The Pondicherry School of Poetry-writing
Civilisation is hooped together, brought
Under a rule, under the semblance of peace
By manifold illusion; but man’s life is thought,
And he, despite his terror, cannot cease
Revening through century after century,
Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may come
Into the desolation of reality:
Egypt and Greece, goodbye, and good-bye, Rome!
Hermits upon Mount Meru or Everest,
Caverned in night under the drifted snow,
Or where that snow and winter’s dreadful blast
Beat down upon their naked bodies, know
That day brings round the night, that before dawn
His glory and his monuments are gone.
— W.B.Yeats in the section XII named Meru from Supernatural Songs poem of A Full Moon In March (1935) collection. Yeats Selected Poetry, Edited by A. Norman Jeffares, Radha Publishing House, Calcutta, p.179)
Someone leaping from the rocks
Past me ran with wind-blown locks
Like a startled bright surmise
Visible to mortal eyes, —
Just a check of frightened rose
That with sudden beauty glows,
Just a footstep like the wind
And a hurried glance behind,
And then nothing, — as a thought
Escapes the mind ere it is caught.
Someone of the heavenly rout
From behind the veil ran out.
— Sri Aurobindo in the poem, Revelation. (Vinayak Krishna Gokak, Edited and Selected By, The Golden Treasury ofIndo-Anglian Poetry, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, Reprinted 2006, pp.124-25)
This is your cup — the cup assigned
to you from the beginning.
Nay my child, I know how much
of that dark drink is your own brew
Of fault and passion, ages long ago,
In the deep years of yesterday, I know.
This is your road — a painful road and drear.
I made the stones that never give you rest.
I set your friend in pleasant ways and clear,
And he shall come like you, unto My breast.
But you, My child, must travel here.
This is your task. It has no joy nor grace,
But it is not meant for any other hand,
And in my universe hath measured place,
Take it. I do not bid you understand.
I bid you close your eyes to see My face.
— Swami Vivekananda in the poem, The Cup. (ibid, p.106)
Though there is nothing as that to demarcate and classify as the Pondicherry School, but instead of it, the need to charter the Aurobindonians and to see them in a clear perspective becomes essential as for to have a look at the ashrama poets, their hectic activity and spiritual delving with Maharshi Aurobindo at the helm and centre of it, the guru commanding and making the things materialize and the disciples following thereafter. The Pondicherry school of poetry writing, the Aurobindonians or Maharshi Aurobindo and his disciples, whatever call we or like to brand it as for the common traits available or found commonly in them, is in some other way definitely an experimentation with spirituality and poetry. A meeting of the East and the West can definitely be felt and marked in his assimilation and rendering of the yogas and yogic philosophy, a posture of supra-state of realization. Karmayoga, bhaktiyoga and gnanyoga, the path of action, the path of devotion and the path of knowledge, all these three embodiments or attributes as for reaching at or taking the paths to, are for the seeker-after to choose and follow thereafter and to take is not merely the things, one has to be after soulfully. Aurobindo is a not a man of bhakti, seeking through devotion, nor of karmayoga, but of gnanyoga, as it appears to be after reading him, but his philosophy of integral yoga is assimilative of it all, whatever be the fact, the synthesis or fusion. Champaklal, N.K.Gupta, Amal Kiran, Nirodbaran, Pavitra, M.P.Pandit, Pronab, A.B.Purani, D.K.Roy, Satprem (Bernard Enginger), Indra Sen, Kapali Shastri, etc. are the disciples of Aurobindo and our reading of Auronbindo and Aurobindonianism cannot be complete in the absence of them.
