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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 11, 1908

The Voice of the Martyrs

We are now rejoicing over the release of Srijut Bepin1 Chandra Pal, but who among us is prepared to forget that so many have suffered for the country not less or more than he, and are still suffering? Yesterday when we welcomed the great orator, the man of high thoughts and inspired eloquence, the prophet of new ideas to his people, our thoughts went for a while to those who are now in British prisons, to Bhupen, to Basanta, to the Editor of the Barisal Hitaishi and the Rangpur Vartabaha, to the aged Moulavi2 spending the last years of his noble life in the severities of a criminal jail, to our fellow martyrs of East Bengal, to the few who are suffering in other provinces. For what are these men suffering? What was the hope that stirred them to face all rather than be unworthy of the light that had dawned in their hearts? No petty object fired their soul, no small or partial relief was the hope in which they were strong. It was the star of Swaraj that shone upon them from the darkness of the night into which they willingly departed, it is the light of Swaraj which creates a glory of effulgence in the squalid surroundings of the jail and makes each hour of enforced labour a sacrament and an offering on the most sacred of earthly altars. Today let us remember these brothers of ours even as yesterday was devoted to the joy of welcoming our beloved leader back into3 our midst. Today let us recall what it is that they expect from us; forgetting for a while our selfish preoccupations, our little fears, our petty ambitions, let us identify ourselves in heart with these nobler spirits whom it is our privilege to call fellow-countrymen, and ask ourselves whether we are really working to bring about the great ideal for which they have immolated themselves. Who is there who can really say that his work is worthy of these heroic martyrs? Prometheus chained to the rock and gnawed by the vulture's beak endured in the strong hope of man's final deliverance from the tyrant powers of the middle-heaven who sought to keep him from his divine destiny; but the human race for whom he suffered forgot Prometheus, forgot the dazzling hope to which his life had pointed them and, involved in petty cares and mean ambitions, allowed their champion to suffer in vain and their destiny to call them to no purpose. We, like the woman whom Christ censured, the careful, prudent woman of the world, are busied with many things, but forget the one thing needful. We are waiting to see whether the Congress will be revived or not, or we are watching the progress of Swadeshi with self-satisfaction, or we are anxious for this or that National School, while the fight for Swaraj seems to have ceased or passed away from us into worthier hands. Madras has taken up the herol out of our hands, and today it is over Tuticorin that the gods of the Mahabharat4 hover in their aerial cars watching the chances of the fight which is to bring back the glorious days of old. Gallant Chidambaram, brave Padmanabha, intrepid Shiva defying the threats of exile and imprisonment; fighting for the masses, for the nation, for the preparation of Swaraj, these are now in the forefront, the men of the future, the bearers of the standard. The spirit of active heroism and self-immolation has travelled southward. In Bengal the spirit of passive endurance is all that seems to remain and the bold initiative, the fiery spirit that panted to advance is dead or sleeping. “Work, there is no need to aspire; labour for small things and the great will come in some future generation”, is the spirit which seems to be in the ascendant. But the voices of the martyrs from their cells cry to us in a different key, “Work, but aspire, so that your work may be true to the call you have heard and which we have obeyed; labour for great things first and the small will come of themselves. Cherish the might of the spirit, the nobility of the ideal, the grandeur of the dream; the spirit will create the material it needs, the ideal will bring the real to its body and self-expression, the dream is the stuff out of which the waking world will be created. It was the strength of the spirit which stood with us before the alien tribunal, it was the force of the ideal which led us to the altar of sacrifice, it is the splendour of the dream which supports us through the dreary months and years of our martyrdom. For these are the truth and the divinity within the movement.”


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: Maulavi


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


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