Thursday, June 1, 2017


(Written by Rajiv Roy in 'Meghalaya Times'. Posted in Writers Column)

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Is there a common cord between two of India’s greatest sons—Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore? The philosopher, spiritualist, poet, yogi Maharishi (Sri) Aurobindo and on the other hand and equally versatile Nobel Laureate Tagore was aware of each other in many fronts. (Sri) Aurobindo remains one of the greatest architects of India’s freedom struggle and giver of the most authentic statement on Indian philosophy after Shankar besides being a Mahayogi and a great poet of the spirit. Tagore was fully aware of this as was (Sri) Aurobindo of Tagore. “Today when we look at them against the perspective of time, we can see (Sri) Aurobindo the poet and prophet of the Eternal Day for the human race and Tagore, a soulful poet of the dawn jealously guarding the nobility of purpose with purity of means and they together symbolizing the Incredible India or India eternal,” said Dr BB Dutta, former Shillong parliamentarian and a follower of (Sri) Aurobindo’s philosophy and Tagore’s literary works.

(Sri) Aurobindo was 11 years younger than Tagore (b. 1861). After his arrival at Calcutta from Baroda, he met Tagore in 1906 at his Jorasanko House. He went there in response to an invitation sent by Tagore for dinner. Some say it was their first meeting. But it may not be so as (Sri) Aurobindo was occasionally visiting Calcutta from Baroda in connection with organizing a revolutionary movement for freedom of India. “His writings in Induprakash (since 1893) ‘New Lamp for the Old’ airing radical ideas and in opposition to the current thinking of the Congress stalwarts had already created a tremendous impact among the intelligentsia of those days. This invitation to dinner where Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, a Japanese artist and some other prominent people were present is an indication that Tagore had started holding him in high regards,” said Dutta. Tagore frequently visited the ‘Sanjivani’ Office and there also he and (Sri) Aurobindo occasionally met. When (Sri) Aurobindo joined ‘Bande Mataram’ as its Editor, Tagore became an avid reader of it the main attraction being what was flowing from the pen of (Sri) Aurobindo. 'Bande Mataram' reached such a height that it became the focus of the entire Indian nation and Tagore wrote to his son, Rathindranath who was studying in USA that henceforth instead of sending ‘The Statesman’ he would send him the ‘Bande Mataram’. (Sri) Aurobindo became the Principal of the National College founded by the National Council of Education and Professor of History and Tagore became the Professor of Bengali. “Obviously a close association developed between the two,” asserts Dutta.

On September 23rd, 1907, Apurba Bose was sentenced to three months in prison as the printer of ‘Bande Mataram’ for printing seditious articles. But (Sri) Aurobindo was acquitted for lack of proof that he was the author. But as he was acquitted, Tagore came to congratulate him and said in Bengali with a smile, “What! You have deceived us!” (by not going to jail). Aurobindo replied in English, “Not for long, will you have to wait”. Nalini Kanta Gupta, a close associate and disciple of (Sri) Aurobindo has dwelt on the natural affinity between these two geniuses. He says, “Both were poets, nay, seer poets. Tagore, the poet of the dawn and (Sri) Aurobindo, the poet and prophet of the Eternal Day, a new Dawn and Day for the human race.” Firmly rooted to the great heritage, both Tagore and (Sri) Aurobindo had the vision of a great future for their motherland and to realize that both considered her freedom as the basic necessity to recover her greatness. The writings and utterances of both of them created a psychological revolution—a revolution that began almost overnight during the Swadeshi days and the first decade of the 20th century. “Both of them joined the movement, led it in their own way and distanced themselves from active struggle to carry out their separate missions, they felt they have been entrusted with. These two master-souls were at one in the central purpose of their life,” said the former parliamentarian.

As Santiniketan grew with Tagore, a prolific creative writer, a poet and a social activist, so grew Pondicherry Ashram with (Sri) Aurobindo, poet, philosopher and a Mahayogi with Mother, his spiritual collaborator playing the role of a social activist. Tagore was so touched by the soul-stirring writings of (Sri) Aurobindo leading with a rare courage and conviction that he himself called on (Sri) Aurobindo and read out to him his heart’s homage, of which the majestic opening lines are “Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee!/O friend, my country’s friend, O voice incarnate, free,/Of India’s soul!” On Tagore’s literary genius, (Sri) Aurobindo says, “... His work is a constant music of the over passing of the borders, a chant–filled realm in which the subtle sounds and lights of the truth of the spirit give new meanings to the finer subtleties of life”. Singling out a particular poem of Tagore, (Sri) Aurobindo once wrote, “But the poignant sweetness, passion and spiritual depth and mystery of a poem like this, the haunting cadences subtle with a subtlety which is not of technique but of the soul and the honey-laden felicity of the expression, there are the essential Rabindranath and cannot be imitated because they are things of the spirit and one must have the same sweetness and depth of soul before one can hope to catch any of these desirable qualities.”

Furthermore: “One of the most remarkable peculiarities of Rabindra Babu’s genius is the happiness and originality with which he has absorbed the whole spirit of Vaishnava poetry and turned it into something essentially the same and yet new and modern. He has given the old sweet spirit of emotional and passionate religion an expression of more delicate and complex richness voice-full of subtler and more penetratingly spiritual shades of feeling than the deep-hearted but simple early age of Bengal could know.”

Dutta concludes by saying that certain coincidences and correspondences in the lives of these two master-souls must not be missed as they came together in the tumultuous days of 1905 partition of Bengal and were on the crest wave of India’s first nationalist resurgence. “Tagore has described World War I as “Yuga-Sandhi, the dying of the old age of night to the dawning of a new with its blood red sunrise emerging through the treble of death, sorrow and pain.” To Sri Aurobindo, this World War was a cataclysm intended by nature to affect a fast break in the old order to usher in the new,” he said.

(*Article sourced from

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