The Pondicherry ashrama poets writing poetry flourished under the influence of the master, the great spiritual guru, so much religious not only , but transcendental and yogic, we mean reflective and meditative, perfecting meditational yoga, the persona divine is the sadhaka after. Aurobindo after the Narayan darshan in jail as for nationalistic and radical activities, changing the course of life as for a tryst with transcendental vision, meditational philosophy, Yogic sadhna and experimentation with the Supra-consciousness, the Super Mind and Soul, the Super Intellect, takes to the recourse of yoga. A yogi and a sadhaka, a teacher mystical and spiritual, reflective and meditative, he is a poet of Man and Superman, the interrelationship between the two, the Supra-Mind and the Supra-Consciousness, the Light Divine and the Path of Sadhna, but the myths of Light not so full of mystical flashes as these have been explained with intellect and logic. A study in Latinization and Latinized diction, as it was the case with the age and he himself a professor of English and the Western classics, a polyglot knowing Latin, French and others, drew from Milton but differently. A saint-singer wandering not, but an ashramite he used in his studies, the grammar of poesy, the lessons of rhetoric and prosody. Though he has nothing to do with the innocence and ignorance of William Blake, but instead of it, the influences of his can be marked in the poem, The Tiger And The Deer. It was Western logic and philosophy which added to his lengthening and dovetailing of Indian metaphysics, philosophy, spirituality and theology.
Though he wrote in the Miltonic style, he followed the Vedic and Upanishadic line and length, cadence and rhythm of speech and incantation, fusing in both, but failing to get at the acquired result, with Savitri as the magnum opus, an epic in verse, Urvasie and Love and Death as longer poems, but the latter-day shorter poems with the mystical experiences dealing with the Sadhna and the Light Divine telling the things comparatively in a simple way. The kernel of Savitri from the Mahabharata, dealing with the tale of Savitri and Satyavan, Savitri intercepting Yama, letting not go with the spirit of her husband and the Yama nonplussed to see a so devout lady, making him think and re-think while taking it away, finally retreating and compromising, as such is the discourse of it. Still now the women folk on some occasion round the threads around the banyan tree and pay their homage on the day of Savitri Brata. Maybe it that the base is one of ‘the Mrityunjaya Japa, the Death-conquering Recitation Mantra’. In the Ramayana too, Lakshman when struck with an arrow and in a coma was given the ‘Sanjivani buti’, revitalizing herbs to bring him to consciousness. So, it may be it that such a notion has had its working upon the mind of the poet-seer, but the truth is that the old woman cannot give the mustard seeds brought from that home where no death has taken place and this can only console and boost up the lady in bereavement, asking for life from the Buddha. We the Indians in a make-believe take it to be so mythically otherwise none can reverse the cycle of birth and death. If one the one hand there is Savitri on one hand there is on the other John Donne’s Death, Be Not Proud and Milton’s When I Consider How My Light Is Spent or call it On His Blindness.
Maharshi Aurobindo (1872—1950) is not only a radical reformer, a revolutionary and a rebel which he was in his earlier days, but a transformed and metamorphosed yogi, seer and sadhaka who founded the Pondicherry ashrama to delve deep and deliberate upon the meditational states and the contemplative order of human thought and its evolution, transcendental vision and philosophy. Dhyan-yoga, seconded by wit and intellect, reasoning and logic had been the substance of his, not the karma-yoga and he went probing, searching the heights and pinnacles of the Mind and its Consciousness during his meditational hour. As Swami Vivekananda is famous for his Advaita Vedanta so is Aurobind’s philosophy of Integral Yoga. As a yogi, he will think of awakening the kundalini, the serpentine fold of consciousness starting from the intestines, consciousness lying dormant in life and its cells, as if there is life, there will the realization, if one seeks to know or feel it. Aurobindo is not a wandering sadhu, but an ashramite and his towering genius can be felt in the development of his personality and the attainment of knowledge. A writer of The Life Divine (1939-40) and The Mother (1928), great prose treatises, he startles us with his stupendous creations, delving deep in transcendental vision and philosophy, but the influence of Western reasoning and logic is quite apparent and he escapes them not. As a prose writer, he is more explanatory and comprehensive rather than poetry, but no less than anyone of the genres.
