Photographs of Dilip Kumar Roy

Dear Friends,

Dilip Kumar Roy (22.1.1897—6.1.1980) was a famous poet, author, singer, composer, lyricist, musicologist and dramatist. After obtaining his B.Sc degree with first class Honours in mathematics from Presidency College (Kolkata) he left for England in 1919 to pursue higher studies at Cambridge. He passed Part I mathematical Tripos and Part I music special in Cambridge. In 1922 he went to Germany to study Western Music. In the same year he lectured at an international conference at Lugano (Switzerland) and also toured Vienna, Prague, Budapest and other cities to speak on Indian music and culture. He met Sri Aurobindo in January 1924 and interviewed him twice. By the time he joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 22 November 1928, he had established himself as a popular singer and composer. In 1953 he went on a world tour as the cultural ambassador of India sponsored by the Government of India. He left Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1953 and settled in Pune where he set up his own Ashram, Hari Krishna Mandir. He received the title of Sur-sudhakar from Sanskrit College (Kolkata) and D.Litt from the universities of Calcutta and Rabindra Bharati. His published works in English and Bengali include The Flute Calls Still, Smriticharan, Sri Aurobindo Came To Me, Among the Great, Yogi Sri Krishnaprem, Hark! His Flute, The Upward Spiral, Netaji: The Man, Pilgrims of the Stars, Aghotan Ajo Ghate, Ashruhashi Indradhanu, Chayapather Pathik, Alochaya Akapakhi, Smriti Joware Dukul Cheye, The Beggar Princess, etc.

We have published more than three dozen photographs of Dilip Kumar Roy in the online forum of Overman Foundation. These photographs cover the entire period of his life which includes his pre-Pondicherry days, his life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Hari Krishna Mandir, Pune.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.



Young Dilip Kumar


Dilip Kumar with his father Dwijendralal Roy and sister Maya Devi.


Dilip Kumar in England. From left to right: Dilip Kumar Roy (seated), Khitish Chandra Chatterjee, Subhash Chandra Bose and C.C. Desai (seated).







Dilip Kumar with Nishikanto Roychowdhury.


Dilip Kumar with Nishikanto Roychowdhury.


Photo taken on a Darshan day in Sri Aurobindo Ashram. From left to right: Saraswatiben, Dayakar, Satyakarma, Unknown, Sailen, Ambalal Balakrishna Purani, Dilip Kumar Roy and Tajdar Begum.


From left to right: Venkataraman, Dilip Kumar and Anilkumar.


From left to right: Kalyan Chowdhuri, Nirodbaran Talukdar and Dilip Kumar.




Dilip Kumar with M.S. Subbulakshmi.


With Uma Bose alias Hashi.


From left to right: Krishnaprem (Ronald Nixon), Dilip Kumar and Motirani.


With the Mother in April 1950.



With Indira Devi.


Dilip Kumar Roy with Indira Devi.





Dilip Kumar Roy with Indira Devi.















Photographs courtesy: Hari Krishna Mandir Trust, Pune.


The Passing of Noren Singh Nahar


Dear Friends,

On 11 September 2013, Wednesday, Noren Singh Nahar, one of the senior most members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the In-charge of the Department of Philately has left his physical sheath at the age of ninety-two. He was among those sadhaks and sadhikas who belonged to that bygone era which could rightly be termed as the Golden Period of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Born on 1 December 1920 to Prithwi Singh Nahar and Suhag Kumari, Noren Singh’s early years were spent in Kolkata. In December 1929 Prithwi Singh shifted to Santiniketan—the abode of Peace established by Rabindranath Tagore—with his wife and seven children (his youngest daughter Suprabha was born a few months later in August 1930). His four sons Dhir Singh, Bir Singh, Noren Singh and Nirmal Singh were admitted to the school started by Tagore. Abhay Singh—Prithwi Singh’s youngest son—was enrolled a year or two later while his eldest daughter Sujata would go to Kalabhavan to learn painting from Nandalal Bose. Prithwi Singh remained in Santiniketan where he had rented a house known as ‘Nichoo Bungalow’ which belonged to Dwijendranath Tagore, the eldest brother of Rabindranath, till 1934. Devastated by his wife’s death in 1932, he began to travel extensively during the course of which he visited Pondicherry and had the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in November 1933. In Them, he found the Guides he was looking for. Though Sri Aurobindo had accepted him as a disciple in 1934 he formally became an inmate in 1938 when he joined the Ashram with Sujata.

Noren Singh visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the first time in 1936 and would continue to visit it at regular intervals. In 1939—when he was a nineteen years of age and a student of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata—he had visited the Ashram during his college vacations and stayed for a month. During his stay, the Mother wrote to Prithwi Singh informing him that she would be happy if Noren Singh stayed back in the Ashram. When he was asked by Prithwi Singh about it, he replied that he would stay on. The Mother had told Noren Singh that if he wanted to continue with his studies he could do so and return after completing his education but Noren Singh answered that he would like to remain in the Ashram. With the Mother’s permission he went to Kolkata, wound up his moorings, returned to the Ashram and became a permanent inmate. He had offered to the Mother all the money he had withdrawn from his bank account in Kolkata. He also offered his clothes to her but she asked him to keep them with him. She said: “Noren Singh, your clothes are of good quality and I won’t be able to give you such type of clothes.”

Noren Singh was initially given work at Golconde—the oldest dormitory of the Ashram—which was then under construction. His work was to supervise the cutting and bending of the iron rods for the concreting work. He had to select the precise diameter of the rods, get them cut and bent according to the plan. From time to time he joined the workers in their work of bending the rods and also assisted in the concreting work when required. Later he was given work in the Ashram Bakery where he worked for five to six hours daily.

