The first chapter of this book, which is based on the author’s series of thirty-one talks introducing the poem, lays down a few key principles in his approach to the subject.
First, that in writing Savitri, Sri Aurobindo was leaving for posterity a verbal embodiment of his own consciousness.
Then, through the poetry he was flooding the earth atmosphere with the vibrations of hope and love in an age already wallowing in nihilism, building a bridge between this world of human limitations and the future world that he was opening up.
And that is why the writing of Savitri is a very significant event in human history.
The transcribed talks cover the entire epic as well as chapters on how to read Savitri and comparisons with the original legend.
The book concludes with a glossary of Sanskrit terms used in the poem and references for the many quotations from Savitri and from other texts by Sri Aurobindo cited by the author.
Editor’s Note, by Larry Seidlitz
Professor Mangesh Nadkarni will always have a special place in the hearts of those who heard him speak about Sri Aurobindo’s masterpiece Savitri. His wonderful voice and articulation of the lines brought out their deep vibrations, while his insights and explanations brought out their deep significances and put them in a wider perspective. I had personally enjoyed a workshop on Savitri he had presented in the USA as well as several talks by him in India, and had a cordial relation with him. I am delighted to have had a part in this project to bring this series of his talks to posterity.
Professor Nadkarni was a member of the Executive Committee of Sri Aurobindo Society and regularly gave talks on Savitri at the Society Beach Office. It was felt that it would be helpful for many seekers if he could give a series as an introduction to the entire epic. These talks would be recorded and made available to all.
Professor Nadkarni readily agreed and this book is based on the 31 talks he gave in this series. Just two of the talks are joined into a single chapter ( Chapter 2) because they pertained to the same theme, the others each standing as separate chapters. They cover the entire epic, but given the length of the poem, certain parts are covered extensively, whereas others (for example, Book 2) are just touched upon. The editing of the text in general has been light, focused mainly on omitting redundancies; removing extraneous words, comments, and a few digressions; and correcting the grammar. In some instances where a sentence was unclear it was rephrased slightly to clarify the meaning. Otherwise, there has been very little rephrasing of his words other than what was necessary to correct the grammar. The aim was to retain his conversational and informal style while putting it into a clearly readable form.
One feature of the editing deserves special explanation. Professor Nadkarni often made up little dialogues to explain various points. Sometimes these dialogues were between himself and some individual, sometimes between characters in the poem, sometimes between Sri Aurobindo the author and an idealised reader. Generally, I have omitted quotation marks iri such imaginary conversations and drawn the exchanges into ,a single paragraph to simplify the text, though in a few cases I have retained quotation marks either to create greater effect or because the author had interjected some comment of his own in the midst of the dialogue. In some of these dialogues, Professor Nadkarni would paraphrase the gist of what Sri Aurobindo may have explained in one text or another using different words. In some such cases I have altered the wording slightly to clarify that these were not direct quotes from Sri Aurobindo. Any direct quotes from Sri Aurobindo’s writings appear in italics in quotation marks or in indented paragraphs in Roman script along with a reference.
Professor Nadkarni often sprinkled his talks with Sanskrit , words and phrases. A glossary of such terms has been provided at the end of the book, and certain of the phrases have been translated in footnotes. Professor Nadkarni also sometimes referred to various ancient Indian philosophies, legends, or texts, and generally these have been very briefly explained in footnotes.
References have been provided at the end of the book for the many quotations from Savitri and for those from other of Sri Aurobindo’s texts, using the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA) edition, published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1997-2017.