The works of the earlier period tell of the poetic pursuit executed differently as they deal with radical thinking, nationalistic zeal and patriotic fervour and are of a different type and tenor to be noticed into the annals of Indian English poetry. He fails in fusing the myths of the East and the West, but the dreams start shifting from the texts of Aurobindo preceding Savitri and materializing in it finally, though a few more can be added to the list. K.D.Sethna, Punjalal, Nolini Kanta Gupta and Nishikanto, the ashramites as poets, the disciples as the poets, we mean the ashrama men, approaching the Divine through the ordaining guru, though not directly, but K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar and V.K.Gokak also the Aurobindonians, inclusive of Harindranath Chattopadhyaya and Dilip Kumar Roy. Even though many sat not at the lotus feet of the guru, but felt the halo of his, the beauty of his meditation, crystal clear and gem-like, dazzling and glimmering as stones, thought-reflections, meditational graphics of mind rising to meet the Supreme Consciousness, elevating and soul-alluring, loosening the body, closing the eyes andmeditating upon.
Maharshi Aurobindo in a dhyana, a yoga, we mean a yoga-mudra (yoga-posture), and the slides and glides of meditation none but a sadhu can say, the serpentine formation from the kundalini, intestines to the mind awaking and arising the things as for to activate them, the thinking mood of the mind lying dormant within, the meditative spirit of the soul.
One cannot know and assess Aurobindo and his Aurobindonianism, if one knows not his disciples and companions, be it poetry or prose, both of these are interrelated and cannot be explained in the absence of another, the co-related stuffs of references and allusions. Had Aurobindo not founded the ashram at Pondicherry, his concept of Integral Yoga could not have materialized and we would not have found a great personality like him and others basking in.
What is he not Maharshi Aurobindo, a litterateur in the form of a poet, a playwright, a critic, a letter-writer, and to discuss as a poet is to concentrate upon his being a seer, a philosopher and a spiritualist. He has but rationalized metaphysics rather than giving an emotional, sentimental presentation. Aurobindo appears to be a George Bernard Shaw in English and his corpus is Jonathan Swiftian. The mind at work baffles us, not the heart at work. One may not comprehend him if ones knows not Milton and his poetic space, the workings of his poetic mind. As a diagram with regard to Milton’s cosmos and space becomes quintessential so is the case with Aurobindo’s Savitri and his Oriental myth fused with Occidental description. Though no doubt a delving in Cosmic Mind and Consciousness, it is a work of the Supra-mind, the Supra-consciousness. None but a Super Mind can only produce it, maybe he a daydreamer or a night dreamer.
Savitri as an epic is a legend and a symbol which the yogi himself admits it while presenting it as for the readers, a book of twelve books, it is the magnum opus of Aurobindo as The Life Divine is in prose, covering a vaster length and domain of poesy and transcendental vision fused in it. The author’s note dawns upon the allegorical contents of the poem with which it has been written and seen into. A table of contents is the arduous task to have been accomplished and herein lies the plan of the work and its execution.
A table of contents may point to the plan of the work bibliographically as the thrust area is bulky enough and the matter so vast and allegorical with a mythical content and text to be pursued and perused one after another in quest of perfect bliss and its endowment. The spiritual quest is the thirst for knowledge. What is this world? Why are life and death here? How to conquer death? To see it otherwise, Savitri is but the The Life Divine of Maharshi Aurobindo in prose.
Book I is The Book of Beginnings with Canto I as The Symbol Dawn, Canto II The Issue, Canto III The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Soul’s Release, Canto IV The Secret Knowledge and Canto V The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Spirit’s Freedom and Greatness.
Book II as The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds is inclusive ofCanto I The World-Stair, Canto II The Kingdom of Subtle Matter, Canto III The Glory and the Fall of Life, Canto IV The Kingdoms of the Little Life, Canto V The Godheads of the Little Life, Canto VI The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life, Canto VII The Descent into Night, VIII The World of Falsehood, the Mother of Evil and the Sons of Darkness, Canto IX The Paradise of the Life-Gods, Canto X The Kingdoms and Godheads ofthe Little Mind, Canto XI The Kingdoms and Godheads of The Greater Mind, Canto XII The Heavens of the Ideal, Canto XIII In the Self of Mind, Canto XIV The World-Soul and Canto XV The Kingdoms of the Greater Knowledge in the latter-day poems of Aurobindo, one can mark the things relating to illumination and experimentation with the Divine. The poet talks about the changes taking place.
