Deshabandhu: Bengal’s beloved friend
Deshabandhu: Bengal's beloved friend
Editor's introduction to the first editionIndia won her independence from British rule on 15 August 1947. Sri Chinmoy wrote this imaginative play about India’s revolutionary heroes in Bengali, his mother tongue, in 1948 at the age of sixteen. The play celebrates the contributions of three immortal freedom-fighters from Bengal: Deshabandhu, Netaji and Deshapriya. Deshapriya hailed from Sri Chinmoy’s own birthplace of Chittagong.
Sri Chinmoy translated this play into English in November 1996 in honour of the forthcoming 50th anniversary of India’s Independence and the birth centenary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the greatest Indian freedom-fighter of all.
The play was first performed by Sri Chinmoy’s students in Kagoshima, Japan, on 23 January 1997 — the day of Netaji’s birth centenary. It is significant that Netaji’s ashes are preserved at the Renko-ji Temple in Japan. Sri Chinmoy made a soulful pilgrimage to this temple on 26 December 1996.
Dramatis personae (in order of appearance)THREE CHILDREN OF THE COSMIC GODS
NETAJI (SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE, THE PROTÉGÉ OF C.R. DAS)
DESHAPRIYA (JATIN RAMMOHUN SEN)
DESHABANDHU (CHITTA RANJAN DAS)
RAJA [KING] MANILAL SINGH
DEBENDRA (AN ATTENDANT)
PANDIT MOTILAL NEHRU (FATHER OF JAWAHARLAL NEHRU)
VAISHNAVA (A DEVOTEE OF VISHNU)
Scene 1(Place: The Garden of Eden. Time: Full moon night. The children of the cosmic gods are singing in Heaven, Bishwabasir jai… [Victory to the citizens of the world!…] Enter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. “Netaji” means “great leader”.)
NETAJI: Since I left India, I have never heard such a soul-stirring song! The sentiment, the thought, the language, the rhythm, the melody, the tone — each and every petal of this song-flower is unique, and the flower itself is intoxicating me with its beauty and fragrance. Since I left my Mother Bengal, I have never heard such a beautiful song. But alas, I thought that it was the children of Bengal who were singing the song. Now I see that it is the children of the cosmic gods who are singing. Where am I? Where is my Motherland? O my Mother India, I do not mind in the least if I am not favoured with a place among those who sacrificed their all to liberate you from the cruel shackles of British domination. My only sorrow is that you are still in stark bondage, ruthlessly insulted and painfully humiliated at every moment.
(From the opposite side, enter Deshapriya, another martyr. Deshapriya is from Chittagong; “Deshapriya” means “one who is dear to Mother Bengal”.)
DESHAPRIYA: Ah, Netaji! You are here! I am so fortunate today to meet with Mother India’s greatest and most beloved son. Your name and your supreme glories are echoing and re-echoing throughout the length and breadth of India. I have just come from our Motherland, where I paid a short visit.
NETAJI: You are coming from India? Tell me, tell me, how is our eternal sufferer, Mother Bengal? Mahatma, Jawaharlal and others — how are they? What are they doing?
DESHAPRIYA: Our Mother India is free! The English have left our Motherland on their own.
NETAJI: Tell me, tell me more! Why do you stop? Am I in a fantasy-world? Our Motherland is liberated? Our one and only dream has been fulfilled? Then how is it that you are not happy in the least? On the contrary, your eyes are flooded with tears.
DESHAPRIYA: Alas, our Mother India is now divided. She can no longer pride herself on the oneness of her sweet children. The whole of India is drenched with the blood of Hindus and Muslims. Poverty, untold misery and catastrophe have become India’s daily companions. My Mother Chittagong has fallen under the inexorable curse of division. The poisonous air of division-night is about to devour and destroy me completely. There is no food, no clothing — only birthless and deathless fear. Premature death, accidental death and unnatural death — this is what India’s fate has become. Soon, Netaji, I shall visit Bengal again. My sole aim, like yours, is to unite India. We must uproot the separation-poison-tree!
NETAJI: What are you saying, Deshapriya? I am unable to understand you. On my way to Japan from Singapore, I fell asleep in the plane, and then I do not know what happened to me. One thing I do remember, though, is that my dearest and fondest Azad Hind Fauj, our Indian National Army, failed to bring about India’s independence.
DESHAPRIYA: No mighty endeavour can forever remain unfulfilled, Netaji. At God’s choice Hour, God Himself lovingly breathes life into our glorious dreams. True, your Azad Hind Fauj could not give India her freedom, but you and your indomitable army of liberation-fire will forever and forever remain immortal in the heart-history of India. Even Mahatma has bowed to you and your army with tremendous admiration.
NETAJI: Enough, enough, my dear friend! No more embarrassment! What I have done for my Mother Bengal is next to nothing; what I have done for my Mother India is next to nothing. Now tell me, are they honouring our beloved Deshabandhu (Chitta Ranjan Das), our political Guru, whose lofty inspiration I imbibed at my journey’s start? Today I want to prostrate myself at his mighty feet. He was my blue-vast inspiration-ocean. If my cherished countrymen have even an iota of appreciation for me, then I am offering it all to him, for it is he alone who rightly deserves it. His boundless affection-smiles and unparalleled wisdom-teachings have made me what I am now. My earth-bound life and my Heaven-free soul are profusely and eternally grateful to him.
