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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. April 11, 1908

The Demand of the Mother

We have lost the faculty of religious fervour in Bengal and are now trying to recover it through the passion for the country, by self-sacrifice, by labour for our fellow-countrymen, by absorption in the idea of the country. When a nation is on the verge of losing the source of its vitality, it tries to recover it by the first means which the environment offers, whether that environment be favourable or not. Bengal has always lived by its emotions; the brain of India, as it has been called, is also the heart of India. The loss of emotional power, of belief, of enthusiasm would dry up the sources from which she derives her strength. The country of Nyaya is also the country of Chaitanya who himself was born in the height of the intellectual development of Bengal as its finest1 flower and most perfect expression. If now she tries to recover her enthusiasm and perfect power of self-abandonment, it must be through a means which her new environment provides.

This new environment has been responsible for the loss of her springs of vitality; it had turned the Bengalis into a sceptical people prone to swear at and disbelieve in everything great, noble and inspiring. The recovery of her old spirit of enthusiastic faith and aspiration has come about through the sense of political unity which had been slowly developing in the heart of the people as the result of the new environment. That which had supplied the poison, supplied also the cure. If she is to complete the restoration to her true self, the first requisite is that the enthusiasm, the idealism of the new movement should be kept alive. The perfect sense of self-abandonment which Chaitanya felt for Hari, must be felt by Bengal for the Mother. Then only will Bengal be herself and able to fulfil the destiny to which after so many centuries of preparation she has been called.

The great religions of the world have all laid stress on self-abandonment as the source of salvation and the law applies not only to spiritual salvation but to the destinies of a people. Self-abandonment will alone give salvation. He who loses his life shall keep it, and the life of the individual must be the sacrifice for the life of the nation. When the people of Bengal are able to rise to the full height and depth of this idea, they will find the secret of success which till now has escaped them. It is not by patriotic desires that the2 nation can be liberated, it is not by patriotic work that a nation can be built. For every stone that is added to the National edifice, a life must be given. It is not talk of Swaraj that can bring Swaraj, but it is the living of Swaraj by each man among us that will compel Swaraj to come.

The Kingdom of Heaven is within you; free India is no piece of wood or stone that can be carved into the likeness of a nation but lives in the hearts of those who desire her, and out of these she must be created. We must first ourselves be free in heart before our country can be free. “There is no British jail which can hold me,” said the great Upadhyaya3 before his death, and he died to prove the truth of his words; but his words are true for all of us that aspire to liberate our Mother, whether we prove it by our lives or by our death. When her sons have learned to be free in themselves, free in prison, free under the yoke which they seek to remove, free in life, free in death, when the text of Upadhyaya’s4 words will receive their illuminating commentary in the actions of a people, then the chains will fall off of themselves and outward circumstances be forced to obey the law of our inward life.

How then can we live Swaraj? By abandonment of the idea of self and its replacement by the idea of the nation. As Chaitanya ceased to be Nimai Pandit and became Krishna, became Radha, became Balaram, so every one of us must cease to cherish his separate life and live in the nation. The hope of national regeneration must absorb our minds as the idea of salvation absorbs the minds of the mumukṣu. Our tyāga must be as complete as the tyāga of the nameless ascetic. Our passion to see the face of our free and glorified Mother must be as devouring a madness as the passion of Chaitanya to see the face of Sri Krishna. Our sacrifice for the country must be as enthusiastic and complete as that of Jagai and Madhai who left the rule of a kingdom to follow the Sankirtan of Gauranga. Our offerings on the altar must be as wildly liberal, as remorselessly complete as that of Carthagenian5 parents who passed their children through the fire to Moloch. If any reservation mars the completeness of our self-abandonment, if any bargaining abridges the fullness of our sacrifice, if any doubt mars the strength of our faith and enthusiasm, if any thought of self pollutes the sanctity of our love, then the Mother will not be satisfied and will continue to withhold her presence. We call her to come, but the call has not yet gone out of the bottom of our hearts. The Mother's feet are on the threshold, but she waits to hear the true cry, the cry that rushes out from the heart, before she will enter. We are still hesitating between ourselves and the country; we would give one anna to the service of the Mother and keep fifteen for ourselves, our wives, our children, our property, our fame and reputation, our safety, our ease. The Mother asks all before she will give herself. Not until Surath Raja offered the blood of his veins did the Mother appear to him and ask him to choose his boon. Not until Shivaji was ready to offer his head at the feet of the Mother, did Bhavani in visible form stay his hand and give him the command to free his people.

Those who have freed nations have first passed through the agony of utter renunciation before their efforts were crowned with success, and those who aspire to free India will first have to pay the price which the Mother demands. The schemes by which we seek to prepare the nation, the scheme of industrial regeneration, the scheme of educational regeneration, the scheme of political regeneration through self-help are subordinate features of the deeper regeneration which the country must go through before it can be free. The Mother asks us for no schemes, no plans, no methods. She herself will provide the schemes, the plans, the methods better than any we6 can devise. She asks us for our hearts, our lives, nothing less, nothing more. Swadeshi, National Education, the attempt to organise Swaraj are only so many opportunities for self-surrender to her. She will look to see not how much we have tried for Swadeshi, how wisely we have planned for Swaraj, how successfully we have organised education, but how much of ourselves we have given, how much of our substance, how much of our labour, how much of our ease, how much of our safety, how much of our lives.

Regeneration is literally re-birth, and re-birth comes not by the intellect, not by the fullness of the purse, not by policy, not by change of machinery, but by the getting of a new heart, by throwing away all that we were into the fire of sacrifice and being reborn in the Mother. Self-abandonment is the demand made upon us. She asks of us, “How many will live for me? How many will die for me?” and awaits our answer.


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: fine


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


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


4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Upadhyay’s


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


6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: any that we