Book III as The Book of The Divine Mother with Canto I The Pursuit of the Unknowable, Canto II The Adoration of the Divine Mother, Canto III The House of the Spirit and the New Creation and Canto IV The Vision and the Boon.
Book IV as The Book of Birth and Quest with Canto I The Birth and Childhood of the Flame, Canto II The Growth of the Flame, Canto III The Call to the Quest and Canto IV The Quest are the things to dispense with.
Book V The Book of Love with Canto I The Destined Meeting-Place, Canto II Satyavan and Canto III Satyavan andSavitri carries it forward the story of love and death.
Book VI as The Book of Fate contain in Canto I The Word of Fate and Canto II The Way of Fate and the Way of Pain.
Book VII as The Book of Yoga includes in Canto I The Joy of Union; The Ordeal of the Foreknowledge of the Knowledge and the Heart of Grief and Pain, Canto II The Parable of the Search for the Soul, Canto III The Entry into the Inner Countries, Canto IV The Triple Soul-Forces, Canto V The Finding of the Soul, Canto VI Nirvana and the Discovery of the All-Negating Absolute and Canto VIII The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness.
Book VIII contains in Canto III Death in the Forest
Book IX as The Book of the Eternal Night is inclusive of Canto I Towards the Black Void and Canto II The Journey in Eternal Night and The Voice of the Darkness.
Book X as The Book of The Double Twilight with Canto I The Dream Twilight of the Ideal, Canto II The Gospel of Death and Vanity of the Ideal, Canto III The Debate of Love and Death and Canto IV The Dream Twilight of the Earthly Real moves in its circular way.
Book XI The Book of Everlasting Day has just Canto I The Eternal Day: The Soul’s Choice and the Supreme Consummation.
Book XII which is Epilogue contains in The Return to Earth.
A vast and unmanageable work of spiritual fever, fit and frenzy, the seer dwells far from into the things abstract, metaphysical and transcendental.
The plan of Savitri is no doubt an intricate one, with a very vast proportion to deal with and to command at bay rather unmanageable it is, continuing for quite a longer span of time to accomplish the arduous task.
Savitri which is the masterpiece of Sri Aurobindo was published in two parts in 1950 and 1951 respectively and he revised and redrafted the book eighteen times before publishing it as did Walt Whitman in publishing Leaves of Grass and Wordsworth The Prelude from time to time and it took nearly fifty years in completion. It consists of 12 books in 49 cantos which finally go up to 24,000 lines approximately. Sri Aurobindo had planned to write a lengthy introduction to Savitri, which but could not materialize. However, he added an author's note which serves as an effective summary and it appears right at the beginning of the poem in all of its published versions.
The Vedic cycle of story carried from ‘The Book of the Forest’ of the Mahabharata where there occurs the narrative of the conjugal love in the personae of Savitri and Satyavan conquering death. Satyavan is the soul carrying truth, but fallen into the grip of death and ignorance and Savitri is the Divine Word, the daughter of the Sun, goddess of the supreme Truth born to save.Aswapati, the Lord of the Horse, is but the Lord of Tapasya, the concentrated spiritual energy. Dyumatsena, Lord of the Shining Hosts, father of Satyavan, is the Divine Mind here fallen blind, losing its celestial kingdom of vision, as per Aurobindo. Aurobindo claims it that Savitri is not an allegory, characters not personifications, but the incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life.
If to criticize and comment upon rationally, Aurobindo like Milton is very, very confusing and alluring. His illusions of the mind with all of their hallucinations baffle the reader through abstract denominations. The hocus-pocus of his poetry takes him to a tell-tale incantation. Far from reality, these induce us with an incantation of their own, which but just to believe, with nothing to contrast and contradict, reason and argue logically. It is really difficult to comprehend the theology of Milton and Aurobindo so theological, so vast in design rather than being John Donnian and Matthew Arnoldian. Some take him for ossified Aurobindo. Had Aurobindo not read Milton and Donne, he could not have written Savitri, an Indian Sanskrit epic with the kernel from the Vedic flashes materializing in the Mahabharata, but patterned on the stanza pattern of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Apart from it, the yogi’s yoga is there, Vedic, Upanishadic, Puranic and Vedantic. The literature owes its genesis to Indian classicism, but language to Western classics and Latinized diction and phraseology.
