Time makes us forget many things of the past. But when we look at the photographs of the bygone eras, a flood of old but sweet memories come back to us. There were several interesting and popular personalities in Sri Aurobindo Ashram about whom the present generation knows very little. Some photographs of three Ashram Legends—Tejendranath Mukherjee, Ambalal Patel alias Ambu and Biren Chunder—who were loved and respected by one and all have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation along with their brief biographies.
With warm regards,
Tejendranath Mukherjee (24.6.1909—May 1989) was the eldest son of the revolutionary leader Bagha Jatin or Jatindranath Mukherjee (1879—1915) whom Sri Aurobindo considered his right-hand man. He was closely associated with the Anushilam Samiti of Kolkata and established active revolutionary centres in Nadia, Jessore and other districts of undivided Bengal. Influenced by Bhupendra Kumar Dutta, he joined the Jugantar party quite early in life. A staunch supporter of Dr. Syamaprasad Mookerji, he founded the Sanatana Dharma Parishad, served it as the Secretary and also re-launched the journal titled “Sarathi” (which was originally established by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das with Anilbaran Roy as the Editor). On 15 August 1947 Tejendranath and his wife Usha Rani had their first darshan of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo had sent Rajani Palit, a senior inmate of the Ashram, to the Railway Station to receive Tejendranath. A year later, Tejendranath revisited Pondicherry with his wife and three sons Rathindranath, Prithwindranath and Dhritindranath (alias Togo). Usha Rani and her children were accepted by the Mother as inmates in October 1948. A year later, Tejendranath resigned from his job in Calcutta Corporation and joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram as an inmate where he spent the rest of his life. The Mother entrusted him with the task of blossoming the creative and artistic sides of the Ashram children who, and others, lovingly addressed him as “Borda” (meaning eldest brother in Bengali).
Tejendranath (with his arm raised up) with Mahatma Gandhi
Tejendranath with his wife Usha Rani and three sons Rathindranath, Prithwindranath and Dhritindranath (Togo)
Tejendranath with the Mother, Nolini Kanta Gupta, Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, Udar Pinto and others.
Photograph taken on 24 June 1949 at Dilip Kumar Roy’s residence in Pondicherry on the occasion of Tejendranath Mukherjee’s birthday. Seated in the first row (from left to right): Noren Singh, Nishikanto Roychowdhury, Tejendranath Mukherjee and Nirmal Singh. Second row: Panu Sarkar, Madan Bose, Dhir Singh, Ashok Patel, Unknown and Manju Gupta. Third row: Sisir Kumar Mitra, Nirodbaran Talukdar, Venkatraman and Yogananda. Standing: Satya Bose, Kashikanta, Jyotin Das, Sitaraman, Bir Singh, Chinu Mukherjee, Bhaskar Mitra and Rajen Ganguly.
Tejendranath with Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, Nirmal Banerjee and Tara Jauhar.
Tejendranath with Sunil Bhattacharya and Dr. Nirodbaran Talukdar.
Tejendranath with the youngsters of the Ashram in the Playground.
Tejendranath with the Mother, Udar Pinto, Arun, Chandrakant and Nolini Kanta Gupta.
Ambalal Patel (14.6.1909—18.4.1993), better known as Ambu, was born at Sojitra in Gujarat. He studied up to Class III and was compelled to discontinue his studies because of his poor eyesight. He joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 29 May 1928 at the age of seventeen. He worked in the Ashram Granary, Box-making Department, Dining Room, Garden Service and the Mother’s Kitchen. He also looked after the sick or invalid members of the Ashram and attended to the foreign disciples who visited the Ashram. He is best known as the master-instructor of asanas, especially hatha-yoga. The Mother addressed his as ‘My Baby’.
Ambu with the Mother, Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya and Udar Pinto.
Biren Chunder (10.4.1915—17.3.1997) was a well-known boxer of Bengal who became an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 11 August 1945. He was in charge of the Body Building Gym and later of the New Bindery. The messages that the Mother wrote in his diary from 1 April to 31 December 1954 were later published as Mantras of the Mother. He is best remembered for his physiotherapies which cured many people.
Biren Chunder with the Mother, Noren Singh Nahar, Pavitra, Soli Albless and Gangaram Malwade.
Photographs courtesy: Gauri Pinto, Anshuman Bose, Benimadhav Mohanty, Anurag Banerjee and the late Dhritindranath Mukherjee alias Togo.
28 Replies to “Tejendranath Mukherjee, Ambalal Patel and Biren Chunder: A Pictorial Homage”
Thanks Anuragji, for this wonderful collection.
