The Passing of Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna

Dear Friends,

 On Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 12:15 p.m. Shri Kaikhushru Dhunjibhoy Sethna alias Amal Kiran has left his physical body. He was 106 years of age. Born on 25 November 1904 in a Parsi family, he had his early education at St. Xavier’s School and College. At college he won in his Intermediate Arts examination of Bombay University the Hughlings Prize in English and the Selby Scholarship in Logic. He passed his Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Philosophy and won the Ellis Prize in English. His first book ‘Parnassians’ was published in 1922 and it was a critical analysis of the works of H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, G.K. Chesterson and Thomas Hardy. H.G. Wells had remarked about the young writer to the Parsi author A.S. Wadia: “Your young man will go far.”

K.D. Sethna joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at the age of twenty three on 16 December 1927. On his request he was given the name of ‘Amal Kiran’ meaning ‘The Clear Ray’ by Sri Aurobindo on 3 September 1930. From 1949 he was the editor of the monthly journal ‘Mother India’.

Amal Kiran was a multi-faceted genius; he has penned more than fifty scholarly books including volumes on poetry (The Secret Splendour, The Adventure of the Apocalypse, Overhead Poetry, Altar and Flame and Poems by Amal Kiran and Nirodbaran), literary criticism (Parnassians, Sri Aurobindo on Shakespeare, Sri Aurobindo—The Poet, The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo, “Two Loves” and “A Worthier Pen”, The Obscure and the Mysterious: A Research in Mallarme’s Symbolist Poetry, Blake’s Tyger—A Christological Interpretation, Talks in Poetry, The Inspiration of Paradise Lost, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal”: An Interpretation From India, Adventures in Criticism, The Thinking Corner, Classical and Romantic: An Approach Through Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo on Greece), philosophy (Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, The Spirituality of the Future, The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo, Aspects of Sri Aurobindo, The Mandukya Upanishad and The Development of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual Thought and the Mother’s Contribution to it), history and culture (Evolving India, The Indian Spirit and the World’s Future, The Problems of Aryan Origin, Karpasa in Prehistoric India, The Sun and the Rainbow, Ancient India in a New Light, The Beginning of History for Israel, India and the World Scene, Problems of Early Christianity, Teilhard de Chardin and Our Time, Problems of Ancient India, The Virgin Birth and the Earliest Christian Tradition etc.) His volumes of epistolary exchanges (Life-Poetry-Yoga, Volumes I-III, A Follower of Christ and a Disciple of Sri Aurobindo and The English Language and the Indian Spirit) are a rare treat where the reader comes to know of his profound erudition as well as his wonderful sense of humour.

The late Jugal Kishore Mukherjee had rightly remarked about Amal Kiran: “K.D.S.’s shining complexion, his delicate sensitive face, two eyes radiating a keen and kind glint of intelligence and a sweet smile as innocent as that of a child, cannot but captivate the hearts of the visitors.”

One of the foremost sadhaks of the Aurobindonian community, Amal Kiran had unreserved devotion and profound love for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He lived for Them and in Them. His deep aspiration is reflected in one of his writings where he writes:

“From the very beginning of my stay in the Ashram I have sought to quicken to the presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother from the core of my heart… An inner urge…has yearned for an Unknown surpassing every object of my senses and my thought and making nothing worth while unless that Unknown were first found… There is one single wish running through all the years—and that is to be open more and more to the transforming grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. On each birthday it gets an extra spurt.

“I have pledged my whole life to the great Beyond and the deep Within and longed to live in the wide Without with the ego-swamping light from on high and the ego-refining warmth from the secret psyche… I have the conviction that I am in omnipotent hands which at any moment will lift me out of myself and carry me where Time neighbours Eternity.”

Amal Kiran was blessed with a long and fruitful life which was a prayer offered to the Divine. Age could not take away the natural sweetness and warmth which existed in him. Unlike others who would shriek at the thought of death, Amal Kiran was ready for it for a number of years. In his own words:

“I am doing my best to live long both because I am happy and can give happiness and because I want as much time as possible to go nearer to Sri Aurobindo’s luminous Truth and the Mother’s radiant Beauty. All the same I am ready to say ‘Hurrah’ whenever they tell me, “Your time is up.’”

The Clear Ray is no longer with us physically. But his fond memories would always brighten up our lives.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.












39 Replies to “The Passing of Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna

  1. 1) Probably the 2nd picture is of the time when everybody kept a beard in the Ashram. Then one day suddenly he cut off that shrub and presented himself before Sri Aurobindo.
    Sri Aurobindo had a piercing look for a moment.
    Amal asked by writing how the Master felt, and –

    Sri Aurobindo – Quickly grow it !

    Amal says in a talk in the hall of harmony, that he made a special effort to grow it back, and –
    ‘ I even watered it !

    2) At one stage we were discussing the greatness of Ilion, and he remarked –
    ‘ You have to remember that poetry-wise Ilion is equivalent to
    Savitri. Of course from spiritual and mystic point of views the matter is different .’