As a work, it is Indological, Oriental, Asiatic, Eastern and classical and in addition to it is hybrid too as for the fusion of the two items, Indianness and Latinism. There is nothing novel in it as it is a household story told from time to time and every Indian is aware of it. Aurobindo has just borrowed from and is boastful of his mantric interpretation of future poetry. The mantric quality is no doubt good for spiritual and psychic elevation, but life has other things too to ponder over, which but we cannot negate it. Savitri is but Paradise Lost in a Sanskritic garb and he patterning the stanzas not, but the paragraphs on the sloka formats, making mantric and scriptural. Aurobindo seems to be under the influence of the French lady in Savitri. Something as that of immaterial, abstract and spiritual affection, love and bonding for her could have taken a shape and materialized in poetry surely. Had he ever tried excluding Indian thought and tradition would not have succeeded perhaps.
Similar is the case with Tagore in Gitanjali. It is Indian thought and tradition which but added to his fame. Savitri apart from being a classic is but a type of George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. Life is but a yoga and this is what Aurobindo seeks to convey through his poetic and spiritual words; some elevated thinking is essential as for to reach the height. Spiritual evolution is the thing which he dispenses with. The mind has to take to recourses as for its evolution. The influence of the American transcendentalists and their adherence to the Oversoul cannot be sidetracked as and when we talk of Aurobindo which he cannot escape from referring to. There are different sides of his multi-faceted personality, Aurobindo as a nationalist, a patriot, a rebel, a revolutionary, a leader, a thinker, a spiritualist, a yoga teacher, a poet, a philosopher and a guide and above all, an ashramite sadhaka. It would have better had we compared the stanzas from Paradise Lost and Savitri. All the time we talk of the sanyasin, but it is not easy to be a bairagi which Vivekananda talks about in one his poems. Bhartrihari’s pain only a ragged and wandering saint can know and feel it. The renouncers too weep feeling about their homes and worlds in isolation as it is also not so easy to break the bonds of maya-moha. Aurobindo no doubt lifted us through his elevation and spiritual illumination, but have we at least thought about the families of Sethna, Nirodbaran and others, whatever be it passing on them? This is also the other side of the picture.
To say it that Savitri appeared in 1950 and after will not be correct to say as because the previous workings of the poem had already been doing the rounds and the poet had been engaged in his work, in reworking, redrafts, revisions and reediting. Savitri is in reality a story of spiritual ascension and looked at his own story in a series if spiritual progressions, achieved day after day, felt from time to time. The composition of Savitri is itself a beautiful topic of research if one really likes to take up, but there should the archive materials to consult with as for the comparative topic in hand. Just about Savitri, the composition, draft and re-draft, edition and re-edition of it will do it, serve our purpose. One may see and trace the story of Aurobindo’s spiritual quest and its fulfillment, spiritual progress and its progression in it. The poet worked for it before 1920, in the 1930s and after to give it a developmental shape. Had all the drafts been in their forms, it would have been good enough for criticism sake. At least we could have seen the narrative developing and growing with time.
There is something as that of G.M.Hopkins’s Pied Beauty as seen in the duality of Nature, contraries and contradictions in the form of thesis and anti-thesis. Tennyson also speaks of Nature red in tooth and claw.
Maharshi Aurobindo’s The Tiger And The Deer as a Blakian poem is vocal of India the land of sadhus and sadhakas, they doing tapasya, taking the name of Bhagavati and the tigers roaming the wild:
Brilliant, crouching, slouching, what crept through the green
heart of the forest,
Gleaming eyes and mighty chest and soft soundless paws of
grandeur and murder?
The wind slipped through the leaves as if afraid lest its voice
and the noise of its steps perturb the pitiless Splendour,
Hardly daring to breathe. But the great beast crouched and
crept, and crept and crouched a last time, noiseless, fatal,
Till suddenly death leaped on the beautiful wild deer as it drank
Unsuspecting from the great pool in the forest’s coolness and
And it fell and, torn, died remembering its mate left sole in
the deep woodland, —
Destroyed, the mild harmless beauty by the strong cruel beauty
But a day may yet come when the tiger crouches and leaps no
more in the dangerous heart of the forest,
As the mammoth shakes no more the plains of Asia;
Still then shall the beautiful wild deer drink from the coolness
of great pools in the leaves’ shadow.
