91-foot high 'Lotus of peace' blooms in Santhigiri Ashram

91-foot high 'Lotus of peace' blooms in Santhigiri Ashram

Construction of a 91-ft high lotus made of white marble nears completion at the famed Santhigiri Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.PTI

The structure is built around the 'Parnasala', the final resting place of spiritual leader late Karunakara Guru, resembling the famed Bahai Mandir in New Delhi.

The imposing structure, rising to a height of 91 feet and with a radius of 84 feet, is scheduled to be dedicated to the world on September 12 this year on the 84th birthday of Karunakara Guru, an Ashram spokesperson said.

Almost 100,000 square feet of marble, transported from Makrana in Rajasthan, was cut into even sized tiles by workers at the Ashram before being cemented onto the 21 petals-12 facing upwards and 9 downwards.

The 'Baalalayam' or the elevated platform meant for conducting ceremonies, is decorated with intricate wood carvings.

At the heart of the structure is 'Sarakoodam', a 27-feet- high teak wooden enclosure in the shape of a lotus bud with a marble cask inside. Atop the cask 11 steps lead to a pedestal, where a life-size gold sculpture of Guru will be installed.

Karunakara Guru's followers included former President late K R Naryanan, who donated his ancestral house at Uzhavoor in Kottayam district to the Shanthigiri Ashram. The ashram has been visited by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader  L K Advani.

According to Sreekumaran Nair, structural consultant for the project, shaping of the lotus petals took a lot of effort and skill as the curves had to be executed perfectly and evenly.
Construction of each petal took almost six months and fixing of the marble tiles another three years, he said.

"Thinking up petal work was the toughest. We managed it without using heavy machinery. We used wooden moulds to give it the desired shape.

The columns had to be built simultaneously so as not to tilt the balance," said project architect K Sukeshan. The project is estimated to cost Rs 30 crore. Landscaping, library, lecture hall and other infrastructure would cost another Rs 20 crore, he said.

The monument has been designed under the direction of Janani Amritha Jnana Thapaswini, the Guru’s foremost disciple and spiritual successor.

Started in a humble way in the 1960s, the Ashram is open to all, irrespective of caste, class, region, religion or gender.

"The parnasala is a functional monument which we, the disciples of Karunakara Guru have raised as a token of love and respect to our Guru," Rajiv Anchal, film director, sculptor and disciple of the Guru, said.

On the first floor of the Parnasala, in 12 rooms, the articles used by the Guru will be preserved. Ahead of the sarakoodam is the foyer called ‘Baalalayam’. Outside the parnasala, colourful floodlights will reflect different colours on the white lotus superstructure during night time.

"As a mark of deep love and devotion to Guru, his followers have reconstructed the 'Parnasala' as a blooming white lotus, symbolising his message of universal spirituality, peace and fraternity," Ashram spokesperson Prashanth Kumar said.

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