DESHAPRIYA: Indeed, dear Netaji, it is his unconditional blessings that have also made me what I am now. Let us go and pay our prayerful homage to our beloved Deshabandhu. I am sure he will be overwhelmed with joy to see you!
(Exeunt omnes. Netaji song is heard from offstage.)
Scene 2(Time: Dawn. The children of the cosmic gods are playing in Heaven at the command of Lord Indra. For a whole year, they will be observing great festivities for India’s independence.)
FIRST CHILD: Delight, delight everywhere! The moment we desire anything, we get it! We get everything for the asking. We do not have to pray and meditate in order to achieve anything. Yet, a burning desire I cherish to accept human life. Do you know, my friends, why I entertain this kind of desire?
SECOND CHILD: I do know why.
THIRD CHILD: And I also know! Our Lord Indra accepted the human body. The Guru of the cosmic gods, Brihaspati; the great sage Narada; Lord Brahma; Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva from time to time also accept human life. Leaving Heaven, they play their respective roles for Mother Earth by taking human form.
FIRST CHILD: But why? Here there is no dearth of anything. Again, perhaps there is no true joy in enjoyment if no austerity is needed to achieve something. Therefore, perhaps there is no joy here in Heaven after all. Yes, this is the very reason for Heaven-dwellers to descend to earth. How strange! Although human beings are desperately longing for a divine life, their desire is not fulfilled. At the same time, we divine beings have everything, yet there is somehow a sense of sorrowful unfulfilment.
THIRD CHILD: In order to inseparably and eternally remain with the Lord Supreme, one has to take a human body. One must aspire to be His close companion on earth.
FIRST CHILD: Let us go and take a human body on earth! We know how weak all human beings are, how helpless they are, how insufficient and incomplete they are. Nevertheless, God has very special Blessings, very special Compassion and very special Concern for them. Therefore, He Himself descends to earth in human form, in a human body.
SECOND CHILD: I, too, have a strong desire to enter into the world. Let us all go together!
THIRD CHILD: Are you insane? Do you know that there is an animal in the desert that eats cactus? Its mouth bleeds, yet it continues to eat the cactus! (All of the children burst into laughter.)
FIRST CHILD: I have heard that the Mother of Illusion takes away all the knowledge and power of the cosmic gods when they enter into human life. Therefore, fear is torturing me!
THIRD CHILD: Then why are you pining for human birth? You can see from here what they are doing on earth. Today, here in Heaven, a play is being staged about the life of Bengal’s beloved son Deshabandhu. Let us go and watch!
SECOND CHILD: I am also eager to watch. Since we do not know earth-life well, let us first become fully acquainted with it here, in the safety of Heaven. Let us go and watch the play about the life of Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan.
FIRST CHILD: Look, look! A new scene!
(They retire to one side of the stage and watch. Deshabandhu song is heard. The curtain rises to show an earthly scene.)
(Place: Darjeeling. Deshabandhu [Friend of the Nation] is bedridden. His days are numbered; death is fast approaching. Beside him are Raja Manilal Singh and Debendra, two of his attendants.)
RAJA: Gurudev, you are the peerless wealth of our country. God will not allow you to leave your Motherland. But I do hope you are observing a proper diet!
DESHABANDHU: I am regularly irregular in my diet.
RAJA: When you are well, you must go to England for a change of scenery, to recuperate completely.
DESHABANDHU: Where will I get the money? Do you not know that I am utterly poverty-stricken?
RAJA: But there is so much money in your party fund.
DESHABANDHU: That fund is sacred. I cannot touch it!
RAJA: All right, we shall raise funds. Your health is of first and foremost importance.
DESHABANDHU: No, no. I have given up all my lofty dreams. Mother India’s bondage-life has stabbed my heart with excruciating pangs. I must not flee to England for comfort. Again, who would give me the money? I am a veritable beggar.
DEBENDRA: Gurudev, I beg to be excused! Do not allow the pitiful word “beggar” to cloud your self-offering-sun. You have renounced all your vast riches to liberate our Motherland. The other day Mahatma Gandhi said, “Deshabandhu has sacrificed everything. He is, indeed, an all-sacrificing sannyasi. He has even offered his own house to the poor and needy.” I told Mahatma that my boss has offered millions and millions of rupees to the undeserving people, and the result is that now he is penniless; he has absolutely no money of his own.
DESHABANDHU: Shut up! How dare you say “undeserving”? Who is deserving and who is undeserving? We must needs give our all to see the living Presence of God inside each and every human being if we dare to dream of fulfilling God’s Will here on earth.
(At that moment from behind the curtain several voices: Bande Mataram! Deshabandhu ki jai! “Victory to Deshabandhu!”)
FIRST CHILD (deeply inspired): Blessed, Deshabandhu, are you. Blessed is your life on earth.
THIRD CHILD: I do not know why here in Heaven they are creating such a fuss over an ordinary human being!