Noren Singh was fond of collecting stamps since his childhood. When he stayed at Santiniketan, he would visit several people—including Anil Chanda (Rabindranath’s secretary), Dinendranath Tagore and C. F. Andrews—for stamps. From a Javanese student of Santiniketan he had collected some East Indies’ stamps. Within a short time of his joining Sri Aurobindo Ashram, he began to assist Pavitra in the stamp work. It was Pavitra who had started philatelic activities in the Ashram in the late 1920s in his room in the first floor of the Ashram main building. Noren Singh worked with the stamp-albums and catalogues at a small table in Pavitra’s dining room. Following his wish to do some gardening the Mother asked him to cultivate a small plot of land situated behind the office of Pavitra in the inner courtyard of the Ashram main building. Along with a sadhak named Jyotin who was in charge of the garden, Noren Singh tried to grow artichokes, asparagus and tomatoes since the Mother was very fond of such vegetables. They were successful in growing asparagus and tomatoes but artichokes did not grow well. On one occasion the Mother distributed tomatoes grown in this garden to many of the inmates of the Ashram. Every morning Noren Singh cleaned the vegetables and kept them in a bowl in the corridor on the first floor of the Ashram main building for the Mother who would see them after she returned from the Balcony Darshan. After the Mother had seen the vegetables, Noren Singh took them to Datta who cooked for the Mother. He worked for a while in the printing section of the Ashram Press and also helped a senior sadhak named Mrityunjoy Mukherjee to wash fruits for the Mother. Later, when the Ashramites went sea-bathing he was appointed as a ‘life-saver’ (lifeguard during the swimming sessions). He was also a swimming instructor and captain for the younger children. However, he curtailed some of his activities to devote more time to stamps when the Mother once said to him: “Why not give more time now for the stamps?” It was the Mother who entrusted to him all the responsibilities of the Department of Philately which flourished under him.

It is essential to remember that there was no Department of Philately in the early years of the Ashram. By the mid 1960s, the collection of stamps had grown to such a vast extent that there was insufficient space in Pavitra’s room to accommodate them. When Anilbaran Roy left the Ashram for good in 1966 his room in the ‘Library House’ became vacant. It was the same room where Sri Aurobindo had stayed for four and a half years from 1922 to February 1927. This room was selected by the Mother to house the stamp collection.

The Mother took a keen interest in Noren Singh’s philately activities. She would look at the collection of stamps and the work Noren Singh did while he worked in Pavitra’s office. Every year she would ask him how many stamps did he have in the collection and he would count them and inform the Mother accordingly. Whenever he received any new stamps Noren Singh arranged them on the table in the room called the Laboratory and the Mother—on her way to the Balcony Darshan—would look at them with avid interest.

Once Noren Singh had shown to the Mother a copy of Life magazine on the cover of which many stamps from around the globe were printed. He told her: “But Mother, we don’t have a single one of them.” The Mother assured him: “One day they will come.” Her words came true for at present the Department of Philately houses—apart from a large number of Indian stamps—stamps from French India, France, Holland, Switzerland, Canada, United States of America, Brazil and many other countries. The department also collects coins and banknotes since the Mother was interested in them as well.

During Sri Aurobindo’s Birth Centenary in 1972, Noren Singh visited Chennai to meet his friend Mr. Srinivas Rau, an advocate by profession who was a member of the Government Philatelic Advisory Committee to discuss the possibilities of releasing a stamp on Sri Aurobindo. He was told that the proposal for the stamp had been cancelled as a stamp with Sri Aurobindo’s photograph was already released in August 1964. However, he was also told that if a proposal of the stamp was submitted along with a symbolic design there could be a possibility of acceptance. Noren Singh informed the Mother accordingly who asked Jayantilal Parekh to prepare some symbolic designs. She chose one of the designs which was sent to the concerned department and eventually accepted. On 15 August 1972 the said stamp was released. The Mother affixed a special cancellation on the stamp in her room in the presence of B. D. Jatti (former Vice President of India), the Lt. Governor of Pondicherry, the Post Master General of Tamil Nadu, P. Counouma (Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust), Champaklal and Noren Singh. During the Mother’s Birth Centenary in 1978, Noren Singh took the initiative of releasing a special stamp on the Mother. Through his uncle Bijoy Singh Nahar, who was a secretary at the Central Government, a proposal was sent to the Ministry of Communication to issue a stamp on the Mother. The proposal was accepted and a stamp on the Mother was released.

Noren Singh looked after the Department of Philately single-handedly till he met with a car accident in France in 1975. After his recovery his youngest sister Suprabha Nahar joined the department to help him. The brother-sister duo became the soul and heart of the Department of Philately. Noren Singh was also a member of the Philatelic Advisory Committee from 1990 to 1992. An authority on French India stamps he has authored a well-researched book on the said subject which was published in 2013. A few months ago he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indo-French Philatelic and Numismatic Association (IFPNA).

Not many people were aware of the fact that Noren Singh was among those who had carried Sri Aurobindo’s coffin to the Samadhi vault on 9 December 1950. Though his name was not in the list of those chosen by the Mother to carry Sri Aurobindo’s coffin, he was granted this great privilege which can rightly be termed as an act of Grace. When Sri Aurobindo’s coffin was being carried through the corridor those who were carrying it found it difficult to turn the coffin towards the staircase as it was quite heavy. Noren Singh—who was standing in the corridor—gave them a helping hand. He carried the coffin along with the others and went and placed it in the Samadhi vault. Then he wiped the coffin with a handkerchief.

Noren Singh was the personification of devotion and dedication. He had a rich, inner spiritual life about which he hardly gave any inkling to anyone. He had disclosed some of the details of his dream-visions and meetings with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the subtle-physical to the present author. He had also said: “Whenever I invoke the Mother, I feel Hers and Sri Aurobindo’s presence but the invocation has to be proper. That is, there must be sincerity. Calling Them mere mentally won’t do.” It is noteworthy that once the Mother had remarked about Noren Singh that his psychic being was exactly on the front.

For the past few years Noren Singh had ceased to visit his office in the Ashram main building. Old age was making his body frail but it failed to overpower his sharp and ever-alert brain. Not only did he keep an eye on the activities of the Department of Philately but also observed the conditions of the world the details of which he got from the television. He had the inquisitiveness of a child; he was always keen to know more and learn how certain events could impact political situations and economic conditions of the nation.

