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Monday, April 5, 2010


Special thanks are due to French born Claude Arpi and an Ayurvedic Doctor and Indian National Congress member P Varadarajulu Naidu for reminiscing the great centenary memories of 4th April 1910 and its importance to Pondicherry. This is a famous landmark in Pondy and visit to Puducherry is not complete without paying obeisance in this place.
This is connected to the story of Arvinda Akroyd Ghose born on 15th Aug 1872 in Calcutta to to Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghose, District Surgeon of Rangapur, Bengal and Swarnalata Devi, the daughter of Brahmo religious and social reformer, Rajnarayan Basu, better known as “Sri Aurobindo”

Aurobindo’s early years were spent at Rangapur but his landing to Pondy came much later connected to the Alipore Bomb case trial of 1908. The trial itself lasted one whole year and Aurobindo was eventually acquitted. After his acquittal came the famous Uttarpara speech and he started two new weekly papers: the Karmayogin in English and the Dharma in Bengali. The British government were not to tolerate his nationalist program. Lord Minto is cited as saying "I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with." The oppressive Govt was considering retrial and he being sought by the Police was on the cards.
Puducherry was a french colony and on April 4 1910, Aurobindo landed there. Here his spritual endeavours began. After intense political struggle in surveying, supporting and organising nationalist cuase, Aurobindo was publishing his views. He alongside Lokmanya Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and host of others influenced nationalist thinking in a very big way. He articulated the legitimacy and necessity of complete independence, observing that political freedom is the life breath of a nation.

At Pondy, his close spiritual collaborator, Mirra Richard (b. Alfassa), came to be known as The Mother simply because Sri Aurobindo started to call her by this name. On being inquired by why he called her the Mother, Sri Aurobindo wrote an essay "The Mother" by way of shedding light on the person of Mirra. Mirra was born in Paris on February 21, 1878, to Turkish and Egyptian parents. Involved in the cultural and spiritual life of Paris, she counted among her friends Alexandra David-Neel. She went to Pondicherry on March 29, 1914, finally settling there in 1920.

After November 24, 1926, when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion, he left it to her to plan, run and build the growing Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the community of disciples that had gathered around them. When Sri Aurobindo died in 1950, the Mother continued their spiritual work and directed the Ashram and guided their disciples.

Today’s New Indian Express features an article by Claude Arpi titled “when the most dangerous man came” using the words of Lord Minto. The article mentions of the afternoon of April 4, 1910 at Pondy pier when a strict orthodox Tamil Brahmin, Srinivasachari and Suresh Chakravarti, a 18-year-old Bengali revolutionary shared a small boat to reach out to Le Dupleix, a steamer which had just arrived from Calcutta carrying the ‘most dangerous’ man on board. This is captured in the Bengali book, Smritikatha, of Chakravarti.

By the time they disembarked and boarded the rowboat waiting to take the famous passenger to French India, it was 4 pm. Chakravarti had arrived in Pondicherry a few days earlier, scouting for an accommodation for his leader; for the couple of days, Srinivasachari and his friends did not act on his request, thinking that he was a spy. It is only when the arrival of the political leader was confirmed that it was decided to have a reception committee at the pier. The young Bengali managed to dissuade Srinivasachari and others (including Subramanya Bharathi) to have any official function. “Sri Aurobindo’s coming to Pondicherry was a closely guarded secret and he would like to live in strict solitude in order to avoid harassment by the agents of the British government”, says one of Sri Aurobindo’s biographers.
During the first three months, the young men remained inside the house day and night, it was too dangerous to roam the streets of the White Town; some British agents were certainly looking for a scoop for their promotion.

During the 40 years of his stay in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo faced constant enmity, to put it mildly, not only from sections of the local population, but also from the representatives of the British Crown and the French administration.

Thus yesterday has historic century old connection with the Indian Nationalist, freedom fighter, English Poet, philosopher and Yogi – Sri Aurobindo. The central theme of Sri Aurobindo's vision is the evolution of life into a "life divine". In his own words: "Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of Nature's process".    The principal writings of Sri Aurobindo include, in prose, The Life Divine, considered his single great work of metaphysics,The Synthesis of Yoga, Secrets of the Vedas, Essays on the Gita, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, Renaissance in India and other essays, Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, The Future Poetry, Thoughts and Aphorisms and several volumes of letters. In poetry, his principal work is "Savitri - a Legend and a Symbol" in blank verse.

In case you are interested in Alipore Bomb trial which involved more than 37 suspects following a bomb attack, held in Alipore Sessions Court, in Calcutta, India, presided by Judge C.P. Beachcroft – here is something on it.