SECOND CHILD: An ordinary human being? Deshabandhu is not an ordinary human being! He should be our ideal. I am going to take incarnation in his Motherland, Bengal. I shall take Mother Bengal as my own, very own. I wish to be blessed by her, just as Deshabandhu has been richly and gloriously blessed.
FIRST CHILD: I shall accompany you.
THIRD CHILD: I am not going! From here in Heaven I shall enjoy watching you. Whenever you are in need of anything, I shall send it from here. When the great Mother of Illusion makes you forget that you were once upon a time the children of the cosmic gods, in secret I shall arrive and remind you of what you were, and I shall save you.
(From behind the curtain: Bande Mataram! Deshabandhu ki jai! “Victory to Deshabandhu!” Then the song to Tagore’s words Ennechile sathe… [You came into the world with an immortal heart, and you left it here on your way back] is heard.)
Scene 3(Place: Deshabandhu’s palace in Heaven. Time: Twelve noon. Deshabandhu and Pandit Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru’s father and Deshabandhu’s great admirer, are conversing.)
MOTILAL: At long last our beloved Mother India has gained her independence! All her stupendous efforts have finally been crowned with success!
DESHABANDHU: Yes, I have heard that breathtaking news, my dear friend, and also I have heard that your son, Jawaharlal, has become our Prime Minister. I am so happy that he has emerged as a star of unparalleled brilliance in the firmament of India.
MOTILAL: This is due to your blessings, Deshabandhu, and the blessings of all those who truly love our Mother India.
DESHABANDHU: But alas, dear Motilal, Bengal’s fate is excruciating! Our green-gold Bengal has now become a black cremation-ground. Not a single leader has sprung forth from her sacred heart to bear the responsibility of our Motherland. But, my friend, you can be truly proud of your most illustrious Jawaharlal.
MOTILAL: Deshabandhu, what about your mind-begotten son, Subhas? Subhas has conquered the heartbeat and life-breath of each and every Indian soul. Without a shadow of doubt, Subhas’ place in the chronicle of our Mother India’s ageless life is infinitely higher than my son’s!
DESHABANDHU: Alas, I had so much hope in my Subhas and in the others. One by one, untimely, they left Mother Bengal; they deserted her. They, too, have now come to Heaven without liberating Bengal, and our Mother is helplessly drowning in a sea of tears and blood.
(Enter a certain Vaishnava, like Deshabandhu a devotee of Vishnu.)
DESHABANDHU: I am so happy that you have come to bless my abode.
VAISHNAVA: I have come to you for a ticket.
DESHABANDHU: What kind of ticket?
VAISHNAVA: I need a ticket to roam freely in Heaven, on earth, in the infernal region and throughout all planes of consciousness. This is all I need for the time being; afterwards I will need a different ticket from you.
MOTILAL: May I know your name?
VAISHNAVA: Certainly! But first tell me, will you give me the ticket? If not, why should I take the trouble of telling you my name? Would you not like to show me that your life’s generosity and your heart’s magnanimity far surpass Deshabandhu’s?
MOTILAL: What! How dare you compare my insignificant existence with his all-illumining life? Do you not know that I love him and adore him unreservedly? He kindly and compassionately showers his blessingful affection upon me and tells the world that I am his friend. Therefore, I had in mind to make a special request of Deshabandhu on your behalf to grant you the ticket that you need.
VAISHNAVA: You have to make a request of Deshabandhu? Am I at the right place? Am I standing before the right person? Is this not the abode of Deshabandhu? Perhaps it is not! In that case, I am leaving!
MOTILAL: Stop, Venerable Vaishnava — stop! This is Deshabandhu himself (pointing to Deshabandhu.) Stop! Do not go away! Please, do not go away!
VAISHNAVA: All right, now I can tell you my name, but in abbreviated form. I am shortening it considerably: One Thousand Eight Sri Tribuban Das Ghana Shyama Sri Krishna Charan Bharasha Prasadananda Das.
DESHABANDHU: This is your abridged name? Is it your hard-earned name, or have you inherited such a splendid name?
(Deshabandhu and Motilal burst into wild laughter.)
VAISHNAVA: This is my hard-earned name! I earned it! My parents gave me the name Shibu. Now tell me, what about my ticket?
(Enter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Deshapriya.)
VAISHNAVA: What is this nonsense? What is this absurdity? Why are they coming here? Please, please fulfil my desire first, before you speak to them! (To Subhas and Deshapriya.) Please, please wait a little! Let Deshabandhu fulfil my desire first by granting me my ticket. I am sure you, too, have come here to ask for something.
DESHAPRIYA (to Deshabandhu): I have brought Subhas here to offer his devoted obeisance to you, Deshabandhu. Ah, I see Nehru here! Pranam, pranam! I bow to you, I salute you!
MOTILAL: Subhas is here? Our leader is here?
(He stands up and embraces Subhas.)
VAISHNAVA: Alas, these friends of yours are ruining my request! I shall be here again tomorrow.
DESHABANDHU: Subhas, you too have come back? What will our Mother Bengal do now? Like us, you, too, have deserted Mother Bengal?
NETAJI: It is you, Deshabandhu, who can save our Bengal from untold and unspeakable atrocities. Once more Bengal needs your immediate pinnacle-leadership! We implore your express arrival! Once more we shall be your unwavering soldiers. At every moment we shall obey your infallible command lovingly, faithfully and self-givingly.
DESHABANDHU: Come, let us go! We shall go first to East Bengal, which they now call East Pakistan. We shall save our Mother Bengal from the ruthless torture of division-night. Come, my Subhas! Come, Jatin! You two remain always with me. If you two are with me, then there is nothing that I will not be able to accomplish for our Mother Bengal.
(The song Janani Chatrala is heard. With adamantine will, all three hero-souls descend from Heaven to their beloved Bengal. Exeunt omnes.)
(The song Bharat Amar concludes the play.)
GlossaryAZAD HIND FAUJ: another name for the Indian National Army that Netaji formed to overthrow the British.
BANDE MATARAM: “Mother, I bow to Thee!” — the mantric slogan of the Indian freedom-fighters.
BRAHMA, VISHNU, SHIVA: the Indian trinity. Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Transformer.
DESHABANDHU KI JA: (ja is pronounced “joy”) — “Victory to Deshabandhu!”
INDRA: the chief of the cosmic gods.
JAWAHARLAL: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.
MAHATMA: Mahatma Gandhi. It was Netaji who first called Gandhi-ji the Father of the Nation.
SANNYASI: one who has renounced the world.
Author’s note: While I was translating, so many times there were tears in my eyes. We Bengalis, both Hindu and Muslim, are all for Netaji. For him there was no Hindu, no Muslim, no Christian. All joined his Indian National Army, irrespective of religion, because they loved him so dearly.
Additional writings on Deshabandhu
Banga desher bir
Nishwa haile bharatbasir
Muchite nayan nir
Pratipade badha daliya charane
Vijayir beshe ese
Pranam karecho bir prasabini
Janani bangla deshe
Britisher kara tomar sparshe
Swadesh mantre dikkshita haye
Tomar charane chumi
Sardul sama tomare manito
British shasak dal
Tumi ene dite arter buke
Nitya nutan bal
Himaloy jabe haran karilo
Nakkshatra je nimne namilo
Kare kabi anuman
Eman shoker banya kakhano
Nameni moder deshe
Shatru mitra kendechilo sabe
DBF 6. Deshabandhu. In 1945, when Sri Chinmoy was thirteen years old, he wrote a poem in Bengali about Chitta Ranjan Das. It was entitled "Deshabandhu." In Sri Chinmoy's handwritten notebook, which still survives, the singer of the highest magnitude and extremely close disciple of Sri Aurobindo, Dilip Kumar Roy, has made two minor corrections to this particular poem. He also read about two hundred of the then Chinmoy's Bengali poems, made necessary corrections and highly appreciated the talents of the budding poet.↩
Chitta Ranjan Das (1957)1
Rare is the man whose life far exceeds his great achievements. Also rare is the man whose message to the world is his life itself. But in the life of Deshabandhu we find a rare combination of both these high qualities.
Chitta Ranjan had been to England to sit for the Indian Civil Service. Unfortunately, nay, fortunately, he headed the list of the unsuccessful. Had he won the “Heaven-Born Service”, he would certainly have become a civil servant. And who could guarantee that he would not have exerted his unusual power to climb to the highest rung of the ladder? And if he had done so, how could opportunity have knocked at his door and asked him to mix with and work for his countrymen whom he so sincerely loved? What Providence wished from Chitta Ranjan was a great service to his Motherland. The devoted son was ever confident of his Motherland’s brightest future. His deep patriotism gave a significant meaning and purpose to the exalted glory of India all over the world. It happened that during his stay in that foreign land a meeting was once held at Oldham under the Presidentship of Gladstone. In a speech on “Indian Agitation”, Chitta Ranjan’s tone and expression left no doubt that he was a citadel of strength:
The years 1907 and 1908 shall shine perpetually in the history of Bengal. The current of true patriotism simply inundated the four frontiers of the province. On the fourth of May, 1908, in the small hours of the morning, Sri Aurobindo was arrested, and soon he was considered to be the supreme leader of the firebrand revolutionaries. The two significant features of the Alipore Bomb Case were the unexpected acquittal of Sri Aurobindo and C.R. Das’s swift flare-up into fame. Das was then a junior counsel. Bhupal Bose, the father-in-law of Sri Aurobindo, appointed Byomkesh Chakravarti to defend his son-in-law. The old man dismissed Das as a child, saying, “I should not commit the charge of the case of my son-in-law to a younger counsel.”
But somehow Chitta Ranjan Das felt an inner urge to participate in the defence of Sri Aurobindo, his dear friend, whom he had first met in England. In those days, he used to communicate with the spirit-world with the help of a planchette. One day a particular message was received by him repeatedly.
“You must defend Arabinda.” To the query who he was, the reply came, Upadhyaya. Requested to be more explicit, the “spirit” replied: Brahma bandhava upadhyaya [a fire-soul of patriotism]. From that day on, it became quite clear to Chitta Ranjan that he would have to conduct the Alipore Bomb Case.
Meanwhile, for some reason or other, the counsel Byomkesh Chakravarti was dispensed with and C.R. Das was called in.