The mighty perish in their might,
The slain survive the slayer.
(Vinayak Krishna Gokak, Edited and Selected By , ibid, p.128)
K.D. Sethna’s Artist Love (1925), The Secret Splendour (1941), The Adventure of the Apocalypse (1949) Punjalal’s Lotus Petals (1943), Rosary (1946), Nolini Kanta Gupta’s To The Heights (1943), Nirodbaran’s Sun-Blossoms (1947), Nishikanto’s DreamCadences (1946), the books of verses telling about.
Anilbaran Roy, Nolini Kanta Gupta (1889–1983), Dilip Kumar Roy, Amrita, Prithwi Singh, Punjalal the older generation poets, Romen, Themis, Prithwindra, Chinmoy, Shyam Sunder and Chimanbhai the younger generation poets, writing under the shadow of the master, echoing the teacher, drawing from the guru deva and his inspiration is the thing to be discussed.
Ones and twos followed and flowed from and they wrote after being inspired or in pursuance to their spiritual quest, Dilip Kumar Roy’s Eyes of Light (1948), The Immortals of the Bhagavat (1958), Romen’s The Golden Apocalypse (1953), Themis’s Poems (1952), to be reckoned with.
K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar too as a poet is inclined towards Aurobindo and his Aurobindonianism. Tryst With The Divine (1974), Mycrocosmographia Poetica (1976), Leaves from a Log (1979), Sitayana, the Epic of the Earth Born, a re-telling of the Ramayana in his verse, V.K.Gokak’s Song of Life and Other Poems (1947), In Life’s Temple (1965), Kashmir and the Blind Man (1977) themselves reveal it rather than classifying them as thus. English Words, Space-Time Continuum, The Song of India, etc. are the poems of V.K.Gokak. K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar as a scholar and a poet is quite connected with Sri Aurobindo and his ashrama apart from his historical studies of Indian English poetry, the origin, growth and development of it as a genre of literature. He is first of all a literary critic and a historian who has seen Indian English poetry as a study in slender anthologies and minor poets and as a critic he has seen it as a reviewer. Sitayana (1987) as a work may add to his poetic fervour.Harindrananth Chattopapdhyaya (1898-1990) who has The Feast of Youth (1918), The Magic Tree (1922), Blood of Stones (1944), Spring in Winter (1955), Virgin and Vineyards (1967) is a poet of his type and tenor in the sense that he takes to both Marxism and Aurobindinianism and wavers in between. A man of different interests and professions, he is a poet of a middle standard. There is something which he adds too as well as misses in. The religio-philosophical poems, the ones of a meditative strain as for the contemplative order seconded by logic, reason and intellectuality gives a new dimension to his range and thought of viewing, the diagram of vision, the horizon of determinism, elevating the human mind, taking to the pedestal ofthought and mind, Cosmic Mind and Consciousness.
Kaikhosru Dadabai Sethna, a Parsi, who discontinued after meeting Aurobindo to be called Amal Kiran, is a poet, scholar, writer, philosopher and a cultural critic. Born on 26 November 1904, Sethna studied at Bombay University, but hearing about his integral yoga, he came to see him as a seeker after and a journalist, but the guru hypnotized him, as the hearsay holds about, do not meet a sadhu, a yogi and a fakira, he may take the soul and the heart away with him. Such is the incantatory effect on the soul. We do not know it what it did happen on the heart of the parents. Finally, Amal Kiran, meaning Clear Ray name was given to him by the master. Sehtna actually had come to learn of Integral Yoga, but the guru drew him towards. A graduate from Bombay University and a promising young journalist, he left his all as for to be an ashramite, a pupil of Aurobindo. He joined the Aurobindo Ashrama at the age of twenty-three. The correspondences with Kathleen Raine and K.D.Sethna too may focus on many an aspect of life, time and literature. This Errant Life, Grace, Tree of Time, Pool of Loneliness, Mystic Mountains, What is Truth?, etc. are the poems of K.D.Sethna.
