Sri Aurobindo

Aravinda Ackroyd Ghose now known to the world as Sri Aurobindo was born on the 15th of August, 1872, in Calcutta to Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghose and Swarnalata as their third son. Aravinda means lotus, while his father with his fondness for the English chose the middle name. Sri Aurobindo was a prolific scholar, thinker, poet, philosopher, seer, political and revolutionary leader and a Yogi. In fact many could not mange to speak of all these aspects of him and hence chose one and dismissed the others as he was not a small achiever in any of these fields.

His early education was in the Loretto Convent in Darjeeling, the vacations were spent between his parents and his grandfather at Deogarh. When he was seven he was taken to England along with his brothers. Aurobindo stayed at Manchester with the Drewetts, where he learnt Latin, English, History, Geography, Arithmetic, French. He studied Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley and the Bible on his own. Aurobindo later went on to studyfor five years in St. Pauls’s school (1884). These were great times academically for he distinguished himself for his mastery in literature and history. He took deep interest in literary works and began to write poetry.

The Revolt Of Islam was his favorite book and he always wanted to bring in a similar world-change. He appeared for an Indian Civil Service exam and scored high, winning for himself a stipend for the probationary period. Yet for him these were trying times financially as his father was sending in lesser and lesser money. He went without dinner for two years with a slice or two of bread and a cup of tea in the morning and a sausage in the evening. He had no overcoat to protect him, nor any heating arrangement where he slept.

He continued as an I.C.S probationer along with his studies in classics for he had won an open scholarship for classics at the King’s college. He never got to gain full membership in the Indian Civil Service. The main stipulations to be qualified for the I.CS was to pass an exam in horseback riding. Civil servant's career was passed touring remote areas on horsebacks. Aurobindo fell of the horse for the first examination and did not report for the rest of them as a result of which he was thrown out of the commission.

He did not want to join British Government Service and since he did not want to upset his father by leaving it, he sought a way to be thrown out. The passion of freedom and country had gained strength in him. It was then that he obtained a job with the Maharaja of Baroda, Sayajirao Gaekwar, for RS 200 a month which was a pittance for a man of his qualification. Aurobindo’s father had died at that time of heartbreak believing his son to have sunk with the ship Roumania which he was to sail on, to India, but did not, just to stay back for the riding test.

Aurobindo then moved to Baroda and started his career as a revenue-department trainee (1893) and rose to be Vice-Principal of Baroda College. Career meant little to him as all his interest lay with literature, politics, philosophy and yoga. Of a small family besides his sister and grandfather. His mother was mentally unwell oblivious to the world.

In 1901 he wed Mrinalini who was 14 years younger to him. Theirs was a marriage marked by many intervals of physical separation as she was unable to live in a place where no one spoke her mother tongue. Besides, a famine struck Gujurat followed by a bubonic plague forcing her to depart. In Aurobindo’s own words to his Father-in-law “ I am afraid I shall never be good for much in the way of domestic virtues. I have tried, very ineffectively, to do some part of my duty as a son, a brother and a husband, but there is something too strong in me which forces me to subordinate everything else to it.”

Aurobindo was originally a Poet and a Politician and not a philosopher. His philosophy grew out of his yoga. Twenty two year old Aurobindo emerged as a strong critic of the Indian National Congress for their subordination to the British. His political career started off with his letters of criticism in “ Indu Prakash” of Bombay in 1893 under the title “New Lamps For the old”. His involvement with Indian Politics and freedom fighting was very deep.

He said that the true enemy was not the British. ”Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own weaknesses,..Cowardice,..selfishness.. purblind sentimentalism”This came to be known as the policy of self-help. Aurobindo was involved in both open political agitation and secret revolutionary activity. He worked primarily as a political journalist. He gained popularity when a warrant was served against him as editor of the journal ‘Bande Mataram’. The trial made headlines and he was found innocent as all evidence that he was the editor was destroyed and there were no testimonies either. He was too valuable to be allowed to spend time in jail.

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