More photographs of the early members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Dear Friends,

As the last installment of our series on the early years of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, we are publishing some more photographs of the early inmates of the Ashram. A number of these photographs were gifted to us by Shri Nirmal Singh Nahar and Ms. Gauti Pinto. We take the opportunity to thank them for their priceless gifts.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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                                                       Datta

 

                                          T. V. Kapali Sastriar

 

                                Suresh Chandra Chakravorty alias Moni

 

                                            Dr. Rajangam

 

                                Margaret Wilson alias Nishtha.

 

                                               Krishnalal Bhatt

                                                           Datta

                                           Sayanapuram Doraiswami Iyer.

 

                       

               A. B. Purani with Mithran and Tyagarajan, Doraiswami’s sons.

                                 Kalyan Chaudhuri, Nirodbaran and Dilip Kumar Roy.

 

                       Venkatraman, Dilip Kumar Roy and Anil Kumar Bhattacharya

 

                                           Chandulal Shah

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When were Aurobindo Ghose and Mirra called “Sri Aurobindo” and the “Mother”?

Dear Friends,

As a part of our ongoing series on the early years of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, we are publishing a brilliant article titled, ‘When were Aurobindo Ghose and Mirra called “Sri Aurobindo” and the “Mother”’ penned by Shri Raman Reddy, a noted researcher and archivist at Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Department. Not only does this article point out the precise time and course of events of the said theme but it also provides us with invaluable archival notes.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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When were Aurobindo Ghose and Mirra called “Sri Aurobindo” and the “Mother”?                                                                                                         

                                                                           Raman Reddy

Barring a few exceptions, it was only towards the end of 1926 that the disciples in Pondicherry began  referring to Aurobindo Ghose and Mirra  as “Sri Aurobindo” and the “Mother” in their diary notes, etc. Aurobindo Ghose was first referred to as “Sri Aurobindo” before Mirra  came to be known as the “Mother”, and there was a period of  transition (longer for the Mother than for Sri Aurobindo) when some of  the disciples used both names simultaneously.

A.B. Purani’s handwritten notes of Sri Aurobindo’s Evening Talks show this change of name. This is not apparent from the published text, nor sometimes from the typed copies of the handwritten notes, because “A.G.” and  “Mirra” had become “Sri Aurobindo” and the “Mother” by the time the typed copies were made and the book published.  The former names were replaced by the latter for the sake of  consistency. Purani first used the abbreviation “Shri A” in his rough notes of Sri Aurobindo’s Evening Talk of 16 September 1926 after using “A.G.” until that date. Haradhan Bakshi, another sadhak of the time, began using the name “Shri Aurobindo” in his diary on 19 September 1926. Both then went through a short  period of transition during which they kept switching between “A.G.” and “Sri Aurobindo” (sometimes even on the same day),  and finally settled for the latter by October 1926.

In the case of the Mother, Haradhan Bakshi  referred to her as “Mother” for the first time on 24  September 1926. Until then he had referred to her as “Mira” or “Mira Devi”; he would also use the variant “Shri Mirra Devi” after the Siddhi Day. Though by the beginning of 1927, Haradhan mostly referred to her as “Mother”, it was not until the end of 1928 that he stopped using altogether the name “Mira”. For Anilbaran Roy, there was no period of transition at all.  After coming back from Bengal on 10 December 1926,  he wrote in his diary, “Sri Aurobindo has retired and Mirra Devi has taken charge of creating a new world.” The following day Sri Aurobindo instructed him in an interview to surrender himself to “Mirra Devi”. The very next day, that is, on 12 December 1926,  Anilbaran referred to the Mother as “Mother” and never again as “Mirra Devi”.  Other documents show that Barin, Amrita and Bejoy also started using the name “Mother” by the beginning of 1927.

          When did Aurobindo Ghose sign as “Sri Aurobindo”?

