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Sri Aurobindo

Collected Poems

SABCL - Volume 5

I. Short Poems

The Rakshasas

(The Rakshasa, the violent kinetic Ego, establishes his claim to mastery of the world replacing the animal Soul,– to be followed by controlled and intellectualised but unregenerated Ego, the Asura. Each such type and level of consciousness sees the Divine in its own image and its level in Nature is sustained by a differing form of the World-Mother.)

“Glory and greatness and the joy of life,

Strength, pride, victorious force, whatever man

Desires, whatever the wild beast enjoys,

Bodies of women and the lives of men –

I claim to be my kingdom. I have force

My title to substantiate, I1 seek

No crown unearned, no lordship undeserved.

Ask what austerity Thou wilt, Maker of man,

Expense of blood or labour or long years

Spent in tremendous meditation2, lives

Upon Thy altar spent of brutes or men;

Or if with gold Thy favour purchasable,

I may command rich offerings to glut

Thy triumphs3 and Thy priests. I have a heart,

A hand for any mighty sacrifice,

A fiery patience in my vehement mood;

I will submit. But ask not this of me,

Meek silence and a pale imprisoned soul

Made colourless of its humanity,

Ask not the heart that quakes, the hand that spares,

What strength can give, not weakness, that demand.

O Rudra! O eternal Mahadev4!

Thou too art fierce and mighty, wrathful, bold,

Snuffing Thy winds for blood of sacrifice

And angrily Thou rul’st a prostrate world.

O Rakshasa5 Almighty, look on me,

Ravan6, the lord of all Thy Rakshasas7,

Give me Thy high command to smite Thy foes;

But most I would afflict, chase and destroy

Thy devotees who traduce Thee, making Thee

A God of Love, a God too sweet to rule.

I have the knowledge, what Thou art I know

And know myself, for Thou and I are one.”

So prayed the Lord of Lanka8, and in heaven

Sri Krishna smiled, the Friend of all mankind9,

And asked, “O masters of the knowledge, Seers

Who help me by your thoughts to help mankind,

Hearken what Ravan10 cries against the stars

Demanding earth for heritage. Advise,

Shall he then have it?” And a cry arose,

“He would root out the Brahmin from the earth,

Impose his dreadful Yoga on mankind

And make the violent heart, the iron hand

Sovereign of all.” Sri Krishna made reply,

“From out Myself he went to do My will.

He has not lied, he has the knowledge. He

And I are one. How then shall I refuse?

Does it not say, the Veda that you know,

‘When one knows That, then whatso he desires,

It shall be his’?” And Atri sage replied,

“Let him then rule a season and be slain.”

And He who reigns, “Something you know, O Seers,

Not all my purpose. It is long decreed,

The Rakshasa11 shall rule the peopled earth.

He takes the brute into himself for man

Yielding it offerings, while with grandiose thoughts

And violent aspirations he controls;

He purifies the demon in the race

Slaying in wrath, not cruelty. Awhile

He puts the Vanara12 out of the world,

Accustoming to grandeur all mankind;

The Ifrit13 he rejects. Were he denied

His period, man could not progress. But since

He sees himself as Me, not Me in him,

And takes the life and body for the whole,

He cannot last. Therefore is Atri’s word

Accepted.” And before the Rakshasa14,

Out of the terror of the sacrifice,

Naked and dark, with a blood-dripping sword

And dreadful eyes that seemed to burn the world,

Kali15 the Rakshasi16 in flames arose.

“Demand a boon,” she cried, and all the gods

Trembled. “Give me the earth for my delight,

Her gods to be my slaves”, the Rakshasa17 cried,

“Of strength and pride.” “So let it be,”18

She answered. “Shall it be eternal then?”

Ravan19 demanded and she thundered, “No,

For neither thou nor I are best nor last.

The Asuri20 shall arise21 to fill my place,

The Asura thy children shall dethrone.

An aeon thou hast taken to evolve,

An aeon thou shalt rule. But since thy wish

I have denied, ask yet another boon.”

“Let this be mine then,22 when at last I sink,

Nor brute nor demon, man nor Titan’s hand,

Nor any lesser creature shall o’erthrow,

But only God himself compel my fall.”

And Kali23 answered, smiling terribly,

“It is decreed,” and laughing loud she passed.

Then Ravan24 from his sacrifice arose.


Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volume 2.- Collected Poems.- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2009.- 751 p.

1 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and I


2 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: meditations


3 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: temples


4 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Mahádev


5 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rákshasa


6 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rávan


7 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rákshasas


8 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Lunca


9 In 2009 ed. this line followed by this one:

A smile of sweetness and divine delight,


10 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rávan


11 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rákshasa


12 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Vánara


13 The Ifrit, the Djinn, is the demoniac element in Nature.


14 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rákshasa


15 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Kálí


16 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rákshasí


17 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Giant


18 In 2009 ed. instead of this line there are two:

“Of strength and passion let me have my fill,

Of violence and pride.” “So let it be,”


19 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rávan


20 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Asurí


21 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: rise


22 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: , that


23 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Kálí


24 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rávan