In the past few months Noren Singh had become increasingly weak. He spent most of his time in bed. In the second week of August 2013 he was admitted to a private nursing home from where he was shifted to the Ashram Nursing Home on 26 August. A few days later he was back to his apartment but remained mostly on a semi-liquid diet. On 11 September 2013, between 4 and 4.30 a.m. he woke up from his sleep and asked for a glass of water from his attendant. After he drank the water, the attendant left the room. A little later when he was contacted there was no response from him. He had quietly left his body. The end came in between 5.30 and 5.45 a.m.

Nothing can eradicate the emptiness created by death. No words of consolation can offer solace. The heart cries out aloud for it feels the pain of losing a beloved one. But deep within a voice tells us not to mourn for him for Noren Singh has only shed his physical sheath (like old clothes) which was becoming frailer and giving him much trouble to take refuge in the bosom of the Mother and to work for Sri Aurobindo in the other world. Yet the lack of his physical presence would continue to hurt all who loved and respected him. Life would not be the same without his radiant smile, affectionate touch and his voice welcoming us to his room.

Noren-da, we will miss you a lot!

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation



Photograph taken in 1927. Standing with Suhag Kumari Nahar : Abhay Singh and Nirmal Singh. Seated (from left to right): Bir Singh, Dhir Singh, Sujata Nahar (on Dhir Singh’s lap), Noren Singh and two friends.




Photograph taken on 24 June 1949 at Dilip Kumar Roy’s residence in Pondicherry on the occasion of Tejendranath Mukherjee’s birthday. Seated in the first row (from left to right): Noren Singh, Nishikanto Roychowdhury, Tejendranath Mukherjee and Nirmal Singh. Second row: Panu Sarkar, Madan Bose, Dhir Singh, Ashok Patel, Unknown and Manju Gupta. Third row: Sisir Kumar Mitra, Nirodbaran Talukdar, Venkatraman and Yogananda. Standing: Satya Bose, Kashikanta, Jyotin Das, Sitaraman, Bir Singh, Chinu Mukherjee, Bhaskar Mitra and Rajen Ganguly.


From left to right: Bernard Cazade, Sumita Cazade, Suprabha Nahar and Noren Singh (February 2009).


From left to right: Suprabha Nahar, Sudha Rai and Noren Singh (August 2009).


Noren Singh with Anurag Banerjee (August 2009).


From left to right: Noren Singh, Chitra Sen, Dolly Mutsuddi and Suprabha Nahar (August 2010).


From left to right: Indu Rai, Achyut Patel, Lata Jauhar, Anurag Banerjee, Sushilaben, Suprabha Nahar and Noren Singh on 1 December 2012, Noren Singh’s 92nd birthday.


The 1936-37 version of Savitri: Third and Last Installment

Dear Friends,

We are happy to announce that Overman Foundation has received permission from Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to publish the 1936-37 version of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri in its online forum. We are extremely grateful to Shri Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, for giving us the said permission.

About this version, Nirodbaran writes in his Twelve Years With Sri Aurobindo: “It is only in the version of 1936, sent in instalments privately to Amal [Kiran], that we find for the first time, brief descriptions of the planes, starting with the plane of subtle matter. Later these brief descriptions are amplified and each plane gets a fairly long Canto to itself. In the 1936 version there are no Cantos yet—there are only sections with sub-headings.” (p. 177, 1995 edition)

The first and second installments of the 1936-37 version of Savitri were published in the online forum of Overman Foundation on 27 August and 5 September 2013 respectively. The third and last installment is published here.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


BOOK I (Contd.)
The Book of Birth

Alone he moved across infinity, [1]
Met by the myriad structures of the Self,
Seeking a clue amid things measureless,
Till there arose what seemed a mountain tier
Of the ascending steps of consciousness,
A ladder of delivering Descent
And rungs which Nature climbs to Deity,
A many-patterned ground of all we are.
Our being here is an entangled web
Made from the borrowed stuff of numberless worlds.
A pittance of their light to earth is cast
And with small straying fragments of their force
Some blind laborious Spirit strives to make
A little image of the mighty Whole.
A calm and luminous Secrecy within
Approves his work for this frail changing sketch,
When once its mystic lines have met their source,
Shall stand out from the background of long Time
A glowing epitome of the eternities,
A little point reveal the infinitudes.
A Seer within him knew an ordered plan
Hidden behind our momentary steps
And this ascent a thread of the great weft.
Assailing range by range the endless tier
He mounted towards an indiscernible End:
Above him was the white immobile Ray,
Around him the eternal silences.
Across a subtle Matter’s reign he drove,
Peopled with types of all our world attempts
And in the attempt half-forms or forms amiss.
Immune from the inertia of our clay,
Plastic and passive to the all-shaping Fire,
Its substance lifted by a larger breath
Embodies the perfection earth demands,
Pursues the heart of beauty to its home,
Captures the fugitive sweetness we desire.
All here we slowly build from gathered parts
Or with long labour stumblingly evolve,
Springs there self-born in its spontaneous right.
A splendour of significant thoughts above,
A cosmos of harmonious forms between,
A chaos of dissolving shades below,
Its roots plunge down to our inconscient base.
Out of its fall our denser Matter comes.
Passed from this fine material paradise
At once he entered great disputed fields
Where Life is master of herself or slave,
Tortured by her own powers or proud and blest.
Above him was a wider radiant air.
A lively ether quick with joy and flame
Uplifted in its vivid floating hues
A gleaming world of strange felicities.
In griefless countries under purple suns
A finer happier sense had there its home,
A fierier force than earthly limbs can house,
A beauty and greatness of unfettered Life.
Free, uncondemned to struggle with her mould
As here in our inapt material frame,

