Nishikanto’s portrait of Sri Aurobindo.

Dear Friends,

Nishikanto Roychowdhury (24.3.1909—20.5.1973) was the greatest Bengali poet of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Having received his early education at Santiniketan where he enjoyed the love and affection of Rabindranath Tagore he arrived at Pondicherry in 1934. He befriended Dilip Kumar Roy and wrote lyrics for many of his memorable songs. Sri Aurobindo was quite fond of his poetry and had called him a “Brahmaputra of Inspiration”. His anthologies of poetry include titles like Diganta, Alakananda, Vaijayanti, Nabadipan, Pachish Pradip, Bhorer Pakhi, Bande Mataram, Shikha-satadal and Lilayan.

Not many people outside the Ashram community are aware of the fact that Nishikanto was a great painter as well. His gurubhai Nirodbaran has recalled: ‘Nishikanto would…sit in half padmasana with his Ganesh-like paunch darkly shinning, half discarding the artificial beauty of the worn dhoti and applying the brush with brooding eyes while the glossy jet-black curls were rhythmically swaying like tender infant snakes around his neck.’

Sri Aurobindo too had remarked about Nishikanto’s paintings: ‘Nishikanto has already his own developed technique and a certain originality of vision—two things which must be there before a man can take the risk as a painter.’

A portrait of Sri Aurobindo drawn by Nishikanto has been uploaded in the online forum of Overman Foundation. The theme of this portrait was inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s poem “The Bird of Fire”.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Nishikanto's portrait of Sri Aurobindo

6 Replies to “Nishikanto’s portrait of Sri Aurobindo.

  1. The reading of the poem which inspired the painting may help us to understand the painting. “Gold-while wings” and “a throb in the vastness” are apparent. Also apparent is “the bird of flame went glimmering over a sunfire”.

    The Bird of Fire

    Gold-white wings a throb in the vastness, the bird of flame went glimmering over a sunfire curve to the haze of the west,

    Skimming, a messenger sail, the sapphire-summer waste of a soundless wayless burning sea.

    Now in the eve of the waning world the colour and splendour returning drift through a blue-flicker air back to my breast,

    Flame and shimmer staining the rapture-white foam-vest of the waters of Eternity.

    Gold-white wings of the miraculous bird of fire, late and slow have you come from the Timeless. Angel, here unto me

    Bringst thou for travailing earth a spirit silent and free or His crimson passion of love divine,–

    White-ray-jar of the spuming rose-red wine drawn from the vats brimming with light-blaze, the vats of ecstasy,

    Pressed by the sudden and violent feet of the Dancer in Time from his sun-grape fruit of a deathless vine?

    White-rose-altar the eternal Silence built, make now my nature wide, an intimate guest of His solitude,

    But golden above it the body of One in Her diamond sphere with Her halo of star-bloom and passion-ray!

    Rich and red is thy breast, O bird, like blood of a soul climbing the hard crag-teeth world, wounded and nude,

    A ruby of flame-petalled love in the silver-gold altar-vase of moon-edged night and rising day.

    O Flame who art Time’s last boon of the sacrifice, offering-flower held by the finite’s gods to the Infinite,

    O marvel bird with the burning wings of light and the unbarred lids that look beyond all space,

    One strange leap of thy mystic stress breaking the barriers of mind and life, arrives at its luminous term thy flight;

    Invading the secret clasp of the Silence and crimson Fire thou frontest eyes in a timeless Face.

    ( Sri Aurobindo Birth Century Library: Set in 30 volumes.- Volume 5.- Collected Poems.)

  2. Very creative painting ! Aryadeep, thank u for the poem to read as we see this work of art. ‘Wings of light n the unbarred lids that look beyondat space’ are beautifully suggested in this artistic creation. Nishikanto da’s poems had an unsurpassing melody, I was told by Amal Kiran, who were close poet friends. Dear Anurag do give us some of his lyrics if possible. By the way, an image not so appealing is the description of the poets dark glossy curls : like tender infant snakes ! Like tender tendrils of a creeper hanging round his neck ! Just a thought ! Thanks for this rare painting Anurag. Great work.

  3. Dear Anurag,

    I enjoy looking now and then again at Nishikanto’s portrait of Sri Aurobindo inspired by the poem Bird of fire. Thanks for putting it on line. I find something new every time I stare at it.
    I would like to know where is the original right now. Can you tell me? Is it with the Studio here?

    Nishikanto, Kobi, as we knew him here, was a born Kobi, dreamer, idealist……….living in his own world of All Creation, able to look at the world transformed with his magical wand,
    a poroshpathor of a kavidrishti, kavi kalpana which was not just kalpane but a promise to realisation.

    Thank you Anurag for this wide vision and the courage and the honesty behind the upload. Carry on, child of the Mother, just carry on. Good Luck.

    With love.


  4. Dear Anurag,

    My friend used to say many things about Nishikanto as he had witnessed him during his last days. He was carried in a strecher as he could not climb the stair case, Mother saw him, he told TheMother to place her feet on his heart. As The Mother did it, his face changed completely.By her grace alone, he could live,& saw Sri Aurobindo’s Centenary birthday. He was a very rare soul, even upto his last breadth of his life, his faith remained like a rock.

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