Date: August 20, 2023
Venue: Unity Pavilion, Auroville
On August 20, 2023, Dr. Beloo Mehra, Editor, Renaissance and Senior Academic Mentor, was invited to be part of a panel discussion based on Sri Aurobindo’s essays titled ‘The Renaissance in India’ This conference event was organised at Unity Pavilion, Auroville as part of Auroville’s celebration of Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. The focus of the 12-day-long celebration was on Sri Aurobindo’s First Dream of a United India.
The other panelists included Ms. Lopa Mukherjee from Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education and Mr. Torkil from Auroville. The session was moderated by Mr. Lakshay Dharan, founder of Aware Auroville, the main body organising this celebration.
The session began with a brief introduction by Mr. Lakshay Dharan in which he touched upon the significance of the selected topic for the panel to the larger focus of the celebration, namely, Sri Aurobindo’s first dream of a united India. He then invited each speaker to share some perspective on what they understand about the term Indian Renaissance in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s writings.
Dr. Mehra briefly discussed the context in which Sri Aurobindo speaks both of the term Renaissance or India’s rebirth and its necessity by briefly describing the nature of India’s contact with the European or Western civilization which happened at a time when Indian civilization was already going through a declining phase.
This first resulted in a quick imitation of all that were offered by a more powerful and seemingly successful civilization of the colonial masters, but eventually led to an awakening of the Indian soul first in the realm of religion and spirituality. Building upon this thought, she highlighted what Sri Aurobindo speaks of the work of Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj, and eventually the deep significance of Sri Ramakrishna in opening this path to a spiritual renaissance in India – a work that was carried further by Swami Vivekananda.
She reminded that for Sri Aurobindo, the work of Indian renaissance is supposed to be three-fold.
“The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness is its first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of the Indian spirit and the endeavour to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualised society is the third and most difficult. Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity.”
Ms. Lopa Mukherjee focused more on the artistic and cultural renaissance of India by bringing in the example of the Bengal School of Art which was an original turning of the Indian aesthetic sensibility rooted in its ancient cultural spirit yet integrating within the new influences from the Western aesthetics and techniques. Mr. Torkil brought in an interesting historical perspective by comparing the context in which European Renaissance flourished and how different or similar was the quest and need for Indian Renaissance, as explained by Sri Aurobindo. He also focused on the question of the economic and societal rejuvenation, and the need to harmonise external development with inner progress if a true Indian renaissance has to continue.
There was some interesting Q & A moderated by Mr. Lakshay which also brought out the continued significance of Sri Aurobindo’s remarkable writings on this topic as India moves ahead in her journey to take an important place in the comity of nations.
There was also some discussion on whether the Indian renaissance is ongoing in the true sense of the world, or whether we have come to another standstill. Ms. Lopa also raised the point about encouraging the learning of Sanskrit language. The role of Indian diaspora was also brought up by Ms. Jaya Berggreen-Clausen of Unity Pavilion. The session concluded with words of gratitude.