Sixty years ago on 5 December 1950 at 1.26 a.m., Sri Aurobindo had left His physical body.
We take this opportunity of sharing with you the reminiscences of Dr. Nirodbaran, Udar Pinto and Dr. Prabhat Sanyal about the last day and hours of Sri Aurobindo’s earthly life as well as some photographs of the His Mahasamadhi.
‘On the next day [4th December 1950], he [Sri Aurobindo] emerged from the depth and wanted to sit up. In spite of our objection, he strongly insisted. We noticed after a while that all the distressing breathing symptoms had magically vanished and he looked his normal self…Then he moved to the chair. We boldly asked him now, “Are you not using your force to cure yourself?” “No!” came the stunning reply. We could not believe our ears; to be quite sure, we repeated the question. No mistake! Then we asked, “Why not? How is the disease going to be cured otherwise?” “Can’t explain; you won’t understand,” was the curt reply. We were dumfounded…Since the midday the symptoms were on the increase, particularly the breathing difficulty; urine output definitely diminished. That was an alarming signal. We decided to make a thorough blood analysis. Sri Aurobindo consented after a great deal of reluctance…It was a Sunday; the General Hospital was closed. Dr. Nripendra and I hunted out the laboratory assistant; he took some blood from Sri Aurobindo imperceptible vein. The punctures were painful to the sensitive body which was getting transformed. The result of the examination staggered us. All the signs of imminent kidney failure and nothing to be done! As a last resort we had to give some drugs. He was now always indrawn, and only woke up whenever he was called for a drink. That confirmed the Mother’s observation that he was fully conscious within and disproved the idea that he was in uraemic coma. Throughout the entire course of the illness he was never unconscious.
‘By 5 p.m. there was a respite and he called for the commode. In view of the distress, we requested him not to move out of the bed, but he firmly insisted. He knew evidently what he was doing while we always looked through our medical glasses. There was a thorough purposive clearance of the bowels though he had taken very little food for many days. He then walked to the big cushion chair; again a self of calm repose. Alas, but for a brief instant. The respiratory distress returned with redoubled force. He went to his bed and plunged deep within himself. It was during this period that he often came out of the trance, and each time leaned forward, hugged and kissed Champaklal who was sitting by the side of his bed. Champaklal also hugged him in return…We knew that Champaklal particularly longed for some tender outward expression. But Sri Aurobindo’s impersonal nature kept at bay all personal touched except during our birthday or Darshan pranams when he would pat and caress our heads. Now Champaklal had his heart’s yearning gratified to the full extent.
‘…the Mother returned from the Playground after her usual attendance in the evening…On returning to Sri Aurobindo she laid her garland at his feet and stood and watched him. She again remarked, “He is withdrawing himself.” At 11 p.m. she helped him take a drink. At midnight she came again. This time he opened his eyes and the two looked at each other in a steady gaze. We were the silent spectators of that crucial scene. What passed between them was beyond our mortal ken, but Sri Aurobindo’s look seemed to bear a touch of unusual softness. At 1 a.m. she came back, her face was calm, there was no trace of emotion. Sri Aurobindo was indrawn. The Mother asked Sanyal in a quiet tone, “What do you think? May I retire for an hour?…Call me when the time comes.”…
‘About ten minutes before the grand end, he [Sri Aurobindo] called me by my name from his indrawn state, inquired about the time and said, “Nirod, give me a drink.” This was his deliberate last gesture. The quantity he drank was very small and there was no apparent need of calling me by name…After this utterance, followed the final plunge. At 1.26 a.m., leaving his physical sheath, “the Colonist from Immortality” departed from the earthly habitation, in the presence of the Mother who stood near his feet with an intense penetrating gaze, an incarnation of divine strength, poise and calm.’
‘In spite of all medical treatment, there was no improvement in Sri Aurobindo’s physical condition and it became worse from day to day till He came to a state when oxygen had to be administered. I was asked to arrange for it.
‘It was not available in Pondicherry and had to be obtained from Cuddalore…Mr. R.K. Tandon…the Indian Consul General at Pondicherry…sent me to Cuddalore in his own car to get the oxygen equipment. When I brought it, I was shown how to work it also. Hence, when I took it to Sri Aurobindo’s room it was understood that I would be sent for if and when the equipment was needed.
‘It was about 10:00 on the night of 4th December 1950 that I got a call to go to Sri Aurobindo’s room to work the oxygen equipment. I went at once and so I was present throughout the night, that fateful night when Sri Aurobindo left His physical body, and I was a witness to His last moments on earth.
‘Mother said that She would retire for the short rest of two hours or so that She used to take each night. She said to Dyuman that She should be called if there was any sudden deterioration in His condition. He continued to be in a comatose state from which, I understand, one does not come out as it precedes the final moment of death.
‘But at about 1 a.m. Sri Aurobindo suddenly came out of this condition and asked Nirod the time. Nirod told Him the time and gave Him a drink, then He went back into His previous condition, which I then understood to be that of a deep meditation and not a coma which, I think, is a state of unconsciousness.
‘Then Dr. Sanyal said that it was better to call the Mother. Dyuman went to Her room and called Her. She came in a few moments and stood again by the side of Sri Aurobindo’s bed. After a while Sri Aurobindo woke up once more and asked Nirod to give him something to drink. Then He sank back. At 1:26 a.m. His breathing ceased. Everyone and everything was completely still and silent. The Mother was like a rock of strength.’
