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Friday, Dec 06, 2019

Aurobindo Ghose : Revolutionary to spiritualist

Participating in the freedom movement, he became a revolutionary. While in prison for nationalist activities, enlightenment dawned and totally changed the course of his life.

inspiring-lives Updated: Dec 04, 2019 14:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aurobindo Ghose used to write fearless analytical articles for the English newspaper Bande Mataram.
Aurobindo Ghose used to write fearless analytical articles for the English newspaper Bande Mataram.(Illustration: Unnikrishnan)
         

Born to surgeon Krishna Dhan Ghose and Swarnalata Devi in Calcutta on August 15, 1871. Eminent writer, Raj Narayan Bose was Aurobindo’s maternal grandfather.

Education & Career

At age four, he was sent to the Loreto Convent School in Darjeeling. Later, his father enrolled him at a public school in England. After school, he won a scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied European classics. On his father’s insistence, he took the Indian Civil Service Examination and passed in 1890 but failed in the horsemanship test due to which he could not enter the service. He returned to India in 1893 and worked as the vice-principal of a college in Baroda. The Maharaja of Baroda had great regard for him. Aurobindo had a talent for learning languages. Apart from Greek and Latin, he also knew French and German that enabled him to read the original works of Goethe. He also studied Indian philosophy enthusiastically. His father had sent him to England at a tender age to be steeped in western culture, but Aurobindo acquired the best of both India and the West. He drew a high salary at the Baroda Educational Service but left it to join the Bengal National College at a much lower pay and took part in the national movement.

Revolutionary Streak

He became a leading figure in the movement. He used to write fearless analytical articles for the English newspaper Bande Mataram. He also started the weekly English journal titled Dharma. In his publications, Aurobindo tried to convey the message of Swaraj or freedom from the British rule. He called on the citizens to boycott British institutions and goods and was one of the leading protesters against the 1905 Partition of Bengal. Aurobindo, a revolutionary and a militant nationalist, was charged in the Alipore Bomb Case (1906-1910) and was sentenced to jail. He spent one year in solitary confinement at the Alipore Central Jail in Calcutta. Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das fought his case and Ghosh was released. Aurobindo met a Maharashtrian yogi in Baroda and learnt how to “silence his mind from the pressure of thought.” He practised pranayam, read for several hours a day and studied Indian philosophy as well as religion in great detail.

Spiritualism

He decided to give up active politics after his stint in jail and devoted himself to spiritualism. He reached Pondicherry in 1910 and soon started getting followers and devotees who settled down at the place where Aurobindo lived and eventually a spiritual retreat (ashram) came up.

In 1920, a French woman named Mirra Richard, who shared his vision, joined the ashram. She began to supervise activities at the centre and came to be known as the Mother. Rabindranath Tagore once visited the ashram and told Aurobindo: “You have the word and we are waiting to accept it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world.”Apart from Life Divine, which was his best known work, he also wrote several other works. Aurobindo suffered from kidney ailments and passed away in Pondicherry on December 5, 1950, aged 78.

INTERESTING FACTS

1. As a child, Aurobindo listened to stories of the Bengal Renaissance and social reform movements. He was inspired by the ideals and decided to follow its principles such as to stand against to gender and caste biases.

2. He did not have a good time during his years in the UK. Sometimes he had two slices of bread with butter and a cup of tea in the morning and a sausage for dinner. Yet he turned books into his companions.

3. When Aurobindo worked at a college in Baroda, he realised that though he had mastered seven foreign languages, he did not know enough about Indian culture. Understanding this he began making up for it.

4. He was one of the founders of the youth club Anushilan Samiti which protested against the atrocities of the British government. He later had to go to jail in a case connected with the Anushilan Samiti.

5. He took part in the 1906 session of the Indian National Congress and was a member of the team which set four objectives for the freedom movement which were Swadeshi, Swaraj, education and boycott.

Source: dlshq.org, topyaps.com