Monday December 11, 2017

Aurobindo: The spiritual revolutionary who severed the thread of the global power structure



By Gaurav Sharma

India has always birthed and mothered great souls, which have transformed the landscape, not just the hard boundaries defining geographical territories, but also the subtle frameworks ‘encaging’ the mind.Amongst the countless architects of Indian, the mystical figure of Aurobindo stands out par excellence.Born in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, on 15 August 1872, Aurobindo Ghose was a multi-faceted personality whose contributions spanned the length and breadth of human activity.

The well-rounded education Scholastic years

In the early phases of his childhood, Aurobindo was exposed to a typical English education encompassing elements of French, Latin and Greek thought processes and ways of working. Aurobindo also acquired a familiarity with Italian and German languages.

Besides secular education, Aurobindo was also subjected to particulars of religion. However, the Christian teachings that were propounded during his education generally bored him to the extent of repulsion.

Under the tutelage of Reverend W.H Drewett, Aurobindo developed a distaste and disgust for religion, viz-a viz the evangelical strictures.

At this juncture, the very thought of religion made his stomach churn so much that he considered himself as an atheist but later affirmed agnosticism.

After completing his academic education, Aurobindo took the Civil Service Exams in England, with an aim to fulfill his father’s aspirations. Coming out with flying colors, Aurobindo scored an impressive ranking of 11 out of 250 competitors.

His lack of interest in the profession, however, meant that he appeared intentionally late for the practical exam, thereby disqualifying himself from the service. Subsequently, he moved to India by securing a place in the Baroda State Service.

Professional struggle culminates into political rebellion

After working for the Survey and Settlement Department and serving the Department of Revenue and the Secretariat in Baroda for some years, Aurobindo undertook a variety of miscellaneous jobs like teaching grammar, writing speeches for the Maharaja, teaching part-time French and managing schools.

Apart from teaching students, Aurobindo taught himself Sanskrit and Bengal. Writing was also one of the multifarious talents that Aurobindo harbored and put into great use. At the nascent stage, Aurobindo contributed articles to the Indu Prakash, a Marathi-English daily of Bombay, but later expanded his writings through self-started journals and papers.

Soon, Aurobindo became deeply interested in the freedom struggle of India, becoming one of the pioneering leaders in India’s fight for independence.

With a burning patriotic desire in his heart, Aurobindo started taking interest in politics and became actively engaged in underground political activities. He was already influenced by the study of revolutionary ideas (revolts in America and Italy), which expounded rebellion to overthrow colonial rule.

Before embracing extremism in toto, Aurobindo participated as a convener in forming the principles of Swadeshi, Swaraj, Boycott and National Education.

A meeting with extremist leaders, such as Lokmanya Tilak, however, made Aurobindo question his views on the methods required to guarantee India’s freedom.

He started organizing various resistance groups in Bengal and also funded the military training of Jatindra Nath Banerjee. Travelling extensively to Bombay, Baroda and Pune, Aurobindo beefed-up the support for the nationalist cause by meeting various other groups and organizing nationalist speeches.

The “visit” of Swami Vivekananda sparks a spiritual evolution

A year later in 1908, the bombing in Alipore led to the incarceration of Aurobindo. While in solitary confinement, Aurobindo witnessed a mystical experience in which he was “visited” by Vivekananda.

“It is a fact that I was hearing constantly the voice of Vivekananda speaking to me for a fortnight in my solitary meditation and felt his presence,” Aurobindo is known to have remarked on his experience in Alipore jail.

After being released from prison, Aurobindo started two new publications ‘Karmayogin’ in English and ‘Dharma’ in Bengali.

‘To my Countrymen,’ an article published in ‘Karmayogin’ specified Aurobindo’s retirement from political life and signaled his ascent into spiritual life.

He soon moved to Pondicherry and immersed himself in the reclusive practice of Yoga. After intense and secluded application of Yoga practice, Aurobindo started a philosophical magazine called ‘Arya.’