‘December 4th—at dawn His temperature had dropped to 99 degrees. The respiratory distress was negligible and He seemed bright and responsive.
‘The morning duties were over and we settled Him in His usual sitting position. There He sat majestic and serene. At about 9 a.m., The Mother came and helped Him to take a light breakfast. As She walked into the ante-room, the room used for our consultations, I smiled to Her and said; “The Master seems cheerful again and taking interest.” The only answer She made was “Mmm” and then went out of the room.
‘I settled by the side of the bed and gently massaged the Master’s body while Nirod and Champaklal were attending to their duties. After a little while He opened His eyes and asked the time. I told Him 10 o’clock, I saw He was in a mood to talk so I ventured: “How do you feel?” He replied, “I am comfortable.” There was a pause; He looked at the clock and then asked how Bengal was faring, especially the refugees. I narrated to Him their pitiable plight and implored: “Surely the Divine can help them?” My Lord answered, “Yes, if Bengal seeks the Divine.” He closed His eyes and went into silence (samadhi).
‘But alas, it was only a brief lull—a belied hope. From midday the respiratory difficulty reappeared with greater amplitude and the temperature went up to 102 degrees. This time signs of distress could be seen in the face but there was not a word, not a protest.
‘The Mother came about 1 p.m. She watched for some time before entering the adjoining room with me. Then She said, “He is withdrawing.”
‘Though He looked apparently unconscious, whenever He was offered drinks, He would wake up and take a few sips and wipe His mouth himself with His handkerchief. To all of us it seemed apparent that a consciousness came from outside when He was almost normal, and then withdrew when the body quivered and sank down in distress. He was no longer there!
‘By 5 O’clock again He showed signs of improvement. He was quite responsive. We helped Him out of His bed. After which He walked to the armchair to rest. For the moment He seemed a different personality. He sat there with His eyes closed—calm and composed with a radiating consciousness. We remarked on the majestic beauty of His form as He sat there; such calm and beatitude brought to my mind the Vedic Rishis. But this did not last long. After three quarters of an hour He became restless and wanted to be back in bed. Respiratory distress appeared with redoubled momentum. From midday onwards the urine output which had been good all these days definitely diminished and the distress was very prominent. Though He seemed to be unconscious He was not, which was evident by the fact that He drew Champaklal several times to His breast and kissed him lovingly and this Divine compassionate embrace was extended to Nirod and myself. It may be mentioned that this emotional behaviour was evident here for the first time; but He had taken nothing to drink the whole day.
‘The Mother came back after Her usual attendance at the playground. She laid her garland at the foot of the bed, a thing which She does daily, and stood watching Sri Aurobindo. She looked so grave and quiet that it almost distressed me. I went to the ante-room to wait for Her. She entered and I gave Her the report and told Her that Glucose had been given by Satya and we wanted to arrange for intravenous infusions etc. She said quietly and firmly, “I told you this is not necessary, He has no interest in Himself, He is withdrawing.”
‘We sat round His bed, wondering why He was losing interest in Himself; He, if He so desired, could certainly cure Himself as He had done on so many other occasions,—Nirod has seen Him curing the illnesses of others. But now at this crucial hour He had no interest in Himself! Was He going to sacrifice Himself?
‘At about 11 p.m. the Mother came into the room and helped Sri Aurobindo to drink half a cup of tomato juice. A strange phenomenon—a body which for the moment is in agony, unresponsive, labouring hard for breath, suddenly becomes quiet; a consciousness enters the body, He is awake and normal He finishes the drink, then, as the consciousness withdraws, the body lapses back into the grip of agony.
‘At midnight the Mother came again into the room, looked intently for some time as if there was a silent exchange of thought between them; then She left.
‘At 1 a.m. (5th) She returned and again looked at the Lord and stood at the foot of the bed. There was no sign of agony, fear, or anxiety on Her face. Not a thought, not a feeling could I fathom in Her expression. With Her eyes She asked me to go into the other room and She followed me in. She asked, “What do; you think? Can I retire for one hour?” This is a significant hour: The Mother retires—Her consciousness leaves Her body, none are to call or enter Her room then. This is imperative.—I murmured, “Mother, this is beyond me.” She said, “Call me when the time comes.”
‘I stood behind the Master and started stroking His hair which He always liked. Nirod and Champaklal sat by the side of the bed and were caressing His feet. We were all quietly watching Him. We now, knew that anything might happen, any time, only a miracle could save us and the world. I perceived a slight quiver in His body, almost imperceptible. He drew up His arms and put them on His chest, one overlapping the other—then all stopped. Death, the cruel death that was waiting so long—we had been keeping vigil for it—had descended on our Lord. I told Nirod to go and fetch the Mother.
‘It was 1-20 a.m.
‘Almost immediately the Mother entered the room. She stood there, near the feet of Sri Aurobindo: Her hair had been undressed and was flowing about Her shoulders. Her look: was so fierce that I could not face those eyes. With a piercing gaze She stood there. Champaklal could not bear it and sobbingly he implored, “Mother, tell me Dr. Sanyal is not right, He is alive.” The Mother looked at him and he became quiet and composed as if touched by a magic wand. She stood there for more than half an hour. My hands were still on His forehead.’