Brief History of Matrimandir’s Conception
In June 1965, the Mother started speaking of her intention to build, north of Puducherry, 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.”
From the outset she explained that, at the centre of her town, there would be a “Park of Unity” and that, in this park, there would be something she called at first a “Pavilion of Truth”, or “Pavilion of [Divine] Love”, or “Pavilion of the Mother”. Eventually she named this Pavilion “Matrimandir”, which she translated in English as “The Mother’s Shrine”. She added that the “Park of Unity” would consist of twelve gardens representing the “twelve attributes of the Mother” and that eventually the Matrimandir and its Park of Unity would be surrounded by a Lake.
Towards the end of 1965 the Mother decided that a lone Banyan tree would be the geographical centre of the future town. At the time the site was almost totally barren.
Early 1968, the Mother gave their names to Matrimandir’s twelve Gardens:
Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, Light, Life, Power, Wealth, Utility, Progress, Youth, Harmony, Perfection.
On 28th February 1968, Auroville’s inauguration ceremony took place around a white Urn, shaped like a lotus bud, which now stands at the focus of a large amphitheatre. Youth representing each state of India and each country of the world placed a handful of soil of their respective state/country in this Urn while a welcoming message and Auroville’s Charter were read in various Indian and foreign languages.
Late 1969, the Mother explained to an American horticulturist, Narad, whom she had called to start the Matrimandir Gardens: ‘It must be a thing of great beauty, of such beauty that when people come they will say “Ah, this is it”. It must be an expression of that consciousness which we are trying to bring down’. She added: ‘One must know how to move from consciousness to consciousness’.
In January 1970, the Mother asked a French architect, Roger Anger, to start working on Matrimandir – saying that she had had repeated visions of its Inner Chamber and gave him a measured drawing of it, which an Ashram engineer, Udar, had drawn according to her instructions. She said that she had not ‘seen’ the rest of the building.
In March 1970, Roger Anger presented to the Mother a model of the Inner Chamber along with five different models for the Matrimandir. She selected one of these models, a slightly flattened golden sphere, and the architect worked further on it.
In 1970, in answer to repeated questions from an Ashram artist, Huta, the Mother dictated to her son, André, this reply: “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… The Matrimandir will be built now and water brought round it later.” The Lake’s size and shape were however not finalised during the Mother’s lifetime.
In February 1971, the Mother approved a new model presented to her by Roger Anger. It represented Matrimandir on an oval island. The Mandir looked like a lotus in full bloom emerging from twelve large ‘petals’. This model defined the layout and contouring of this island with its twelve gardens, the banyan tree, the Amphitheatre, etc. This model depicts the Matrimandir Island as having the same oval shape as Matrimandir’s vertical section but ten times larger (360m x 290m).
On 21st February 1971, Matrimandir’s foundation stone was laid. Three weeks later, on 14th March, excavation work started. At first only Aurovilians dug, but the excavation was so large that some 400 local labourers had to be hired to dig it faster.
Early 1971, a Nursery was established in Matrimandir’s vicinity to acclimate, study and propagate the plants required for the gardens. When the Mother was asked whether the people working at Matrimandir Nursery should stop working there and help dig the huge hole required for its foundations, she replied: “No, the gardens are as important as the Matrimandir itself.”
On 21st February 1972, the first concreting (of the foundation) took place.
In one of her messages, the Mother wrote: ‘The Matrimandir wants to be the symbol of the Universal Mother according to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching’; and early 1972, she named Matrimandir’s North, South, East and West pillars after the four ‘Aspects’ or ‘Personalities’ of the Supreme Mother, that is respectively: Mahakali, Maheshwari, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati; and the twelve meditation rooms, which are located inside Matrimandir’s twelve large ‘petals’, after her twelve ‘Virtues’ or ‘Qualities’:
Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Generosity, Equality, Peace.
On 17th November 1973, at 7:25pm, the concreting of the four concrete pillars which support Matrimandir ended. Exactly at the same time the Mother left her body.
The Matrimandir wants to be
the symbol of the Universal Mother
according to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching.
Matrimandir is dedicated to the Universal Mother, a Presence or Being that has been experienced and worshiped, under different names, in most cultures of the world since time immemorial. The ancient Egyptians named her ‘Isis’, the Incas ‘Pachamama’, the Japanese ‘Kwannon’, the Hindus ‘Aditi’, the Catholics identified her with ‘Virgin Mary’, etc.
Matrimandir isn’t dedicated to any particular emanation or incarnation of the Mother. Sri Aurobindo explains below the difference he makes between the “universal” or “cosmic” Mother and the “individual” Mothers.
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“… it will be the ‘Pavilion of the Mother’; but not this [the Mother points to herself]: the Mother, the true Mother, the principle of the Mother. (I say ‘Mother’ because Sri Aurobindo used the word, otherwise I would have put something else – I would have put ‘creative principle’ or ‘realising principle’ or... something of that sort.)”
(The Mother, Mother’s Agenda, 23.06.65)
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If the same being appeared simultaneously in a group where there were Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists, it would be named by absolutely different names. Each would say, in reference to the appearance of the being, that he was like this or like that, all differing and yet it would be one and the same manifestation. You have the vision of one in India whom you call the Divine Mother, the Catholics say it is the Virgin Mary, and the Japanese call it Kwannon, the Goddess of Mercy, and others would give other names. It is the same Force, the same Power, but the images made of it are different in different faiths.
