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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 10, 1908

Welcome to the Prophet of Nationalism

Today Srijut Bepin1 Chandra Pal is due in Calcutta, a free man once more until it shall please irresponsible Magistrates and easily-twisted laws to repeat his seclusion from the work which God has given him to do. A true leader of men today in India holds his liberty as a light thing to be lost at a moment's notice; when he chooses to defend himself, he does so with the knowledge that no skill of defence but the choice of his prosecutors is the arbiter of the trial, no soundness of the law in his favour, but the convenience of those who employ and pay his judge, determines whether he goes free or incurs the honourable pains of martyrdom brief or long according to the caprice or policy of his political adversaries. To one who loves his country above all things, life in India today is as insecure as in the worst days of despotic caprice and arbitrariness from which British benevolence is fabled to have rescued us; he walks about under the constant sense of an insecurity which is the condition of his labours, not knowing whether the next day will not see him under arrest with the practical certainty of a sentence already fixed and awaiting2 only the idle formalities of a nominal trial for its confirmation. The price of safety, if he desires it, is the sacrifice of his soul, to be silent when God has bidden him to speak, to refrain from action which his duty and conscience call on him to perform. Bureaucracy sometimes promises him safety for the moment at an apparently lighter price, the loss of personal self-respect and honour. It does not, as it once did, call upon him to fall down and worship it, it does not demand affection from its opponents; but it is content to barter acquittal for an apology. Recantation was the alternative which the old persecutors of Christianity and the Christian persecutors of Jews and heretics offered to those whom they threatened with the cross and the arena, with the rack and the fire, and it was offered for the same reason that it is offered today to the political martyr. The force with which the old religious persecutors had to struggle was a moral force which fought tyranny not with material weapons but with the weapons of the spirit and it was by intimidating the spirit and breaking the moral force of the resistance that they hoped to destroy the movement which they feared.

Recantation meant a diminution of the moral force of the movements3, so much to the credit of the tyrant, to the loss of the cause. Today also it is a great religious movement disguised for the moment in a political and Western garb with which the bureaucracy is faced and the weapons which it uses are the weapons of the spirit, the force which makes it formidable is a spiritual force. We have nothing to oppose to the immense material engines of the bureaucracy except the exalted faith, the unflinching courage, the unswerving devotion to principle which has been so strangely, suddenly born in the hearts of this generation of young men in Bengal. There lies the true strength of Nationalism and the enemies of Nationalism instinctively feel it. They are concerned therefore not so much to crush the inadequate and rudimentary material means which the movement has so far generated but to destroy the moral force which makes it a power. They are willing to forego the satisfaction of vindictiveness, if they can secure the solid advantage of an apology or recantation of some kind such as would fatally injure the moral force of at least one champion of Nationalism and by cumulative examples beat down the enthusiastic self-confidence of the nation. Once or twice they have succeeded, but these solitary instances of weakness have been a beacon-light of warning to the country and the stern resolution not to flinch has been strengthened by the perception of the incalculable harm a single instance of recantation can do to the whole cause. On the other hand, every one who can say to the bureaucratic tempter, “Get thee beind4 me, Satan”, is scoring a victory for the cause of his country.

Yet, there are signs that the counsels of prudence and the wisdom of the diplomat are beginning to gain upon us, we are growing wise in our generation and calculate the harm that can be done to the success of the movement by rashness or the advantages to be gained by a little care and economy of life or suffering. The exaltation of the movement is in danger of being lowered by an accommodating spirit. We have referred before to this growing danger and we are led to dwell on it by a perception of the relaxation in popular enthusiasm and fire which is apparent in Bengal. Now that Bepin5 Chandra is coming out of prison, we look to his triumphant oratory, the Pythian inspiration of his matchless eloquence to reawaken the spirit of lofty idealism, of unflinching devotion to principle which it was his mission to confirm if not awaken, and which is now more evident in Madras where his influence is the chief inspiring force than in Bengal, the home of Nationalism. The voice of the prophet will once more be free to speak to our hearts, the voice through which God has more than once spoken. We shall remember once more that the movement is a spiritual movement for prophets, martyrs and heroes to inspire, help and lead, not for diplomats and pinchbeck Machiavels; we shall realise that the spirit of India reawakened is the life of the movement and not a borrowed Western patriotism; we shall shrink once more from accommodation and paltering with the high call of our conscience as a fatal concession to the adversary and feel again that only by perfect faith, perfect self-sacrifice, perfect courage can we generate that Brahmatej in the nation which will raise up the Kshatriya spirit to protect it. Without this Brahmatej, this spiritual force in our midst, all else will be vain; Swadeshi will cease, National Education fail, the great hopes and schemes now forming in our midst disappear like idle wreaths of smoke and the whole movement stain the pages of history as an abortive and premature impulse, a great chance of freedom lost because the body of the nation was not strong enough and the soul of the nation was not pure enough to sustain the tremendous inrush of spiritual force which had suddenly come upon it. Bepin6 Chandra stands before India as the exponent of the spiritual force of the movement, its pure “Indianity”, its high devotion to principle; this has been the kernel of his teaching, the secret of the almost miraculous force which often breathed from his eloquence. To give this message was the work particularly chosen for him. We need that message to be repeated in yet mightier language and with more convincing logic; the voice has been too long silent, the word of inspiration wanting. We welcome back today not Bepin7 Chandra Pal, but the speaker of a God-given message; not the man but the voice of the Gospel of Nationalism. He comes to us purified by an act of self-immolation, with a soul deepened by long hours of solitude and self-communion to repeat the word of hope and inspiration, to call us once more to the task of national self-realisation. Welcome to him and thrice welcome.


Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin


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


3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: movement


4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: behind


5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin


6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin


7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin