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Datta = Dorothy Mary Hodgson

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Data was born on 2 September 1884 in Sydenham, England. She was an Irish by birth. She suffered a grave bereavement when her fianc? to whom she was supposed to get married soon passed away. His death removed all the desires of starting a household and she decided to remain a spinster. When she met Mirra Richard, in 1916, she chose to follow the path of Yoga and in Mirra she found "a tremendous support and a ready counsellor and Guru." On 11 March 1916, Paul, Mirra and Dorothy Hodgson boarded the ship Kamo Maru which reached Yokohama on 18 May.

Dorothy had once told one of her companions about her early meetings with Mirra: "In the afternoon, the Mother would visit a cherry garden. We met and spoke in that garden. At first sight I saw the Divinity in her. I adored and worshipped her like a goddess but she would call me her friend. I used to carry her things - handbag, etc. When we became very close, I prepared salads for her. She would take very little food."

In 1920 Mirra asked Dorothy whether she would like to accompany her to Pondicherry. Dorothy readily agreed. Paul and Mirra Richard left Japan with Dorothy in March 1920 and arrived in Pondicherry on 24 April. At first, the Richards and Dorothy stayed at Marie's Hotel from where they moved to Subbu's Hotel in Rue St Louis near Rue Fran?ois Martin 'due to inconvenience' and finally they shifted to a rented house named 'Bayoud House'. Paul Richard stayed in Pondicherry till November 1920 and then he left for the Himalayas where he tried to live like an ascetic; however, he returned to France after two or three years from where he went to England.

On 24 November 1920, there was a heavy storm with rainfall and since the house where Mirra stayed with Dorothy was old and "looked as if it was going to melt away." Sri Aurobindo decided that Mirra and Dorothy have to move into the house where he was staying with his companions (house on Rue Francois Martin). Thus, Mirra and Dorothy came to live with the other inmates. However, the moving in of Mirra and Dorothy caused uneasiness among the young men (namely Suresh Chandra Chakravorty alias Moni, Bejoy Nag and Saurin Bose) who were living with Sri Aurobindo since 1910 a camp-life and they viewed the arrival of the two European ladies as "sudden invasion."

On 1 January 1922 Sri Aurobindo asked Mirra, whom he had begun to address as the 'Mother', to take charge of the management of the house. Since the number of inmates were increasing and the need for additional accommodation was felt, the 'Library House' at Rue de la Marine was rented where Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, Dorothy and a few others shifted in September 1922. It was during this time that Dorothy received the name of 'Vasavadatta' from Sri Aurobindo, meaning "one who has given herself" but she was addressed as Datta. T Kodandarama Rao, who met Sri Aurobindo in 1920 and stayed with him between 1921 and 1924 recalls: "Miss Hodgson was supervising the kitchen and serving tea in the morning and evening to the inmates."

On 24 November 1926 when the descent of the Overmind Consciousness took place in Sri Aurobindo's body, Datta was one of the twenty four disciples who were witness to this great event. Soon after the descent she made a proclamation that the Lord Krishna has descended into the physical and conquered mortality. Nine years later, Nirodbaran had asked Sri Aurobindo about Datta's proclamation on 29 August 1935: "Datta seems to have declared on that day that you had conquered sleep, food, disease and death. On what authority did she proclaim it then?" Sri Aurobindo replied: "I am not aware of this gorgeous proclamation. What was said that the Divine (Krishna or the Divine Presence or whatever you like) had come down into the material. It was also proclaimed that I was retiring-obviously to work things out. If all that was achieved on the 24th [November] 1926, what on earth remained to work out, and if the Supramental was there, for what blazing purpose did I need to retire? Besides are these things achieved in a single day! If Datta said anything like that she must have been in a prophetic mood and seen the future in the present!"

In the initial years Datta stayed in the Ashram main building where she occupied two rooms and a separate bathroom was provided to her. The room to the left on the top of the staircase of the Library House belonged to Datta (it was given to Rajangam later). During the early years, every evening the Mother came from the Meditation House to the Library House which she entered through the room that later became Champaklal's room (and eventually his aunt Motiben's) and after freshening up there, she went to Datta's room from where she went to Prosperity where on the first of each month, she distributed articles ascertained to the inmates of the Ashram. The names that were given to Datta's rooms were quite interesting: her main room was called 'Vital Conversion' and the second room she occupied was given the name of 'Psychic Centre' while her bathroom was called 'Water'. After a few years she shifted to 14 Rue de la Marine, the house that is situated on the west of the Ashram main building; she occupied the room that was later used by Ichchaben and slept in the corner room.

In October 1931 the Mother fell seriously ill and from 18 October to 24 November she withdrew completely and suspended all her activities including Darshans and meditations. At that time Datta and Chinmayee (who came to the Ashram in 1927) nursed her day and night till she recovered.

Datta hardly interacted with anyone in the Ashram. Datta continued with her work silently till her health completely broke down in 1949 and she breathed her last on 2 July 1949. Her responsibilities were taken up by Chinmayee who succeeded her as the Mother's attendant and continued her work for the Mother till her own death in 1953.

 

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