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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. April 8, 1907

The Writing on the Wall

When things violent or fearful take place let no one be alarmed or discouraged – they also are “His goings forth”. That there will be only the piping time of peace and we shall sing of the cuckoo and the spring is expecting something unnatural. An individual or a nation cannot rise to its full height except through trouble and stress. The stone block patiently submits to hammering, cutting and chiselling to be made into the statue which pleases the eye and gladdens the soul. If it could feel, it certainly would say, “How dearly I have to pay for the beautiful transformation.” This is the inexorable law of nature. Nature has not yet been known to relent in this respect. If you want to get anything grand and beautiful out of her, you must go through the process through which a piece of stone passes before it is endowed with shape, beauty and meaning. The fertilising river rolls down stones, breaks through the impediments, rends asunder the surface of the earth before it bears on its bosom the argosies and crowns the bordering lands with plenty. Those who cannot look this sternness of nature in the face are not destined for things good, noble and high. If you want to grovel in the dust, indolence, ease and ignoble peace may do, but if climbing up the heights of glory is your ambition learn to encounter difficulties and dangers manfully. This is apt to be ignored and ridiculed as a copybook maxim. But it bears repetition times without number and when either an individual or a nation sets about anything earnestly it should start fully impressed with the truth of this copybook commonplace. The truth cannot be confirmed enough and thus the threats of the Anglo-Indian Press have hardly any terror for us.

The Anglo-Indian Press whenever they find that their arguments are seen through, that what is at the back of their minds is at once discovered, that their professions and protestations are taken at their worth, fall to using threats and throw out dark hints as if the people do not know that they cannot regain their independence without a fearful struggle. The Anglo-Indian Press are really nervous at our getting at the truth about political salvation and their arguments about our weakness and incompetency backed by the opinion of the moderate school of politicians in the country are systematically alternated with the arguments of fire and sword. When they cannot coax us into acquiescing in servitude, they want to argue us into it and failing that too, they brandish the sword. The London Times, its namesake in Bombay, the Pioneer, the Englishman, all tried to win over the Congress suddenly changing their attitude of supreme contempt towards the National Assembly of a quarter of a century's standing. But as soon as the news that the extremist programme found favour with the 22nd National Congress was flashed across the seas, the “Thunderer” at once cabled to us that India was won by the sword and will in the last resort be held by the sword. Since then these Anglo-Indian Journals are trying both mild and violent ways. The more the desire for independence seems to be in evidence, the more the signs of the times point to that direction, the more they gnash their teeth, tear their hair and beat their breast. At every fresh proof of reawakening more blood is sent to their eyes and head. Their conduct gives the lie direct to the vaunted profession – that the English people are everywhere the upholders, the representatives, the leaders of the two great interests of a people – Freedom and Justice. The demand of the Egyptian General Assembly has only provoked their laughter. The granting of a constitution to Persia is according to them a move in the wrong direction. They have given the Amir a taste of the flirtation of Western civilisation. They want to retain their spell over those whom they have already enthralled and are ever in quest of fresh victims. Surrender your life, your liberty, your birth-rights to the English nation, go on ministering to their comforts and pleasures and you are credited with common sense, prudence, intelligence and all other mental equipments. But if you think of making any strides in the direction of manhood – if you take it into your head to hold your own in the conflict of interests – if you show the least sign of walking with your head erect you are damned wretches fit for the jail and gallows1 because it has been settled once for all in the wise dispensations of Providence, that you are to sow and they are to reap, that you are to buy and they are to sell, that you are to be killed and they are to kill, that you are to be deprived of arms while they are to be in their full possession, that you will use arms for nefarious purposes while they will wield them to defend themselves. What else can these ridiculous effusions of the Calcutta Englishman mean?:

“Diligent students of newspapers in this part of the world can hardly fail to have been struck by the fact that firearms are now being frequently used in the commission of crime. They have been produced in the case of riots, and within a few days no less than three cases have been reported of persons shot dead by others who ordinarily should not have been in the possession of rifles or guns. When a Maharaja, particularly a friend of Europeans and officials, is shot from behind a hedge and the Police Superintendent of a District has a bullet whistling over his head, the time has come to enquire by what means criminal or fanatical persons on this side of India manage to possess themselves of fire-arms. Recent cases in the Police Court show that it is by no means impossible for transfers of {{1}}revolver2 and the like to take place by private sale. Any unscrupulous or indigent European can sell a weapon to an Indian without the police being aware of the fact (how can they be aware?) and the question arises whether the punishment for a breach of this kind of the Arms Act should not be made absolutely deterrent. Further, as witness the case at Garden Reach, burglars and thieves are learning when they break into a house, that the most valuable property in it are not jewels or money, but guns, rifles, and revolvers. The latter have even been stolen from so secure a place as Fort William. All this points to the fact that a demand for weapons has suddenly arisen in Bengal. One would naturally like to know why. Some people will find no hesitation in accepting the reply that the demand has been caused by those Bengali newspapers and other preachers of sedition who proclaim that the people of this country ought to perfect themselves in military exercises and the use of arms. Bande Mataram yesterday boldly said that Indians must develop the virtues of the Kshatriya, the warrior caste. ‘The first virtue of the Kshatriya is not to bow his neck to an unjust yoke but to protect his weak and suffering countrymen against the oppressor and welcome death in a just and righteous battle.’ This kind of stuff, of course, is often harmless; but when we consider the lengths to which the boycotters have already gone, is it too much to suppose that some fanatics will go to some trouble in providing themselves with arms even if their courage halts there?”

But we reiterate with all the emphasis we can command that the Kshatriya of old must again take his rightful position in our social polity to discharge the first and foremost duty of defending its interests. The brain is impotent without the right arm of strength. India is now conscious of this long-forgotten truth. And the hand must hold up-to-date arms. And where the arms cannot be procured in a fair way, people are driven to underhand methods, not to kill their own men as the Englishman designedly insinuates, but to protect their life and limb, home and hearth, as they had to do at Comilla, as they will shortly have to do at Mymensingh. An awakened nation consults its necessity and proceeds to the invention. The song that nerves the nation's heart is in itself a deed. That song may lead to persecution but as the Punjabee has said, “Today we are in the firing line, but our recruits are at our back – ready to take our places the moment we drop down.” This music can no longer be silenced and keeping time with it the coming Kshatriya is forging his thunder regardless of the fretting and fuming of the Englishman. The writings on the wall are getting distinct and the Englishman knows no peace.


Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: jail gallows


2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: revolvers