Yogi, philosopher, revolutionary, writer, poet, critic-Sri Aurobindo is a multifaceted personality. A large number of books have been written on the various dimensions of Sri Aurobindo's genius. But very little is known about Sri Aurobindo's knowledge of Sanskrit language and literature, the new insight he has given into its origins, and about his original contributions to it. Though these may not be very large, in comparison to his other writings, they are sufficiently extensive and reveal his great mastery of the Sanskrit language.
This book is an attempt to provide a first introduction to this significant but not sufficiently explored topic. We hope it will bring out another hidden aspect of Sri aurobindo's rich personality and encourage some readers to delve deeper into this subject. This work assumes a special significance if we realize the importance of Sanskrit for the resurgence of India.
For Dr. Sampadananda Mishra it was a special joy to be engaged in the research and preparation of this book, because of his devotion to Sri Aurobindo and to Sanskrit. We are grateful to Ganapti Pattegar, Bryce Gringlington, Richard Hartz, Dr. H. Maheshwari and Dr. R.Y. Deshpande for their helpful suggestions and constant encouragement. We acknowledge with thanks the help received from Dr. A.K Ganguly, Dr. Vandana Gupta, M.S.Srinivasan and Indu Rai in preparing the manuscript.
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15th August, 1872.
His father, Dr. Krishnadhana Ghosh "was determined that
his children should receive an entirely European upbring-
ing."! Therefore he first sent the young Aurobindo to a con-
vent school in Darjeeling at the age of four. Then at the
age of seven, in the year 1879, Aurobindo was sent to Eng-
land along with his brothers Manmohan and Benoy Bhushan
so that they could be brought up in an English environment.
Their caretaker Rev. Drewett was strictly instructed "that
they should not be allowed to make the acquaintance of
any Indian or undergo any Indian influence. These instruc-
tions were carried out to the letter and Aurobindo grew up
in entire ignorance of India, her people, her religion and her
culture.'? During his stay of 14 years in England Aurobindo
mastered not only English, French, Greek and Latin but also
became familiar with but would not speak his mother-tongue,
It is surprising that such an English-educated person should
have, on his return to India, turned to the study of Sanskrit,
the Vedas and the Puranas and later become known as
Sri Aurobindo, the great yogi, poet, philosopher and critic.
Even at an early age Sri Aurobindo "had already received
strongly the impression that a period of great upheaval
and great revolutionary changes were coming in the world
and he himself was destined to playa part in it.") When
on the 8th of February, 1893, he stepped again on Indian
soil, "a vast calm descended upon him."
Sri Aurobindo began an intensive study of the languages
and literatures of India during his stay at Baroda (1893-
1906). He concentrated on Sanskrit and Bengali, but
also learnt some Gujarati and Marathi. He learnt San-
skrit "direct in Sanskrit itself or through English.:" He
learnt it by reading the Nala and Damayanti episode in
the Mahabharata several times over and with minute
care.' In this manner he mastered Sanskrit in a few
years and discovered the real spirit of the Sanskrit
language. The door of its vast literature stood open
before him. He entered the realm of the Vedas, the
Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the
Puranas, the works of Kalidasa, Bhartrihari, Bharavi,
Magha, Bhavabhuti, Banabhatta, Vishnusharma and
many others. Thus was revealed to him the secret great-
ness of India and its culture.
Sri Aurobindo's knowledge of Sanskrit was not confined
to mere reading and understanding of some texts in San-
skrit; he translated many Vedic and Upanishadic Mantras
into English and commented upon them. He did the same
for the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and for the
works of Kalidasa and Bhartrihari. Apart from these he
wrote valuable and extensive research articles on many
important Sanskrit texts. Through these articles he
revealed the inner significance of these texts from a
spiritual and socio-cultural viewpoint. The purpose of this
book is to present a brief account of Sri Aurobindo's as-
sociation with Sanskrit language and literature.
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