Life there was substance, matrix and content.
No alien Night was here to blind her eyes,
No fall debased the godhead of her steps.
Innocent and candid and divinely pure,
Abandoned to her rapid fancy’s moods,
In the rich coloured riot of her mind
Magician builder of unnumbered forms,
Her law was her unbound creative will.
Overflowing from her own magnificent plane
Here too the mighty gracious Angel poured
Her splendour and her swiftness and her thrill,
Hoping to fill this new fair world with her joy,
Smite with her charm and passion mind and nerve
And force delight on earth’s insensible frame.
But while the magic Breath is on its way,
Before her gifts can reach our prisoned hearts,
A dismal intervention dims her powers
And mars the winged and wonderful passenger;
Its dreadful and misshaping crucible
Turns all her glory into littleness
And all that sweetness to a maimed desire.
A rayless region swallowed him in its swathes.
In strange domains where all is living sense
Unordered, every darkling impulse counts
And random shapeless energies seek for form
Taking each wisp-fire for a guiding sun,
His eyes, piercing a phosphorescent air,
Beheld the secrets of the shifting flux
That rules the thought and passion of our flesh
And throws into earth’s dull tenacity
This ferment of desire that cannot sleep,
These wandering unsure steps and push for change.
Always they hint some nameless joy that flees.
But vain for ever is the sacrifice,
Its priest an ignorance that only makes
Paltry mutations in the altar’s plan
Ana casts blind hopes into a changeless flame.
There are the fountains of our animal self,—
A field of fickle mists and figures and hues
Thronged with bright prompters passionate and small,
Trivial scene-shifters of the human play
Who urge the act, combine the circumstance
And toss man’s frail desires from hand to hand
In their inconsequent and devious game.
Imps with wry limbs and carved beast-visages,
Movers of petty lusts and wraths and hates,
And others fairer but unsouled and poor
Weaving the earth-bound loves that cannot last,
The hopes that fade to drab realities,
Set the mosaic of life’s comedy.
Inordinate their hold on human hearts.
Against all higher Light their stuff rebels,
Instinct and passion are their norm and rule:
Only to Titan strength their will lies prone.
Yet behind all a secret sweetness lives,
An urge of miniature divinity
That planned our nature’s hidden happier scheme,
And sometimes it breaks out through the sordid screen
And kindles a flame’ that makes us half divine.
Our smallest parts have room for deepest needs,
And when the greater Self comes sealike down,
All shall rise up in its delight transformed
And, captured by the unconquerable flood,
Submit to beauty and to light and love.
But first life’s heavenlier path we must create,
Cleaving the darkness with the mystic Fire.
Across the dangerous haze, the pregnant stir
He through the astral chaos smote his road
Besieged by sorceries of its fluent force.
Thence he emerged into pale freer skies
But shadow-swept or dubiously lit,
Where flowed a stream of forms and happenings
Burdened with meanings mind cannot pursue,
Crowded with undertones of Life’s rhythmic cry.
Life laboured in a strange half-real air
Denuded of her sweet munificent suns,
Conscious of fall and her diminished flame,
And, driven by scanted light and faint dream-brush
To use a sparing and impressionist art,
Portrayed her signs in dual twilight hues
On a grey background of incertitude.
Although, checked, barriered in at every step,
Still she remembered her inherent power,
Still strove to embody with her sorcerer’s wand
Her surge of fanciful realities,
Dim renderings of the splendour she had lost,
Beings and shapes and scenes innumerable,
Torch-carriers of her pomp of Space and Time.
For even oppressed, half-blinded, she obeys
A hungry need to lavish everywhere
Her myriad symbol and significance
Of Spirit in its many-mansioned self,
Capturing its great-winged wandering thoughts to dwell
In figures of her million-impulsed Force.
Over vague ever-shifting borders drawn,
He crossed her countless fields and provinces,
And met the leaping springs of death and birth,
Saw thread-beginnings of her skein of works,
And watched her weave her tangled weird design,
The screened and difficult theorem of her clues,
The dance-fantasia of her sequences.
Much marvelling at her skilful intricate craft,
Her puissances that move our heart and sense,
Her mind that toils unsatisfied with its fruits,
Her hundred baffling faces of the Truth
And rash unseizable freaks of leaping change,
Her mutable masks, her broideries of disguise,
He explored her riches more a thousandfold there
Than these poor caskets of earth-make can house.
Then sated with her quick and curious lore,
Out of her daedal lines he sought escape.
For of all things she knew the trace and law,
But hid in forms the being from its own view;
A Wisdom lacked that makes the Spirit free,
And nowhere was assured content or peace.
But neither gate of horn nor ivory
He found, nor postern of spiritual sight.
There was no issue from that dreamlike Space.
Far now from him the larger vivid air
That breathed round her free heart of joy and grace,
The bliss his eyes had glimpsed, his nerves had felt,
Where glowed unrobed [2] by shadow and by mist
Her half-way Paradise of fulfilled desire
For which our suffering mortal nature yearns
As yearns the obscure moth to blazing Light.
Wherever he turned, beat a new flood of scenes:
Endless was the contrivance and the stir;
Each final scheme lapsed to a sequel plan
Of creatures and their doings and events,
Some city of the traffic of bound souls,
Some market of creation and her wares,
As if that turmoil were the whole of things,
And all existence’ sum were only this—
A play without denouement or idea,
A hunger march of lives that have no goal,
The labour of an unaccomplished Force
Tied to her acts in a dim Eternity.
It seemed a tumult of half-realised mights
Awaiting a golden Hand that never came
To raise them to Heaven’s calm sublimities.
Always athwart her crowded eager steps
He felt a hostile and intruding Mind,
Effacing the signposts of her pilgrimage,
Barring with fierce hard disharmonic notes
Her rhythms, its will to afflict, unkey and spoil,
Baffling the half-blind chained divinity
That seeks itself amid the myriad cry
And hued bewildering wonder of her chant,
The uncertain signal of her swift events
And the hieroglyphic of her pageantries.
In field or way, in closed or open ground,
Wherever he went he marked the imminent eyes
And tiger sinuous prowl and come and go
Of armed disquieting bodied Influences
Walking like goddess figures dark and nude,
And ominous beings passed him on the roads
Whose very gaze was a calamity,—
Shapes that were threats alarming the dream-air
And bore a dreadful meaning in their lines
Or could in a moment dangerously change.
These following to find their secret’s core,
In their returning wake he entered dun
Fell suburbs of those cities of dream-Life.
There she displayed, a dark and fallen Spirit,
Overtaken as if by a Gorgon spell
Her perilous face of evil beauty and charm,
Her rapture vision of infernal joys,
Her gargoyle masks obscene and terrible.
Around him pressed in sombre nightmare pomps
Deeds infamous, wild works of ruthless strength,
Scenes foul or cruel, hideous or macabre,
Thoughts that can poison Nature’s heavenliest breath,
Acts that reveal the mystery of Hell.
Beings he met who seemed like earthly men
But bodied all that is subhuman, vile,
Though raised to human scale by the touch of Mind,
Yet lower than the lowest reptile’s crawl,—
Oft, some familiar visage studying,
Discovered suddenly Hell’s trademark there,
Or knew by the inmost sense that cannot err,
Though harboured in a soft or virile frame,
The demon and the goblin and the ghoul.
All too that is low, sordid-thoughted, base,
All that is weak and limp and miserable,
Found there its dismal harsh autonomy.
All lived in its own bond of norm and type
And breathed in dull content its native air,
Arrogant, gibing at more luminous states:
None felt the yearning, the divine release.
Each loved and hugged its dreary autarchy,
Glad of the freedom to be only itself
Or proud of its abysmal absolute.

