Adjusting the ray
Sunday …I was walking along one of the
shady paths in the Center area, enjoying the early morning sun.
From behind me suddenly there came a questioning voice: "Shall
we go and adjust the ray now?"
It was an Auroville youth who has recently
been taking an active interest in the heliostat of Matrimandir.
He was referring to the fact that since some days the ray of sunlight
in the Inner Chamber was not "spot on", it was striking
the crystal globe, as it must always do, but it had wandered a
bit to one side. We had been planning to get together to do this
job of fine-tuning the direction of the ray..
In describing her vision of the Chamber in
1970, the Mother gave supreme importance to this ray and its play
on the center of the Chamber: "The important thing is the
play of the sun on the centre. Because it becomes a symbol - the
symbol of future realisation."
Climb to the top
To get to the heliostat on top of the Matrimandir,
you first have to enter the sphere by the usual way: down the
slope between the red sandstone-clad petals, and up the concrete
steps within one of the four great pillars (in this case the western
one, Mahasaraswati). Then you take the temporary wooden staircase
up to the second level and ascend the spiral ramp that takes you
to the door of the Inner Chamber. After that, you follow a tiny
spiral staircase that leads up above the chamber vestibule and
then a few flights of concrete steps, more wooden steps and a
sloped wooden ramp leading up to a small round opening in the
concrete rib. Finally you have to hop through this hole between
the two halves of the massive concrete ribs, go up one more flight
of wooden stairs and then you are on the roof!
View from the top
on top of the Matrimandir, one is always captivated by the view…the
forest of green all around, the morning sun hanging over the Bay
of Bengal 5 kms to the east. Only the tops of the closest buildings
are visible at all: you cannot see a trace of the large Solar
Kitchen which is just 500 mt to the south, nor can you see the
"Bharat Nivas" complex, some 800 mt to the west. There
is hardly a clue that, to the south and west barely a kilometer
from Matrimandir, some 7,000 Tamil villagers are going about their
daily lives in the villages of Edyanchavady, Kottakarai and Allankuppam
on the border of the Auroville Township area. Only the light haze
of smoke from morning cooking fires is visible amongst the thick
growth of the forest. In the east, towards the residential zone,
there are the most signs of habitation, for there you can see
the apartments of "Invocation," the new building for
young people called "Kailash" and, further away the
red-tiled roofs of the community of "Samasti". Beyond
that one can only spot the wheels of the many windmills scattered
throughout the township and its greenbelt, which await the breezes
of the afternoon to set them spinning and pumping water from the
But we are here to adjust the ray!
Functioning of heliostat
The heliostat set up is a series of four mirrors.
One of them rotates, driven by a computer program, to follow the
sun. The other three are stationary and direct the reflected sunray
down through a plexiglass- covered opening exactly in the center
of the top of Matrimandir. Just below the plexiglass is a large
lens that concentrates the ray onto the globe, 15 mt below, in
the chamber. At the level of the lens, the ray is 45 cm wide.
As it descends to the globe it converges due to the effect of
the lens and when it touches the 70 cm dia crystal globe, the
ray is just 20 cm wide. Thus, even though it may fall on the globe
and nowhere else, it is still narrow enough to be off centre.
Looking down from the roof, we can see that
the ray is falling on the globe but more on the western side of
it (in the chamber this results in a beautiful "rainbow"
being cast on the western wall of the chamber!) The adjustment
needed in the direction of the ray is tiny but important.
One of the three stationary mirrors is free-standing and a heavy
gust of wind can throw it off its alignment; or, it could conceivably
be moved by one of the peacocks that sometimes comes up at dusk
to sleep on top of the Matrimandir!
With my young helper looking down through
the window into the chamber, I slowly move the mirror support
in one direction. "No, wrong way!", he shouts, as the
beam moves off the globe in the chamber. The second try, by moving
the mirror in a different way, leads to a cry of victory: "That's
it! Stop there! It's right in the center!" The job is done;
the ray is "spot on" again.
New heliostat waiting to be put in action
We take a look at the heliostat: set up on
top of Matrimandir, it has been faithfully doing its job for a
decade now. Its electric motors are getting old; many improvements
to its design have been prepared. In fact, standing under a canvas
cover a few meters away, is an entirely new model of the heliostat,
waiting to be put into action. Plans for the installation of this
new mirror, sturdier than the first prototype, are well underway.
At the same moment when the new mirror will
be installed, other changes are also planned that will bring a
much cleaner and simpler look to the ceiling of the Chamber. Today,
if one looks up at the ceiling while sitting inside the Chamber,
one sees not only the central opening where the ray enters but
also eight other opening close to it. Four are for the artificial
lights that shine on the globe when there is no sunlight, and
four are openings that let in the cool air from the air-conditioning
The new system will do away with all 8 openings.
In future, it is planned to project the spotlight (on cloudy days
and at night) through the central opening itself to simulate the
ray more accurately. Likewise, the design for the air-conditioning
ducts is to be modified so that the cool air can also come into
the chamber through the round central opening. Many details still
have to be worked out, but the goal is to have only one central
opening visible in the chamber ceiling. These changes will be
made during the coming months.
But for today our job is done. We descend
the series of staircases, and pause at the Chamber door to see
the freshly adjusted ray. It strikes the globe right in the centre.
The insistence of its play on the globe is inescapable… one feels
that it is calling us to be ready, to be pure and transparent
like the crystal globe, so that we can be fully receptive, all
of us, to all that is waiting to be realised.