Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi Branch
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(Loretta:) “The New Delhi branch of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram is the single and only real branch of the Ashram. Mother specifically said that whatever other places would come, they could not be called ’Sri Aurobindo Ashram’, or ‘branch’ of the Ashram. There is only one Ashram: in Pondicherry; and only one branch: in New Delhi.”
(Surendranath Jauhar:) “Whenever I look back at the strange history of the Delhi Branch of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, I am irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that the establishment of the Ashram here – on this particular spot – marked the end of a long-drawn-out battle fought on a higher plane. The whole story is so unbelievably fascinating that it looks like a page from the Puranas. And yet it is so real that after knowing all its details one is led to believe in stories and incidents narrated in the puranas which are generally treated as myths by men of the present age – the so-called age of reason and logic.
It may well be stated at the outset that about the starting of an Ashram here there was never any thought, idea or dream, to say nothing of any suggestion, plan, blue-print or scheme. And yet now that I recall the vicissitudes through which the property that is now the Ashram has passed, it becomes clear that it has been the culmination of a grand process, divinely conceived and planned.
It appears that the gods wanted to invest this piece of land with sanctity. But perhaps due to its surroundings, full of the ruins of kings and their kingdoms, dilapidated mosques, temples and fortresses, the evil forces took a fancy to this waste spot and thus took possession of it. The gods, however, were equally charmed by the place because in the Divine pattern and plan it was destined to play a revolutionary role. This then gave rise to the conflict and the consequent battle between the gods and the Asuric forces.
It was in the midst of this struggle that between 1938-1940 this land was purchased. The Asuric forces evidently saw in the procurement of the land an important advance of the Divine forces, hence began to obstruct the process of development from its very inception. Three times the land was lost through legal or other action. Finally, a big structure was raised, whereupon some architects and engineers declared the design and construction as totally wrong and dangerous, with the result that further work was stopped on that building and a new building was started close by. Half-way through this second structure, all sorts of problems – architectural, financial and government – began to arise, thus causing delay and disappointment.
The building completed, efforts were made to use it for social, political and eventually philanthropic activities, but all in vain. Attempts were made to use the building and the attached lands in turn for a hospital, a nursing home, an agricultural farm, a hostel, a rest house for the pilots of airways and even as barracks for American soldiers, but all these plans were defeated. From 1947 the problem of housing the tens of thousands of partition refugees from Pakistan in Delhi was gigantic. Every sort of den was occupied, even monuments and roads – but not this building!
A 200-foot deep tube-well was sunk and then abandoned because there was no trace of good and sufficient water. To say nothing of flowers and trees, even a blade of grass would not be tolerated by this soil. Human beings apart, even cattle were not allowed to live and in the short span of a few years a herd of about eighteen cows and calves was lost through dacoity. Thus, the long collective toil and repeated efforts and schemes of years were foiled and frustrated.
The place lay a total waste for many years. Enveloped in darkness, covered by wild growth and surrounded by ruins and ravages, it became a favourite haunt of all those mean, vile and dreadful creatures who are born, bred and nourished in darkness, desolation and dreariness – a refuge for dacoits and desperadoes, a dwelling for rats, bats and owls, a breeding place for snakes and a howling resort for jackals. The evil forces perhaps could not be represented more symbolically; they could not make this place more repulsive and hence more unsuited and unworthy for the divine purposes.
... It was at this stage that something happened – something with defied explanation. An acquaintance I came across in jail during the 1942 upheaval, and of whom I later heard very little and saw still less, all of a sudden appeared at my residence one day in 1955. The strangest thing about this man, when I came to know him first in jail, was that the Police had completely failed to establish his identity – name, parentage, address, vocation, etc. – and had been unable to charge him with any specific offence. To all appearances he was an eccentric, and when he first met me, he said to me that he was a divine messenger. I tried to ascertain his whereabouts and other details during all these years but discover next to nothing. However, he said he had now come on a specific mission, which was to clear the said building, by driving away its Asuric occupants. That evening he went to this abandoned place.
When I saw him the next morning he presented a horrible figure – exhausted, clothes torn and his long hair and long beard completely ruffled. He said that the strength of the evil forces was much more than he had anticipated and he had had therefore to wage a very furious fight. “But I will beat them; yes, defeat them I must,” saying this determinedly he went away.
He was again at my place the next morning and this time his plight was simply pitiable, he looked so beaten ad broken. But there was a dazzling gleam of victory radiating from his eyes. In a voice charged with emotion he spoke, “They put up a very severe opposition and fought a last ditch battle. But their hour is over. They have been thrown out, completely and for good, from their haunt, and now the place is clear and open for receiving the descent.”