As thus he journeyed through self-dungeoned realms
And smote from him their clinging influence,
All vanished, blotted, lost in a black haze.
Alone was his spirit now with python Night.
A darkness grim and cold benumbed his heart,
A whispered grey suggestion chilled his mind,
Dragged towards extinction and bleak vacancy,
Life clung to its seat by cords of gasping breath;
And serpent dangers coiled around his feet.
Near him he felt the creeping slow approach
Of an implacable eternity
Of pain inhuman and invincible
No rescue could relieve, no respite soothe.
Now, circling round him like a stealthy foe,
The huge-winged emptiness had become a gulf
As of some swallowing throat and belly of Doom
And, lapping his body with its tenebrous tongue,
Imposed on every tense and aching nerve
A nameless and unutterable fear.
Yet he endured, calmed the vain tremor, broke
The smothering wall of agony and affright,
And saw, his eyes piercing the sevenfold gloom
That guards it from the spear-points of heaven’s stars,
Coiled like a larva in the obscurity
A violent fierce and formidable world
That lives by death and falsehood is its truth
And good a specious bloom of native ill,
And suffering there is Nature’s daily food,
And Thought, a priestess of Perversity,
Reading by opposite signs the eternal script,
In darkling aisles with lurid cresset fires
Performs the ritual of her Mysteries.
It was the gate of a false infinite,
An ancient womb of vast calamitous dreams,
A thicket of Existence’ gods of prey,
In which a monstrous Evil keeps her lair.
Out of the Abyss, when first life’s breath began,
A nameless Power, a shadowy Will arose,
Something that sprang from the stark Inconscient’s sleep,
Unwillingly begotten by the dumb Void:
Immense and alien to our universe,
Disharmonizer of the cosmic style,
Disfiguring the fair intended plan,
It pressed its fierce hegemony on the earth.
An Adversary governed brain and nerve:
Her goad compelled the reason and the flesh
And drives like cattle the half-conscious race.
Incalculable are her strength and ruse;
Her touch is a fascination and a death;
For her the world runs to its agony,
Who slays her victim with his own delight.
Assailed, surprised upon the ill-lit ways,
Intoxicated by a [3] burning grasp
And amorous grown of a [4] destroying mouth,
Offering its all to a vague stupendous Force, [5]
Our self of Life yields up its instruments
To Titan and demoniac Influences
That aggrandise earth-nature and disframe.
Once the grim Pythoness has mastery,
No longer shines the white spiritual Ray
And hushed for ever is the secret Voice;
A name is rased from the recording book,
In ruin ends the epic of the soul.
For terrible agencies the Spirit allows,
And there are subtle and enormous Powers
That shield themselves with the covering Ignorance
To lay their yoke on the world’s groping Mind.
All mounting life a wager and battle is
Between these tortuous and deceiving Mights
And the occult uplifting Harmonist.
Along all Nature’s lines they have set their posts;
Haters of Light, intolerant of peace,
Wherever the Gods act they intervene.
Accepted by the ill-led thought and will,
Admitted to control and form and guide,
Long have they filled earth’s days with dole and bane.
To exclude the dwindling chances of the Gods,
They load the dice of doom with lie and wile,
And since with falsehood they have stamped the globe,
They count creation as their conquered fief
And deem themselves the iron Lords of Time.
Adepts of the illusion and the masque,
The artificers of Nature’s fall and pain
Have built their altars of triumphant Night
In the clay-temple of terrestrial life.
Theirs are the reredos and the mitred priest,
For them the ceremony and the rite,
While twixt the incense and the muttered prayer
All the fierce bale with which the world is racked
Is mixed in the foaming chalice of man’s heart
And poured to them like sacramental wine.
Assuming forms divine they seize and rule.
A siege of fire and shadow are their seats.
There bastioned in their massive walls of gloom
Against the sword of flame, the luminous Eye,
Calm and secure in sunless privacy,
Armoured, protected by their lethal masks,
As in a studio of creative Death,
The giant sons of Darkness sit and plan
The drama of the earth, their tragic stage.
All who would heal the suffering earth must pass
Under the dangerous arches of their power:
For even the radiant children of the Gods
To darken their privilege is and dreadful right.
A warrior in the dateless duel’s strife
Challenging the Shadow with his luminous soul,
He traversed the ambush of the opponent Snake
And faced the enchantments of the demon Sign,
Assaults of Hell endured and Titan strokes,
Bore the fierce inner wounds that are slow to heal,
And walked entangled in the pathways drear;
Cast in their grim morass of swallowing doubt
And shut into pits of error and despair,
He drank their poison draughts till none was left,
Or pinned to the black inertia of our base,
In Matter’s dumb denial gaoled and blind,
Kept still intact his spirit’s radiant truth,
Till, hurried to the last subconscient floor,
He found the secret key of Nature’s change.
A Light went with him, an invisible Hand;
It broke the stereotypes of the Ignorance,
It tore the formats of the primal Night,
Imposed upon dark atom and dim mass
The diamond script of the Imperishable,
The Name, foundation of Eternity,
The song of the celestial joy of Space,
And wrote on each transformed exultant cell
The message of the superconscient Fire.
The Life beat pure in the corporeal frame
And the ensnaring gloom misled no more.
Hell split across its huge disrupt facade,
Night opened and vanished like a gulf of dream,
As if a magic building were done.
Around him was a wide felicitous sky,
Regions of the heart’s happiness set free,
Unmined by the alarm of fleeting Time,
Untouched by grieving fear of the shocks of Fate,
Breathing in sweet secure unguarded ease
Beyond the danger zone of stumbling Will.
It was a realm of the rich satisfied sense,
The birth-claim won of feelings glad and pure,
And like a spotless flaming flight the immune
Life-impulses’ fair-winged magnificent race.
There could the unfettered spirit of delight
Pasture his gleaming sun-herds and moon-flocks
Along the lyric speed of griefless streams
In fragrance of the unearthly asphodel.
Under that arch of smiling glory and peace
Traveller on plateau and on glimmering ridge
He moved in a drift of many-coloured scenes,
Mountains and violet valleys of the Blest,
Deep glens of joy and crooning waterfalls,
And saw below like glowing jewelled thoughts
Rapt dreaming cities of Gandharva kings,
And heard the harping heavenly minstrels pass
In the white-blue moonbeam air of Paradise.
Apart upon Elysian nameless heights,
The summit and core of all that marvellous world,
The shining Edens of the vital Gods
Received him in their deathless harmony.
Of their sweetness ardent and immaculate
No lower note could break the unending charm:
Life’s hopes are there achieved, her aureate combs
Caught by the Honey-eater’s darting tongue,
Her burning guesses changed to ecstasied truths
And liberated all intense desires.
There Love fulfils her gold and roseate dreams
And Strength her crowned and mighty reveries.
Pain’s self compelled transforms to potent joy,
Curing the antithesis twixt heaven and hell.
There by the magic flow of sorrowless hours
His warrior spirit healed its wounded limbs
In the rewarding arms of Energies
That brook no stain and fear not their own bliss.
In scenes forbidden to our pallid sense
Amid miraculous scents and wonder hues
He met the forms that divinise the sight;
Music that can immortalise the mind
And make the heart wide as eternity
Hearing, he captured the inaudible
Cadences that release the occult ear,
Mixed in the radiant pastimes of the Unborn
And, thrilled with the supernal Influences
That build the substance of life’s deeper soul,
Recast his being’s aura in joy-glow.
A scale he found that climbed some fiery height
Of unimagined happiness and even,
In passionate responses half unveiled,
Sometimes the unreached Beyond was mirrored there.
A hint could come of white beatitude.
In sudden moments of revealing flame
A touch supreme surprised the beating heart:
The invasion of immense felicities,
The dire delight that would shatter earthly flesh,
The rapture that the Gods sustain he bore.
Immortal pleasure cleansed him in its waves
And turned his strength to an undying power. [6]