 Sri Aurobindo first signed as “Sri Aurobindo” (and not “Aurobindo Ghose” or “Sri Aurobindo Ghose”) in a  letter written to Tirupati on 22 March 1926. However, it was under exceptional circumstances. The next known letter signed by him “Sri Aurobindo” is dated 1 August 1927 — this was later published as Chapter 3 of the book The Mother. Though there are a few more letters signed similarly in 1927 after this date, it was not until 1928 that Sri Aurobindo consistently signed his letters as “Sri Aurobindo” and even referred to himself in the third person as such. The final form of his name was continued into the last decade of his life, during which he made several public declarations. His support for the Allies during World War II (1940), the Independence Day Message (1947), the messages to the Andhra University(1948) and America(1949), were all issued in the name of “Sri Aurobindo”. However, Sri Aurobindo retained his original name “Aurobindo Ghose” to sign legal deeds such as property titles, etc.          

                         JAYA DEVI’S  REMINISCENCE

‘I used to visit him [Sri Aurobindo] every day. He would make me sit near him and listen to everything carefully. After four or five days I asked A.G. : “Why are these chairs here?” “They are for people who listen to my words and practise meditation – they sit in these chairs.” Somehow I didn’t like the idea. So I said: “Lord, this doesn’t look proper. That the sadhaks, your disciples, should be sitting in the chairs along with you doesn’t look nice. Better to have mats or carpets on the floor. While you sit in the chair, the rest can sit below.” He only smiled a little and kept quiet. Two days after, I noticed that the chairs had been removed and a durrie spread out on the floor.

‘In those years the Ashram was less crowded and I used to go and see him every day. One day I asked him: “Lord, why do they call you A.G.?”  “A.G.? Who says A.G.?”, he counter-questioned. “These sadhaks speak like that, I have heard it.” Then he said, with a smile: “Well, it’s a good idea of yours.”  Seven or eight days later, I found on the notice-board: “Sri Aurobindo.” I was told the Mother had given that name. This made me rather happy.

‘After two days, I went to see him with a pair of garlands which I had woven with my own hands and rolled inside a handkerchief. Looking at the hidden object in my hands he asked: “What is it you have brought?” “A pair of garlands,” I answered. “What will you do with garlands?” “One I shall place round your neck and the other at your feet,” I chirped gaily. Pleased with my reply, he said: “Well, give me one, and there, within the house, is your Mother, go and give her the other garland.” “Lord, where is the Mother? In which room? I do not know anything; please guide me a little.” He then explained: “As you go up the inner staircase you will find a room in front. The Mother lives there. You will give the garland to her.” “Lord, permit me to go there,” I said. Smilingly he agreed: “Yes, now go.”

‘I came down, wondering with whom to go. But, I also thought, what was there to worry about in going to the Mother? “Oh my mind, take me there. When the Lord has said so, I will certainly be able to meet her.” On reaching down with this thought, I found Purani’s wife, Lilavati, standing in front. I said to Lila: “Dear sister, please accompany me a little,” “Where to?” inquired Lila. “First let us go up the inside staircase. Then I shall tell you,” I said. “Then let us go,” she answered. After we had gone up the stairs we saw a room in front. I went inside with the garland in hand. Then I saw the Mother standing, in a red-bordered sari. She came a little closer to me and I offered the flowers and made my pranam to her. The Mother had a veil on, and when I gave her the garland she was smiling, but since I didn’t know any English I couldn’t speak with her. After a while, I came away. Lilavati followed suit. When she had come we went to our respective places….

‘It was the month of  Asvin in 1926. At the time of Sri Aurobindo’s daily darshan I said: “Lord, the month of Asvin is here. Every year I celebrate Mahashtami puja. I am wondering what to do now; shall I return home or what?” “Why, won’t there be puja here?” he asked. “Yes, it’s possible: the worship of Shiva-Durga. If I can perform your worship and the Mother’s, then perhaps I need not go from here. That is why I am wondering…”

‘“Well, you can do that.”