Mother’s Grace turned these inmates into Her instruments; they formed part of a great puzzle where each one had his/ her destined place. It is our duty to keep their memories alive, as a tribute to the microcosm She had created as a laboratory leading to an ambitious Goal.
I read on Tejendranath Mukherjee’s family but i did not know he was in charge of children, that’s good to know. While reading that i read more
on Pranab Da’s care and love.
In my childhood i have seen my close relative doing the hatha yoga (wondered how they learnt without a teacher), and another one really remaining very conscious of body and even without having money they still were being able to take care of the physical temple. Baba Ramadeoji
now bringing lot of conscious effort for this , he visited ashram as i heard and knowing a great Guru like Gurudeva , he has said nice things i have not read though. Good to know about Biren Chunderji, i did not know.
Actually Drumstick leaves are now superfood , which has many vitamins
, many,many things, reading on the eye sight thing , i felt in villages we
have pumpkins and many vitamin A related food but awareness is important, K.T. ACHAYA has written a good book Your Food and You.
Biren da was our boxing n swimming coach. He also taught me to ride bicycle. During our school days , Biren da would take us for picnics to places around Pondy. I remember such outings to Lal Pahar ( the area where JIPMER ) is now situated as also when Biren da would take us for boating in La Faucher. Happy days remembered with gratitude.
A little story on Birenda. On the 15th of August 1947, Mulshankar was stabbed to Death. Birenda single- handed had caught the culprit. Birenda dragged him , With one hand Around his head ,With the other hand he caught the culprit and draged him several hundred meters. Meanwhile the crowd was beating him, in spite of it he braught him to the Ashram door. Puraniji was there and Said” let him go”. Probably to avoid more trouble with the public. Birenda :A soft hearted man With an iron fist.
Indeed a man with soft heart but a body of steel. Great friend with all children.
Biren Da, flitted like a butterfly and stung like a bee…… He made men out of boys…. Salute to the great man.
My heart felt salute to Birenda
Thank you, I was just thinking of Tejen-da !
Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee on his father Tejendranath:
“My father Tejendra Nath Mukherjee (1909-1989) was the eldest son of the revolutionary leader Bagha Jatin or Jatindra Nath Mukherjee (1879-1915)…Soon, fed up with the erratic Mahatma, Tejendra met Subhas Chandra Bose who held my grandfather in a great esteem. Towards the end of his life, Tejendra was heard regretting the behaviour of the Congress leaders which threw away Netaji out of his orbit, preventing him from serving the Nation with a positive programme. After Netaji’s departure, during the War, Tejendra turned to Sri Aurobindo : considering Bagha Jatin to have been his friend and trusted right-hand man, Sri Aurobindo had kept an eye on the becoming of this family; his sister Sarojini was a good friend of Vinodebala, and they met often.
Having consulted Sri Aurobindo, Tejendra stood by the side of Dr Syamaprasad Mookerji, under the direct leadership of Ashutosh Lahiri, another disciple of Bagha Jatin. Tejendra founded the Sanatana Dharma Parishad and re-issued the militant organ Sarathi, to look after the fate of the Hindus under the Muslim league Government in Bengal. One day, desirous to have Sri Aurobindo’s guidance, Dr Mookerji sent a word through Surendra Mohan Ghose. The Master from Pondicherry replied : “Had Jatin Mukherjee been there, he would have accomplished the needful, before coming to tell me : Look here, Aurobindo, this is what I could do!” In 1951, Dr Mookerji went to Pondicherry and received the Mother’s guidance…
Making use of our parents’ second visit to Pondicherry, we three brothers accompanied them in August 1948. Finding there the Home of our soul, we approached the Mother and received her permission to become inmates of the Ashram. She entrusted Tejendra with the creative task of teen-agers’ artistic blossoming. Side by side, he kept himself busy with several activities: in spite of a difficult soil, he got choice plants sent from Mihijam and grew roses very much liked by the Mother; he helped his Marxist friend Pramode Sen to turn to Sri Aurobindo and convert his organ, Shrinvantu, into a mouthpiece of Pondicherry; I remember Shri Eknath Ranade coming to see my father several times with his project for the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. Conscientious subscriber to The Indian Express, Tejendra was happy when I took to contribute in its supplement, the Sunday Standard.”
Biographies of great men like Tejen da, Biren da and Ambu ji, keep alive in us the flame of aspiration they carried in them as divine instruments.
Indeed, we must remain thankful to dear Anurag and the Overman Foundation for the rare photographs and the precious memories they carry.
As a student at the SAICE, Pondicherry,[1966-1975] I had the good fortune to come across the three figures. Biren da was ever so kind when I visited the Binding department which was next to the Dining Room. Equally dedicated Ambu ji was modest and self-effacing.
