Sri Aurobindo had started working on his epic poem Savitri in August 1916 and continued to revise and enlarge it till November 1950. In its earliest form, the poem was a narrative of about two thousand lines and by the time the ‘seal of incomplete completion’ (to quote the words of Nirodbaran, Sri Aurobindo’s scribe to whom he had dictated his revisions of Savitri) was put to it, it consisted of nearly twenty-four thousand lines of marvellous poetry.
For the benefit of interested researchers, some facsimiles of the various drafts of Savitri (obtained courtesy Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry and Dr. R. Y. Deshpande) covering a period of three decades have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
The second version of the poem was titled Savithri, A Tale and a Vision. ‘Apparently it was meant to be in more than one part, because before Book I, we have the general title: Earth. Book I is called Quest.’ (Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, p. 174, 1995 edition)
Nirodbaran continues: ‘The third version is also called by the same general name and its first part is Earth, and Book I is Quest… In the fourth version we get for the first time the spelling Savitri though Uswapathy persists. There is no indication of a division into Part I and Part II. Book I is there, called Quest. In the fifth version we have a mention of Part I, but it is not called by any name. We also have Book I, unnamed…The spelling Uswapathy persists, Book II is entitled Love. In the sixth version there are no parts again, but the Book I is called Quest. The seventh version has: I Quest… In the eighth version we have everything as in the seventh except that the spelling Aswapathy comes in. Book II is there entitled Love.’ (Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, pp. 174-176, 1995 edition)
Facsimiles of Book I, Quest (late 1920s)
Nirodbaran continues: ‘The ninth version has the same opening arrangement. The tenth version stands: Savitri Part I, Earth. Book I, The Book of Birth. Aswapathy continues, but there is now Sathyavan.’ (Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, p. 176, 1995 edition)
Nirodbaran further continues: ‘In each succeeding version after the first, there is a growing expansion in which old lines are taken up into a new framework. The development into separate Books from what was originally all contained within Book I and Book II takes place after the second or third version of the opening matter. This matter now becomes The Book of Quest, followed by The Book of Love, The Book of Fate, The Book of Death. Thus Part I, Earth, is completed. Then starts Part II, Beyond, with The Books of Night, Twilight, Day and The Epilogue.’ (Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, p. 176, 1995 edition)