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Sri Aurobindo

Archives and Research

a biannual journal

April 1977

Volume I; No 1

Nasik Speech1

Nasik, February 6th. On the 24th January Babu Arvind Ghose, Proprietor of the Bande Mataram paper, accompanied by one Moreshwar Govind Purohit, said to be the manager of the National School, Pandharpur, arrived at Nasik Road Station and was met at the station by the following persons: Waman Sakaram Khare, Vishvanath Gangadhar Ketkar, Ramchandra Ganesh Pradhan, Ramkrishna Raoji Jaiwant, Keshav Lakshman Khare, Hari Raoji Muthe, Gangaprasad Panalal, Manohar Yadneshwar, Mahadev Balwant Gadgil and Sakaram Dadaji Gorhe.

On arrival of the train at the platform the Babu was received with shouts of Bande Mataram and subsequently led to the 2nd Class waiting room, where he was garlanded by Vishvanath Gangadhar Ketkar. The party then moved off for Nasik City, the Babu, Ramchandra Ganesh Pradhan and Vishvanath Gangadhar Ketkar driving in a carriage lent by Mr. Chandwadkar.

On arrival at the Theatre in the town, some school-boys, at the instigation of Sakaram Dadaji Gorhe, unharnessed the horses and dragged the carriage through the town to the houses of the undermentioned individuals who gave the Babu pānsupārī2: M. Balwant Gadgil, Pandurang Antoba, [...]3 Pathan, the Co-operative Society's shop and the Vidya Booshan Press. The party then proceeded to the house of Waman Sakaram Khare, whose guest the Babu is during his stay in Nasik. At about 10-30 a.m. the Babu addressed an open-air meeting in front of the old Wada. Before rising to speak he was presented with an address, which will be found printed in English on page 3 of the Nasik Wrata4 of the 25th instant, a copy of which accompanies. . . .

The following is a rough translation of [Sri Aurobindo's] speech as given in the Wrata.

Thank you for the welcome you have accorded me, which I do not deserve, because whatever I do is not done by me of my own accord. My actions are dictated by God. I am simply an instrument in His hands. The address5 should, therefore, be presented to Him and not to me. Let us thank Him.

