Soon after his release from jail, Aurobindo was invited to deliver a speech on 'Hindu religion', but he preferred to speak on nation and nationalism
New Delhi: It was the year 1909. On this very same day (May 30), Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo delivered a fiery speech on nationalism that cemented the bedrock of India's freedom struggle. Coincidentally after 110 years, on the same day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who rode on nationalism and got a landslide mandate, will be sworn-in today as the Prime Minister of India for the second time.
Soon after his release from jail, Aurobindo was invited to deliver a speech on 'Hindu religion', but he preferred to speak on nation and nationalism. Speaking on the power of the Vande Mataram, he said, "When I went to jail, the whole country was alive with the cry of Bande Mataram, alive with the hope of a nation, the hope of millions of men who had newly risen out of degradation. When I came out of jail I listened for that cry, but there was instead a silence. A hush had fallen on the country and men seemed bewildered; for instead of God’s bright heaven full of the vision of the future that had been before us, there seemed to be overhead a leaden sky from which human thunders and lightnings rained. No man seemed to know which way to move, and from all sides came the question, “What shall we do next? What is there that we can do?”
From English man to desi nationalist
Speaking at the meeting in Bengal's Uttarpara, Aurobindo wasn't hesitant in admitting his initial foreign upbringing. He had said, "I was brought up in England amongst foreign ideas and an atmosphere entirely foreign. About many things in Hinduism I had once been inclined to believe that it was all imagination;" But speaking about his first brush with nationalism in the jail, Aurobindo had said, "When I first approached Him, it was not entirely in the spirit of the Bhakta, it was not entirely in the spirit of the Jnani. I came to Him long ago in Baroda some years before the Swadeshi began and I was drawn into the public field."
Aurobindo's nationalism through yoga
Aurobindo was blatant enough to accept he was an atheist. He accepted, "I did not feel His presence". But when he turned to yoga for answers, he got one that not only guided him spiritually but also shaped his role in the days to come as far as India's nationalism is concerned. The lesson he had said he learned during Yoga was this: “I have given you (a) work and it is to help to uplift this nation. Before long the time will come when you will have to go out of jail; for it is not my will that this time either you should be convicted or that you should pass the time as others have to do, in suffering for their country. I have called you to work, and that is the adesh for which you have asked. I give you the adesh to go forth and do my work.”
Bengal, as many would not know has been the birthplace of Indian nationalism. Be it Bankim Chandra Chattopadhaya's Vande Mataram or Aurobindo's concept of Swaraj through the idea of village samitis, the state cemented the bedrock of Indian nationalism. But Aurobindo's stress on cultural and spiritual nationalism to unite India to fight for a self-sufficient nation was both unique and powerful.
As Modi would walk up to the stage in Rashtrapati Bhawan to take oath as PM for the second time, this lesser known co-incidence should not go unnoticed.
Last Updated May 30, 2019, 4:29 PM IST