[1] From Sri Aurobindo’s Notes: “These are very long sections and their divisions also are very long, chapters rather than paragraphs…” (12 November 1936) “The subtitle ‘Ascent to Godhead’ covers the two sections, the one just finished and the one now begun… It seems to me that these chapters are growing very long, so put this one as a separate section without a name.” (15 November 1936) “I am not quite sure of the sections (titles) yet—the fourth section is obviously a continuation of the Ascent to Godhead—it is the realisation of Godhead with which it will end—after that the Unknowable Brahman, then the Purushottama and finally the Mother.”(19 May 1937)
[2] Unriven
[3] her.
[4] her.
[5] Power.
[6] From Sri Aurobindo’s Notes: “I have been once more overwhelmed with correspondence, no time for poetry—so the Mind Worlds are still in a crude embryonic form and the Psychic World not yet begun… the whole thing has been lengthening out so much that I expect I shall have to rearrange the earlier part of Savitri, turning the Book of Birth into a Book of Beginnings and lumping together in the second a Book of Birth and Quest.” (5 January 1937)


The 1936-37 version of Savitri: Second Installment

Dear Friends,

We are happy to announce that Overman Foundation has received permission from Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to publish the 1936-37 version of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri in its online forum. We are extremely grateful to Shri Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, for giving us the said permission.

About this version, Nirodbaran writes in his Twelve Years With Sri Aurobindo: “It is only in the version of 1936, sent in instalments privately to Amal [Kiran], that we find for the first time, brief descriptions of the planes, starting with the plane of subtle matter. Later these brief descriptions are amplified and each plane gets a fairly long Canto to itself. In the 1936 version there are no Cantos yet—there are only sections with sub-headings.” (p. 177, 1995 edition)

The first installment of the 1936-37 version of Savitri was published in the online forum of Overman Foundation on 27 August 2013. The second installment is published here.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.