On this occasion Sri Aurobindo’s sister, Sarojini Ghosh, played a significant role in saving her brother. She raised subscriptions and even begged from door to door, appealing to the very rickshaw drivers and the coolies who, on their part, never failed to respond to her throbbing appeal. At last, on the 18th of August, 1908, in Bande Mataram, she issued the following appeal:
Perhaps the public have not hitherto had any accurate idea of the probable expenses of my brother’s defence. My legal and other advisers tell me that the amount required would not fall short of sixty thousand rupees. But only twenty-three thousand rupees have been received up to date.
May I not hope that the balance will be received shortly?..."
Deshabandhu’s love and affection for Sri Aurobindo will be evident from the following incident. When some of the friends of Sri Aurobindo made a fervent request to him to conduct the case to the best of his ability, he was deeply pained:
On another occasion he said that while defending Aurobindo he felt that he himself was the accused and he was arguing his own case. What a sense of identification he developed with his intimate friend!
While closing the Alipore Bomb Case, he made a short and eloquent speech. His prophetic voice will ring in the ears of posterity for all time:
Let us here leave Sri Aurobindo to speak about the loving sacrifice of C.R. Das and the divine mystery involved in the matter.
Sister Nivedita was one among those who highly appreciated the rare sacrifice made by Chitta Ranjan in the interests of Aurobindo. She said, “I knew you to be great, but did not know that you are so great.” She then pinned a dark red rose into the buttonhole of Chitta Ranjan’s coat.
“A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman of the next generation.” (James Freeman Clarke) This pleasant-sounding statement cannot be applied to patriot-politicians like C.R. Das. “With me,” says he, “work for my country is no imitation of European politics. It is a part of my religion. It is a part and parcel of all the idealism of my life.”
When his only son Chira Ranjan was eagerly prepared to go to jail for the country, his relatives and friends advised Chitta Ranjan to dissuade him from doing so. At this Chitta Ranjan was more than angry with them. “When will you understand this simple truth, that I must send my own son to jail first and then only am I entitled to invite the Bengali youths to launch into the service of the Motherland?” More surprise awaits us. A deep and tranquil smile played upon his eyes the moment he heard that his wife Basanti Devi and his sister Urmila Devi were asked to step into the police station, for he realised that the hour of victory was fast approaching.
His sense of duty: his father, Bhuvan Mohan Das, had declared insolvency. Nobody could lay any claim on his debt, and according to the British Law the son was exempt from being charged. But the deepest sense of duty in the devoted son Chitta enjoined him to free his father. When a sum of Rs. 75,000 was made over to clear off the father’s debt, Justice Fletcher, with a heart full of admiration for Chitta Ranjan’s unprecedented deed, declared, “An act of this kind is not to be seen even in Europe.” Soon after this momentous event took place, his aged father died.
Chitta Ranjan had a helping hand even in social reform. The deplorable condition of Indian widows cut him to the quick. He made bold to say that it is mere stupidity on our part either to force the widows to marry once again, or make them practise celibacy the rest of their lives. According to him, it is to the widows that the chance should be given to choose their future state and not to the so-called social reformers.
Untouchability was altogether foreign to his nature. He failed to put up with the haughtiness of the higher-class people. He utterly disdained their merciless conduct towards the low. His sympathetic heart voiced forth: “Next time, how I wish to take birth among the untouchables and devote myself to their service!”
I am now tempted to relate an interesting as well as arresting incident which will display Chitta Ranjan’s love and reverence for Sri Aurobindo. Deshabandhu was then the Editor of a popular periodical, Narayan. Nolini Gupta had sent a contribution entitled Arter Adhyatmikata (Spirituality in Art)<a href="#fnw8kc" id="fnrefw8kc">2</a> from Pondicherry for publication in 1917. Chitta Ranjan was enamoured of the article and was certain that the actual writer could be nobody else save Sri Aurobindo, covering himself with a pseudonym, for the word “Nolini” also means “lotus”, just as “Aurobindo” means “lotus”. “Gupta” means “hidden” and was taken to be the indication of Sri Aurobindo’s living incognito. Considering that it was no longer necessary for Sri Aurobindo to remain hidden from public view, he published the said article under the name of Aurobindo Ghosh instead of Nolini Gupta. Soon after, Sri Aurobindo wrote to his dear friend Chitta that he was not the writer of that article, but that there was actually one among his associates in flesh and blood bearing the name Nolini Gupta. Of course, at present Nolini Gupta needs no introduction.
1925 — Deshabandhu left the earth. The Master-Seer of the Age, from his silence-hushed Ashram, telegraphed a message to a daily journal that had wired for a comment. “Chitta Ranjan’s death is a supreme loss. Consummately endowed with political intelligence, constructive imagination, magnetism, a driving force combining a strong will and uncommon plasticity of mind for vision and tact of the hour, he was the one man after Tilak who could have led India to Swaraj.”
Tagore’s glorious tribute to the mighty departed soul runs:
With thee came down the immortal breath.
This thou booned us with thy body’s death.3
“Time,” says Gandhi, “cannot efface the memory of a man so great and good as Deshabandhu. At this time of trial for the nation, there is no Indian who does not feel the void created by his death.”
