On Thursday, February 21st, The Mother's birthday, at 10.30 in the evening, the bronze statue of Sri Aurobindo's was carried to its final position in front of the white sweep of Savitri Bhavan. Ten at night seemed a rather odd time to erect such a precious statue, even by Indian standard. But architect Helmut explained that this was an extremely auspicious night, called in India Guru Purima: the day that the birthday of the guru coincides with the full moon.
“The statue was cast in bronze by dedicated artists from Calcutta in Lalit Verma's garden in Pondicherry . It was brought to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry for a blessing and then we brought it to Auroville. As the 21st of February was also Masi Magam, the day when the statues of the gods are taken down from their temples to bathe in the sea, the streets were crowded with traffic, so we are lucky it got here at all,” he says.
However, the crane that was supposed to lift the statue from the truck and set it on the plinth did not arrive. So by 11pm, after urgent consultations, Helmut and Lalit took matters into their own hands and had Sri Aurobindo carried to his final destination by a dozen men.
They heaved and pushed. The statue is more than 7 feet tall and weighs a good 400 kilos. Amid lots of shouted instructions, gesticulations, and waving torches, it was manoeuvred to the back of the plinth, and then with a collective intake of breath, hoisted up 75 degrees. Helmut rushed in with bolts to fix the base plate of iron, and then gave the final O.K. And up it went, for ever to gaze over the treetops in the West. I felt that Sri Aurobindo highly approved of the locatioon of his statue.
Lalit explained the complex process of creating a statue of Sri Aurobindo. “There are only 10 or 15 photographs of Sri Aurobindo, and just one of him standing. So we had to be ingenious. We blew all these photos up to a very large size and then surrounded by them, worked for a month doing sketches. Using these as a guide, we then created nine different full-size models, eight of which we rejected. Five artists from Calcutta then worked 12 hours a day casting in the age-old technique of ‘lost wax'.
“The statue is made of 85% copper, 5% lead and 5% zinc, a traditional recipe from South India . To this Helmut has added some pieces of gold that his parents had left him. This was very nice, as gold gives off a particular vibration.
“This statue in Auroville is one of five in India made from the same cast, but this looks especially splendid as it is the only one that is standing in a spacious environment. It is quite perfect. I feel it expresses my love and respect for Sri Aurobindo best, and its creation been an extraordinary privilege for me.”
There the Master now stands, surrounded by the small lotus pond – majestically, noble, strong and commanding. His eyes are penetrating and his hands large and beautiful. His perfect form balancing the bold verticals of Helmut's architectural creation, and his deep chocolate bronze contrasting splendidly with its dazzling white. His presence completes the beauty and splendour of Savitri Bhavan – as if he had been standing there forever.
Thank you, Dr. Karan Singh and Lalit, for your magnificent gift.
See more pictures in our photo gallery