King’s College, Cambridge, on Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

Sri Aurobindo was a student of King’s College, Cambridge, from 1890 to 1892. After his physical withdrawal in December 1950, a spontaneous appreciative tribute was paid to him by King’s College in their Annual Report of 1951. In spite of its few inaccuracies, this complimentary document is valuable because of its independent British source.

The said tribute has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Aurobindo (then Aravind Acroyd) Ghose came up from St Paul’s in 1890. His father, Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose of Khulna in East Bengal, and an M.D. of Edinburgh, wishing him to be brought up in the best English tradition, had sent him to this country at the early age of seven, and put him in the care of a family at Manchester. At King’s he was a Scholar, and Prizeman, and in 1892 was placed in the 1st Class of the Classical Tripos. While at Cambridge he also published some poems, Songs of [1] Myrtilla, and passed the examination into the Indian Civil Service with record marks in classics. Apparently disliking horses, however, he omitted to take the riding test that was necessary, and this debarred him from joining. He then entered the service of the Maharajah Sayaji Rao III of Baroda, a very enlightened and progressive Prince, and at the Baroda College he became Lecturer in French, Professor of English, and Vice-Principal. In September 1903 he wrote to us in King’s, giving his address—this reads curiously now—as Racecourse Road, Baroda, or the Baroda Officers’ Club, Baroda Gymkhana. That so quick and sensitive a young Indian mind should have felt drawn at that time to politics, however, was natural, for Bengal was in a ferment over the controversies with which Curzon’s Viceroyalty had ended; and in 1906 Aurobindo moved to Calcutta. There, as Principal of the Bengal National College and as Editor of Bande Arataram [2], he advanced rapidly to the spearhead of the nationalist agitation, and was widely believed—though this was not proved—to be implicated in the cult of Terrorism. Twice arrested for sedition, the second time in connection with the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy, he was twice acquitted; and, while for many months in prison during trial on the latter occasion, he underwent the extraordinary change which converted India’s foremost young political ‘activist’, the patriot-hero of those days, into the famous sage and recluse. Soon after leaving jail, to avert fresh attentions from the police, he disappeared quietly during 1910 into French Territory at Pondicherry, where he remained until his death on December 5, 1950, the centre of a cult totally, startlingly, removed from that of the bomb and the revolver with which, as late as 1935, the Government of India’s Intelligence officials still half-believed him to be associated. Of the eminence that he attained during those decades, not only as contemplative or mystic, but as academic philosopher, critic and literary craftsman there can be no question. Books and articles flowed steadily from his pen—most of them insufficiently known to Western readers because they were published in India—and his Essays on the Gita (1916-1918) and his monumental The Life Divine, in particular, are works of very high distinction. His ashram at Pondicherry became a place of pilgrimage; yet during his later period he lived there almost completely withdrawn, permitting himself to be seen even by his own followers only twice a year in formal darshan, and on very rare occasions making oracular pronouncements on politics which must somewhat have perplexed or displeased his conventional nationalist admirers. Early in World War II, for example, he declared himself wholly in sympathy with Britain, and he commended the Cripps Mission in 1942. At his death on December 5, 1950, aged 78, the Press throughout India was filled with columns in his praise, to the exclusion of much ordinary news; President Prasad, Prime Minister Nehru, the Governors of States, and many leading public men wrote copiously in eulogy and reminiscence; and within a few hours, at Pondicherry, 60,000 people had filed past his bier. His gifts of spirit and of intellect had plainly been of the loftiest quality, and to this was added the romance of a unique career. Some would say that his position, among the great men produced by the new India of this century, is equaled only by that of Gandhi and Tagore.

*

[1] to
[2] Mataram

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6 Comments

  1. Prasenjit Sen said,

    May 22, 2015 at 11:12 am

    This short piece is so concise and yet full of respect to Sri Aurobindo – One has to like it. Thanks Anurag, for bringing it out for us .
    –Prasenjit–

  2. Purnendu Ghosh said,

    May 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks, Anurag for the information. This report, however, have not given anything about the works of Sri Aurobindo for upliftment of whole humanity

  3. Dr Prithwindra Mukherjee said,

    May 22, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    So vibrant and sincere in a sober choice of words, this tribute will remain close to our heart.
    Prithwindra Mukherjee

  4. Goutam Ghosal said,

    May 22, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Dear Anurag Banerjee,
    Can this Annual Report of 1951 be posted on my facebook wall, which is public? We have our students now at King’s College including a relative of Sri Aurobindo. Goutam Ghosal

    • Anurag Banerjee said,

      May 22, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Sure, please feel free to post this report.

      With warm regards,

      Anurag Banerjee

  5. tadurymadhavarao said,

    May 25, 2015 at 5:47 am

    Grateful for sharing the reference to the report of the college where Sriaurobindo studied during 1890-92.


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