‘On the day of Mahashtami Sri Aurobindo and the Mother sat in two chairs side by side. With the usual offering I performed the puja. I put garlands round both. Oh, it was as if Shiva and Durga had come down to accept the worship! It is impossible to describe all that I felt. It was ineffable, beyond thought.’

                                                                                 [August – October 1926]  

Source: Mother India, August, November 1970, pp 403-404, 623

Jaya Devi’s story is so beautiful that a historian  might doubt its authenticity. How is it that such an important event as the Mother writing Sri Aurobindo’s name on the notice board was missed out by the more well-known sadhaks of the time, namely, Purani, Nolini and Champaklal? The chronology in the story is also vague—no precise dates, except that of the Siddhi Day, have been given by her. But the dates can be found with a little effort. According to old records, Jaya Devi (Nonibala renamed) and her younger brother, Dr. Upendranath Bannerji (Dr Babu) arrived  in Pondicherry on 7 August 1926. Jaya Devi met  Sri Aurobindo the following day. Taking into account her objection to the chairs “four days” later, and their removal “two days” after that, we arrive at the date 14 August 1926. The next  available date is that of the Mahasthmati, which was on 14 October in 1926. Between these two dates, the Mother wrote Sri Aurobindo’s name on the notice-board, urging the disciples to address him henceforth as “Sri Aurobindo” instead of “A.G.”. That it had the desired effect is shown by Purani’s notes of the Evening Talks and Haradhan’s diary, which reflect the same period of transition with regard to Sri Aurobindo’s name.  Jaya Devi’s story becomes at once credible, and, perhaps, the lesson that we learn is that beautiful stories need not be untrue.

                                 ARCHIVAL NOTE

The first two diary entries of Haradhan Bakshi recall that something special happened, or rather began happening to him, from 15.08.1926 onwards.  It coincides with Haradhan bowing down to Mirra Devi on the same day. On 20.10.1926, he uses the word “Mother” for the first time.  He asks Sri Aurobindo  for “Mirra Devi’s direct help” on 8.11.1926. Sri Aurobindo gives him an appointment to meditate with the Mother on 18.11.1926. After his first meditation with the Mother, he tells Sri Aurobindo, “You are my Father and Truth, so She is my Mother and for me She is the manifestation of Love, Knowledge, Power and Mastery.” Though Haradhan’s diary shows the smooth transition from regarding Mirra as another disciple of Sri Aurobindo to Mother as a spiritual guide in her own right, he doesn’t stop using the name “Mirra” even after having started to refer to her as “Mother”. He sometimes refers to both “Mirra” and “Mother” on the same day and within a single paragraph of his diary notation, not to mention the usage of other variants such as “my Mother”, “Mirra Devi”, “Shri  Mirra Devi, etc. The matter is not so puzzling as it seems after reading the quote below of what Mother told him about her name:

About Her name She [Mother] said, ‘My name is all powerful in the vital world and against any hostile attack. I asked Sri Aurobindo to change my name. He concentrated and then said to keep it on – perhaps it has a meaning that is not yet revealed. Once I went into the vital world to prepare the way of spiritual realisation for those who start from that plane, I heard the adverse forces flying said, ‘It is Mirra, it is Mirra.’

                                                                        Haradhan,NB 3, pp 266-67

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Photographs of the early members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Dear Friends,

As a part of our ongoing series on the early period of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, we are publishing some photographs of the early members of the Ashram. Most of these rare photographs are from the Nirmal Nahar Papers and Photographs preserved at the Archives of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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Sri Aurobindo with Bijoy Nag, Suresh Chandra Chakraborty (Moni) and Nolini Kanta Gupta.

                                         Sahana Devi

                                      Dilip Kumar Roy

                                        Prithwi Singh Nahar.

                       Nolini Kanta Gupta, Anilbaran Roy, Pavitra and Arjava.

                                              Nolini Kanta Gupta

                                         Nishikanto Roy Chowdhury

                                              Jyotirmoyee

                         Harindranath Chattopadhyaya and Amal Kiran.

                                        Harindranath Chattopadhyaya.

