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Introducing Sri Aurobindo's Creative Literature

Posted by Aju Mukhopadhyay on May 29, 2012 at 6:50 AM

Introducing Sri Aurobindo's Creative Literature 

In the face of huge publicity and propaganda in favour of some freedom fighters whose names are the main thrust of some political party and media, making them cult figures, for their own purpose, Sri Aurobindo’s name and significance of his work as a freedom fighter have faded into oblivion. The young generation hardly knows the true history of the freedom movement of India.

Sri Aurobindo lives in the mind of the people mainly as a yogi and philosopher, at the most as a great thinker. Beginning with his journalistic days to the last of his poetic era, he wrote large number of essays; political, socialistic, analytical and interpretative of scriptures besides translations of classics from different languages. Some of the master pieces are: The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, The Foundation of Indian Culture, The Secret of the Veda, The Upanishad, The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity.

But he remained a poet from his student days to the last, writing 50000 (approx) lines of poetry and wrote good number of dramas (five complete and five incomplete plus some fragments and translation) and four short stories of which it is said that two are incomplete though they may have full value as complete short stories . He could be a remarkable dramatist and fiction writer too apart from poet but he was either engaged as a secret revolutionary leader or a political leader in the open field, either a professor, journalist, social thinker or a philosopher, doing yoga, meditating while walking for ten or more hours in between his constant efforts to create literature, translate or edit them, at different periods of his life.

Busy with many other things, his original works of imagination largely remained incomplete and inconclusive. In a stormy life, shifting from place to place, Sri Aurobindo often lost track of his own works. Some of them were in police or Government custody, recovered by chance after he passed away. In search of perfection he often amended his own works; revised, corrected or added volumes, mostly more than once, sometimes leaving little tracks for the compilers and editors to come to a final decision about those works which he did not complete himself. The existences of alternative readings and rough amended parts allure editors to emend or change some of his works. It proved difficult sometimes to reconstruct his works which at the same time gave chance to some infidels to distort them. We may refer to a portion of the well meaning opinion expressed by K. R. Srinivas Iyengar, his learned biographer “In one sense, of course, it is unfair to Sri Aurobindo’s literary genius to discuss plays and fragments which he did not finalise or complete, and which were not published at all.” (Sri Aurobindo-a biography and a history. Pondicherry; S. A. I. C. E. 1985ed. p.144)

It may even be that he wrote more, completed more than it seems left incomplete but he could not keep them in a regular way, could not find a trace of them. And it may equally apply to Sri Aurobindo what the Mother once said to remind her disciple that her works belonged to eternity, hinting that they did not care to keep all records of their works to the temporal world. His yoga diary consisted of jotted down notes in simple note books or chits of paper, not meant for preserving. Sometimes a disciple found some papers containing his works among pieces to be destroyed or burnt down and he restored them with care. Similarly some of his letters to disciples and others were and are of good historical importance, good source of biographical references but they were not known to most of the scholars. Though some of them are coming out gradually from different sources, such things should be brought out as much as are available for the public who are interested in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and in different aspects of the history of the pre and post colonial era of Indian history. They are not secret documents any more for someones.

Besides writing in English he wrote and translated some pieces; essays, features, a poem incomplete and even two short stories with a biographical and humorous work, his experience in British jail for a year, titled Karakahini which became very popular, showing another side of his creative urge, capacity to write in colloquial Bengali tongue learning it properly after coming from England within a very short period with rare humour, sarcasm and pungency. The stories and Karakahini or the “Tale of Prison Life” has been briefly discussed in the last chapter titled ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Short Stories’.

On the whole, compared to his non-fiction and other works his original creative literature is quite lesser. It is little known that he was a fiction writer and a dramatist. Even as a poet he has not been accorded that altitude as he deserves in the minds of the critics and common people though he was one the greatest mystic poets, Savitri being a creation unheard of so far. The other reason for this is perhaps that he wrote not in his Mother Tongue. And writing in English by Indians was confined among very limited writers and readers. There was no reference to Indian English writing at that time though he was one of the pioneers of Indian English Literature.

All his short stories were posthumously published. Only one drama was published during his life time. Not all his poems were published during his time.

I hope that this bringing together all his creative literature at one place and discuss them has been very rare so far. I hope that this may inspire the readers to further study and to go through his literature. I shall be most happy if that happens for that is one of the main purpose of writing this.

(c) Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2012

From my forthcoming book- The World of Sri Aurobindo's Creative Literature

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