Mother India has produced a galaxy of great souls in culture and literature, in religion and politics. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was one of the most remarkable men of modern times. Though a brilliant product of Western education, he reflected love for the mother country in his own way. He was among the earliest revolutionary leaders of this country who ran into attaining the goal of complete freedom from foreign yoke, and later turned to spiritual emancipation of the human soul.
Aurobindo Ghosh was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. There is a curious coincidence that India became independent on this day 75 years later. His father was Dr Krishnadhan Ghosh, MD, of the Indian Medical Service. He maintained the English ways of life personally. At the age of five Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was sent to the Loreto Convent School at Darjeeling. And at the age of seven, in 1879 Aurobindo Ghosh was taken by Dr Ghosh to England for being brought up in the ways of English people in English homes.
After being educated privately by the Drewett’s of Manchester for some, time, Aurobindo Ghosh was sent to St Paul’s School, London, in 1885. He became especially marked for his extraordinary proficiency in the classics. Before long he proceeded to King’s College, Cambridge, and there he carried off all the prizes of a certain year in Classics. With first-class classical Tripos at Cambridge, he rounded off his academic carrier. Later, he passed the ICS examination, obtaining the highest marks in Greek and Latin, but he did not appear for the riding test lest he should be caught in the trammels of Government Service. He started editing a magazine under the title ‘Lotus and Dagger’ for voicing the demand for India’s freedom.
He left England in 1893 and took up his duties at Baroda as Professor of English Literature at the Baroda College. Here he lived for thirteen years. It was here that he devoted himself to the study of Sanskrit and modern Indian languages, and picked up some experiences in journalism. It was also a preparatory ground for his great and unique career as a political leader in India. His active political career may be said to begin from 1902. It was based on the threefold policy of Swaraj, Swadeshi, and Boycott. He began to attend the annual sessions of the All India Congress. In 1902 he sent his younger brother Barindra to Bengal for organizing a secret Revolutionary Society in the province. But when the agitation against the Partition of Bengal in 1905 started, Aurobindo Ghosh gave up his high-salaried job in Baroda and took charge of the Bengal National Council of Education founded by him in Calcutta.
The political activities of Sri Aurobindo covered eight years from 1902 to 1910. During the first half of this period, he worked behind the scene, training up a band of revolutionary workers and laying down the principles that ought to govern their life. He was the moving spirit behind the ‘Bande Mataram’, the English daily, and the vernacular Jugantar. These two were the organs of the extremist Jugantar party. Through these journals he preached his ideals of complete independence in his fiery language — ‘We want absolute autonomy totally free of British control’. He was dead against prayers and petitions to the British Government. He was popularly regarded as the Flaming Apostle of Nationalism’, In the middle of August 1907 he was arrested on a charge of sedition for an article ‘Politics for Indians’ published in the Bande Mataram. At this time the great poet Rabindranath Tagore devoted his deep love and respect for Sri Aurobindo Ghosh in the immortal lines of a poem beginning with ‘Aurobindo Rabindrer laho namaskar’. On 2 May 1908 Aurobindo Ghosh was arrested and put on trial in the historic ‘Maniktolla Bomb Case’, In this case, he was defended by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das who hailed him as “the poet patriotism, the prophet of nationalism, and the lover of humanity”. On 6 May 1909, Aurobindo Ghosh was finally acquitted and released from Alipore Jail.
Now came the definite turning point in his life. In the Alipore Jail, he had mystic experiences when he realised ‘Krishna in all — Vasudeva sarbameeti — as named in his famous ‘Uttarpara Speech’. He edited two periodicals, the Karmayogin and the Dharma in English and Bengali, respectively. In 1910 he retired from all political activities and went to Pondicherry. He spent four years in silent yoga. In 1914 a philosophical monthly journal Arya was published under his guidance and continued to be published till 1929. For forty years he remained in yogic meditation and forwarded the fruits of his meditation to the world in his Essays on the Geeta, The Life Divine, Savitri etc. He was acknowledged as the foremost thinker of the age, and disciples gathered around him from all parts of the country and abroad. He breathed his last on 5 December 1950.
Today the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh has created a gravity of attraction all over the world. ‘Aurobindo Ashram’ named after Sri Aurobindo Ghosh in Pondicherry is now a pilgrimage for spiritual culture. It was developed largely due to the untiring efforts of Sri Ma (Mira Richard), the presiding spirit of Aurobindo Ashram.