Aju Mukopadhyay’s latest work The World of Sri Aurobindo’s Creative Literature, recently published by AuthorsPress, N. Delhi in 2013, is yet another contribution to the ever increasing world of appreciative evaluation of Aurobindo literature. The writer has done tremendous work before undertaking the writing on the creative literature of Sri Aurobindo. Only after having gone through the works of Sri Aurobindo and some of the critical works on the great literary giant and having acquired adequate knowledge of and mastery over the creative writings of Sri Aurobindo he has undertaken this critical venture on the great master.
He has divided the book into twelve chapters with the first one as usual on Sri Aurobindo’s life which stretches from 15th August 1872 to 5th December 1950 covering a span of seventy-eight years, indeed a dynamic life vigorous with professional, political, literary, yogic and spiritual parts and activities connected with four different and distant places - Bengal, England, Baroda and Pondicherry. Even after becoming a Mahayogi he was never indifferent towards his nation and he was so deeply committed to the full freedom of the country that he sent a message in 1942 to Gandhi and his close circle to accept the proposal of Sir Stafford Cripps which, of course, was thoughtlessly rejected by Gandhi which is responsible for all the future ills of India i.e. Partition of India, the resultant communal violence and endless blood-shed, Kashmir problem etc. His active spiritual role at the subtle level in turning the tide of the World War II in favour of Britain resulting in the unexpected reversal of fortunes of Hitler the leader of the Asuric forces is a well-known fact though it is beyond the pages of history. As ordinary people on this earth we do not know the gravity of the great sacrifice he made by suddenly leaving this mortal coil in order to expedite the process of transforming this life on earth as life divine by bringing the supramental consciousness to the earth atmosphere.
While the second chapter, a tiny one, introduces the creative literature of Sri Aurobindo in a threadbare way, the third chapter is a reasonable sketch of Sri Aurobindo as a poet and it refers to many poems, short as well as long pieces such as ‘Night by the Sea’, ‘A Thing Seen’, ‘His Jacket’, ‘Songs to Myrtilla’, ‘Envoi’, ‘To a Hero Worshipper’, ‘Chitrangada’, ‘Ulupi’, ‘The Rishi’, ‘Urvasi’, ‘Love and Death’, ‘Invitation’, ‘Who’, ‘Surrealist’, ‘Electron’, ‘In the Moonlight’, ‘The Sea at Night’, ‘The Tiger and the Deer’, ‘The children of Wotan’, ‘Bride of Fire’, ‘Rose of God’, ‘God’s Labour’, ‘Journey’s End’, ‘The Pilgrim of the Night’etc. Aju Mukhopadhyaya writes that “‘A God’s Labour’ is a biography and history of Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual odyssey, not on the surface but in its occult depth”(p.49). Most of the poems are philosophical and the writer thinks that ‘The mystic and spiritual poems are full of autobiographical references of a yogi’ and ‘his poetry is a complex product of his being’ (p.52). The writer’s critical eye does not fail to see some of the defects and he remarks that “there are repetitions galore” (p. 52).
Then comes the 4th chapter ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Greatest Creation: Savitri’, a relatively detailed sketch of the great work which “is a yogic creation by a poet who became a seer by his tapasya, repeating the Vedic world in the twentieth century. It has no parallel anywhere so far on earth: the creation of a spiritual epic of 23,800 and more lines, the largest in English language in modern age.” (p.54). What Savitri is in poetry, The Life Divine is in prose; while one is a great poem, the other is a monumental philosophical work. The lines of Savitri came from a higher consciousness, termed as Overmind level, higher than the intuitive level. Aswapathy’s sadhana, his yoga and spiritual experiences and travel through graded paths, planes and levels of consciousness are in fact the spiritual experiences and visions of Sri Aurobindo himself. The descent of Savitri to the earth is an answer to the yogic call of Aswapathy’s yoga and meditation and tapas. The writer is fully conscious of the fact that “The poem is full of drama”(p.62) when the sage Narada comes and reveals to Aswapathy and his wife that Satyavan is destined to die exactly in a year. With her firm will she resolves to marry Satyavan the man of her choice:
I am stronger than death and greater than my fate,
My love shall outlast the world, doom falls from me
Helpless against my immortality.