I have hitherto been a writer and not an orator, but circumstances forced me to try my hand at oratory. I have not fixed the subject of my speech, but at the request of some friends I will speak to you on swarāj. Unfortunately I am not accustomed to make speeches and may deviate from the subject. Within the past two or three years, either by a stroke of fortune or by Divine inspiration, a new movement or, in other words, power has been created in our country, but the goal to be attained was vague until last year when the old patriot Dadabhai Nowroji6 in his Presidential address at the National Congress in Calcutta said, “We must have swarāj on the lines granted to Canada and Australia, which is our sole aim.” The true definition of swarāj was given by Dadabhai Nowroji7 in his speech after the session of the Congress. swarāj means administration of affairs in a country by her own people on their own strength in accordance with the welfare of the people without even nominal suzerainty, which is the object which we wish to attain. We had forgotten it for a time and feared to speak about it. We were far away from the truth and we had forgotten it, and on that account we have been reduced to a bad condition. If we do not acquaint ourselves with the object in view, viz., swarāj, I am afraid we, thirty crores of people, will become extinct. The people of Maharashtra must have some recollection of swarāj, because a century ago you represented it. Swarāj is life, it is nectar and salvation. Swarāj in a nation is the breath of life. Without breath of life a man is dead. So also without swarāj a nation is dead. Swarāj being the life of a nation it is essential for it. History shows the fate of nations without swarāj. In ancient times the Romans had extended their sovereignty over many countries as England has done at present, and under their sovereignty the people of other countries enjoyed as we are now enjoying all the comforts of a peaceful reign. Their lives and properties were all secure as ours are, but in spite of all this, it was said that the people under the sway of the Roman Empire came to grief with its downfall, and were harassed by savage people. The reason is they had no swarāj. After a lapse of centuries they stood on their own legs and established for themselves swarāj and became happy. It is for this reason that swarāj is essentially needed, and is to be gained by our own exertions. If it is gained otherwise, which is impossible, it cannot last long for want of strength in us. One way of gaining it is to implore the sovereign, who holds our realm, but he won't give it. Unfortunately there still exists a party of men who still cling to the idea that we shall obtain swarāj by asking for it, which is to be regretted. This party thinks that we are not capable of managing our own affairs, that we are being trained in that direction and that our benign English Government will extend swarāj to us by degrees. But they do not understand that it is against human nature Indians excepted. The English value the importance of India. Its possession gives them status. If they once allow India to slip from their grasp, they will become a non-entity. Under such circumstances it is silly to say that the English will train us and entrust us with swarāj. By reposing confidence in the English people we are already reduced to a miserable condition and in the end will become extinct. Another way of obtaining swarāj is to seek aid from a neighbouring nation. But this means jumping from the frying-pan into the fire. No matter from whom we seek assistance their own interests will first be considered. We should, therefore, acquire it by our own efforts. The question, therefore, arises as to how we should do it. We do not possess swarāj nor have we the power to retain it. The answer is we cannot master the art of swimming unless we struggle in the water. We should, therefore, be prepared to undergo hardships in the struggle for swarāj, as there is no other alternative. We want swarāj which means independence, but independence cannot be had unless we are independent. As God created us independent we should be full of inspirations. With full faith in God we should preach independence through the length and breadth of the country and a beginning should be made to impart national education. The English erred in the beginning in spreading their education, which they now regret, and on this account Lord Curzon adopted a new policy. People should take into their own hands judicial and executive work. They should get their disputes settled by arbitration. Look at the change which has been wrought during the past two years by the Swadeshi movement and boycott. With these two measures we are bound to obtain good results. We, Bengalis, have adopted all these measures and have been successful. If these measures are universally adopted, we shall have more than half of swarāj in our hands. The opposition will not sleep over it. It's all known in England. Our idea of the struggle for swarāj is that it is the commandment of God, which we must obey. To oppose it is not in our power. [That] Bengalis inspired with this idea do not fear fine, incarceration, deportation or the extreme penalty of the law, is a well-known fact. If a Bengali lad is punished in connection with the Swadeshi movement, he smiles and says it does not matter much; we have gone another step in the direction of our goal. Oh8, inhabitants of Maharashtra, since you and Bengalis are stirring to attain one end and as we are all sons of Aryabhumi, let us all jointly set ourselves to the task of bringing about a state of things in accordance with the commandment of God. We, Bengalis, depend upon you, because the sons of Maharashtra were brave soldiers a short while ago. You enjoyed swarāj when you were harassed by Muhammadans9. A similar commandment was conveyed to you through Tukaram, Ramdas and others, and in obedience to this commandment all Marathas joined. Shivaji, the warrior, came from you, and swarāj was established in Maharashtra. The poor were rescued from molestation by the wicked and the country prospered. The present state of affairs is similar. The present agitation is not the creation of man. It is Divine inspiration. It is the commandment of God. Human beings are the instruments to carry it out. There must be unity among us and we are being10 united. If we, thirty crores of people, unite with a firm resolution for the sake of truth, the commandment of God and His will will be done and the foe will share the fate of the mountain of ashes which disappeared with a strong current of wind. We are all God's creatures, and if all from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin) are brought together, it will be seen that our country is just as big as it is described in our kaas11. If we, imbued with this idea, become united with a firm resolution to obey the commandment of God, I feel sure we shall gain our swarāj in twenty years. It won't take centuries as our enemies, the Anglo-Indians, imagine, nor will it take half a century as predicted by our Moderates. We, the Bengalis, whom the English consider effeminate, have commenced our work and we shall, by the grace of God, prove ourselves to be the sons of brave men in the eyes of the world.