Soon after this mysterious victory, a request from the Delhi Police was received. They wanted to comb the entire area in the vicinity of this place and in that connection desired to set up a camp in this building. Consequently a police party, armed with guns and bayonets, stayed in the second floor of the building for a week. It was thus a curious confirmation of the ‘Operation Eradication’ initiated and launched by the ‘divine messenger’.
It is difficult to explain the how and why of it, but after some time I was again and again inwardly prompted to do something about this place. Finally a moment arrived when actually the work for its transformation was undertaken. Soon repairs were taken in hand, then ensued the white-washing,followed by blueprints for new construction.
Things now began moving. Encouraged I drew elaborate plans to make the place a recreation centre with playgrounds, school hostel and so on, and wrote to the Mother. In all these plans sent to Her, always at the top something (not thought out) prompted me to put the proposal to erect a monument to Sri Aurobindo. However, no reply was ever received on these points. And then came the historic day – on which I had the privilege of having that interview with the Mother, when I enquired of her whether She had seen those various plans which I had been submitting to Her from time to time, and stressed that I had never received Her advice and guidance in the matter.
And then the Mother said something, simply and suddenly the enormous impact of which will continue to hover over my mind for all time to come. The Mother said, “But why? This place will house the Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch, and there certainly will be a Shrine for which I have been keeping Sri Aurobindo's precious relics.”
... For quite some time I was in a daze after hearing these momentous words pregnant with deep significance, and it was in such a state of mind that I returned to Delhi. And lo and behold my immeasurable and pleasantest surprise, that on the very day of my arrival back in Delhi, a postal package was received from Pondicherry, on opening which I found a plan for the Shrine of Sri Aurobindo, complete in every detail, direction and design! What comment can there be on all this?
What was there now to hinder? The Plan had been made plain, the call responded to, and the consent given. All that now began to happen was quite the contrary to what had been happening before. On my next visit to the Ashram, I requested the Mother to fix up the date for the inauguration of the Delhi Brance of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
She at once fixed up 12th February, 1956.
I said, “Mother, why not the 21st February, which is an auspicious day – your birthday?”
Mother said, “12 and 21 are one and the same thing. There is no difference!” She further said, “Twelve persons can sit in meditation on that day. It is an old belief that if twelve persons join in solemn prayer – the prayer is granted.” Thus the Delhi Branch of the Ashram was established and solemnised.
After some twenty years of utterly fruitless efforts, plans and projects now began to materialise as if by a magic hand. For example, while there was chronic shortage of power in Delhi, and there was no electricity within a radius of six or seven miles, an electric line on poles was specifically created for us, which made it possible to put a water-pump at the well. The water thus pumped from the almost abandoned well began to flow through the Ashram lands producing vegetation all around. The lands, most of which had remained uncultivated all these years, were now taken on hire by the cultivators of the area, thus yielding some revenue for Ashram works.
What is more, help started pouring in from different sources, some unsolicited and some even unexpected. For every difficulty or complexity, there appeared a suitable specialist rendering help and assistance voluntarily and willingly. A local horticultural expert came up with sound advice on the planning of lawns and growing of trees. One or two leading architects and building engineers gave generously not only their valuable advice but also time, planning and supervising the construction of the marble Shrine of Sri Aurobindo.
A sanitary engineer solved the baffling problem of laying the sewage tank and pipes, also installing sanitary fittings. There were scores of other big and small, odd and difficult jobs and problems which were solved or resolved by people who had apparently no contact with the Ashram or myself.
Another important difference between the pre and the post-victory periods was that while formerly a lot of planning and preparations were undertaken and yet nothing materialised, now things began to take shape themselves – without any blueprints or plans! Thus only a few months after the opening of the Delhi Branch of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the Mother inaugurated the School of the Delhi Branch.
The advent of Sri Aurobindo's Relics and their installation in the Shrine in the Ashram here on 5th December 1957 was perhaps the last rite performed by the Mother to mark the total liquidation of the Asuric forces and to complete the sanctification of this ‘Vijay Mandal’. This was, it seems, the culmination of the divine process and completion of one phase of the unfolding of the New Age in the capital of India for the ushering in of which the gods waged this long battle.”
- ↑ Loretta reads Savitri, Book Four, Canto II, part 2
- ↑ Surendranath Jauhar, My Mother, p.94