SRI AUROBINDO AND ‘BANDE MATARAM’ NEWSPAPER
Bipin Pal, who had been long expounding a policy of self-help and non-cooperation in his weekly journal, now started a daily with the name of ‘Bande Mataram’, but it was likely to be a brief adventure since he began with only Rs. 500 in his pocket and no firm assurance of financial assistance in the future. He asked Sri Aurobindo to join him in this venture to which a ready consent was given, for now Sri Aurobindo saw his opportunity for starting the public propaganda necessary for his revolutionary purpose.
Organ of Indian Nationalism
Sri Aurobindo called a meeting of the forward group of young men in the Congress and [they] decided then to organise themselves openly as a new political party joining hands with the corresponding group in Maharashtra under the proclaimed leadership of Tilak and to join battle with the Moderate party which was done at the Calcutta session. He also persuaded them to take up the Bande Mataram daily as their party organ and a Bande Mataram Company was started to finance the paper, whose direction Sri Aurobindo undertook during the absence of Bipin Pal who was sent on a tour in the districts to proclaim the purpose and programme of the new party. The new party was at once successful and the ‘Bande Mataram’ paper began to circulate throughout India.
Absolute Independence as the Aim
Sri Aurobindo’s first preoccupation was to declare openly for complete and absolute independence as the aim of political action in India and to insist on this persistently in the pages of the journal; he was the first politician in India who had the courage to do this in public and he was immediately successful. The party took up the word ‘Swaraj’ to express its own ideal of independence and it soon spread everywhere; but it was taken up as the ideal of the Congress much later on at the [Lahore] session of that body when it had been reconstituted and renovated under Nationalist leadership. The journal declared and developed a new political programme for the country as the programme of the Nationalist Party, non-cooperation, passive resistance, Swadeshi, Boycott, national education, settlement of disputes in law by popular arbitration and other items of Sri Aurobindo’s plan.
The ‘Bande Mataram’ was almost unique in journalistic history in the influence it exercised in converting the mind of a people and preparing it for revolution.
A Force None Dared to Ignore
“‘Bande Mataram’ ... at once secured for itself a recognised position in Indian journalism. The hand of the master was in it, from the very beginning. Its bold attitude, its vigorous thinking, its clear ideas, its chaste and powerful diction, its scorching sarcasm and refined witticism, were unsurpassed by any journal in the country, either Indian or Anglo-Indian. It at once raised the tone of every Bengali paper, and compelled the admiration of even hostile Anglo-Indian editors. Morning after morning, not only Calcutta but the educated community almost in every part of the country, eagerly awaited its vigorous pronouncements on the stirring question of the day. It even forced itself upon the notice of the callous and self-centered British press. Long extracts from it commenced to be reproduced week after week even in the exclusive columns of the ‘Times’ in London. It was a force in the country which none dared to ignore, however much they might fear or hate it...”
—Bipin Chandra Pal
Voice of Nationalist Extremism
“It had a full-size sheet, was clearly printed on green paper, and was full of leading and special articles written in English with a brilliance and pungency not hitherto attained in the Indian Press. It was the most effective voice of what we then called nationalist extremism.”
—Extract from S. K. Ratcliffe, a previous editor of ‘The Statesman’, in a letter to the Manchester Guardian of 28 December 1950
“...The words of Bande Mataram will drive out your fear; steel your arms with the might of thunder; fire will course through your veins...”
—Brahmabandhav Upadhyay in ‘Sandhya’ newspaper
“... I spare no opportunity of recommending your excellent paper to my friends as well as those whom I meet. For me it is generally an intellectual feast and it is my earnest desire that nothing will happen to mar its usefulness. It is doing a splendid service. May it live long is the earnest prayer...”
—Lajpat Rai wrote (on 4 May 1907, just five days before his deportation)
Teacher of a whole Nation
“Bande Mataram... was a force in the country which none dared to ignore, however much they might fear or hate it, and Aravinda was the leading spirit, the central figure, in the new journal. The opportunities that were denied him in the National College he found in the pages of the ‘Bande Mataram’, and from a tutor of a few youths he thus became the teacher of a whole nation…”
—Bepin Chandra Pal
Real Editor of Bande Mataram
“Sri Aurobindo was undoubtedly the real editor of the Extremist paper, the Bande Mataram, but still remained at large, partly owing to the number of 'prison editors' on his staff... the man who inspired official circles with the greatest alarm, because his influence, though least spoken of, was most profound...”
[Photos and text courtesy the website www.sriaurobindoinstitute.