Home Page | Workings | Works of Sri Aurobindo | Bande Mataram

Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 30, 1908

The Struggle in Madras

The new spirit of spiritual and political regeneration which is today becoming the passion of the country, has arrived at a crisis of its destinies. All movements are exposed to persecution, because the powers that be are afraid of the consequences which may result from their sudden success and cannot shake off the delusion that they have the strength to suppress them. When Kamsa1 heard that Krishna was to be born to slay him, he tried to prevent the fulfilment of God's will by killing His instrument, as if the power which warned him of approaching doom had not the strength to enforce the doom. So too, when the vague prophecies of a Messiah reached the ears of Herod and he heard that Christ was born in Bethlehem, the fear of his earthly dominion passing into the hands of another drove him to massacre all the children of the Jews in order to avoid his fancied doom. These examples are a parable of the eternal blindness of men when face to face with movements divinely inspired which threaten or seem to threaten their temporal dominion. The bureaucracy are here to be replaced when their work is over, and if they had been able to put aside their selfish interests, and were really capable of governing India and India's interests as they have so long professed, they would have recognised2 in the upheaval of 1905 the signal of their approaching dismissal from their task, and made the way smooth for a peaceful transference of power to the people, thus securing a glorious euthanasia which would have been remembered in history as a3 unique example of self-denial and far-seeing statesmanship. But human nature is too feeble to arise to such heights of wisdom and self-abnegation, except in those rare instances when the divine breath enters into a nation and lifts it to a pitch of enthusiasm which ordinary human weakness cannot support.

The persecution of Swadeshism which is now reaching the most shameless lengths in Madras, is a sure sign that God has withdrawn Himself from the British bureaucracy and intends their rapid fall. Injustice is an invitation to death and prepares His advent. The moment the desire to do justice disappears from a ruling class, the moment it ceases even to respect the show of justice, from that moment its days are numbered. The cynical disregard of all decorum with which the shows of law are being used to crush the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company in Tuticorin will exasperate the whole of the mercantile community in the country. It will convince those who still dream that industrial development is possible without political power, of their mistake. The Marwaris are already alienated, the whole Jain community seething with an indignation too deep-rooted for words. The Tuticorin reign of terror directed against the one Swadeshi enterprise which can prevent all the rest from being rendered futile by the refusal of British Steam services to help the carriage of Swadeshi goods has begun to shake the complaisant acquiescence of the commercial classes in bureaucratic absolutism. The collapse of the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company will mean that from Cape Comorin to Budaricashram the cry will go forth of “Swadeshi in Danger” with the result that the whole nation will awaken to the necessity of uniting in one desperate struggle to force the bureaucracy to surrender its monopoly of power. Swadeshi is now the dream and hope of all India. Loyalist, Moderate, Nationalist, all are at one on this point, all are agreed, that without Swadeshi there is no hope for the people of India. When it becomes evident that the bureaucracy is bent on destroying the only means by which Swadeshi can be secure of its existence, the greatest supporter of the present Government will feel that his choice lies between loyalty to his country and the hope of her resurgence on the one hand and loyalty to the bureaucracy and the destruction of his people and his motherland on the other.

When Srijut Chidambaram Pillai set himself to the task of establishing a Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company between Tuticorin and Colombo, he was taking a step which meant the beginning of the end for the British commercial monopoly in India. There are three departments of Swadeshi which have to be developed in order to make India commercially independent, first, the creation of manufactures, secondly, the retail supply, thirdly, the security of carriage from the place of manufacture to the place of supply. Of all these the third is the most essential, because the others are bound to lead a precarious existence if all the means of carriage are in the hands of the enemies of Swadeshi. The difficulties experienced in East Bengal by those who tried to import Swadeshi goods from Calcutta in the face of the control of the railway and the steam services by hostile interests, are only a slight foretaste of the paralysing obstacles which will be thrown in our way the moment it is seen that Swadeshi has got the upper hand. The only remedy for this state of things is for the people of the country to organise4 steamer services both by sea and by river, so that all carriage by water at least may be in their hands. The carriage by land cannot come into our hands without a political revolution, but if we hold the waterways, we shall not only hold an important part of the system of communications but be able to use our possession of it as a weapon against British trade if the railway is utilised5 against us. The instinct of the country had seized on this truth and the organisation6 of Swadeshi steam services has been one of the first and most successful outcome7 of the new movement. The Chittagong Company and Tuticorin Company have both been a phenomenal success and, owing to the spirit of self-sacrificing patriotism which has awakened in the hearts of the people, they have been able to beat their British rivals without entering into a war of rates, for the British steamers charging extravagantly low rates have been unable to command as much custom as the dearer Swadeshi services. A network of Companies holding the water carriage from Rangoon to Karachi and the Persian Gulf would soon have come into existence and the waterways of East Bengal would have been covered with boats plying from town to town in the ownership of Swadeshi concerns. If the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company is crushed, this fair prospect will be ruined and all hope of commercial independence disappear for ever. The bureaucracy well know the tremendous importance of the issue at stake and have sacrificed everything, honour, justice, decency, to the one all-important chance of success. We also must awaken to the necessity of saving Swadeshi in this hour of danger. The time is a critical one and it is as if Providence had determined to test the spirit of the people and see whether it was strong enough to deserve assistance. The Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company was on the point of crushing its British rival, if the bureaucracy had not interfered; it is now on the point of being crushed itself unless the people interfere. The people have the power to save it by blotting out its rival. If the merchants refuse in a body to ship by the alien service, if the people refuse to tread its decks, no amount of bureaucratic help, no amount of magisterial injustice and police tyranny can save it from the doom it deserves. We look to the Nationalists of Madras to see that this is done. The British jails are not large enough to hold the whole population of Tinnevelly district; let every man follow the noble example of Chidambaram Pillai and, for the rest, let God decide.


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: Kansa


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


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


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


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


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


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