Bengal suffered a tremendous blow. Deshabandhu was a man of fifty-five when Death snatched him away. His life was a short, but a very full and busy one. Even those who did not know him at close range felt his death as a personal loss.
DBF 7. Chitta Ranjan Das. In 1957 Chinmoy wrote this article on C.R. Das which was printed in Mother India, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram periodical. It was later published in Sri Chinmoy's book Mother India's Lighthouse (Rudolf Steiner, 1973).↩
DBF 7,26. Spirituality in Art was published in the Mother India of April 1959. Translation by Chinmoy.↩
DBF 7,29. With thee came down the immortal breath... Translated by Romen from the original Bengali.↩
Three dramatic scenes from "The Descent of the Blue"
Act VII, Scene 101(Alipore Court. Beachcroft, Additional Sessions Judge and the jury. Norton, C.R. Das and other lawyers. The day of Aurobindo’s release. C.R. Das, after summing up his whole case, concludes his historic address.)
C.R. DAS: “…My appeal to you is this — that long after this turmoil, this agitation will have ceased, long after he is dead and gone, he will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism and the lover of humanity. Long after he is dead and gone, his words will be echoed and re-echoed not only in India but across distant seas and lands….”
(Beachcroft looks on, eyes indrawn. The prosecution counsel, Mr. Norton, who was listening spellbound to the peroration, now looks at C.R. Das, relaxed and relieved of his year-long tension. Beachcroft starts addressing the jury. After his address to the jury the foreman takes leave of the court to retire for consultation with his colleagues. The jurors retire. The Court rises for lunch.)
DBF 8-10. Three dramatic scenes from The Descent of the Blue. When Sri Chinmoy was between twenty-six and twenty-eight years old, he wrote a full-length drama about the life of Sri Aurobindo entitled "The Descent of the Blue." Three scenes in that play focus on C.R. Das and his historic defence of Sri Aurobindo, as well as his later urge to follow the spiritual life. The play was published serially between 1958 and 1962 in "Mother India".↩
Act VII, Scene 11(After lunch.)
FOREMAN (turning to the judge): Your Honour, our fully considered verdict is unanimous so far as Aurobindo is concerned. We all are of the opinion that he is Not Guilty. As regards the others…
BEACHCROFT: I accept your verdict and acquit Aurobindo of the charges brought against him. (Turning towards C.R. Das) Mr. Das, I congratulate you on your laborious study, patience, endurance and your able conduct of the case concerning your client Aurobindo.
C.R. DAS: I thank Your Honour for your kind appreciation of my personal efforts. I thank also the members of the jury for their unflagging patience and energy in following the case in detail from day to day and for giving their well-considered verdict.
NORTON (coming forward and shaking C.R. Das by the hand): You have the reward of your labour. I congratulate you.
C.R. DAS: Thank you very much, my learned friend.
Act XI, Scene 2(5 June 1923. Sri Aurobindo and C.R. Das. Sri Aurobindo’s residence, Pondicherry.)
C.R. DAS: A serious problem, Aurobindo.
SRI AUROBINDO: What is it?
C.R. DAS: I wish to take to spirituality.
SRI AUROBINDO (smiling): How can it be a problem at all?
C.R. DAS: It is, Aurobindo.
SRI AUROBINDO: How?
C.R. DAS: Politics dogs me night and day.
SRI AUROBINDO: But you know the two cannot normally go together. The aims and ideals of the usual political activity are almost always opposed to those of spirituality, to say nothing of the forces at work in politics…
C.R. DAS: Ah, you have understood my problem. Aurobindo, help me into the spiritual life.
SRI AUROBINDO: I wish I could.
C.R. DAS: What prevents you, dear friend? Aurobindo, you are to me something far more than even a dear friend. And you know that.
SRI AUROBINDO: Chitta, you must be aware that you cannot make satisfactory progress in your inner life if you do not move away altogether from absorption in politics. It influences the consciousness in a very undesirable way.
C.R. DAS: You are perfectly right. But…
SRI AUROBINDO: I understand your difficulty. All right, then; you go on with your political activities, but at the same time do your best to live your inner life. Gradually you may find that your interest in politics is giving way to your interest in a higher life.
C.R. DAS: What a burden you have taken off my shoulders! I see a ray of light and breathe in a little fresh air. But one thing more — I need your help also in another matter. Our “Swarajya Party” needs your unstinted support.
SRI AUROBINDO: I feel strongly for it. I give its stand my full inner support. You will always feel my presence in it.
C.R. DAS: I feel doubly relieved. With your presence in me, all will go well with me. Do you remember my prophecy about you at the Trial? — “His words will be echoed and re-echoed…”
SRI AUROBINDO: But what would Norton think of you if he were to overhear you?
C.R. DAS: Oh, he is now a different man. He works hand in hand with me. He now appears against the Government in political cases.
SRI AUROBINDO: Good that he is now on the side of the weak and the striving. His chivalry will pay.
Six stories about Chitta Ranjan Das
A larger than the largest heart1There was once a great leader whose heart was larger than the largest. In law he was extremely successful and as a national leader he was also quite successful. His real name was kindness, affection and compassion. He was always for the poor and the miserable, and he used to help people far beyond their need. The tips he gave to the police, for example, were ten times the amount that they usually got from others.