(The Mother, Questions and Answers 1929-1931, Page: 18)
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The One whom we adore as the Mother is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence, one and yet so many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for the freest and most vast intelligence. The Mother is the consciousness and force of the Supreme and far above all she creates. But something of her ways can be seen and felt through her embodiments and the more seizable because more defined and limited temperament and action of the goddess forms in whom she consents to be manifest to her creatures.
There are three ways of being of the Mother of which you can become aware when you enter into touch of oneness with the Conscious Force that upholds us and the universe. Transcendent, the original supreme Shakti, she stands above the worlds and links the creation to the ever unmanifest mystery of the Supreme. Universal, the cosmic Mahashakti, she creates all these beings and contains and enters, supports and conducts all these million processes and forces. Individual, she embodies the power of these two vaster ways of her existence, makes them living and near to us and mediates between the human personality and the divine Nature.
The one original transcendent Shakti, the Mother stands above all the worlds and bears in her eternal consciousness the Supreme Divine. Alone, she harbours the absolute Power and the ineffable Presence; containing or calling the Truths that have to be manifested, she brings them down from the Mystery in which they were hidden into the light of her infinite consciousness and gives them a form of force in her omnipotent power and her boundless life and a body in the universe. The Supreme is manifest in her for ever as the everlasting Sachchidananda, manifested through her in the worlds as the one and dual consciousness of Ishwara-Shakti and the dual principle of Purusha-Prakriti, embodied by her in the Worlds and the Planes and the Gods and their Energies and figured because of her as all that is in the known worlds and in unknown others. All is her play with the Supreme; all is her manifestation of the mysteries of the Eternal, the miracles of the Infinite. All is she, for all are parcel and portion of the divine Conscious-Force. Nothing can be here or elsewhere but what she decides and the Supreme sanctions; nothing can take shape except what she moved by the Supreme perceives and forms after casting it into seed in her creating Ananda.
The Mahashakti, the universal Mother, works out whatever is transmitted by her transcendent consciousness from the Supreme and enters into the worlds that she has made; her presence fills and supports them with the divine spirit and the divine all-sustaining force and delight without which they could not exist. That which we call Nature or Prakriti is only her most outward executive aspect; she marshals and arranges the harmony of her forces and processes, impels the operations of Nature and moves among them secret or manifest in all that can be seen or experienced or put into motion of life. Each of the worlds is nothing but one play of the Mahashakti of that system of worlds or universe, who is there as the cosmic Soul and Personality of the transcendent Mother. Each is something that she has seen in her vision, gathered into her heart of beauty and power and created in her Ananda.
But there are many planes of her creation, many steps of the Divine Shakti. At the summit of this manifestation of which we are a part there are worlds of infinite existence, consciousness, force and bliss over which the Mother stands as the unveiled eternal Power. All beings there live and move in an ineffable completeness and unalterable oneness, because she carries them safe in her arms for ever. Nearer to us are the worlds of a perfect supramental creation in which the Mother is the supramental Mahashakti, a Power of divine omniscient Will and omnipotent Knowledge always apparent in its unfailing works and spontaneously perfect in every process. There all movements are the steps of the Truth; there all beings are souls and powers and bodies of the divine Light; there all experiences are seas and floods and waves of an intense and absolute Ananda. But here where we dwell are the worlds of the Ignorance, worlds of mind and life and body separated in consciousness from their source, of which this earth is a significant centre and its evolution a crucial process. This too with all its obscurity and struggle and imperfection is upheld by the Universal Mother; this too is impelled and guided to its secret aim by the Mahashakti.
The Mother as the Mahashakti of this triple world of the Ignorance stands in an intermediate plane between the supramental Light, the Truth life, the Truth creation which has to be brought down here and this mounting and descending hierarchy of planes of consciousness that like a double ladder lapse into the nescience of Matter and climb back again through the flowering of life and soul and mind into the infinity of the Spirit. Determining all that shall be in this universe and in the terrestrial evolution by what she sees and feels and pours from her, she stands there above the Gods and all her Powers and Personalities are put out in front of her for the action and she sends down emanations of them into these lower worlds to intervene, to govern, to battle and conquer, to lead and turn their cycles, to direct the total and the individual lines of their forces. These Emanations are the many divine forms and personalities in which men have worshipped her under different names throughout the ages. But also she prepares and shapes through these Powers and their emanations the minds and bodies of her Vibhutis, even as she prepares and shapes minds and bodies for the Vibhutis of the Ishwara, that she may manifest in the physical world and in the disguise of the human consciousness some ray of her power and quality and presence. All the scenes of the earthplay have been like a drama arranged and planned and staged by her with the cosmic Gods for her assistants and herself as a veiled actor.
(Sri Aurobindo, ‘The Mother’)
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A compilation by Gilles G.
Matrimandir under construction 1971 - 1992: Main structure 1. The ribs
Visiting the Matrimandir
Matrimandir construction photos from 1968 to 2008
Matrimandir - The Amphitheatre
Building Matrimandir, Labour of Love
Matrimandir - technical information
The Construction of the Crystal Globe
The Mother on Matrimandir and Religions
Matrimandir - The Banyan Tree