SAIIER 2019:Savitri Bhavan
Savitri Bhavan has grown up since its inception in 1995 as an educational centre dedicated to fostering awareness and understanding of the vision and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, which are the underlying foundation of the aims and ideals of Auroville. Its purpose is to gather and create and make available to Aurovilians and members of the interested general public all kinds of materials and activities which will support this awareness and understanding.
The regular Research Activities of Savitri Bhavan continued throughout the year, grouped under the headings of Outreach, Research Projects, and Preparation of Learning Materials. During this year a significant increase in Outreach activities occurred with the addition of several new regular classes and courses, now totalling 14 in all.
Some highlights of the year:
- Visit of 70 Senior Ashramites, inmates of Ashram Care Homes on 15.4.2018. After a brief introduction to the work of the Savitri Bhavan, the visitors saw the exhibition of Meditations on Savitri paintings made by Huta and the Mother in the 1960s. Many of them remembered the original exhibition held in the Ashram in February 1967 and enthusiastically shared their memories and experiences. They then visited the Matrimandir. For some of them it was their first visit there. Afterwards refreshments were shared by all in the SAWCHU building. This visit was organised by members of the Golden Chain group of ex-students of the Ashram School (SAICE) and proved a very happy family experience.
- The Golden Chain group have been offering voluntary service at Matrimandir and Bharat Nivas monthly for several years. After this visit with the senior Ashramites they offered to include Savitri Bhavan in their programme, and subsequently joined Savitri Bhavan staff and well-wishers in cleaning and clearing of our complex on 19.8.18, 21.10.18 and 3.2.19. It is expected that these visits for collaborative service will continue regularly in future, strengthening the bonds between members of the Mother’s family based in the Ashram and Auroville.
- Delegates of the West Bengal Chapter of Sri Aurobindo’s Action visited the Ashram and Auroville at the end of December 2018 and were accommodated in Udavi School. Well in advance, their leader Shri Subroto Sen contacted the Savitri Bhavan team and requested us to organise a full day programme on Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri for the Group on 29.12.2018. They arrived by 9am and explored the building and grounds and especially the Picture Gallery where the Meditations on Savitri paintings created by the Mother with Huta are now on permanent display. Then Shraddhavan presented an outline of Sri Aurobindo’s epic to the group. In the afternoon Dr. Vandana Graft spoke to them about Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Author’s Note’ to his poem and how this can give guidance on practicing his yoga.
- Visit of the Honourable Defence Minister of India, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman. The Honourable Minister visited Auroville on 2.2.19. After visiting Matrimandir she proceeded to Savitri Bhavan where she was welcomed by Working Committee and Governing Board members along with Mr. M.V. Chunkath, Secretary of the Auroville Foundation. After offering her homage to Sri Aurobindo’s statue she proceeded to Savitri Bhavan’s Sangam Hall where a short film about Auroville made by Auroville Outreach Media was screened. Then the Hon’ble Minister addressed the community members present. Afterwards an informal get-together was held in the garden of Savitri Bhavan where about 70 Aurovilians and guests had the opportunity to interact with the Minister.
- Thanks to GoI grant funds received through SAIIER the Meditations on Savitri Picture Gallery was extended during the year, enabling the entire series of 472 paintings made by the Mother with Huta during the 1960s to now be kept on permanent display according to the Mother’s wish instead of only in rotating exhibitions as in the past. The new extended gallery was inaugurated by Mr. M.V. Chunkath, Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, on International Yoga Day, 21.6.18. Further work on the Gallery is foreseen for 2018-19, to provide protective shading for the artworks and visitors.
- Multimedia Studio: completion of the Picture Gallery construction also enabled completion of the space on the Ground Floor earmarked for the development of a long-planned Multimedia Studio. An equipment grant received through SAIIER and some donations of equipment from well-wishers enabled the new studio to be activated from October 2018 onwards. Later, in January 2019, the working conditions there were enhanced by laying a heavy-duty carpet and hanging curtains to improve the acoustics of the area. The following projects were taken up immediately:
- Preparation of a second (revised) edition of the Savitri around the World complete reading of Sri Aurobindo’s epic by 473 individuals representing 101 countries around the world, intended to be completed and released on the Centenary of the Mother’s final arrival in Pondicherry on 24 April 2020.
- Video editing of English of Savitri classes for posting on the Savitri Bhavan website (see details below under “Study Aids and Learning Materials”).
