Newsletter February 2004
Surveying from the Lotus Pond
There are interesting things happening these days in the area directly underneath the sphere of Matrimandir. At the centre of this plaza there will be circular marble pool: water will flow inward, over the rim of the pool, towards a symbolic object at the centre.
At the moment the concrete shell of the pond is being given its final bowl-like shape while simultaneously preparations are underway to clad the plaza area around the pool with slabs of granite, red sandstone and marble. The bases of the pillars themselves have already been clad.
Nine meters above the pond is the bottom slab of the concrete sphere of Matrimandir. From the central opening in the curved underbelly of the Matrimandir, the ray of sunlight that passes through the Inner Chamber continues its descent to softly touch the center of the pond. Almost unnoticed, at the center of this pond, is a small unobtrusive wooden block with a single nail driven into it that marks the exact center of the Matrimandir construction.
During the last three months an intensive program has been underway to survey the entire site, including the structure, the big and small petals, and the gardens area all around. We are entering the phase of the definitive marking of the four main axes of the gardens, the eight radial pathways and finally the oval path that encloses the whole 22 acre Inner Garden complex.
And that nail in the block of wood beneath Matrimandir is the center of it all.
Concreting the pond below Matrimandir
The Auroville survey team is using an imported “Leica” electronic survey instrument to carry out the survey. One day recently I saw that the tripod of the Leica had been set up directly over the nail in the pond. The survey chief let me look through the eyepiece of this fantastic instrument. As we swiveled it around to look in turn at the bases of the four massive pillars of Matrimandir, I could see that he was in the process of fixing exact reference marks at the center of these pillar bases. Once this was done to his satisfaction, he tilted the instrument up to sight through the steps of the West pillar to his man waiting out on the West axis pathway. That man was holding a round red reflecting disc mounted on a rod resting on the ground. The next step was amazing…for as the surveyor activated the electronic survey tool a red laser beam reached out from it to touch the reflector being held on the West axis. The laser beam was reflected back to the survey tool and immediately displayed the precise location (height, distance and angle) of the reflector. The survey chief was thus able to guide his man with the reflector to find and mark a position exactly in the center of the true West axis.
The survey team at work
Thus, from the cue given by the nail at the centre, the survey of the entire area was begun. The lines for the axes were laid out, the pathways marked and the locations of the workshops on the east were precisely mapped out.
It is important for us to know now the precise location of the oval boundary, especially on the east side of Matrimandir where the workshops are. Knowing the exact location of the boundary, we will now be able to move our temporary facilities (workshops and storerooms) outside that boundary so that work on the gardens infrastructure can proceed.
The Leica tool has the ability to store in its electronic memory the coordinates of 4,000 surveyed points. Thus, when one connects the tool up to a computer, one can easily print out a precise map of the entire area. Surely a huge progress over the early surveys of this area made in the 1970's, that were carried out laboriously using a simple theodolite and long measuring cords!!
Infrastructure of the Gardens
In previous newsletters we have reported on the beginning of work on the infrastructure of the garden's pathways. There will be water lines for the gardens, electrical cables for lighting and pumps, an on-site communications system and also a system for drainage of storm water during the monsoon. All these systems must be in place before the plants themselves can be brought in. As there is a push now to start the gardens, this infrastructure work has been taken up in earnest. To the north and east of the building, along the circular pathway between the big and small petals, trenches have been dug and brickwork channels are being built. This is another reason why the precise lines of the paths had to be surveyed, so that the ducting being built now will follow the true lines of the garden paths.
Along with the new ducts, many experiments have been carried out in the last two months to finalize the details of the stone cladding for the paths.
To close this work report, the increased activity in the marble section is something to note! There are now some 20 Aurovilians and guests involved in this work that includes the pond beneath the Matrimandir, the floors of the 12 meditation rooms in the petals, the first and second levels inside the building, and the central staircase that joins them .
The renewed push to complete the marble work inside the building has one very practical aspect (apart from just getting it done!), and that is that this work generates a lot of marble dust that floats upwards and coats everything (and everyone) on the structure with a layer of white powder, despite our best efforts to use vacuum machines and wet polishing. In order to go on with finishing the other works in the interior, like painting and completion of the Inner Skin, we need to complete the marble work and reduce the dust as soon as possible.
The push is on…
Marble work in progress
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