Babu Arabindo Ghose at Nasik

On Saturday night Sjt. Babu Arvindo Ghose gave a lecture on swarāj, Mr. Baba Saheb Khare being in the chair. Before the lecture an address was presented to Babu Arvindo Ghose by Mr. Daji Saheb Ketkar. The lecturer then rose amidst shouts of Bande Mataram and began his lecture. He said : I was known to you rather as a writer than a speaker. But lately I was compelled to speak at different places at the request of my countrymen. I did not intend to speak on a particular subject, but as some of you had expressed a desire that I should speak on swarāj, I begin with swarāj, but I do not know where I shall end. The word swarāj is now-a-days being freely made use of in all our political activities. Our revered countryman Mr. Dadabhoy Naoroji declared from his presidential chair of the Calcutta Congress of 1906 that swarāj was the goal of all our political movements. Attempts are made to explain the word swarāj but I would rather use the word itself. The word swarāj is not new to us. In our Vendanta philosophy the word swarāj means mukti or salvation. The soul when it is free from all worldly temptations is said to have gained swarāj or mukti. Then the soul is completely free and lives by itself and for itself. That is the meaning of swarāj. The people in Maharashtra know what is swarāj because they actually enjoyed it a century or two ago. Swarāj is the life and soul. As life is to the body so is swarāj to a nation. No nation can be said to be living without swarāj. Swarāj cannot be given by others; it cannot be obtained by begging for it. It must be acquired by one's own efforts. It is foolish to expect that others will give us swarāj. We cannot rely upon others for swarāj but on ourselves. History conclusively proves this. The next question is how to obtain swarāj. First of all we must make our minds free and act like free men. We must have faith in God and educate our countrymen in the path of liberty. We can have swarāj in education by having recourse to National Education. Our rulers are now attempting to curtail education. Lord Curzon has done it. The work of educating our children must be taken up by us. We can have swarāj in trade by recourse to Swadeshi and Boycott. We can have swarāj in private disputes by referring them to our own Arbitration Courts. Do not suppose that our enemies will sit silent all the while. They will attempt to trample down our aspirations. Repression has already begun in Bengal, and you know how your brethren in Bengal have suffered and are suffering in Nation's cause. But remember that no human agency could set the whole nation of India into motion in a short space of a year or two. Rest assured that Divine power is working for the regeneration of India, and no human agency or power can stop it. Have firm faith in yourselves. Remember that divine flame is burning within you. Set your eyes on the goal of swarāj and move on and on with firmness and confidence. Difficulties will arise and will be created, but you will have the strength to surmount them and ultimately reach the goal.

Sjt. Arabindo addressed the audience for nearly an hour and a half and held it spellbound. His address was full of inspiration and thorough confidence in the will of God. Mr. Pradhan then gave a substance of the speech in Marathi. The president having addressed the meeting, the proceedings terminated with a vote of thanks to the lecturer amidst shouts of Bande Mataram.

 

Later edition of this work: Sri Aurobindo. Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 // The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo: Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 On his way home from the Sural Congress, Sri Aurobindo spoke at several places in Maharashtra at the instance of local leaders. Two reports are given here of a speech he delivered in Nasik on 24 January 1908. In the first, which is from a secret police intelligence report, the words of the speech have been translated from the original English into Marathi. Text published in Marathi translation in the Nasik Vritta the next day. Retranslated into English and included in the Bombay Presidency Police Abstract of Intelligence, this text thus should evidently not be taken as the exact words used by Sri Aurobindo.

The second report was published as a letter to the editor of the Mahratta, an English-language newspaper of Poona, on 2 February 1908. The date given. “Saturday night”, seems to be in error, as Saturday was 25 January. The frontispiece photograph was taken at Amraoti less than a week after this speech was delivered.

Marathi-knowing readers may be interested to learn that translations of six of Sri Aurobindo's speeches, including the Nasik Speech, were printed in the Sanjivan, a quarterly published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in 1962 and 1963 (Vol. 13, No. 3 to Vol. 15, No. 1)

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2 Betel leaf and nut.

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3 A line of the printed report has apparently been left out here.

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4 The name of the newspaper of Nasik referred to in the introduction to Nasik Speech is probably Warta (“News”) and not Wrata, as printed in the police report from which the speech was taken.

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

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

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

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8 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: O

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9 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Mahomedans

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10 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: getting

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11 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: kavyas.

The meaning of this word is not known. It may be a typographical error. In another Marathi report the phrase in question reads, in our translation: “as described in the Veda”. Also “Kaas” may be a misprint for Kavyas (“poems”, i.e. the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Puranas etc.). Perhaps the “vy” dropped off accidentally at the police press.

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