Friday, October 4, 2013

Pondicherry Reprise

We wandered to the pleasant town of Pondicherry again for a weekend, making the usual excuse, viz. out of town guests. The itinerary followed the good old routine, viz. leave in the morning, shore temple and Arjuna's penance and a good Mahabalipuram lunch, and trickle down to Pondi by evening. The guests got fascinated by all the Mahabs bric a brac, despite reassuarances that Pondi bric a brac was far better (but of course far more expensive!).

Pondicherry delivered as promised. The French quarter was elegant and well maintained. The ashram was serene and beautiful. The samadhi had a peaceful and meditative atmosphere, and a large collection of worshippers, even in the late evening. The ashram had its beautiful champa trees, now supplemented by a spectacular rock garden. The beach was cool at night, but a couple of sights were disturbing, is every kind of tourism a good thing?

 The next morning was a new experience, the Matrimandir at Auroville, with prior permission acquired due to the enterprise of the visitors and the presence of gracious Pondicherry hosts. The Matrimandir is a beautiful place of meditation, where the contemplative vision of the Mother has been encapsulated by the architectural vision of Roger Angier, in a remarkable piece of modern architecture. The Matrimandir is a squashed Cosmic egg, or to the less philosophical, a golden geodesic dome. The interiors are white marble, impeccably maintained, thanks to watchful guardians, all French on the day we visited. A spiral staircase leads to the central dome, with twelve pillars which represent the verities. The pillars are not structurally necessary, the French construction engineer who was our principal guide told us, but were a part of the Mother's vision. Natural light from a skylight falls on a crystal globe, and goes down to a meditation area below, with another receptacle at the centre of a beautiful marble lotus. The meditatively inclined felt the vibrations of the place (guess whose theta waves would not budge?).  The Matrimandir is encircled by twelve small meditation rooms, and is meant to be surrounded by twelve gardens, of which three are presently developed. There's an old banyan tree outside, and green lawns enveloped by a fledgling forest, a far cry from the sea of red mud that we saw when we visited last. Auroville originates in a dream, a dream of world unity, that seems to be developing slowly but surely, an oasis in the chaos and cacophony of the external world. It is a place to see, at least once!

This blog post by Neelima Gupte and Sumathi Rao.