Sri Aurobindo’s Earliest Draft of Savitri (1916)

Dear Friends,

Sri Aurobindo had started working on the earliest draft of Savitri in August 1916. Nirodbaran, who has portrayed how Savitri reached its final form in his Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, writes about this draft:

“The draft exists in two sections. The first comprising Book I and a few pages of Book II… Book I is complete, Book II unfinished. The spelling of the three chief characters is: Savithri, Uswapathy, Suthyavan. In the first Book, after a short description of Night and Dawn, there is a very brief account of the Yoga done by Uswapathy, then Savithri is born, grows up and goes out, at Uswapathy’s prompting, to find her mate. She finds Suthyavan. In the meantime Narad comes down to earth and visits Uswapathy’s palace. There is a talk between the two; Savithri returns from her quest and discovery, and a talk takes place among the three.” (pp. 173-174, 1995 edition)

We are happy to announce that Overman Foundation has received permission from Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to publish the earliest draft of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri in its online forum. We are extremely grateful to Shri Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, for giving us the said permission.

The first installment of the earliest draft of Savitri has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.





In a huge forest where the listening Night

Heard lonely voices and in the large hush

Was conscious of the sigh and tread of things

That have no sound for the rich heart of day,—

For now her phantom tribes were not abroad,

The panther’s eyes glared not, the tiger slept

Prone in his lair of jungle or deep grass,—

Startling the wide-browed dreamer Dawn arose.

Lain in her darker thoughtful sister’s robe

She pushed away the loving cloak that sealed

To rest her brilliant and imperious eyes

And waved the dim kind guardian from her side.

Raised were the wonderful lids that open heaven.

Vague for a while with sleep lightened her gaze.

Smiling the ever-youthful goddess rose,

Voluptuous in a purity divine,

Cast free her drifting robe of magic light,

And pressed her rosy fingers delicately

Upon the flushed cheek of the pallid world.

Flocking upon the ruddy verge her locks

Made splendid clots of morning gold, wind-lifted

To enrich the hues of space; and lucid limbs

Of secret spiritual beauty formed

Glimmered divinity through every veil.

Once she half-looked behind for her great sun,

Then thoughtful turned to her immortal work.

And Sâvithrî woke also in a world

That opened joyful eyes to life again

And rapturous heard the voices and the stir

Of morning. Not to joy she rose; for fear

Awoke with her and trembled at the dawn.

Sighing she laid her hand upon her bosom,

Nor knew why the close lingering ache was there,

So quiet, so old, so natural to its place,

Till memory came opening like a bud

Her strong sleep-shrouded soul. She gazed within

And saw the dumb white statue of pain erect

Within its temple waiting like a god

Daily oblation of her unwept tears.

Then all the cruelty of thought returned,

And lifting up wide beautiful heavy eyes

She gazed upon the bright and careless Dawn.

This was the day when Suthyavân must die.


Daughter of silence, Sâvithrî: her birth

Was like a glorious dawn long planned in heaven,

By obscure earth resisted long. Three years

Her father lived in vigils and in fasts

Like a still mind that gathers in its rays,

Hushing the waves of sense to a wide sleep.

Forced to look upward through its transient veils

Life in his members sank controlled and awed

By the strong gaze of immortality.

He dwelt among the hastening multitudes

Companioned only by his wide-winged spirit

Seated within in an eternal calm.

Plunged from this fretful surface into depths

Of being where the thought sinks large and pale

Like a tired god into mysterious seas,

Repressing speech and wasteful act he held

Man’s hidden strength safe from life’s troubled hands

And Nature motionless in a silent soul.

Thus all himself he made an offering pure

Held up by silence priestlike to the skies

And cast it at the burning Mother’s feet—

Heart of truth’s mighty musings in far heavens

On things withdrawn, immortal Sâvithrî,

The goddess born of sacrificial fire

Who rises chanting from an unseen sun

So rose she upon seven flaming tongues,

Uplifted the world’s vast rhythms in her limbs,

A body of music and an anthemed voice

Heard in the spaces that become the soul

Of God-rapt listeners. “Ask,” she cried, “the hope

For the blind light that strives concealed on earth

With death and the original darkness; I give

For earth, to help the patient mother’s life.

That to enlarge and with divine attempt

Amply new-sky, planting a tent of God

In desert space thy immortal kind was born.”

He asked for children beautiful and bold,

Eyed like the dawn and rapid like the seas,

Wise as the Flame that broods within the world.

“A flower from its burning heart profound,

In one I give thee all,” the Word replied,

“I give thee more than all that thou hast prayed,

Ray of my suns, a daughter. The ages dumb

Intended long her fiery birth.” She hushed,

Music that ceases in the ear of trance

Casting eternal cadences behind,

And vanished into her intenser skies

As disappears a flame in endless light,

Immortally extinguished. Then released

His soul drew back into the speed and noise

Of the vast business of created things

Out of its rapt abysm. He resumed

His burden and was strong for daily deeds,

Wise with the thoughts that skim the fathomless surge

Of Nature and wing back to hidden shores.


