Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

This August is special; this year marks the centenary of the famous Alipore Conspiracy Case

India Today Latest Issue August 11, 2008 Legacy lives on
Anshuman Bhowmick July 31, 2008
For the country at large, August is the month of India’s Independence. But, for many in Kolkata, August is the month of Sri Aurobindo. This August is special; this year marks the centenary of the famous Alipore Conspiracy Case, in which Sri Aurobindo, in his revolutionary avatar, was one of the chief accused. Fifty-eight years have passed since his demise. Yet, his admirers have made sure that his iconic stature is preserved in hundreds of places across the city. In the wake of his 136th birth anniversary, we visit some of most prominent centres of Sri Aurobindo.
“The acquiring of various kinds of information is only one, and not the chief, of the means of education and necessities of education; its central aim is the building of the powers of human mind and spirit.” These words uttered by Sri Aurobindo are printed in the prospectus of the Future Foundation School and form the basis on which the school stands. Every morning, at a quarter past eight, the 900-strong student community of the Future Foundation School assembles at the school auditorium.Dressed impeccably, the students sing the morning prayers, which mostly consist of hymns composed by and on Sri Aurobindo, in front of photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Ranjan Mitter, the school principal, says the curriculum here is moulded in accordance with Sri Aurobindo’s principles of education.
The teachers work more as facilitators rather than instructors, and the students learn in an experiential framework. “The whole of life is encapsulated into that. It is like taking life back into education,” says Mitter.The higher secondary school is under the aegis of ICSE, and it is just one of the major wings of the institute. It also runs a charitable dispensary with specialist doctors— takes care of the adjoining slums, and maintains an art gallery named after the Mother. The language classes teach English and French. The music classes, conducted here by some of the leading names of both classical and nonclassical forms, are attended by hundreds of people. Besides, a number of cultural soirees, from Bangash Brothers recitals to Gobindagopal Mukhopadhyay chantings, is organised throughout the year. The cultural competitions that are held here are a big hit, especially among the youngsters.
Recently, the centre curated a son-e-lumiere gallery on the life and career of Sri Aurobindo. Bolstered by rich documentation, rare photographs and archival materials, the gallery is an intimate look into the multifaceted genius. While the research wing is yet to gather momentum, documents related to the Alipore Conspiracy Case were published a few years ago. “The historical significance of this landmark case of sedition is yet to be explored,” Mitter says. But he takes genuine pride in the publication of a collection of Jugantar editorials that had been ‘generally supervised’ by Sri Aurobindo.
However, it is the relics of Sri Aurobindo that this institute is most famous for. Daily meditations are held here, and lectures are delivered. The precincts take on an especially festive look every Jayanti day.
Enter the premises of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, and you will immediately feel the sanctity of the place. It’s almost miraculous how it can shut out the din of the metropolis. Unlike other holy shrines in the city, this spot, at the centre of Kolkata, is a realm of silence, a silence that speaks volumes.The same silence must have held sway when Sri Aurobindo was born here, on August 15, 1872. The neoclassical mansion, complete with a portico, has changed hands umpteen times since then. For a while in 1971, the building was known as ‘Mujib Nagar’, and housed the governmentin-exile of Bangladesh.
In 1972, on the occasion of the birth centenary celebrations of Sri Aurobindo, a national committee was formed, with Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, as the chairperson. On February 16 that year, Sri Aurobindo’s sacred relics, which had been transported from Pondicherry, were enshrined in the Bhavan premises. The memorial shrine has since become a place of pilgrimage. Thousands join the collective meditation on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Besides maintaining the sylvan surroundings, the Bhavan runs a well-stocked library that is a treasure trove of Aurobindonian Studies.
Primarily built on collections of eminent scholars, it currently maintains more than 40,000 books and 100 journals. Thousands of members are attached to it, confirms Gopa Basu, the librarian. The adjacent children’s library, developed with generous aid from the British Council, is one of the largest of its kind. Ahana, the cultural wing of the Bhavan, runs classes of fine arts and performing arts. Renowned classical dancers like Amita Dutt and Nandini Ghosal, singers like Swastika Mukhopadhyay and thespians like Sukriti Lahari take good care of the students.
Although there is a lull in research activities, the Sri Aurobindo study courses are well attended. The occasional endowment lectures at the Bhavan auditorium often have the state governor attending as the chief guest. The recently established multi-gym has found a number of takers. And, if someone wishes to buy books and photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, they can do so here. The incense sticks, which are from different centres across the state, are a perennial favourite with the visitors.
In recent years, many of the younger generation have taken the spiritual route. Sravani Goswami, now a college lecturer, has frequented this place since her childhood, as a participant in the singing contests that the Bhavan organises. Today, she judges the same competitions. The parampara rolls on.
Back in 1996, the late Joya Mitter discovered a dusty trunk containing the entire proceedings of the Alipore Conspiracy Case, in a nondescript corner of Alipore Judges Court. Justice P.L. Dutta joined forces with her and, within years, the duo prevailed upon the judiciary to set up the Alipore Memorial Courtroom. The room in which Sri Aurobindo was tried was converted into a museum which also houses many important court documents pertaining to the struggle for freedom. Indeed, a visit to this museum is an unforgettable experience.
Sri Aurobindo left Kolkata and made Pondicherry his home. But at his home turf in Kolkata he continued to win admirers among the urban elite. On August 15, 1941, the meditation centres spread across the city got their unofficial headquarters at this Abhiram Mullick property that once housed the famous Albert Hall.

Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, as the centre is called, now rubs shoulders with Indian Coffee House, forming the intellectual hub of the city.
The walls of the stairs leading to the upper floors are lined with portraits of the master and his favourite comrade. The first floor memorabilia shop is always buzzing with activity. The second floor library is a storehouse of spiritual literature and the meditation room doubles as the seat for the School of Sri Aurobindo Studies. Professor Biswanath Roy’s lectures draw a considerable audience from nearby Mirzapur, Shyambazar and Bowbazar localities.Roy, who is also the publisher of Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir Annual, is one of the foremost exponents of his master’s philosophy in the city.
Back in 1906, Sri Aurobindo left his princely job with the Gaekwads of Baroda and joined the Bengal National College as its principal. The National Council of Education, the parent body, eventually gave birth to the Jadavpur University.
In its golden jubilee year, the Department of Philosophy offered a befitting tribute to this philosopher by opening the Centre for Sri Aurobindo Studies. Set up under the UGC scheme for ‘Epoch-Making Social Thinkers of India’, the centre is currently housed at the first floor of the Darshan Bhavan. In the words of Professor Indrani Sanyal, the centre’s director:
“Sri Aurobindo’s wide sphere of thought, his Catholic, comprehensive but analytic approach, his secular but outright nationalistic outlook—all these have been major sources of inspiration for venturing into this domain.”
Over the last three years, the centre has organised several seminars and workshops to fulfil its objectives. A series of academic publications are also in the offing. Efforts are on to get the outreach activities in place. Prev 1 2 3 Next Jadavpur University’s Centre for Sri Aurobindo Studies

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