Nothing stands as powerful a testament to the soulful force of Sri Aurobindo–and his collaborator, the Mother–than Matrimandir, the awesome 100' high orb (right, still unfinished) at the center of Auroville, in Pondicherry. This mammoth globe breaking out of the earth symbolizes the birth of a new consciousness on the earth. The four massive pillars sup-porting the structure are named after aspects of the Mother of the Universe–Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. The world's largest man-made crystal (27" in diameter) is enshrined in an upper chamber. "I saw [in vision] very clearly the interior of this place," said the Mother in 1969. "No windows. The sun ought to strike the globe [crystal]." So a heliostat has been mounted on top of the sphere to reflect a beam of sunlight onto the clear crytal.The Aurobindo vision

organically unfolded into two communities–the original Ashram, begun by Sri Aurobindo (2,000 members, mostly Indian) and the Auroville Community begun in 1968 by the Mother (800 residents, two-thirds of non-Indian origin). The Ashram is considered the "guide, the inspirer" and Auroville is unquestionably the "experiment," a trailblazing "attempt for collective realization."

Photos, clockwise: Matrimandir today with inset drawing of the gold-petaled exterior shell (not added yet); Auroville meditator; group sunrise meditation; cross-section of Matrimandir; Ashram dining hall; international children of Auroville; two residences, typical of Auroville's creative architecture; the sacred banyan tree; and Matrimandir's sacred crystal.