Nirodbaran (1903–2006), Nirod in short, is the personal physician of Sri Aurobindo. A scribe and a senior member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, who graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in medicine, he came to know about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother by Dilip Kumar Roy while he was in Paris. In 1930 he visited the Ashram and met the Mother. But his job took him to Burma and thereafter having spent 2 to 3 years as a practitioner of medicine, he returned to the Ashram with the intention of practising Yoga and took up the work as the resident doctor. Poetry was one of the vocations as usual, generally taken up by some of the disciples of the master. In the meantime, Sri Aurobindo withdrew himself from the public life of the ashram and communicated with and instructed the sadhakas through letters. Nirodbaran who entered into a voluminous correspondence with Sri Aurobindo received near about 4000 letters from him. Aurobindo checked in, encouraged and guided his attempts at poetry. Blossom of the Sun and 50 poems by Nirodbaran appeard on and these were revised and commented on by Sri Aurobindo. Resurrection, Primal Source, The Unknown Creeper, etc. are the poems of Nirodbaran.
When Sri Aurobindo broke his leg in 1938, Nirodbaran had been one of the disciples with medical knowledge who attended on him in his time to recuperate. Later on, he published Talks with Sri Aurobindo in 3 volumes, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo in 2 volumes and his memoir 12 years with Sri Aurobindo, apart from others.
Nirodbaran left his body on the evening of 17 July 2006 at the Ashram Nursing Home in Pondicherry. At the age of 102, he went away peacefully and was buried at the Ashram's Cazanove Gardens at around 4 in the evening of the next day.
The late Nishikanto Raichowdhury (1909-1973) was a mystic poet, but for his poetic and painting excellence too. In his early years, he was a student of Kala Bhawan (Santiniketan), where Rabindranath Tagore and Abanindranath Tagore used to rate him very highly. Relinquishing his bright career, he joined the Ashram in 1934. Sri Aurobindo himself was an ardent admirer of his poetry and he called the ‘Brahmaputra of Inspiration’.
Nishikanto mostly wrote in Bengali, but for a very short period he attempted to compose verses in English. These poems, along with translations of his other Bengali poems into English by Dilip Kumar Roy, were published under the title of ‘Dream Cadences’ in 1946. In his preface to it, Kishor Gandhi admires the innate sense of rhythm and word-music. He had been a promising art student atSantiniketan, but abandoned that as for his contact with Maharshi Aurobindo.
Born in Faridpur, East Bengal, on 13 January 1889 to a cultured and prosperous family, while still in his teens, Nolini Kanta Gupta came under the influence of Sri Aurobindo, then a well known revolutionary fighting for independence against the British. But after his fourth year at Presidency College, Calcutta, he left a promising academic career and rejected a lucrative government job to join a small revolutionary group under Sri Aurobindo. In May 1908 he was among all those arrested for conspiracy in the Alipore bomb case, but was acquitted a year later. Thereafter he worked as a sub-editor for the Dharma and the Karmayogin, two of Sri Aurobindo's Nationalist newspapers, in 1909 and 1910. Sri Aurobindo himself taught him Greek, Latin, French and Italian and he was among the four disciples who were with Aurobindo in 1910 at Pondicherry. When the Sri Aurobindo Ashram came into existence in 1926, he settled permanently in Pondicherry. He was the secretary of the ashram and later on was inducted in as one of its trustees. A disciple, he was a revolutionary, linguist, scholar, critic, poet, philosopher and yogi.A prolific writer he has dwelt upon many wide-ranging topics. Nolini Kanta Gupta died at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 7 February 1983. Chinmoy though he claims to have written many fragmentary pieces breaks away from the Pondicherry Ashrama to establish a centre in America, but actually he does not have any formal education to add to, but instead of it, is an Aurobindonian satellite. Had Aurobindo been not, the ashrama could not have come into existence as the epicentere of the Integral Yoga.
