Savitri — A Legend and a Symbol

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Savitri: a Legend and a Symbol


(Sri Aurobindo:) “In intention a sort of symbolic epic of the aim of supramental Yoga”[1]


(Mother to Mona Sarkar:) “It is something immortal and eternal he has created. I tell you once again, there is nothing like it in the whole world. Even if one puts aside the vision of the reality, that is, the essential substance which is the heart of the inspiration, and considers only the lines in themselves, one will find them unique, of the highest classical kind. What he has created is something man cannot imagine. For, everything is there, everything.”[2]


(Mother:) “My child, yes, everything is there: mysticism, occultism, philosophy, the history of evolution, the history of man, of the gods, of creation, of Nature; how the universe was created, why, for what purpose, what destiny — all is there. You can find there all the answers to all your questions. Everything is explained, even the future of man and of the evolution, all that nobody yet knows. He has expressed them in beautiful and clear words so that spiritual adventurers who wish to solve the mysteries of the world may understand it more easily. But the mystery is well hidden behind the lines and one must rise to the required level of true consciousness to discover it.”[3]


(Mother:) “It is my experiences he has presented all along and they were also his experiences. It is, moreover, the picture of our adventure together into the unknown or rather into the Supermind.”[4]


PART ONE

Book One: The Book of Beginnings

Canto I The Symbol Dawn 1 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Issue 11 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto III The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Soul’s Release 22 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto IV The Secret Knowledge 46 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto V The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Spirit’s Freedom and Greatness 74 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

Book Two: The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds

Canto I The World-Stair 95 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Kingdom of Subtle Matter 103 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto III The Glory and the Fall of Life 116 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto IV The Kingdoms of the Little Life 132 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto V The Godheads of the Little Life 151 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto VI The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life 173 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto VII The Descent into Night 202 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto VIII The World of Falsehood, the Mother of Evil and the Sons of Darkness 220 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto IX The Paradise of the Life-Gods 233 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto X The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind 238 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto XI The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Mind 260 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto XII The Heavens of the Ideal 277 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto XIII In the Self of Mind 283 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto XIV The World-Soul 289 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto XV The Kingdoms of the Greater Knowledge 297 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

Book Three: The Book of the Divine Mother

Canto I The Pursuit of the Unknowable 305 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Adoration of the Divine Mother 310 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto III The House of the Spirit and the New Creation 317 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto IV The Vision and the Boon 334 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

PART TWO

Book Four: The Book of Birth and Quest

Canto I The Birth and Childhood of the Flame 349 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Growth of the Flame 359 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto III The Call to the Quest 369 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto IV The Quest 377 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

Book Five: The Book of Love

Canto I The Destined Meeting-Place 389 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II Satyavan 392 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto III Satyavan and Savitri 400 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

Book Six: The Book of Fate

Canto I The Word of Fate 415 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Way of Fate and the Problem of Pain 437 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

Book Seven: The Book of Yoga

Canto I The Joy of Union; the Ordeal of the Foreknowledge of Death and the Heart’s Grief and Pain 465 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Parable of the Search for the Soul 474 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto III The Entry into the Inner Countries 488 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto IV The Triple Soul-Forces 503 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto V The Finding of the Soul 522 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto VI Nirvana and the Discovery of the All-Negating Absolute 532 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto VII The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness 551 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

Book Eight: The Book of Death

“Canto III” Death in the Forest 561 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

PART THREE

Book Nine: The Book of Eternal Night

Canto I Towards the Black Void 571 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Journey in Eternal Night and the Voice of the Darkness 582 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png

Book Ten: The Book of the Double Twilight

Canto I The Dream Twilight of the Ideal 599 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto II The Gospel of Death and Vanity of the Ideal 607 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto III The Debate of Love and Death 621 Paper icon.png AurovilleRadio logo 20px.png
Canto IV The Dream Twilight of the Earthly Real 641 Paper icon.png

Book Eleven: The Book of Everlasting Day

Canto I The Eternal Day: The Soul’s Choice and the Supreme Consummation 671 Paper icon.png

Book Twelve: Epilogue

The Return to Earth 715 Paper icon.png



(Amal Kiran:) “I was all agog to get the inspiration which Sri Aurobindo had called Overhead Poetry. Overhead Poetry is poetry which passes over everybody's head! (laughter) But how is one to receive an inspiration entirely new which comes from the planes which Sri Aurobindo has distinguished as Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition, Overmind? So I once got the idea to make a very direct appeal to Sri Aurobindo. I pressed on him a singular request, emboldened by his innumerable favours of tutorship. I wrote to him:

“I shall consider it a favour indeed if you will give me an instance in English of the inspiration of the pure Overmind. I don't mean just a line like Milton's
Those thoughts that wander through Eternity
or Wordsworth's
Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.
which has a brief burst of it, but something sustained and plenary. I want to steep my consciousness in its rhythm and its revelation. It will be a most cherished possession. Please don't disappoint me by saying that, as no English writer has a passage of this kind, you cannot do anything for me.”

He wrote back in his characteristic vein:

“Good Heavens! how am I to avoid saying that, when it is the only possible answer – at least so far as I can remember? Perhaps if I went through the English poetry again with my present consciousness I might find more intimations like the line of Wordsworth, but a passage sustained and plenary? These surely are things yet to come – the ‘future poetry’ perhaps, but not the past.”