                                              Champaklal

                                        Bansidhar, Nolinineswar and Kantilal.

                                              Bijoy Nag

(From Left to Right: Saraswati-ben, Dayakar, Satyakarma, Unknown, Sailen, Ambalal Balakrishna Purani, Dilip Kumar Roy and Tajdar Begum.

                                                  Arjava

                                         Anil Kumar Bhattacharya

                                        Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna

Anshuman Banerjee: In Memoriam

Dear Friends,

The Aurobindonian community of Bengal has lost one of its most beloved and revered members. Shri Anshuman Banerjee, Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata, has breathed his last on 1 November 2011. Born on 23 July 1929 he was a noted scholar, author and thinker whose published works include masterpieces like ‘Surya-Pathik Sri Aurobindo’, ‘Mayer Lekha Mayer Katha’, ‘Agniyuger Agnikatha’ and ‘Kolkataye Sri Aurobindo Smriti Tirtha’. He was the recipient of the prestigious ‘Sri Aurobindo Puraskar’ in 2010.

A graduate from the University of Allahabad, he started his career as a member of the editorial staff of Amrita Bazar Patrika,Allahabadand was associated with it from 1952 to 1959. He worked as an Accounts Executive with J. Walter Thompson at Kolkata from 1962 to 1965. He was the Manager of MAA (Marketing, Advertising Associates) in Delhi and Chennai from 1965 to 1970. He joined Ogilvy & Mather and worked as the Manager of its Chennai branch from 1970 to 1972;  he served on the Board of Directors of Ogilvy & Mather and was the Manager of its Kolkata branch from 1972 till his retirement in 1989. After his retirement he was the Marketing Director of Amrita Bazar Patrika and Jugantar, Kolkata, from 1993 to 1995. From 1996 to 2002 he was the Marketing Advisor to Auto Centre, Group of Bajaj Auto Dealers.

Shri Banerjee was the President of Advertising Club, Kolkata in 1975. He was the President of the Rotary Club of Calcutta from 2001 to 2002 and also served as the Editor of the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association Journal for four years till 2002.

Shri Banerjee was also a lecturer at the Bhavan College of Communication, Jadavpur University Marketing Section and Ashutosh College (B.B.A. Hons. Course). He was the Faculty in Advertising Course run by Advertising Club, Kolkata, in 1975 and also in the Ogilvy & Mather International Training Course held in Nepal and Kashmir in 1979 and 1980 respectively as well as Federation of Automobile Dealers’ Academy training seminar held at Kolkata in 1979.

He will be remembered by his contemporaries and posterity as one of the most sincere and faithful children of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. May his soul rest in peace.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

 

Remembering Mona Pinto on her Birth Centenary

 

Dear Friends,

 11 November 2011 marks the Birth Centenary of Mona Pinto, the erstwhile manager of Golconde, the oldest guest-house of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and a direct disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother whom we still remember with love and respect.

Born on 11 November 1911 to Ethel May and Augustus Lovegrove in London, Ethel Anne Lovegrove alias Mona was the eldest in the family of six children. Her family-members belonged to the Anglican Church. The date of her birth was unique—11.11.1911—and the Mother once remarked that her date of birth denoted progress. Mona was working as a secretary when, at the age of twenty-two, she met her future husband Laurence Marshall Pinto (a student of aeronautical engineering at the London University) on 27 April 1932 at a charity-concert of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury”. They fell in love and wanted to tie the knot but received no approval from their respective families. So Laurence returned to India to look for a job to support his future wife while Mona waited patiently for his ‘call’ to arrive. She had to wait for, in her own words, ‘3 years, 3 months and 3 days’, before leaving England for India to join Laurence who had, in the meantime, shifted to Pondicherry in 1934 and set up an export business and made himself prosperous enough to ask Mona to leave her country and join him. She journeyed all alone and reached India in January 1937. Laurence and Mona got married in the church Notre Dame des Anges situated on Dumas Street on 6 May 1937. The couple was soon blessed with a daughter on 16 November 1937 who was initially named Judy Ann but later renamed ‘Gauri’ by the Mother.