Fate’s law may change, but not my spirit’s will. (Savitri, pp.429-432)
She marries Satyavan and after a pleasant year of marital joy he dies at the fated hour in the forest with Savitri by her side. Now the real test begins for Savitri and the rest of the poem is a description of her epic struggle with Death to rescue the soul of her husband from the iron clutches of the Lord of the Underworld. At last she, being the Divine Mother, succeeds in persuading and convincing Death and in releasing Satyavan’s soul from the irreversible grip of Death. As the writer aptly says, “By saving Satyavan, Savitri saved the earth. As the earthly dawn was blooming forth, Savitri’s bosom nursed a greater dawn” (p.65).
The fifth chapter deals with the critics of Sri Aurobindo’s poetry and refers to the adverse remarks of some established Indo-English poets such as Nissim Ezekiel, P.Lal, Keki N.Daruwalla. While P.Lal after a few years revised his opinion and wrote an appreciation of Sri Aurobindo acknowledging him as a Titan of Indo-Anglian literature, Daruwalla remains a confirmed person in his negative approach and does not come out of the narrow confines of his critical bias and fractured understanding. Aju Mukhopadhyaya makes a mention of the views of the early critic Mr. James Cousin who could see both the positive and negative aspects and also Sir Herbert Read who considers “Savitri is undoubtedly one of the world’s great poems”. The present writer seems to have gone through the recent work on Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs and as such he quotes the opinion of this controversial biographer too: “Aurobindo’s own poetry, rooted deeply in the soil of the nineteenth century, was out of date before it saw print” (p.81).
The next six chapters from six to eleven deal with Sri Aurobindo the dramatist and with some of his select plays such as Perseus - the Deliverer, a comedy with Syrian background, Rodogune - a significant tragedy with Syrian background, The Viziers of Bassora - the most entertaining romantic comedy and an adaptation of the story of the well-known Tales of the Arabian Nights, Eric - a romantic play with a gripping theme from the heroic age of ancient Norway and Vasavadatta - an interesting play with a pleasant ending taken from Somadeva’s Sanskrit work Kathasaritsagara.
The twelfth chapter which is the last one deals with Sri Aurobindo’s short stories, a less-known area, for he is mostly known as a poet, a revolutionary, a scholar, a philosopher and a yogi, but he is ‘little-known as a story-teller’. “I also wrote some stories but they are lost; the white ants have finished them,” Sri Aurobindo sighed lightly and continued humorously “and with them has perished my future fame as a story-teller…. Most of my stories were occult.” He recollected it before his disciples on 3rd January 1939. Now we are fortunate that four of his stories written in English were spared by white ants and they are ‘Golden Bird’, ‘The Phantom Hour’, ‘The Devil’s Mastiff’ and ‘The Door at Abelard’ and they are all under the common title Idylls of the Occult. It ends with the story The Door at Abelard and as the writer says “This is not only occult but also a horrible story, which keeps its strong after-effect on any reader of ordinary nerves” (p.159).
Thus Aju Mukhopadhyay’s literary work The World of Sri Aurobindo’s Creative Literature covers almost all the genres of the great writer’s literary works. The diligence with which he has studied the critical and biographical works on the Mahayogi and the hard work he has put in collecting some of the details of a very rare nature are something quite commendable. The book as a whole reflects not only the scholarly bent of the writer but the characteristic creative side of his personality shaping his critical perspective in interpreting the literary works of the Sage of Pondicherry. The beauty of the book gets definitely boosted by the quality of the publication by the Authors Press.
The World of Sri Aurobindo’s Creative Literature by Aju Mukhopadhyay
AuthorsPress, New Delhi. 2013 Hard Cover. Pp. 161 Price Rs.600