“Wouldn't you like to come to Auroville in a few years? I feel you can do something there,” Mother remarked to Narad when they met for the first time in early 1968. Some months later, after Narad had returned to the U.S., he received a letter from one of Mother's secretaries saying that Mother wanted him to prepare himself to build the Matrimandir gardens. Within a year Narad had returned to begin the Matrimandir Nursery. “The intention was to collect the most beautiful plants from all over the world that would adapt to these climatic conditions.”
Mother asked Narad to design the gardens. This he was unable to do. “I couldn't catch the vision. Instead Mother gave me the opening to working with the soil and with plants.” During the 1970s, Narad and his helpers built up a unique collection of rare and beautiful plants. In the early 1980s he returned to the U.S. , but he continued to contact nurseries and friends around the world for special plants for Matrimandir. In recent years Narad has revisited Auroville annually for longer periods and at present he is fully engaged in the Matrimandir gardens.
His particular focus at the moment is to plant grass on all the petals by 21st February. “It's a big job. Every petal will have 1300 square feet of grass, but before it can be planted we have to prepare the compost and eliminate all the nut-grass, which is the bane of our work here in the tropics. I've even seen it grow through concrete!”
Grass is a whole world in itself. Narad reels off the names of some of the different varieties he is introducing at Matrimandir: Tif dwarf, Tifton 10, Tifton 419, Princess 77, St. Augustine , Centipede. “Many of the grasses come from the Agricultural Experimental Station at Tifton , Georgia , which is where they grow the finest golf course grass in the world. The qualities we are looking for include low-water tolerance, disease and insect-resistance, high-traffic tolerance and low-nutrient needs. But the first thing we look for is beauty. Each of these fine grasses has a different colour, texture and leaf shape. There's the bluish Tifton 10, the rich green Tifton 410, the emerald green Centipede...” Narad is using different varieties to create interesting variations.
What excites Narad most, however, is not the success he has had with the new grasses (of the 17 varieties he brought, 15 have succeeded), nor the successful cross-pollination of the 29 varieties of ‘Prayer' (Zephyrantes) which he has just brought from the U.S. “The most wonderful thing is that every Sunday morning up to 40 Ashramites are coming to work in the gardens. Many of them worked on Matrimandir's concreting in the 1970s before they were made to feel unwelcome. They so wanted to come again – we only had to open our hearts. So now that bridge between Auroville and the Ashram has been fully constructed again. Now I would like more Aurovilians to come and join us. There is so much work to be done there is room for everybody!”
In fact, Narad feels there is a completely different atmosphere at Matrimandir now compared to a few years ago. “We begin each morning with a meditation under the Banyan to invoke the Presence and make us work a little more consciously and it definitely has an effect. People are trying to open more, to let the Force flow through them and into the earth. Above all, there's a new spirit of harmony and collaboration. Back in the early 1970s Mother told me to begin with the garden of Unity – which speaks volumes. Although I pray for it constantly, I don't yet have a vision of how the gardens will look, nobody has, although things are sifting down from the higher planes and maybe people catch bits of it. Actually, I don't care who gets the vision, I'll work with anyone because my work is with the soil and the plants. But I have no doubt that when harmony and unity is fully established here, the rest will come.”
There's another reason why Narad is confident that the gardens will manifest. Many years ago, Narad's first wife, Anie, had a dream. In it, Narad was climbing into the sky. The people below were frightened he would fall but Narad had seen a golden branch in the sky and wanted to bring it down to Mother. He brought it down and planted it in the earth near Matrimandir. When Mother was told about the dream, She said, “It is not quite a dream. It is a very good indication about the work you are doing.”
At another time, Narad remembers Mother's hand making an ascending spiral as She described how one must know how to move from consciousness to consciousness as one progresses through the twelve gardens. “This is the inner journey,” explains Narad, “which is a preparation for the spiral ascent to the chamber.”
Is there significance in the order of the gardens? Narad pauses. “What has come to me is this. The first garden is Existence, the second Consciousness, the third Bliss – that's Satchitananda. When Satchitananda descends there's Light (the 4th garden). From Light, Life (5th) evolves. And Life, in its full manifestation, brings Power (6th). Power brings Wealth (7th), wealth used properly is Utility (8th), and this brings Progress (9th). And progress brings an Eternal Youth (10th), unassailable Harmony (11th) and, ultimately, a divine Perfection (12th) which leads, once again, to Existence.
“What a task we have before us, to create something where you go into the gardens and experience that. We're not there yet, but we're moving towards it.”
And what about the completion of the Matrimandir structure? Does Narad feel this has a special significance? “Yes, because Mother said to Nirodbaran that the completion of the Matrimandir would be coincident with world peace and harmony. More recently, a saint from the Himalayas meditated in the chamber. When he came down, someone asked him what he had experienced. He smiled and said, ‘One day it will save the world'.”