Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri


On the poetic elements of Savitri and Sri Aurobindo’s conception of the future poetry.

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by Ashok K. Ganguli

This volume deals with Sri Aurobindo’s concept of the poetry of the future, its inner laws of composition and new overmind aesthetics. It also deals with the form, design and structure, and technique of Savitri in addition to its thematic scheme. In discussing the evolution of epic poetry, the author notes that with Savitri the subjective element, the poet’s spiritual and occult experience, enters for the first time, creating a new method in the epic form.

Asoka K. Ganguli has done a good academic research work, which will be beneficial for students and teachers of our universities. Savitri is already included in the syllabi of quite a few universities and Mr. Ganguli’s book is something like a supplement to Dr. Prema Nandakumar’s book and the two-volume anthology edited by R.Y. Deshpande (Perspectives of Savitri). In many ways Mr. Ganguli’s book is more useful as a complete introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s aesthetics and practice.

The price of the book is surprisingly low if we think of its contents and the rich get-up. The book deals with Sri Aurobindo’s concept of `Future Poetry’-its inner laws of composition and overmind aesthetics. There are also illuminating discussions on the form and style of the new epic. Mr. Ganguli discusses at length about the Aurobindonian idea of new poetry, its aim and object, its essence, the theory behind it, its aesthetic principles and above all the poetry as mantra of the Real.

Then he takes up Savitri as an epic drawing our attention to the evolution of the epic form, which Sri Aurobindo has indicated in The Future Poetryand spoken of in detail in the letters on Savitri. The epic of the future will turn inward from outside. From objectivity of the past the epic moves to pure subjectivism in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri. Sri Aurobindo’s epic is visional stuff, not common to ordinary human experiences. It demands a widening of the consciousness to appreciate this kind of poetry. Mr. Ganguli rightly observes: “The narrations of the epic are not based on any objective story element; they are the poet’s experience-spiritual and occult. It is this pure subjective element which enters the epic for the first time and here lies the newness of Savitri, bringing a new method in epic tradition.” Quite correctly, the stress is on the mystical vision of Sri Aurobindo and also on the Overhead aesthetics. For the benefit of academicians Mr. Ganguli has examined the various rhetorical devices used in the poem, like double adjectives and epithets, inversions and repetitions.

Mr. Ganguli’s examination of the symbolism in Savitri is quite lucid, but he could have added here some of the basics of Savitri symbolism from M.P. Pandit’s Introducing Savitri. Of course when we consider the laborious textual commentaries of Mr. Ganguli, we have to overlook this slight limitation of the book. The linking of the planes (the Illumined, the Intuition, and the Overmind) with passages from Savitri is an extremely interesting part of the book. The last two chapters entitled Evolution of Consciousness and Transformation of Consciousness speak of the author’s high serious intention. After all, one must know the relation between Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga and Savitri.

– Goutam Ghosal

Dr. G. Ghosal received a D.Litt. for his study on Sri Aurobindo’s prose style. He teaches at Visva-Bharati and resides in Santiniketan.

November 2003

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