Time makes us forget many things of the past. But when we look at the photographs of the bygone eras, a flood of old but sweet memories come back to us. There were several interesting and popular personalities in Sri Aurobindo Ashram about whom the present generation knows very little. Some photographs of three Ashram Legends—Tejendranath Mukherjee, Ambalal Patel alias Ambu and Biren Chunder—who were loved and respected by one and all have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation along with their brief biographies.
With warm regards,
Tejendranath Mukherjee (24.6.1909—May 1989) was the eldest son of the revolutionary leader Bagha Jatin or Jatindranath Mukherjee (1879—1915) whom Sri Aurobindo considered his right-hand man. He was closely associated with the Anushilam Samiti of Kolkata and established active revolutionary centres in Nadia, Jessore and other districts of undivided Bengal. Influenced by Bhupendra Kumar Dutta, he joined the Jugantar party quite early in life. A staunch supporter of Dr. Syamaprasad Mookerji, he founded the Sanatana Dharma Parishad, served it as the Secretary and also re-launched the journal titled “Sarathi” (which was originally established by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das with Anilbaran Roy as the Editor). On 15 August 1947 Tejendranath and his wife Usha Rani had their first darshan of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo had sent Rajani Palit, a senior inmate of the Ashram, to the Railway Station to receive Tejendranath. A year later, Tejendranath revisited Pondicherry with his wife and three sons Rathindranath, Prithwindranath and Dhritindranath (alias Togo). Usha Rani and her children were accepted by the Mother as inmates in October 1948. A year later, Tejendranath resigned from his job in Calcutta Corporation and joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram as an inmate where he spent the rest of his life. The Mother entrusted him with the task of blossoming the creative and artistic sides of the Ashram children who, and others, lovingly addressed him as “Borda” (meaning eldest brother in Bengali).
Photograph taken on 24 June 1949 at Dilip Kumar Roy’s residence in Pondicherry on the occasion of Tejendranath Mukherjee’s birthday. Seated in the first row (from left to right): Noren Singh, Nishikanto Roychowdhury, Tejendranath Mukherjee and Nirmal Singh. Second row: Panu Sarkar, Madan Bose, Dhir Singh, Ashok Patel, Unknown and Manju Gupta. Third row: Sisir Kumar Mitra, Nirodbaran Talukdar, Venkatraman and Yogananda. Standing: Satya Bose, Kashikanta, Jyotin Das, Sitaraman, Bir Singh, Chinu Mukherjee, Bhaskar Mitra and Rajen Ganguly.
Ambalal Patel (14.6.1909—18.4.1993), better known as Ambu, was born at Sojitra in Gujarat. He studied up to Class III and was compelled to discontinue his studies because of his poor eyesight. He joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 29 May 1928 at the age of seventeen. He worked in the Ashram Granary, Box-making Department, Dining Room, Garden Service and the Mother’s Kitchen. He also looked after the sick or invalid members of the Ashram and attended to the foreign disciples who visited the Ashram. He is best known as the master-instructor of asanas, especially hatha-yoga. The Mother addressed his as ‘My Baby’.
Biren Chunder (10.4.1915—17.3.1997) was a well-known boxer of Bengal who became an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 11 August 1945. He was in charge of the Body Building Gym and later of the New Bindery. The messages that the Mother wrote in his diary from 1 April to 31 December 1954 were later published as Mantras of the Mother. He is best remembered for his physiotherapies which cured many people.
Photographs courtesy: Gauri Pinto, Anshuman Bose, Benimadhav Mohanty, Anurag Banerjee and the late Dhritindranath Mukherjee alias Togo.