UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Dec 5

5 December 1950

Death of Sri Aurobindo


What happened?

On 5 December 1950, revolutionary-turned spiritual reformer Sri Aurobindo passed away in Pondicherry.

Biography

  • Born Aurobindo Ghose in Calcutta on 15 August 1872, Sri Aurobindo was drawn to the Indian freedom movement as a revolutionary leader.
  • His father Krishna Dhun Ghose was a surgeon in Rangpur, Bengal and had sought to provide his five children English education considering British culture to be superior to Indian culture.
  • Aurobindo was schooled at the Loreto House Boarding School in Darjeeling.
  • In 1879, the whole family moved to England as Krishna Dhun Ghose wanted his sons to pursue the Indian Civil Service (ICS). There, Aurobindo was taught History, French, Latin, Arithmetic and Geography. He was exposed to Christian teachings by his tutor but Aurobindo was rather repulsed by religion and considered himself an atheist.
  • He passed the ICS examination securing the 11th rank out of 250 candidates. He joined King’s College for the training but had himself disqualified for an exam by arriving deliberately late as he had no interest in the ICS.
  • He returned to India and secured employment in the Baroda State Service with the help of an acquaintance.
  • He joined the Baroda service in 1893. He also did odd jobs like teaching grammar and composing speeches for the Maharaja of Gaekwad. In 1897, he joined the Baroda College as a French teacher. He also taught himself Sanskrit and Bengali during this time.
  • By this time, he had started taking an interest in politics and associated with resistance groups in Madhya Pradesh and Bengal. He travelled throughout Bengal to establish resistance groups. Although in public, he favoured passive non-cooperation, in private he prepared for an aggressive revolution in case the passive revolt did not yield results.
  • He was much influenced by the American Revolution, revolts in Italy and the medieval French revolts against England.
  • He attended Congress sessions and at the same time, helped establish the Anushilan Samiti of Calcutta in 1902.
  • He and his brother revolutionary Barin Ghose contributed articles to the magazine Jugantar which inspired many young people to take up revolutionary work.
  • In 1905, Aurobindo started an English newspaper called Bande Mataram.
  • In May 1908, Aurobindo was arrested in connection with the Alipore Conspiracy Case or Alipore Bomb Case.
  • This was in the wake of the attempt to assassinate the Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingford by Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki.
  • Aurobindo was released after a year of solitary confinement in prison owing to the case collapsing when the chief prosecution witness was murdered.
  • It was during his incarceration in Alipore Jail that Aurobindo’s life started transforming into one of spirituality and self-realisation.
  • He said that he heard the voice of Swami Vivekananda in prison. He became convinced of the truth of Sanatana Dharma.
  • He started practicing Yoga and withdrew from political life as then, his life had a purpose that went beyond political liberation for the country.
  • The British tried to arrest him for sedition for his writings, but he fled to Pondicherry in 1910 which was a French colony, and the arrest warrant against him was withdrawn.
  • He lived in seclusion and practiced Yoga and pursued spirituality. In 1914, he started publishing a magazine Arya. He attracted many followers and this led to the founding of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1926.
  • He wrote copiously and his greatest literary achievement was ‘Savitri’, an epic poem with about 24000 lines.
  • He developed a kind of Yoga called Integral Yoga. He believed that human beings can evolve further into something truly divine.
  • He inspired scores of people both from India and abroad.
  • Sri Aurobindo passed away on 5 December 1950 in Pondicherry aged 78.

Some of Aurobindo’s many literary works:

  • Bases of Yoga
  • Bhagavad Gita and Its Message
  • The Future Evolution of Man
  • Rebirth and Karma
  • Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol
  • Hour of God
Also on this day

1901: Birth of animation industry pioneer Walt Disney. 1941: Death of Hungarian-Indian painter Amrita Sher-Gil. 2016: Death of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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