Ascent to Godhead—Unveiling

A world’s desire compelled her mortal birth.
A leader of the immemorial play
In which the One discovers himself through forms
And the blind Void struggles to live and see,
A thinker and toiler in the ideal’s air,
Adept and king, drew down the luminous Power.
His was a spirit that leaned from subtler breadths
Of Nature screened to our soon-wearied search
And shed their grandiose ray on human life.
A strength of the omnipotent Permanence
Imprisoned in the moment and its flow,
Enmeshed in this thick maze of narrowing thoughts,
This groping consciousness with its half-view,
He kept the vision of the vasts behind.
Their ocean impulse lifted every breath,
Enlarged the spaces of life’s dreams and made
A playground for the living Infinite.
Each moment was a beat of puissant wings.
His mind was like a fire assailing heaven,
His will a hunter in the trails of light.
Impelled by the veiled Delegate within,
His days mapped a long growth towards heights supreme
A skyward being nourishing its roots
On sustenance from occult spiritual founts
Climbed through white rays to find an unseen sun.
Though Earth’s the body and the instruments,
Yet deep in man celestial Powers can dwell:
The form deceives, the person is a mask!
Still in the symbol of humanity draped,
In him a pure and brilliant Witness sat
Unrecognisable by the outward view.
Day after day the strong Inhabitant
Watched the dim icon growing by his gaze
And pressed his will upon the changing cells:
Persuading flesh to hold the untarnished beam,
Transmuting heart and brain in golden fire,
He shaped the figure of his unborn might.
Hastening the human process from above
That turns this frail earth-engine for heaven-use,
The Mechanician of etheric Space,
The Craftsman of the magic stuff of Self
Who labours at his high and difficult plan
In the wide workshop of the wonderful world,
Moulded in inward Time his rhythmic parts.
A Presence wrought behind the ambiguous screen
And beat his soil to bear a Titan’s weight;
Refining half-hewn blocks of natural force
It built his soul into a statued god.
Thus helped, the invisible Grandeur outlined here
Its first magnificent frame of things to be;
Man’s fallen nature brooked celestial birth.
A Seer arose, a shining Guest of Time.
For him the limiting firmament ceased above,
In a tense period of the sleepless Urge
A gap was rent in the all-concealing vault;
Caught in a voiceless white epiphany
The toiling thinker widened and grew still,
Wisdom transcendent touched his quivering heart,
And with a silver cry of opening gates,
Breaking the intellect’s hard and lustrous lid,
Across our mental sky he glimpsed above
The superconscious realms of motionless peace
Where judgment ceases and the word is mute
And the Unconceived lies pathless and alone.
Thence momentary winged upliftings came
And voices that an inner listening hears
Cast on him from the unreachable Secrecy,
In flame-wrapped outbursts of the immortal Word
And flashes of a close unbearable Light,
Hints of the Truth to which the heavens aspire.
Or inspiration with her lightning feet,
A sudden messenger from the all-seeing tops
Releasing over the reason’s slender curve
White spaces of a knowledge beyond speech,
Bore earthward fragments of revealing thought
Hewn from the silence of the Ineffable,
Lent vibrant words to the unuttered Vast,
Or of the Timeless she disclosed one face.
Awakened to the lines that Nature hides,
Attuned to her movements that exceed our ken,
His wide gaze bodied viewless entities
And, piercing through our vision’s narrow walls,
Neighbour and comrade of the Invisible,
He saw the cosmic Forces at their task
And knew the occult impulse behind man’s will.
Thence sprung the greatness of his front to earth.
One and harmonious by the Maker’s art,
The human in him paced with the divine;
Its acts betrayed not the interior flame.
An Influence guided him sublime, remote,
A genius heightened in his body’s cells
That knew the meaning of its fate-hedged works
Kin to the march of unaccomplished Powers
Beyond life’s arc in spirit’s immensities.
Mind in a larger consciousness was drowned
And needed not to plan precarious steps
Driven by screened prompters who compel its choice
The universal strengths were linked to his:
Filling this smallness with their bourneless breadths
He drew the energies that transform an age,—
Immeasurable by the common look,
Made of great dreams a mould for coming things
And cast his deeds like bronze to front the years.
Lonely his days and splendid like the sun’s.
Far-peaked he seemed, apart in selfless toil,
A demiurge shaping the lives of men.
But even this grandeur could not be his close.
Far richer is the spirit’s ample right
Than earth’s uplook to a remote Unknown.
Our world is a beginning and a base
Where Life and Mind have built their structured dreams,
And now those half-way splendours are our light
Arresting us with their imperfect blaze.
But greater realms delay, by us undreamed,
That from the timeless Glory shall stoop down
To commune with our seized illumined clay.
Above Thought’s largest sweep and highest sky
Lie hidden altitudes unviewed, unreached;
There, kin to the ineffable secrecies,
Treasured within the Infinite’s stainless folds
They keep for us our rapturous heritage,
The calm immunity of spirit space,
The golden plateaus of immortal Fire,
The moon-flame oceans of unfallen Bliss,
To which the indwelling Daemon points our flight.
A burning Witness in the sanctuary,
He looks through Time and the blind walls of Form
And sees the goal of the unconscious world,
The heart of the mystery of the journeying years.
Earth quests through the soul’s war and quivering pain
The pure perfection this dim Nature needs,
While far above us like gold dazzling suns
Veiled by the Ray no mortal eye can bear,
A Mind not haunted by misleading gleams,
A Will expressive of soul’s deity,
A Strength not forced to stumble by its speed,
A Joy that trails not sorrow for its shade,
On the eternal summits wait their hour.
As if the original Ukase still held back
In the locked archives of the spirit’s crypt,
This was the signature and fiery seal
Of Wisdom on the dim Power’s hooded works,
Who builds in ignorance the steps of Light,
This the Immortal’s promise to the days.
Our time-clamped aims unreal grew and small.
His being, prophetic now of godhead won,
Resiled from poor assent to Nature’s terms.
Its height refused the lowness of earth’s state,
Its wideness discontented cast away
The tedious treasure of her limited gifts,
Her shreds of knowledge packed in careful heaps,
Her timid store of wounded brief delights,
Pale scanty earnings of the bargain made
Between our littleness and bounded hopes
And the compassionate Infinitudes.
