Event: Lecture and Virtual Exhibition – Sri Aurobindo and India’s Freedom
Organised by: Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur
Date: February 7, 2022
A full recording of this event is available HERE.
Dr. Beloo Mehra from AuroBharati, Sri Aurobindo Society was invited by Central University of Tamil Nadu (CUTN), Thiruvarur, to deliver a lecture and present a virtual exhibition on the topic – ‘Sri Aurobindo and India’s Freedom’ to a group of university faculty and students. This event was organised as part of the CUTN’s celebrations for 75 years of India’s Independence under the nation-wide ‘Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.
The exhibition titled ‘Sri Aurobindo and India’s Freedom’ was first researched and designed by Dr. Mehra in 2019 and exhibited at Raj Nivas, Puducherry and also at Pondicherry University in 2019. In 2021-22, this exhibition has been expanded (to 74 posters) and redesigned, and it is the first time this was presented virtually as part of a lecture event.
The 1.5-hour long event was scheduled at 3:00 PM on February 7, 2022. The event which was attended by about 30 participants opened with a brief welcome address by Dr. Pranjal Garg, Dept of History, CUTN. He then invited Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, CUTN, Prof. M Krishnan to officially inaugurate the event. Prof. Krishnan kept his inaugural comments brief.
It was encouraging to see that despite his busy schedule Prof. Krishnan attended the entire event and enthusiastically engaged with the topic at the end of the presentation by asking some significant questions.
At the start of the session, Dr. Mehra pointed out that it was significant that the event was happening on February 7, just a day after February 6 which marks the anniversary of the return of Sri Aurobindo to India from England. And how did Mother India welcome her son Sri Aurobindo – who was known by the name Aurobindo Ghosh at the time – the day he stepped on the Indian shore at Apollo Bunder, Bombay? By blessing him with a spiritual experience which Sri Aurobindo described later as when “a vast calm… descended upon him…”
Dr. Mehra then began with quoting a couple of passages from the address of Sri Aurobindo delivered on August 15, 1947. She said that her attempt in the lecture was to summarise and highlight a few points from the great contribution of Sri Aurobindo to India’s freedom movement in the context of his larger and deeper vision of India’s role for the future of humanity and the world. Pointing out that the exhibition covers a specific time period, 1893 to 1910, there are two distinct periods of Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary work, one from 1893-1906 and then from 1906 to 1910.
Walking the audience first through the period of 1893-1906, or the Baroda years, Dr. Mehra highlighted the key revolutionary work of Sri Aurobindo – primarily done through the might of his pen as a writer whose words could stir up deep emotions of patriotic fervour and zeal among his contemporaries. She added that Sri Aurobindo’s political writings continue to stir the soul of all Indians who love their motherland. Examples from Bhawani Mandir and Sri Aurobindo’s famous letter to his wife Mrinalini Devi were pointed out from this period.
It was added that much of Sri Aurobindo’s political activity during this period happened behind the scenes, which included his being the force in bringing together different revolutionaries working toward India’s freedom.
The exhibition also provided a few interesting details on some of the other nationalistic leaders of the time, particularly those with whom Sri Aurobindo worked closely. Special mention was made of the contribution of a great unsung revolutionary – Barindra Ghose, younger brother of Sri Aurobindo who became a national hero because of his work in Yugantar movement and also because of the famous Alipore bomb case.
Dr. Mehra then summarised a few highlights from the years 1906 to 1910, the time Sri Aurobindo spent in Bengal, where he actively participated in political activities, including speaking at several public events and rallies. The exhibition also highlighted his arrest in 1908 in regard to the famous Alipore bombing case, and his eventual acquittal exactly a year later. Specific mention was made of his fiery writings in Bande Mataram and Yugantar, and then later in Karmayogin and Dharma after his acquittal from the prison. A few key passages from Uttarpara speech were also shared which speak significantly of the spiritual realisation of Sri Aurobindo in prison.
Walking the audience through 74 beautifully designed posters, which include relevant quotes and passages from various sources including Sri Aurobindo’s political and autobiographical writings, Dr. Mehra emphasised that Sri Aurobindo’s political work was guided by his deeper vision for India’s future and her destined work as a free and independent nation toward the betterment of the world and humanity.
Some engaging discussion followed the lecture-presentation resulting from a few questions asked by Prof. Krishnan, Hon’ble VC of the CUTN, and Dr. Sneha, a faculty member at CUTN. Prof. Krishnan expressed great interest in the exhibition and invited Dr. Mehra to come to the university for another session on this topic and others related to Sri Aurobindo’s vision for India.
Prof. Sulochana Shekhar, Registrar (I/C), CUTN gave a felicitation address and thanking Dr. Mehra and Sri Aurobindo Society, invited her to the CUTN campus for more of such events. A suggestion was also made for a physical display of the exhibition posters at CUTN campus in the near future.