While taking the Pondicherry school of poetry under our tight observation and scrutiny, two facets of the school come to our purview of delving and deliberation, one is that the names we hear though not less talented are poets as for the illumination of the master barring Chinmoy who has no formal education to stake a claim while on the other the Aurobindonian satellites look overshadowed under the image of the master. Whatever be that, the study of Aurobindo itself has taken the shape of an institute of poetry, philosophy, metaphysics and theology. The problem lies with the novice critics of nascent Indian English poetry criticism where the research students fail to bring out the specific traits rather than genralizing them in a broad way. Just the research supervisors dictate the things and the research students copy them in the maximum to publish as the wanted books of virgin poetry criticism. Apart from prescribing the poems of Aurobindo, one may definitely take K.D. Sethna, Nirodbaran and Nolini Kanta Gupta. Aurobindo cannot be adjudged and evaluated if his disciples and other ashrama mates are not discussed and taken into consideration, their essays and papers on his poetry and correspondences with him. The university teachers like to write on K.D.Sethna, but they have failed to include the poems of his as for studies in undergraduate courses even. The internal activity of the so-called intelligentsias, be they leftists or the rightists, is very treacherous indeed. Pavitra(1894–1969) born as Philippe Barbier Saint-Hilaire in Paris has leftsome very interesting memoirs of his conversations with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother held in between 1925 and 1926. Satprem (1923–2007) was a French author and an important disciple of The Mother who wrote Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness (2000), On the Way to Supermanhood (2002) and others. M.P.Pandit (1918–1993) was Secretary to the Mother and the Ashram and he tok a copious note of the lectures and wrote on. Champaklal (1903–1992) who was Sri Aurobindo's personal attendant also brought out a collection of reminiscences. Indra Sen (1903–1994) was another disciple of Sri Aurobindo who was the first to present in an articulate version of integral psychology and integral philosophy in the 1940s and 1950s. A compilation of his papers came out under the title, Integral Psychology in 1986. Sri Anirvan (1896–1978) translated " The Life Divine" and " Savitri" into Bengali. To them, Aurobindo had beenthe light; the guru Brahama, the guru Vishnu, the guru Maheshwara as the Sanskrit sloka reads it.
To review it and to compare and comment upon ironically, after taking Aurobindo and the modern poets antagonistic to him, we may put before The Scholars poem from The Wild Swans At Coole collection by W.B.Yeats to state it differently:
Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.
All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would the say
Did their Catullus walk that way?
( Yeats Selected Poems, ibid, p. 71)
Let us how does R.Parthasarathy take to Sri Aurobindo in the Introduction affixed to his edited book? Though there is something in his statement, but what he says about Sri Aurobindo cannot be accepted and approved so easily. Maybe it that he has tried to negate Aurobindo and has dared to put in experimental verses, a modern man of the modern times feeling in a modern way of expression:
“Of those who wrote in the first half of the twentieth century, again, only a few are remembered: Aurobindo Ghose, Sarojini Naidu, Joseph Furtado and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya. Their output was prolific — Aurobindo Ghose’s Savitri (1951) alone comprises 24,000 lines — and it was throughout uneven in quality. Today, one seriously questions their outsize reputations.
In Savitri, Ghose attempted to ‘catch something of the Upanishadic movement so far as that is possible in English’. But Savitri fails as a poems because Ghose’s talent and resourcefulness in the use of English were limited. Far from plugging the holes in the umbrella, he sprang a leak which, even twenty–five years after his death, has been only partially stopped.
Man, sole awake in an unconscious world,
Aspires in vain to change the cosmic dream.
Arrived from some half-luminous Beyond
He is a stranger in the mindless vasts;
A traveller in his oft-shifting home
Amid the tread of many infinitudes,
He has pitched a tent to life in desert Space.”
( Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets,Chosen and Edited by R.Parthasarathy, Oxford University Press, India, New Delhi, Sixteenth impression, 2002, p.2)
P. Lal, R. Parthasarathy, Nissim Ezekiel, Keki N. Daruwalla and others themselves have failed to understand the poetic space of Aurobindo. This is also a fact which but we cannot deny it.
I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.
— W.B.Yeats in the poem ‘A Coat’ from Responsibilities collection. ( Yeats Selected Poems, ibid, p. 63)