He felt the doubtfulness of all things here,
The incertitude of man’s proud confident thought
The transience of the achievements of his force.
All that was yet vouchsafed from the Beyond
Resembled a miser shower from gilded clouds
Cast to beguile our dalliance with the mire.
This casual coin could fill his want no more.
A bribe of distant light was not enough,
The Glory we glimpse afar must be his home.
Impatient of the burden of its gains,
His soul retired from all that he had done.
A portion of the world and yet apart,
Amid the restless noise of human toil
Impassive he lived, immune from earthly ties,
A figure in the ineffable Witness’ shrine
Pacing the vast cathedral of his thoughts
Under its arches dim with Infinity
Mid heavenward brooding of invisible wings.
Aware of his occult omnipotent Source,
Allured by the omniscient Ecstasy,
He felt the invasion and the nameless joy.
A call was on him from intangible heights;
Indifferent to the little outpost Mind
He dwelt in the wideness of the Eternal’s reign.
Life’s circumscribing soil could hold no more
His spirit from the adventure of the Vasts.
There now it shot from the tense bow of Time,
A ray returning to its parent Sun.
A living centre of the illimitable,
One-pointed to the immaculate Delight,
Questing for God as for a splendid prey,
He mounted burning like a cone of fire.
Pallid and faint in distant fading streaks
The earth-nature’s summits sank below his feet;
He climbed to meet the infinite more above.
Thus borne on the surge of the enlarging Self,
He left the Inconscient whence our stuff is drawn
To win the ungrasped Immense from which we come.
To a few is given that godlike rare release.
One among many thousands never touched,
Engrossed in the external world’s design,
Is driven by a pointing hand of light
Across his soul’s unmapped immensitudes.
A pilgrim of the everlasting Truth,
He has turned from the voices of the narrow realm,
He has cast from him our measures and our bounds
And left the little lane of human time;
Now through the vestibules of the Unseen
Trod are the precincts of a vaster plan:
All that was grasped and certain far behind
And the deep cosmic murmur falling still,
A lone forerunner of the Godward earth
Among the symbols of yet unshaped things,
Watched by closed eyes, mute faces of the Unborn,
Journeying to meet the Incommunicable,
He hears the echo of his single steps
In the eternal courts of solitude.
As rose his spirit into pathless heights,
A strong Descent leaped down, a Flame, a Power,
A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire;
His nature shuddered in the Unknown’s grasp:
Overswept, compelled as by some dangerous Bliss,
It underwent a new and bourneless change.
In a pure voidness and eternity,
As when a timeless Eye annuls the hours,
All that represses our fall’n consciousness
Was taken from him like a forgotten load.
A fire was lit that burned the limiting past;
Its outworn high thought-buildings disappeared
Making large room for a new self to live.
A greater Force than the earthly held his limbs;
Increased and heightened were the instruments,
Huge workings bared his undiscovered sheaths,
Strange energies wrought and screened tremendous hands
Loosened the triple net of tenebrous strings
That ties us with these knots of nerve and brain
And cramps us to a fixed external gaze.
His spirit breathed a superhuman air.
A cosmic vision looked at things through light:
Illusion lost her aggrandising lens,
Atomic were her shapes that loomed so large
And from her failing hand her measures fell:
In the enormous spaces of the Self
The living form seemed now a wandering shell;
Earth was one room in his million-mansioned house,
The mind a many-frescoed outer court,
His soul the tongue of an unmeasured fire.
The imprisoned deity rent its magic fence;
All barriers crashed around the huge escape:
The fixed immovable peripheries
Effaced themselves beneath the Incarnate’s tread;
All-knowing guardians of an ignorant world,
The dread velamen and the bottomless crypt,
Circle and end of every hope and toil,
Could not restrain nor slay the arisen Power;
The old adamantine vetoes stood no more.
Immune, rejecting Nature’s obsolete law,
It burst the narrow dams that keep us safe
Against the forces of the Universe:
Abolished were the scripts of destiny.
Overpassing the stature by Earth-fate assigned,
A boundless point travelling infinity,
He found unpathed unwalled his titan scope.
All was uncovered to his sealless eye:
By the compulsion of some termless Gaze
A secret Nature yielded to his search,
Masked by occult innumerable doors,
Her perilous arcanes and hooded powers:
Her gulfs stood nude, her far transcendences
Flamed to transparencies of crowded light.
Life in him learned its huge subconscient rear;
The little fronts unlocked to the unseen vasts.
All being was seen in its unnumbered planes:
Ascending and descending twixt life’s poles,
The seried kingdoms of the graded Law,
Each lifting tops to its own high Beyond,
Predestined stadia of the evolving Way,
Paces of the many-visaged Wonderful,
Measured the stature of the growing soul
In a hierarchy of climbing harmonies
From Matter’s abysses to the spirit’s peaks.
A giant order was discovered here
Of which the tassel and extended fringe
Are the scant stuff of our material lives.
Across the unfolding of the seas of self,
At once remembrance and apocalypse,
Appeared the numberless countries of the One.
A many-miracled consciousness unrolled
Vast aim and process and unfettered norm,
Half-caught at first through wonder’s gleaming lids
A larger Nature’s great familiar roads:
Affranchised from the mesh of earthly sense
Wide continents of potency were glimpsed,
Sun-tracts of knowledge, moon-belts of delight,
Beyond this indigent corporeal range.
Adventurer and discoverer in realms
Denied to this perishing eye, this failing tread,
A voyager upon uncharted routes
Fronting the viewless danger of the Unknown,
He broke into another Space and Time.

(To be concluded)

[1] From Sri Aurobindo’s Notes: In the “Yoga of the Lord of the Horse” which is the next series of sections, “there is a long passage describing Aswapati’s progress through the subtle physical, vital and mental worlds towards the Overmind” (1 November 1936). “‘The Yoga of the Lord of the Horse’ covers a number of sections making the greater part of the first book; it is not the title of a section only. This title is essential to the plan of the work…” (16 November 1936). Asked about the titling of the first section of the series, Sri Aurobindo replied: “For the moment I can think of nothing but Ascent to Godhead—Unveiling.” To the statement “I suppose the Horse is Dadhikravan of the Vedas”, the answer was: “Yes” (9 November 1936).