“These policemen work so hard,” he said. “Just because they wear Indian garments, we do not value them. But if the same work were done by Englishmen with trousers on, we would have to give them much more.”
One day a man in the Congress who worked for the great leader came up to him crying. The great man said, “Why are you crying?”
He said, “I stay at your house, but just because I come from the lowest class, everyone goes away from me. I am given my food at the place where the dogs and the chickens stay. It is so dirty and filthy there. One of your servants brings my food and I eat there as if I were another dog or another chicken. Please do something for me.”
Because of his low class, society did not permit him to sit with the members of the family. But still the great man felt very sad. He said to his wife, “Granted, he cannot sit and eat with us, but can you not at least give him a nice place to eat? Why does he have to eat with the dogs and chickens? Can he not be given a better place?”
His wife said, “Yes, he should be given a better place. I shall see to it.”
Although the wife told the servant to take his food to a nice place, a few days later the servant was careless and took the food to the same place. So once more the Congress worker came to the great man, crying and crying: “They have given me the food there again, just because I come of a low class. I am staying with you because of your affection and love for me. Otherwise, I would not stay. This kind of treatment I hate. Whenever your Brahmin cooks see me, they run away. They show tremendous contempt for me and literally hate me. Am I not a human being?”
The great leader felt miserable, and he burst into tears. He called his wife and said, “From now on this young man will eat not only inside the house, but actually in the room where I eat. He has to eat in my room whenever I am eating. If I happen to be elsewhere and it is time for him to eat, he has to eat in my room. I make it a law.”
This great man was Chitta Ranjan Das. He was known as the most beloved friend of Mother Bengal. It was he who saved Sri Aurobindo from jail. When he died, Tagore said, “You came into the world with an immortal heart and you left it here on your way back.”
DBF 11. A larger than the largest heart. 15 January 1979.↩
The kind-hearted barrister1One day a middle-aged woman was found in the street most miserably and most pitifully weeping. A young barrister came out of a nearby house. He was on his way to court. When he saw the woman shedding bitter tears, he came up to her and asked why she was crying.
“I have walked here from a far-off place,” the woman replied. “I have come only to see you. In my village I have heard so much about you. People say that you are extremely kind-hearted, extremely generous and extremely self-giving. Tomorrow is my only daughter’s wedding. Alas, I do not have enough money to give her a proper marriage ceremony. I am so miserable. I know that tomorrow, if the wedding does not go well, some people will sympathise with me without helping me in any way. Others will laugh at me. Still others will just hate me. I have decided if tomorrow I cannot give my daughter a decent wedding, a proper wedding, I shall commit suicide. Now that you have heard my story, is there any way you can help me out of this sad plight?”
The young barrister said, “Right now I do not have any money with me. Please tell me how much money you actually need.”
The woman mentioned a certain sum and the young barrister continued, “This evening try to be here at this same place. I shall without fail give you money and make you happy. Do not feel sad any more.”
In the evening the young barrister returned home and as he neared his house he saw the woman waiting for him in exactly the same place. He presented her with ten times more money than she needed. The woman was speechless. She could only gaze at him with eyes full of gratitude. He smiled and said to her, “I am really happy that I could be of some help to you at this moment of your life.”
This young barrister’s name was Chitta Ranjan Das.
DBF 12. The kind-hearted barrister. 26 April 1993.↩
Chitta Ranjan incognito1On another occasion an elderly man was waiting for the young barrister. He had heard all about Chitta Ranjan Das. He knew that in addition to being extremely kind-hearted and generous, Chitta Ranjan always tried to be of service to the poor and the needy. This elderly man had walked from a distant village. He had never seen Chitta Ranjan personally and he did not know what he looked like. By making enquiries along the way, he had discovered where the young barrister lived, and so he decided to wait in the street with the hope of meeting Chitta Ranjan.
As the elderly man sat on the footpath, recovering from his long journey, a young man came up to him and kindly asked if he could be of any assistance to him. The elderly man immediately began to give a full account of his woes. He explained that he was in terrible financial difficulty. He could not afford to send his children to school; he could not even continue to feed his family. They were depending entirely on him to save them, but all his efforts to find employment had come to nothing. He desperately needed 2,000 rupees. The elderly man concluded by saying, “I am waiting here with the hope of speaking to him as he passes by. Is there any way that you can give him my message?”
The young man was puzzled. “Who is it that you are waiting to see?” he asked.
“I want to see Chitta Ranjan Das, who is always so kind and compassionate to the poor.”
“I happen to know him well,” the young man said. “He is now in court. If you come with me I shall take you to him.”
Then he took the elderly man by car to the high court and showed him to a small room. “Please be seated. I shall go and speak with Chitta Ranjan Das and I assure you that you will be given the necessary amount.”
In ten minutes’ time a junior clerk entered the room and gave the elderly man an envelope containing the necessary amount. The elderly man was so grateful. He begged the junior clerk, “Is there any way I can meet the man who has been so kind to me? He has saved my family from utter ruin. I wish to express my gratitude to him and to receive his blessings. Do you think he could spare a few moments?”