With the familiarity – almost the impudence – he permitted us, I replied:

“I think the favour I asked was expressed in perfectly clear language. If no English poet has produced the passage I want, then who has done so in English? God alone knows. But who is capable of doing it? All of us know. Well, then why not be kind enough to grant this favour? If difficult metres could be illustrated on demand, is it impossible to illustrate in a satisfying measure something so naturally Aurobindonian as the Overmind? I am not asking for hundreds of lines – even eight will more than do – all pure gold to be treasured forever. So please... perhaps it is possible only on Sunday – the day dedicated to golden Surya and rich for you with leisure from correspondence: I can wait answerless for 24 hours with a sweet samatā.”

The answer came the very next morning:

“I have to say Good Heavens again. Because difficult metres can be illustrated on demand, which is a matter of metrical skill, how does it follow that one can produce poetry from any blessed plane on demand? It would be easier to furnish you with hundreds of lines already written out of which you could select for yourself anything Overmindish if it exists (which I doubt) rather than produce 8 lines of warranted Overmind manufacture to order. All I can do is to give you from time to time some lines from Savitri, on condition you keep them to yourself for the present. It may be a poor substitute for the Overmental, but if you like the sample, the opening lines, I can give you more hereafter — and occasionally better.”

And then with an “e.g.” there followed in his own fine and sensitive yet forceful hand 16 lines of the very first Canto of Savitri as it stood then:

It was the hour before the Gods awake...

Below the quotation were the words: “There! Promise fulfilled for a wonder.”
         That day was October 25, 1936 – I would say one of the most important days, if not the most important, of my life here. But the matter of keeping Savitri a secret was a difficult job. In those days Nolini was Sri Aurobindo's postman. He used to bring the letters for everyone; we used to wait for him in the morning. And he knew that some special correspondence was going on between Sri Aurobindo and me, because the Mother might have been giving him the folded letters to put into the envelopes. Each time he handed me my letter he lifted his eyebrows. (laughter) I looked very innocent (laughter) and took it and waited for him to go away (laughter) before opening it. He would hesitate for a minute or two and then go away. (laughter) It happened liked that 3 or 4 days, and then it got on my nerves, (laughter) so I wrote to Sri Aurobindo: “What should I do? I think Nolini is going to ask me.” (laughter) Then Sri Aurobindo very blandly replied, “Let us hope he won't.” (laughter) But still the silent inquisition of the lifted eyebrows did not cease! Then I wrote in desperation to Sri Aurobindo: “I am sure it is going to happen now. Please tell me what to do. Can I take him into the secret or not?” (laughter) Then Sri Aurobindo said: “All right but only him.” (laughter) So this secret remained a secret between Nolini and me for 10 years. Only in 1946, when I began to write a book on Sri Aurobindo's poetry, I divulged Savitri to the world – with Sri Aurobindo's approval. Savitri came out in excerpts for the first time in that book of mine, The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo. Afterwards the Ashram published it in fascicles and then as a volume.”[5]


(Amal Kiran:) “I remember also that I had asked Sri Aurobindo what plane a certain passage in Savitri – the description of Savitri herself in Canto Two of Book One – had come from. Very reluctantly he had admitted it to have come from the Overmind or rather the Overmind Intution, as he very cautiously used to label the source of the highest poetry in his own works. The passage begins:

Near to earth’s wideness, intimate with heaven,
Exalted and swift her young large-visioned spirit
Voyaging through worlds of splendour and of calm
Overflew the ways of Thought to unborn things. (p.14)

It goes on to reach somewhere in its middle what I consider the Mantra of Mantras:

As in a mystic and dynamic dance
A priestess of immaculate ecstasies
Inspired and ruled from Truth’s revealing vault
Moves in some prophet cavern of the gods,
A heart of silence in the hands of joy
Inhabited with rich creative beats
A body like a parable of dawn
That seemed a niche for veiled divinity
Or golden temple-door to things beyond.

Onward from glory to glory the passage moves. I recited the whole of it, and when, on the way to the close, I came to the line –

For even her gulfs were secrecies of light –

I suddenly felt cured, made whole.
         So I said to my friend, “If you can read Savitri all your inner troubles will tend to disappear. But you have to read it aloud to yourself.” My friend was surprised. “I have read Savitri several times,” he said, “but I have never thought of reading it loudly.” I explained: “That is the way to read it because the sound-significance is tremendous. It must go into you through your ears. You cannot just read it with your eyes, you have it read in a slow controlled voice bringing out the vowel-values, the consonant-combinations and the sound of the line as a whole. It is then that the language sweeps beyond thought to stir awake deeper tracts in you: it is then that the Mantra will wing home to you.”[6]


(Mother to Amal Kiran:) “Yes, I know. People used to pester him with letters, pointing out grammatical mistakes and other things. He used to make changes just for the sake of peace. He was very polite and did not let people see what a nuisance they were. But when he and I were together and alone like this (Mother put her two palms together two or three times to show the intimacy) he used to say, ‘What a bother, what a nuisance!’ And once he said: ‘But I had a purpose in putting the thing in this way. I wanted it like this.’ Sri Aurobindo made many concessions out of politeness and a wish to be left in peace. When a great being comes down here to work he wants peace and not botheration. Yes, he was very polite, and people took advantage of his compassion and misunderstood it and got all sorts of ideas.”[7]




  1. Letters on Poetry and Art, p.261
  2. Sweet Mother: Lumnious Notes - Conversations with the Mother recollected by Mona Sarkar, p.31
  3. Ibid., p.32
  4. Ibid., p.33
  5. Amal Kiran & Nirodbaran, Light and Laughter: Some Talks at Pondicherry, p.33
  6. Ibid., p.41
  7. Amal Kiran, Our Light and Delight: Recollections of Life with the Mother, p.21



See also

External links