The publication, which ceased operation in 1921, was revised and eventually transformed into book form. This included a rich corpus of philosophical and experiential knowledge in the form of The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on The Gita, The Secret of The Veda, Hymns to the Mystic Fire, The Upanishads, The Renaissance in India, War and Self-determination, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity and The Future Poetry.

A humanistic view of Spirituality

Aurobindo vision of spirituality was grounded in the concept of unity of humanity. He challenged the theory of evolution by highlighting its limited scope of reason and arguing that life was already present in matter.

In his book, The Ideal of Human Unity, Aurobindo explained how humanity could be united.

According to Aurobindo, national egoism in the name of patriotism was the major reason for division of people and propelling of wars.

Commercially driven nations were most likely to conflict again over control of markets and wealth. He pointed out that unrestricted commercialization would inevitably lead to “stupendous military organizations” and unbridled hunger for power.

The spiritual stalwart unabashedly summed up modern war as “the bastard offspring of wealth-hunger and commercialism with political ambition as its putative father.”

The only way the world could survive was by realizing the “religion of humanity.”  Violence could be stymied when people transcended the commercial interests by using a spiritual motive to subordinate their political and economic objectives.

The sacredness of life, irrespective of the distinctions of caste, color, creed, religion, social advancement, political affiliations and national boundaries would be the prime uniting factor for humanity.

“Supra-natural” oneness was to be the plank on which a peaceful human society was to be built. The spiritual effects would not only transform the physical, psychic, intellectual and the ethical aspects of an individual, but would lead to a “super-conscious” society and culture.

The religio-spiritual fervor of Aurobindo cascaded beyond the narrow limiting boundaries invented by man, embracing the whole humanity into its widespread, loving arms.

Perhaps, Aurobindo holds the anodyne for uniting the apparently diverse populace that characterizes democratic nations in the globalized world today.

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This Durga Puja Brings Narratives of Communal Harmony

Durga puja is exemplifying communal harmony at a time when the world grapples with religious animosity and social polarisation

Durga Puja
Durga Puja in at Bhopal Madhya Pradesh. Wikimedia

Kolkata, Sep 15, 2017: For over 200 years, the Nandi family in West Bengal’s Hooghly has been feeding Muslim fakirs during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. To the Nandis, this annual ritual has its roots in a family legend that is testimony to the generosity of the local Muslim community.

It is also one of the myriad instances of the festival — the biggest in Bengal — exemplifying communal harmony at a time when the world grapples with religious animosity and social polarisation.

According to 80-year-old Satipati Nandi, the ninth-generation descendant of the family that claims to have been the “largest importer of betel nuts in eastern India once upon a time”, this Hindu-Muslim syncreticism comes naturally.

“It may sound as a big deal today but it all started centuries ago. It is said that two brothers, Kuber Shankar and Kama Shankar, were selling pakodas (fried snacks) in Halishahar in North 24-Parganas when they chanced upon a fakir who gave them a gold mohar (coin) to start an enterprise… revolving around the first thing they spot,” Nandi told IANS.

The rest is history.

The Nandis ventured into the betel nut business and eventually branched out into real estate, acquiring multiple properties across the state, including the present family residence at Pandua in Hooghly as well as land in Garia in south Kolkata.

Also Read: What makes Hindu Festival Durga Puja so popular in India? Know its Meaning and Significance 

“In remembrance of the generous fakir, we feed two fakirs on Navami (the ninth day of the festival). Now we usually do not find fakirs; so we offer khichdi to any two members of the Muslim community,” Nandi explained.

This communal integration has spilled on to the state capital Kolkata as well.

In the heart of Kolkata is Kumartuli — the potters’ enclave — which is in a state of frenzy with Durga Puja that is round the corner. The clay idols of Durga and her pantheon are being daubed in paint and their curves clothed in vibrant saris.

Their bald heads are carefully draped in jute wigs that have been painstakingly fashioned into braids and curly tresses for the Hindu goddess by Muslim craftsmen.

Neither blinding rain nor religion get in the way of business in this buzzing maze-like colony of potters and their assistants, labourers, decorators and tourists with selfie sticks — the point of origin of around 5,000 clay Durga idols each year.

