of the winch drum. Spanners were called for and the mechanics at the winch tightened all of the bolts holding the mechanism together. We tried again….this time the ascent went somewhat more smoothly, but, with eight people turning the handles with all their force, it was evident that we were still at the limit of the winch.
After half an hour of stop-and-start progress the plate had been lifted up to the equator level of the building. Discussions were held among those guiding the operation and it was felt we might have to stop here and somehow strengthen the winch. But the push to carry on somehow was strong ….Someone arrived with a bar of soap to apply on the skids of the base plate, to lessen the friction between the metal surfaces as the base slid up over the scaffolding pipes. Soon after passing the equator, we were able to attach a second winch to the sled holding the plate. From that point on the work went smoothly and everyone breathed a bit more easily and the main winch's task was slightly lighter.
Finally the last critical moment came as the plate, measuring some 3 meters on one side, arrived just up to the top of the sloped scaffolding. This was a tense moment, for the plate now had to flip over from hanging in an almost vertical position to a horizontal one and, in the process, make it through the narrow entrance to the flat part of the scaffolding on top of Matrimandir.
A critical moment as the base plate arrives on top of Matrimandir
Everyone watched with bated breath as the flipping maneuver was guided by two of the team leaders. Then, in one quick and smooth movement, the critical change of position was accomplished and the base plate came to rest horizontally on the top platform. The team working the secondary hand winch acted quickly to drag the plate inwards to a safer position away from the edge of the scaffolding. Then everyone paused and relaxed …big smiles lit all the faces as it became clear that this difficult and long planned job was done. A spontaneous cheer of joy and relief went up from those gathered there.
Over the days that followed this massive plate was positioned over the space prepared for it next to the central enclosure for the mirrors that guide the sun's ray into the Inner Chamber of Matrimandir.
On August 30 th the important step of grouting the plate took place to give it a firm and level seat on top of the building. Then a long series of adjustments began, and the process of assembling the stainless steel elements that will enable the crane to rise up and down on its hydraulic support, to reach out over the outer edge of the building and then to retract again to settle down on the rooftop. This process has continued throughout September and will hopefully be completed in October, before the winter monsoon rains arrive mid-month!
Inside the building, during the first week of August, the team of carpet layers was busy. Within just a week or so the 110 meters of white woolen carpet were fitted onto the aluminum surface of the ramp. This was one of the final touches, the last major piece of material needed to finish the interior of Matrimandir. With the addition of this soft white surface one now moves through the entire building -- from the first level to the Chamber vestibules-- over final and finished surfaces. Only the vestibules themselves remain to be completed, and this work is well underway.
On the outside of the building several teams continue to install the frames, aluminum panels and gilded sections of the entrance panels which will surround each of the four main entrances. This is truly a big and very detailed job. Thousands of different shapes of golden tiles are needed to fill the aluminum panels of these shields. Each of these different shapes has to be individually drawn on paper to give a pattern for the glass cutter and gold leaf fitters to work with. After the glass-gold leaf-glass sandwich has been fired in an oven, its edges have to be ground to give the final shape. It will then be glued with silicone onto the aluminum base along with its adjacent tiles. The whole module will then be mounted up on the building to make sure all is fitting well. Any significant errors will mean a trip back to the tile factory!
The work is proceeding steadily now, and the four shields above the entrances grow more and more visible as the weeks fly by. It is a bit of a race to have all these panels, and the large four-petalled discs which will be mounted on them, ready for next February.
Planting work going on in the gardens
While all this is going on, a team of painters is quietly giving the final coats of paint to the interiors of the 12 meditation rooms in the petals around Matrimandir. (In fact, the last coat of paint was applied to the last petal, named ‘Humility', on the 21st of September!) These colors are wonderful to see, strong and vibrant, with each petal having a distinctive color. For your imagination, here is a list of the colors of the 12 rooms (hopefully one day we will be able to make a newsletter in color just to show you these 12 marvelous rooms! or, better yet, you will come and see them for yourself!):
Sincerity - light blue Progress - vermillion
Humility - deep green Courage - pure red
Gratitude - light green Goodness - red violet
Perseverance - light yellow Generosity - pure violet
Aspiration - golden yellow Equality - blue-violet
Receptivity - pure orange Peace - deep blue
Nine of these rooms are currently in use, being opened two by two in combinations which vary every few days. By the end of the year, all twelve rooms will be in use on a rotating basis.
Out in the gardens work proceeds apace with the greening of the curved border areas of all sections of the garden. The weather, cooler and frequented by thundershowers nowadays, has given a big boost to the job of planting these grassy areas.
To give you a better picture of what we are talking about, below is the layout of the entire Oval area of the Matrimandir complex with the grassy areas shaded in grey. The Oval measures 360 meters on the E-W axis and 290 metres on the N-S axis - exactly 10 times the size of the vertical section of the Matrimandir! You may recall that the entire area is now watered, as and when necessary, by an automated irrigation system; the fine tuning of which will be progressively modified as the gardens are developed over the coming years. For now, we have undertaken the current project of greening the borders areas to give a finished “setting” for the future gardens.
By mid-November we will have composted and planted virtually all of these areas of grass.
The Oval, showing the Amphitheater (A), the Banyan tree (B) and the Matrimandir (M)
Areas of grass are shown in grey shading. Areas of gardens shown with diagonal lines
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