We often saw Tejen da and Usha di at the Ashram main building.
Tejen da was so cultured, dignified and idealistic minded. He had a strong resemblance to his father, the legendary Bagha Jatin. I wish I had the knowledge then to talk to him about militant nationalism and the history of the freedom struggle.
I recall the visit to his place in 1981.He had invited me to tea. He and Usha di were kindness incarnate. I will never forget their affection and love.
We are lucky to have Prithwin da tell us about Sarojini Devi, Barin Ghose and others.
Pranam to the great souls !
I was searching for one specific writing where Gurudeva has mentioned on Tejendranath Mukherjee’s father’s past life, he being known to him,
but i could not get it. I got other things in which Gurudeva has said so
highly of him but not that one.
Shri Prithwin Mukherjee
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General healthy life style – >
only u can do such wonderful works. Great.
1997 is the year Biren-da left us , very tragic his last years , stroke one side paralysed…he has massaged half of ashram back from injuries and his students do it now , Sukhen , Rajniush and Cheta who ran the massage clinic after his demise… his best was in AV Goupi, who massaged Monique after her fall and paralysis..for years 3 times a week with Birenda and later alone…
Borda! He lived down the street. We were friends, probably 50 years apart, but young at heart. Took so much for granted in those days.
bagha jyotin’s son…tell you a story sometime in person…veenadi’s father…kolkata 1920’s…postmaster general , british raj, hid him in his office after he threw a bomb in the city and entered into the office and hid in a corner; let him out at night after closing and dropped him in his car…later met in pondy asharm gate….40’s each asking the other apni ekhane..?
Borda … Very fond of giving me and ronit and the rest of my friends solid “ganttas”
Borda…Guest House life after group
I remember, when i was in EAVP we had a drama competition in bengali class.I directed and played the lead role of Bagha Jatin, Ajanta di helped me..The next morning, Tejen-Da appreciated me and I was over-whelmed !
My dear Barda . !!
Usha di wss the most fabulous cook on earth ! Prithwin da was my French teacher and Rothin da was our football coach.
Fantastic generation from a by-gone era !! How I miss them !!
He taught me how to make a puzzle !
Borda, after the gap of 45 years, if I close my eyes, I can see your charming smile just like you are in the photo. We had a very special relationship . As my name is Bhishma, he always used to call me great great grandfather. In those days to enter in the ashram people had to take permission. He used to sit at the ashram gate also nearby reception room. In those days I was quite stylish in wearing clothes. So at the gate usually I was stopped, seeing me he used to tell that fellow, tumi chiniye na e ta great great grandfather ache. Such a jolly person he was., I miss u Borda
I remember Tejenda at the Ashram gate as a KG kid!
Tejen-da was very dear to me. ..he used to be at the ashram gate ….I used sit on his lap and listen to all his tiger hunting stories. ..such a loving dadu he was to me …..miss him a lot.
We grew up playing on Tejen-da’s shoulders. After group he used to look after us till 6.45-7.00. That was way back in 67, 68 and 69 in A5, A4 and A3. He played with us and was so child like. Those were such wonderful days. Feel blessed.
Then Dada remained silent for some time as if in deep thought before remarking:
‘In fact the real root of this disease is man’s psychological pressure, stress, tension, anxiety and depression. These days almost everybody suffers from depression, anxiety, stress and tension. Little by little it eats you up. When this reaches a point where it becomes unbearable, this deadly disease breaks out. To be able to break free from this disease one must be free from all psychological stress. One needs to bring down peace and delight into the body. While doing physical exercise one must keep this in mind. One must consciously feel this peace and delight in the body while taking part in physical culture. This is the great difference between physical culture elsewhere and here. One must exercise with this feeling of Sachchidananda in every part of our body. It is no use to exercise in a mechanical way without turning our consciousness to this.
A porter keeps lifting weights all day but his muscles do not develop all that much. His body does not develop because his attention is all the time on the load that he is carrying and not on his body. If you take up body-building in a regular way keeping this spirit of invocation, then within a few days you will see how the body develops. The body becomes graceful and beautiful.
Dr Datta remarked to me yesterday that while doing physical exercise the consciousness does not remain focussed on this all the time and we begin exercising mechanically.’
It is a remarkably done collection . I am now 79 with my connection with Sri Aurobindo Ashram for over 6 decades and I have witnessed most of these physical education activities- which my children had and my grand children are having there, the subject which is main part of integral education there. Thanks to the up keeper and preserver of this most valuable documents.
Appreciate the post. Like some more legitimate details on Jatin Mukherjee’s direct descendants. Thanks!