Around 400 “shilpis” (craftsmen) churn out Durga and her children in crammed 6 by 10 foot studios, cloaked in tarpaulin sheets. The final touches, which begin around a fortnight before Mahalaya (September 19), include decking the idols in accessories.

“Draping the hair is an essential part of the process. The jute wigs are fashioned by Muslim families from Parbatipur near Howrah and other areas. A typical ‘sabeki’, or traditional idol, usually dons a curly and wavy wig. Essentially, they are mostly black but we do have variants of the wig in dark brown, rust and beige,” Babu Pal, a spokesperson for the potters, told IANS.

Slightly rough in texture, they are almost indistinguishable from your average wigs. Packed in bundles starting off at Rs 100, these are available as plaits, straight extensions for the sides or as wavy locks.

“Everyone comes to look at the idols. They admire, take pictures and go away. But it’s not just the idols… you have to assemble the goddess piece by piece. Muslim craftsmen usually fashion the dress material and the wigs. You may talk about cow politics and put a religious spin on it, for us it’s the way of life here… no one talks about this (Hindu-Muslim issues)… it’s business,” Pal elaborated.

According to Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, Hindu-Muslim integration during the Durga Puja was not uncommon in undivided Bengal.

“It has continued despite geographical barriers because the festival now is a huge industry. It provides employment to people from all communities. It’s only some politicians and communal-minded people who give it a different spin. During immersions too, everyone comes together to bid adieu to the goddess and family. She is looked at as a source of strength and not as a religious symbol,” Bhaduri added.

And you don’t have to look further than Begampur town in Hooghly district to see several Muslim families celebrating Durga Puja as a symbol of the common culture of the festival that unites Hindus with other minorities, at least in Bengal.

(This story is part of a special series that will showcase a diverse, plural and inclusive India and has been made possible by a collaboration between IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at



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The Need to Celebrate National Handloom Day in India: Its Significance and Relevance in Modern Times

This year Guwahati was chosen as the venue to celebrate the 3rd National Handloom Day

National Handloom Day
Significance of National Handloom Day. Pixabay
  • Various initiatives have been undertaken for the betterment of weavers by the Indian Government
  • More than 50% of total weaver population of India resides in North Eastern Region, most of which are women
  • This year Guwahati was chosen as the venue to celebrate 3rd National Handloom Day

New Delhi, August 7, 2017: In order to keep the country’s traditions alive, and encourage people to wear hand-made loom, National Handloom Day is observed and celebrated in India on August 7. The 3rd National Handloom Day event was held in Guwahati, Assam.

This day is celebrated to remind ourselves of a 1905 Swadeshi Movement during which Indians boycotted British products in favor of the revival of domestic ones and in modern times to encourage people to wear handloom products.

Wearing Handloom is not a practice that should be celebrated for a day but it should be worn all year round to remain rooted in one’s culture, tradition and to support weavers who put their years of experience, time, energy and soul into creating these pieces of art.

Bishnupur Handloom, West Bengal
Bishnupur Handloom from West Bengal. Wikimedia

This year Guwahati was chosen as the venue to celebrate the 3rd National Handloom Day and to grace the occasion a documentary on handloom was also screened.

Ajay Tamta, Union Minister of State, Textiles, Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister of Assam and Anant Kumar Singh, Textiles Secretary were present at the event. Ajay Tamta said that he appreciates and salutes the handloom weavers for their commitment, dedication, and skill. He said that handloom weavers should be able to earn due value for their products and that the Government is working in this direction for which various initiatives have been undertaken for the betterment of weavers such as- Hathkargha Samvardhan Sahayata Scheme and MUDRA scheme.

According to the Hathkargha Samvardhan Sahayata Scheme, the Government of India will assist the weavers by bearing 90% of the cost of new looms. As per MUDRA scheme, loans can be availed by the weavers of Rs. 50,000/- to Rs. 10 lakh without any security.