The junior clerk replied, “He has already spent a full hour with you! Now he is so busy with his other responsibilities.”
“What!” exclaimed the elderly man. “How is it possible?”
“Do you not recall that he brought you here in his own car?” said the junior clerk.
DBF 13. Chitta Ranjan incognito. 26 April 1993.↩
To clear his father's name1The father of Chitta Ranjan Das, Bhuvan Mohan Das, was forced to declare insolvency. I do not know about America, but in India it brings great shame on the family to be reduced to this situation. His son was so sad and embarrassed that he took it upon himself to repay the entire sum of Rs. 75,000. He was not financially responsible for his father’s debts under the British Law, but his high sense of duty and honour compelled him to clear his father’s name. The British Justice who was presiding over the case said, “An act of this kind is not to be seen even in Europe.” From that time, Chitta Ranjan Das started giving away money to help the needy.
Author’s note: When I was twenty-five years old I wrote about this incident in an essay devoted to Chitta Ranjan Das. It is published in my book Mother India’s Lighthouse. In life sometimes we create something and we get the results after 40 or 50 years! I wrote the essay in 1957 and now in 1993 — so many years later — I will be meeting with his grandson Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who has become the Indian Ambassador to the United States.
DBF 14. To clear his father's name. 26 April 1993.↩
A real king and queen1Once a very large meeting took place at Bhabananda Park in Calcutta. C.R. Das was presiding over the meeting and his wife, Basanti Devi, was beside him.
The eminent scientist, P.C. Ray, said to them, “Here I see a real king and a real queen. Although they are without crowns, we are all ready to listen to their commands most willingly and most gratefully.”
DBF 15. A real king and queen. 28 April 1993.↩
God alone knows who is deserving1One day a very poor Brahmin came to C.R. Das and begged him for a large sum of money so that he could take care of his children and also his children’s studies and pay back his debts. C.R. Das’s heart melted at the pitiful condition of the poor Brahmin and he gave him a cheque for 10,000 rupees. The Brahmin was overjoyed and extremely, extremely grateful to C.R. Das.
At the time, a friend of C.R. Das happened to be standing nearby. When the poor Brahmin left, the friend said to C.R. Das, “What have you done? It is good to give money to the poor, but such a large amount? How do you know he deserves such a large amount of money? Are you not giving money indiscriminately?”
C.R. Das said, “I do not know whether I am giving money away indiscriminately or discriminately, but I do feel that it is up to God to judge as to whether I am doing the right thing or not.”
Just at that moment, one of his assistants came up to C.R. Das with a telegram. C.R. Das opened the telegram and saw that an offer of 20,000 rupees had come from a certain king if he would accept a forthcoming legal case. Twenty thousand rupees the king was prepared to give him just to accept the case! C.R. Das said to his friend, “You see, I gave ten. Now I get twenty. So, God knows what is best for you, best for him, best for me, best for everyone. God alone knows who is deserving or undeserving. My business is to be of service to mankind, especially to those who are very, very poor.”
DBF 16. God alone knows who is deserving. 28 April 1993.↩
Chitta Ranjan and Subhas Chandra: the light-bestower versus the strength-producer
Extract from Birth Centenary offering1Deshabandhu was the only one
Whose soul was Subhas Chandra’s
And whose heart was Subhas Chandra’s
For eight months
Subhas was with Deshabandhu
In the same jail.
The closer he became,
The deeper grew his love and admiration
For his mentor.
The saying “Familiarity breeds contempt”
Was, for him and also for others
Who subscribed to his view,
Nothing short of absurdity.
DBF 17. Extract from Birth Centenary offering. As a prayerful offering on the occasion of the Birth Centenary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on 23rd January 1997, and the forthcoming 50th Anniversary of India's Independence that same year, Sri Chinmoy wrote a book entitled Mother, Your 50th Independence-Anniversary! I Am Come. Ever in Your Eternity's Cries and Your Infinity's Smiles, Subhas. Chapter four of that book is devoted to the relationship between Subhas Chandra and Chitta Ranjan. Subhas accepted Deshabandhu as his political Guru.↩
Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan (song)Deshabandhu Deshabandhu
Banger hiyar ashesh gaurob
Bharat matar mukti swapan
Tumi tomar ashrunayan
Chitta Ranjan Chitta Ranjan
Data samrat tomar jiban
Chitta Ranjan Chitta Ranjan
Bhitar bahir sudha nirjhar
<em>27 April 1993</em>
Bengal’s beloved friend[fn:: DBF 18 /Bengal’s beloved friend. Author’s translation of Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan/ song. ]
Bengal’s beloved friend, Chitta Ranjan,
You are the endless glory
And invaluable wealth of Bengal’s heart.
To fulfil Mother India’s Liberation-Dream
You became the ceaseless flow
Of your tearful eyes.
Chitta Ranjan, Chitta Ranjan,
Self-giving emperor your life became.
Chitta Ranjan, Chitta Ranjan,
The choice instrument
Of the Absolute Lord Supreme.
Within, without a nectar-fountain;
Ecstasy immeasurable of Bengalis
In the heart of Bengal.
[fn:: DBF 18,2 /Bengal’s beloved friend.
Author’s translation of Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan/ song.