Now turned the year upon its cycle sweet

And the cool happy winter ceased in spring

Rich with the instinct of God’s sensuous love

Revealed in beauty. Over all the land

The proud asoca bloomed in crimson fire,

The kingshook blushed upon her bridal boughs,

The mango-blossom fed the liquid voice

Of the love-maddened cuckoo and the bee

Murmured in fragrance. Then a child was born

Who looked upon the world with tranquil eyes.

They named her Sâvithrî because her birth

Sprang from that power. They said, “A flame is born

Of sacrifice, a silence in the noise

Of earthly things reveals the secret Thought,

Love armed with strength comes down to help the world.”

Reared sweetly by her father’s bright-eyed queens

She grew like a young tree in silent bliss

Self-gathered that receives the shocks of earth

With wordless passion. Bathed in another light,

Firm, quivering inwardly with mystic rain,

Proud of the ravishing storm’s immense assault

The tree in other calms and tempests lives.

The shadowy touches of these outward things

It only knows as shapes of powers within.

Through a soft quiet joy her childhood moved

Like a small bird that with rich-coloured breast

Sings to himself upon a pleasant bough.

Escaping from this sweet serious bud a strong

And radiant woman flowered. Deep slumbrous fire

Was in the long-fringed glories of her eyes,

Behind her brows there sat a noble soul

Of vision that looked forth on earth through light

And like a nectarous moon her passionate heart

Loved all and spoke no word. Thus as she grew

Like a young palm-tree lonely by a lake,

Her name was heard upon the wondering earth,

The sons of kings beheld her from afar.

But none dared seize her glory; all forbore

To embrace a flame too searching for clay-bound hearts

Earth fashions for her daily uses small.

Sealed up in vessels of a coarser make

By brief-lived duller warmths inured, they shrink

From souls too swift and great; only they bear

The trivial grosser touches of the world,

Seize not its hidden fearless energies,

Clasp not its raptures that desire the strong.

Therefore the gods are few in mortal forms.

(To be continued)

8 Replies to “Sri Aurobindo’s Earliest Draft of Savitri (1916)

  1. What a grandiose beginning, anticipating and revealing the glorious future of the poem!
    dhanya! dhanya!

  2. Anurag,
    No words of praise can be too high for this rare treasure which you have brought to light. Keep up the good work,

    Many good wishes

  3. Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna’s notes on the aforesaid lines of “Savitri”:

    • There are some variants: line 20, “red-lined heavens” for “ruddy verge”—lines 22-23, “her limbs/Of luminous spiritual beauty” for “and lucid limbs/Of secret spiritual beauty”. Two lines, possible alternatives or perhaps additions somewhere, are found on one of the back-pages of the grayish green exercise book:

    Softly she leaned across the brightening verge stepped upon


    Delicate pearl-lustres widened in the east
    Faint warm pearl-lustres delicate in the east

    • Line 45 originally had “beautiful hope” for “glorious dawn”. Pencilled above “dawn” is the alternative: “thing”.

    • In line 59 “wasteful” substituted the earlier “useless”, and above it the alternative “trivial” has been added.

    • In line 73 “Take” is pencilled above “Ask”. A puzzling, somewhat unmetrical phrase appears in the margin before line 75: it seems to read—“For what Nature within sought her depths. I give.” Line 78 has “ensphere” as variant for “new-sky”, which shows that “new-sky” is used as a verb like the earlies “enlarge”. It is uncertain whether the goddess Sâvithrî’s speech, lines 73-79, has been correctly reconstructed from the various revisions. The very first version ran:

    “Ask,” she cried, “a boon.
    Ask for all heaven that strives with death long, ask
    For earth to help the patient mother’s life
    Whom to uplift man and the gods were born.”

    Sâvithrî’s second speech, lines 83-87, cannot also be quite for vouched for. Originally it stood:

    “In one I give thee all,” the Word replied,
    “And more than all, a daughter. The ages old
    Intended long her fiery birth.”

    A possible alternative to lines 88-89 seems to be:

    Like a wild music brought to men in trance,
    Heard tremblingly, then suddenly stolen away.

    In that case, “She”, which is one of the cancelled beginnings of the next line, would have to come in.

    • Line 144 has a possible alternative “seek out” for “desire”.

  4. Now your blog’s — “secret spiritual beauty (is) formed

    Glimmer(ing) divinity through every veil”–It was “Within its temple

    waiting like a god”–“Voluptuous in a purity divine,”–“released

    His(Blog’s) soul drew back into the speed and noise

    Of the vast business of created things

    Out of its rapt abysm. He(Blog) resumed

    His burden and was strong for daily deeds,

    Wise with the thoughts that skim the fathomless surge

    Of Nature and wing back to hidden shores.”


    Amit da.

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