The Minister also informed that the Ministry of Textiles has entered into MoUs with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) as per which children of weavers will be able to avail school and university education (with 75% of fees being borne by the Government of India). Sonowal noted that more than 50% of total weaver population of India resides in North Eastern Region, most of which are women. If the government is successful in improving the lifestyle of weavers it will empower various north eastern women and girls.

ALSO READ: ‘Livelihood Creation in India’: The Socioeconomic well being of Women through West Bengal’s Murshidabad Handlooms

Smriti Irani, Union Textiles Minister while addressing a gathering at Ahmedabad said, the weavers will be able to derive the benefit of services like online courses, banking, passport, insurance, PAN card, voter ID and AADHAAR from Weavers’ Service Centres (WSCs), from this year onwards. Another MoU was signed between Ministry of Textiles and designers. Under which, the reputed textile designers will work with handloom weavers, passing to them their design assistance and knowledge. This move is expected to improve the earnings of weavers and the market value of the handloom products.

Another MoU was signed between Ministry of Textiles and designers. Under which, the reputed textile designers will work with handloom weavers, passing to them their design assistance and knowledge. This move is expected to improve the earnings of weavers and the market value of the handloom products.


Jayasri Samyukta Iyer, fashion designer and executive committee member of the Craft Council of India, said that this year, they want to highlight three types of saree’s and its revival process. Kodalli Karuppur saree belonging to Tamil Nadu, it was used in the ancient times during Thanjavur kingdom and seems non-existent now. Patteda Anchu saree belongs to Karnataka, and lastly Gauda Adivasi saree from Goa. Each of the above-mentioned saree’s has an interesting history, but sadly, its relevance is fading away.

Some popular handloom fabrics are Bomkai from Subarnapur, Orissa, Mangalagiri cotton from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, Tussar silk from Jharkhand, Paithani Brocade from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Maheshwari from Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, Pochampally Ikat from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh and Patola weave from Patan, Gujarat.

It is high time that we come up with an initiative to improve marketing strategies for handloom sector in the country and uplift the weaver’s community; also to encourage people to move away from power loom and incorporate handloom products in the form of saree’s, shirts, trousers and skirts in their lives.

There is a need find ways to increase remuneration for the weavers so that they can financially support their families, the future generation is willing to take up weaving and the art of weaving can be sustained. To popularize it amongst youngsters, celebrities can wear handloom saree’s, shirts, skirts, dresses and make a cool style statement out of it, influencing thousands of people at a time.

– by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08

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Reason to worry over Communal Violence in Basirhat, says Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen clearly sees reasons to worry over the communal riots erupted between two communities at Baduria on July 3 night over a Facebook post by a youth

Amartya Sen, communal violence
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday said there is a "reason to worry" over the communal violence in Basirhat. Wikimedia
  • The communal violence that has engulfed pockets in Basirhat sub-division of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district are indeed worrisome
  • Violence erupted between two communities at Baduria on July 3 night over a Facebook post by a youth
  • In no time  the violence spread to various pockets in Basirhat

Kolkata, July 10, 2017: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday said there is a “reason to worry” over the communal violence that has engulfed pockets in Basirhat sub-division of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district.

“Why is it happening? Is it because someone is inciting it? We are all worried. How much political mischief is to be blamed for this? We have to ponder all these. There is a reason to worry over this,” Sen told a television channel here when asked about it.

“Bengal has a culture of co-existence of Hindu-Muslim communities and for a long time this co-existence was possible without any communalism, and suddenly this returns. We can’t be dismayed over this and let this be, thinking there is nothing to do in this matter… We have to take measures to get rid of these things,” he said.

The celebrated economist is in the city to attend the screening of a documentary on him directed by Suman Ghosh.

ALSO READKolkata: Special Screening of Amartya Sen documentary “An Argumentative Indian” on July 10

Violence erupted between two communities at Baduria on July 3 night over a Facebook post by a youth.

He was soon arrested but violence broke out with mobs attacking shops and houses, torching vehicles, including those of police, and putting up road blockades.

Several police personnel sustained injuries as the violence spread to various pockets in Basirhat. (IANS)