- Editing of video films as required.
- All the activities being pursued in the Multimedia Studio involve the preparation of new Study Aids and Learning Materials.
Apart from Huta's paintings, and the two exhibitions kept on regular display (“Sri Aurobindo: a life-sketch in photographs” and “Glimpses of the Mother”) four other special exhibitions were held during the year:
- The ‘White Peacock’ group of students of Auroville schools arranged a display of their Ceramic Art from 21 April to 5 May 2018.
- The Gruppo Germoglio of Modena in Italy visited the Ashram and Auroville in the winter. They showed 61 oil paintings inspired by Savitri created by their leader Aghni (Giovanni Tonioni) in the Savitri Bhavan’s Square Hall from 2 to 26 January 2019.
- From 1st to 15th Feb. 2019 an exhibition of paintings by respected Ashram artist Priti Ghosh was displayed in the Square Hall. During this time, a film of her paintings inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s poem “Love and Death” was shown in the presence of the artist on February 4th, 2019.
- During Auroville’s ‘Birthday Week’ from February 21-28, 2019 the ‘Divine Flowers’ Group of Aurovilians displayed an impressive exhibition of plants, cut flowers and flower paintings and photographs with their spiritual significances given by the Mother. On two days special activities relating to flowers were arranged for visiting children.
2) Talks, Study Camps and special programmes:
Several talks were held in the course of the year, attended by Aurovilians and members of the interested general public:
- “Dealing with Adverse Forces on the Path of Yoga” by Dr. Alok Pandey on April 21st 2018 (organised by Santé).
- “The Book of Eternal Night”: talk given by Dr. Alok Pandey in the Sangam Hall on August 22nd 2018 as a concluding summary to his regular post-darshan study camp on Savitri at the Sri Aurobindo Society’s Beach Office in Pondicherry.
- “Love – The Truth that Saves”: the 9th annual Dr. M.V. Nadkarni Memorial Lecture was given in Savitri Bhavan’s Sangam Hall by Dr. Larry Seidlitz on February 19th 2019 in the presence of Dr. Nadkarni’s widow, Mrs. Meera Nadkarni.
An exploration of the symbolic language and imagery of Sri Aurobindo’s poem Ilion was led by Aurovilian Claude de Warren on February 7th 2019.
- Two study camps in Tamil on Savitri were organised on 7-9 September 2018 and 1-3 March 2019. These were led by Bhuvana Sudarshan and attended by about 20 people from various Sri Aurobindo Centres in Tamil Nadu, who gave enthusiastic feedback and requested that the series should be continued at least twice a year in future.
Programmes for Newcomers:
- Regular weekly classes in Tamil based on the compilation “References on Auroville in Mother’s Agenda” were led by Dhanalakshmi on Wednesdays 3.30-4.30pm. This programme has been appreciated by the Entry Board and mentioned in their official report.
- Savitri Bhavan hosted ‘Yucca’ programmes, organised for prospective Aurovilians by the Aspiration Team of the Entry Service, on 11 April 2018, 13 June 2018, 12 January 2019, 16 February 2019 and 16 March 2019.
Programmes for children:
- Savitri Bhavan provided some special programmes for children in response to requests from teachers of Transition and Deepanam schools. In consultation with the teachers, Deepanam students and teachers visited Savitri Bhavan on 14 August 2018, and a class from Transition came on 25 October 2018.
- Auroville Outreach organised programmes by the Mohanam Cultural Centre for children of the Bio-region at Savitri Bhavan on 23 October, 13 November, 4 December 2018 and 22 January 19, as well as on 5 and 12 February 2019.
In addition to two issues each of our regular journals “Invocation” (English, appears in April and November annually) and “Prarthana” (Tamil, appearing in February and August) three more publications were brought out during 2018-19:
- The English of Savitri, Vol. 4, containing sentencewise explanations of Book Ten: “The Book of the Double Twilight”.
- The English of Savitri, Vol. 5, containing sentencewise explanations of Book Two: “The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds”, Cantos 1 to 4 along with a summary of the remaining cantos of the Book.
- Savitri Bhavan: The Buildings. This publication is offered in response to the widespread interest in the architecture of Savitri Bhavan expressed by both students and professionals.
