The Aurobindonian community lost a bright jewel with the passing away of Pratijna Devi on Wednesday, 3rd October 2018. Confined to her bed in the Nursing Home of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, for almost three years, her end came at 8.30 p.m.
Born in 1938, Pratijna Devi hailed from a royal family. She was the daughter of Raja Narayan Birabara Samant and Rani Ratnamali Jema of Kujang situated in the district of Jagatsinghpur in Odisha. Raja Narayan Birabara Samant was a freedom fighter who also went on to become a Member of the Legislative Assembly after India gained her freedom from British rule.
A meritorious student since the beginning of her life, Pratijna Devi obtained her Master of Arts Degree in Psychology from the prestigious Ravenshaw College. She was married to Padmashri Manoj Das, the living legend of Odia and English literature. It was with her husband and some of her relatives that she visited Pondicherry for the first time in February 1963 and had the Darshan of the Mother on 21st February. This Darshan of the Mother — on the occasion of Her eighty-fifth Birthday — not only cast a profound impact on Manoj Das but also on Pratijna Devi. A day after the Darshan, Manoj Das told Pratijna Devi that he had never experienced such a profound spiritual atmosphere which was prevalent at Pondicherry and that some day, if possible, he would like to stay on at Pondicherry. Pratijna Devi, who had a spiritual leaning since her childhood and was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, replied: “If one day, then why not today?” The young couple wrote to the Mother separately seeking Her permission to join Sri Aurobindo Ashram. They were formally accepted as inmates three days later on 27 February, that is, on the 29th birthday of Manoj Das.
In the initial days, Pratijna Devi was not provided with any specific responsibility in the Ashram. Afterwards she was put in charge of “Home of Progress”, a dormitory for the students who studied in the Ashram School, along with Manoj Das. Pratijna Devi also taught Psychology and Odia literature to the students of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry for several decades.
The literary world knows how invaluable Manoj Das’ contribution has been in the field of literature. Pratijna Devi too had made a mark for herself as a prolific writer. She not only wrote exquisite short stories under the pen-names of “Sabyasachi” and “Falguni” but also translated several works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother into Odia. Thus, she introduced a large number of readers and prospective devotees to the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. She also contributed significantly to the publication of Jahna mamu, the Odia version of Chandamama, the popular children magazine.
Pratijna Devi was a unique sadhika. After joining the Ashram, she never went out of Pondicherry; not even when her parents passed away. No invitation — however significant they were — could tempt her to step out of Pondicherry in the fifty-five years that she spent as an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The Ashram was her home, her world and its inhabitants her real family. She was such a perfect host that few could match up to her art of hospitality. She was loving, affectionate and indulgent just like a mother. Even street dogs were beneficiaries of her unearthly affection.
Pratijna Devi was like a priceless gem whose radiance touched and transformed hearts. She would certainly be missed by one and all.
With warm regards,
Shri Manoj Das with the late Pratijna Devi.