The Pintos had befriended some of the members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram like K.D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran, Ambalal Balakrishna Purani and Ambu. On 15 August 1937  Mona and Laurence had the darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The darshan proved to be a turning point in their lives and the young couple decided to join the Ashram as inmates. Laurence received the new name of ‘Udar’ from Sri Aurobindo; when Mona requested for a new name for her Sri Aurobindo replied that he liked her name as it reminded him of Mona Lisa.

Golconde, the oldest dormitory for sadhaks of the Ashram was under construction when Udar and Mona became inmates. While Udar was closely associated with the construction of this architectural masterpiece from the very beginning, the Mother gave Mona the charge of preparing the bed linen that would be required when the  dormitory would be occupied. Along with a small group of young ladies Mona stitched and embroidered the bedcovers with hand. Once Datta, one of the earliest sadhikas of the Ashram who had arrived in India with the Mother as her companion on 24 April 1920, visited Mona’s house and was immensely impressed by the way she maintained cleanliness at her residence. She reported to the Mother: “I have been to Mona Pinto’s house. She keeps her home spotlessly clean. She may be the one to look after Golconde.” The Mother too was aware of the qualities Mona possessed and hence when Golconde was opened Mona was given charge of the dormitory and she continued to do the work till her last days. She became one of the most ideal instruments of the Mother’s work and it was courtesy her orderliness and constant personal supervision that Golconde attained the great reputation of being an ideal cave for the sadhana of integral yoga.

Krishna Chakravarti rightly remarks about Mona Pinto in her article titled ‘The Empress Abdicates’  published shortly after Mona’s demise on 21 May 2004 at the age of ninety two : “The upkeep of Golconde, the meticulous attendance to its cleanliness, to maintain its rules and regulations laid down by the Mother were the only concern of Mona. She would be there morning till evening. No other activity could take her away from Golconde. She would devote all her life in this empire of hers—its garden, its buildings, inhale the atmosphere of thiscaveofTapasya… [Golconde] represented her aspiration, her dedication, her devotion to the Mother. It represented her inner growth, her spiritual progress…”

Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were quite appreciative of the work Mona used to do at ‘Golconde’. The Mother had once remarked about her: “She is someone who truly loves to do things well, and wants to do them well and whatever she does, she does lovingly and very well.” And in one of her birthday cards to Mona, the Mother wrote: “Here is one more occasion to tell you physically what I tell you so often when we meet in the night. How much I appreciate the quality of your work and how much I rely on your faithful steadiness. We are very close inside although we meet rarely outside, but my love and blessings are always with you.”

The work of organizing Christmas celebration was also given to Mona by the Mother. From decorating the Christmas tree to arranging the Christmas gifts and handing them over to the Mother for distribution Mona materialized the Mother’s concept of the celebration of the Festival of Light. An ex-student of the Ashram School rightly remarked about Mona: ‘All over the world children have a Father Christmas. We actually had a Mother Christmas!”

Mona Pinto was stunningly beautiful and was the embodiment of grace, politeness and elegance. Today, on the occasion of her Birth Centenary we remember her with profound love and admiration.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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The Mother’s sketches of the early members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Dear Friends,

November 2011 marks the 85th anniversary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. On the said occasion, we would be publishing a series on the early years of the Ashram. This series would include photographs of the early members of the Ashram and reminiscences of and articles on the early period of the Ashram, etc.

We are commencing this series by publishing a number of sketches made by the Mother of the early disciples of Sri Aurobindo.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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                                          Vasudha Shah.

                                     Suresh Chandra Chakravorty (Moni)

 

 

                                         S. Doraiswami Iyer

 

 

                                          Pavitra

                                        Nolini Kanta Gupta

 

                                         K. Amrita

                                        Anilbaran Roy

                                        Barindra Kumar Ghose

                                        Champaklal Purani

                                        Chandulal Shah