Study Aids and Learning Materials:
- A number of useful and interesting books relating to Savitri and the vision and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were again added to the Savitri Bhavan Reference collection during the year. A list of some of them has been published on page 60 of the April 2019 issue of Invocation. http://savitribhavan.org/Invocation/. Two of the gifted items stand out especially: first a handsomely bound bilingual version of Savitri created by Aurovilian Gerard Marechal, in which the original English and Satprem’s French translation are presented in columns side by side on the page so that each line in English is matched by the corresponding French version. This work will remain as a precious reminder of our brother Gerard, who passed away very shortly after the book was issued. The second, gifted by Aurovilian Emanuele, has been created over many years by his grandmother Yudi, who painstakingly wrote out her Italian translation of Sri Aurobindo’s epic in beautiful calligraphy. Emanuele and his brother have created a facsimile of this remarkable work in three volumes, and have kindly presented a set to Savitri Bhavan.
- Inspired by earlier work by Shri M.P. Pandit of the Ashram, which was continued by a group of Italian Savitri-lovers, the task of preparing brief summaries of each of the 49 Cantos of Sri Aurobindo’s epic was undertaken. The resulting text has been published in the 50th issue of our journal Invocation (April 2019) and is also available on the website http://savitribhavan.org/Invocation/
- The regular weekly class on The English of Savitri reached the end of Sri Aurobindo’s epic on 29.12.2016. Videos of these classes have been made only from the beginning of Book Three onwards (since before that suitable equipment was not available). When the class again took up the poem from the beginning on 02.02.2017 it was decided to produce a full cycle of films of the classes covering the whole poem from beginning to end of the poem. To accelerate this process, training in video-editing is being given to four Aurovilian volunteers. It is hoped that the full cycle can be made available by the Centenary of the Mother’s final arrival in Pondicherry on 24 April 2020.
- From 17.12.2008 to 20.09.2017 regular weekly classes on Sri Aurobindo’s book The Life Divine were held. Audio recordings were made of each study session. Now a young aspiring Aurovilian has volunteered to transcribe and edit these recordings, to increase his own understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s major philosophical work, as well as possibly producing a publishable guide to the text. This huge task has already been launched.
With only 24 hours notice, arrangements for the visit of the Hon’ble Defence Minister were made by the staff of Savitri Bhavan and Hostel. Afterwards appreciative thanks were received from the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation and members of the Working Committee for the work done.
Savitri Bhavan is almost completely dependent on donations for maintaining its buildings, grounds, equipment and activities, and during this year a deficit of funds was experienced for a time. Members of the Management Team explored ways to reduce expenses and access additional funds. Staff cooperated in reducing expenditures, and an appeal for additional financial support was circulated to donors, friends and well-wishers. There was a good response and the Bhavan’s financial position improved. At the same time a request was made to the BCC to approve one or two full Aurovilian maintenances to be granted to people working full time at Savitri Bhavan and currently receiving equivalent maintenances from Savitri Bhavan available resources.
In addition to adults, again this year also groups of children were introduced to the aims and ideals of Auroville through exposure to the life and teachings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo through visits to Savitri Bhavan.
For the coming year, several projects are already in the pipeline:
- The most demanding is the revised and upgraded 2nd edition of the “Savitri around the World” complete reading of Sri Aurobindo’s epic, which is in preparation for release on the Centenary of the Mother’s final arrival in Pondicherry on April 24th, 2020. Corrections are being made to the first edition, and new readers are becoming involved. While the first version was live-streamed on YouTube for its 35-hour duration, it is envisioned that the second edition now in preparation, once completed, can be posted permanently on the Internet for people around the world to access at any time of day or night throughout the year.
- As described, a full cycle of videos covering English of Savitri classes from the very beginning to the end of the epic is also in preparation.
- It is planned to continue the English of Savitri series of books with a sixth volume devoted to Books Eleven and Twelve which should be ready for release in 2019.
- Further work on the Picture Gallery is foreseen for 2019-20, to provide sun-shading to protect the artworks and visitors from excessive sunlight and heat. It is hoped that this work will be taken up in April 2019 and completed within four weeks.
- Several new volunteers are expected to join the Savitri Bhavan team in the near future, and it is hoped that one or two of them may prove competent to act as guest editors for future issues of Invocation. Perhaps one of them may even be willing to take up editorship of the journal for a longer time.
Apart from these ventures it is hoped to continue expanding the work and influence of Savitri Bhavan as in previous years.