This was my third visit to Pondicherry. It’s French heritage, beautiful promenade, Lord Ganesha temple – all attract repeat visitors to this beautiful Union Territory. But it has great significance almost like a place of pilgrimage for the devotees who throng serene, peaceful and absolutely calm Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The samadhis of Sri Aurobindo and Mother ( as Mirra Alfassa is fondly addressed by her thousands of devotees) and the meditation room are a source of divine experience to thousands of devotees of this cult, if I may call this group so!
I really couldn’t connect to the devotion and divine experience of thousands of devotees during my previous visits for I found the place to be rather rigid with an imposed calmness. I saw certain bit of artificiality about the place. During my this visit two days ago, I decided to go a bit deeper into the lives of Sri Aurobindo and Mother and picked up a few books concerning their lives and philosophy. Mother, a child of Turkish- Egyptian descent, did not have a usual childhood. She started having divine experiences from very young age. When she was 3 years old, she would sit in meditation for hours, worrying her parents. At 11 she had experience concerning Krishna though till then she had no exposure to Hindu philosophy. She was of the firm view that she would meet him one day on the earth. She was married twice and had a son from her first marriage. She was exposed to Sri Aurobindo during her first visit to Pondicherry, India in 1914 along with her husband. Sri Aurobindo by that time had left his English academic background and civil services to seek truth by doing intensive research and study in his humble Ashram at Pondicherry, a place he had made his permanent abode. Mother had another opportunity to visit Pondicherry in 1920 and this time she was clear that she had met her mentor and Krishna in Sri Aurobindo and thereafter she never left Pondicherry for next 53 years till her death in 1973. During that period of 53 years, she attained sainthood with several divine experiences, which were not exclusive to her but to several sadhaks too who served Sri Aurobindo and Mother selflessly in search of truth. While Sri Aurobindo got more and more immersed in reading and writing, the Mother forged a close bond with hundreds of devotees who got attracted to her persona. The experiences that Mother had during the Second World War and that Sri Aurobindo had during the partition of the country ( he died soon thereafter in 1950) are the stuff folklores are made of and are gospel for the followers of the cult. Mother continued her work (Auroville, Schools, daily discourses, supramental experiments etc all of which make a fascinating read into the lives of two great people separated by thousands of mile geographically at birth but who co- created a philosophy that seems a bit too advanced for their times but has all the essence of something divine. The story of mother is especially awe inspiring given her complete dedication to Sri Aurobindo in whom he saw her Krishna. I intend to study more about their fascinating lives and am sure that whenever I visit Pondicherry next, it will focused around Mother and Sri Aurobindo Ashram.