The partition of Bengal sparked outburst of public anger against the British. The anger led to civil unrest and a nationalist campaign was carried out by groups of revolutionaries, led by Aurobindo Ghosh (Arabindo Ghosh), Rasbihari Bose and Bagha Jatin and organized into groups like Jugantar. The British cracked down hard on the activists and the conflict came to a head on April 30, 1908 when Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki attempted to kill Magistrate Kingsford, a judge known for handing down particularly harsh sentences against nationalists. However, the bomb thrown at his horse carriage missed its target and instead landed in another carriage and killed two British women, the wife and daughter of barrister Pringle Kennedy.

On May 2, 1908, police arrested an initial 33 suspects. The local police immediately raided a property of Aurobindo Ghosh. His writings and letters were confiscated by the police. The Maniktala garden premises where Barin and other activists had been training was also raided. Along with many activists, Aurobindo Ghosh was also arrested on charges of planning and overseeing the attack and imprisoned in solitary confinement in Alipore Jail. After an intense manhunt, Khudiram Bose was arrested, although Prafulla Chaki shot himself rather than fall into the hands of the police. The trial soon began - 49 people stood accused, 206 witnesses were called, around 400 documents were filed with the court, and more than 5000 exhibits were produced including bombs, revolvers, and acids. The trial continued for a year (1908-1909), and Bose was found guilty and later hanged. Aurobindo Ghosh, however, was defended by the young lawyer Chittaranjan Das, who concluded his defence:
On May 6, 1909, Judge Beachcroft delivered the verdict involving over 36 suspects. The Judge sentenced:
• to death Barindra Ghosh and Ullaskar Dutt under Sections 121, 121 A, 122 Penal Code; but sentences were commuted to life in prison, and both released in 1920;
• to transportation for life and forfeiture all property Upendra Nath, Banerjee Bibhuti, Bhusan Roy, Hrishikesh Kanjilal, Birendra Sen, Sudhir Ghosh, Indra Nundy, Abinash Bhuttacharjee, Soilendra Bose, Hem Chunder Dass;
• transportation for life and forfeiture property Indu Bhusan Roy Section 121 A 122 Penal Code;
• to transportation for ten years and forfeiture property Poresh Mullick, Sishir Ghosh, Nirapado Roy Section 121, 122;
• to transportation for seven years Asoke Nundy, Balkrishna Kane, Susil Sen Section 121 A;
• to one year's rigorous imprisonment Kristo Jiban Sanyal Section 121 A;
• and acquitted Noren Buxshi, Sochindra Sen, Nolini Gupta, Purno Sen, Bijoy Nag, Kanjilal Shaha, Hemendra Ghosh, Dharani Gupta, Nogen Gupta, Birendra Ghosh, Bijoy Bhuttacharjee, Hem Chundra Sen, Provas Dey, Dindayal Bose, Debobroto Bose, Nokhillessur Roy and Arabindo Ghosh.[1]
Two of the 17 acquitted, Dharani Gupta & Nogen Gupta, were already undergoing a 7-year sentence for conviction in the Harrison Road case, so they were not released.[1] Probash Chunder Deb was re-arrested on a sedition charge under Section 124A, in connection with the publication of the book "Desh Acharjya”

Of the two sentenced to death by hanging (but released in 1920), Ullaskar Dutt, a young man of 22, described his occupation as a cow keeper Barindra Kumar Ghosh, younger brother of Aurobindo Ghosh, was a key player in the Alipore trial. It was in their house that the revolutionaries carried out their activities. Barindra had been born in England and came to India at the age of one. According to British Indian law, he was asked whether he preferred being tried as a British citizen. Barin, as a patriot, refused. Those two were sentenced to death, with the sentence later commuted to life imprisonment in the Cellular Jail in Andamans, where they remained until a general amnesty, in 1920.
Aurobindo Ghosh was acquitted of the charges (among 17 acquitted) and came out of the affair with a new outlook on life and spiritualism.

With regards – S Sampathkumar

Claude Arpi is a french born author and journalist who lives in Auroville, India who has authored – the fate of Tibet, when big insects eat small insects and many more articles.

P Varadarujulu Naidu, chennai based Ayurvedic Doctor who was member of INC started Indian Express, the English language daily with Ramnath Goenka way back in 1931. This was bought by Ramnath Goenka soon and started functioning from the premises at 2 Mount Road, a landmark building.

If you are still wondering, this massive landscape which had great greenery changed hands recently, was razed to the grounds and a new mall named ‘Express Avenue’ is all set to function soon.

This place is situated near Royapettah Clock Tower in Whites Road, yes very much closer to our Sundaram Towers & Deshbandhu Plaza.


  1. What is the precise date of general amnesty in 1920

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