  2. Last of great desciples of the lord has left his body. Who would have thought with all his physical ailments he would live to a ripe old age of 106! Compassion flowed through his eyes.
    I heard through a friend, how he came to the Lord. His shoue box came wrapped in a new paper. There was an article on Sri Aurobindo printed in the paper. That was the introduction. The door to devine in always mysterious!!
    He was also one of the few people who witnessed the sopramental descent as it happend when he was travelling ina train. Indeed Mother promised him years earlier that he will witness it.
    We all miss him.

    1. The Brightest light of Ashram has been extinguished for us, though it is certain that the great sadhaka will coninue to do his sadhana till Mother’s work is finshed. he will surely come again to transform his body. I had the opportunity of meeting him several times to be with him some photos.. to be blessed by him.. to touch his hand often.. We lost him physically .. we will see his chldlike glowing face no more, but we will have all our prayers for him before Mother for his journey ahead

  3. Dear Anurag ,


  4. Dear Anurag,
    Our dear, ever smiling Amal Kiran has gone.
    I think he will always be near the Samadhi, smiling, looking up from his chair.
    What a wonderful life!


  5. Dear Anurag,
    Many thanks to you for expressing so very beautifully your thoughts on the passing away of “Dear Amal Da”. Photographs are aptly chosen…It was a blessing to have lived in the age to witness the life and times of such a great personality … a phenomenon–Stephen Hawking of Integral Yoga… Splendid.

    Warm regards,

  6. Sri S Mahalingam sir took me to Amal – Da when I was doing my graduation in 1967 or 1968. Then, I met Amal – Da many time during the time when I did my PG in English. I was a big fan of his. His expositions on The Tyger & his corresp. with Kathleen Raine are among things which read again and again. His lectures on poetry are not only great in depth but the lucidity and the humour you find there have no comparison. I simply adore him. – A.Thiagarajan

  7. My dear brother Anurag:
    Thank you for sharing the news about our beloved Amal. I AM sure his SOUL went into the arms of Mother & Sri Aurobindo. I first met him in 1970 after a few weeks of my arrival in Pondy in 1969. Our friendship was based in respect and humour. There were times when we, and others would spend hours together listening to this beautiful being talk.

    I thank you again and embrace you.
    At the service of Mother & truth…


  8. Amal Kiran was a scholar of extraordinary depth and understanding. His intuitive analysis of Sri Aurobindo’s insights offers a unique instance of the creative integration of scholarship and inner vision. I, for one, have been greatly benefited by his critiques of Aurobindonian poetry and poetics. His is not a mere re-rendering of the master’s voice but a creative interpretation. He never takes anything on trust, and his writings evidence his relentless intellectual curiousity and inquiring mind. Amal Kiran, I believe, is essentially a poet in whom the creative inner-view and the critical intellect coincide. We will certainly miss the likes of him. Especially in these days when crass commercialism and market-price-culture thrive at the expense of human values; in these times when poetasters abound; in these times when callous shallowness is mistaken for profound scholarship.

    Amal Kiran…no more!

    Dr. Murali Sivaramakrishnan

  9. I’ve reproduced a part on the Mirror, giving your url.

    I only wonder if he was also carrying in his psychic memory the English poetry that was so inspiring to him always. And of course, Savitri, about which there is no doubt at all.

    R.Y. Deshpande

  10. The Brilliant Ray is no more albeit he shines more brilliant in the great beyond.Met him a few summers back when a young ashram sevak of my age brought him on a wheelchair near the samadhi.On requesting the sevak for a short audience with my most cherished sadhak writer of the Aurobindonian circle;he stopped the wheelchair when we were out of the premises.The unforgettable gaze form a pair of greyish eyes!Somewhat overawed by his presence I whispered into his ears something rather puerile”I have read your books”.Pat came the response “I am honoured to hear that”After laying a garland of jasmine on his lap ,touching his feet and even being blessed by a handshake I asked him “what is the easiest and surest way to the Divine Mother?'”Prayer’ came the monosyllabic reply as simple and as sharp as the arrowhead.”Would you pray for us to the Mother to show us the way?”, I asked him.”Yes I will” was what he said as he asked the sevak to move on.

  11. Salutations to Him.
    DEATH is a CHANGE.
    By way of Gematria:
    DEATH = 38
    CHANGE = 38
    I recall one book that i read of him:
    “Light & Delight : Our life with Mother”
    A Wonderfully suave pen…, which would
    immortalise him.

  12. Dear Mister Banerjee,
    Thank you so much for this presentaton of Amal Kiran. Someone like him, so devoted to the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother must be a great soul and I would like very much read something of his writing.
    Could yo tell me where I can order some writings from Amal Kiran please? I do not live in India.
    I hope you are in good health and I thank you from my heart.

  13. I feel extremely fortunate to have had his darshan during my visit to Pondicherry with the family in Nov 2009. Had a snap clicked with him at the Nursing home, while he was fully awake. His inspirational force will be us for ever _ _ _ _

  14. It is a personal loss. Although he ceased to teach me for over a decade, I remember my mornings and evenings with him at 21 rue francois matin street, whenever I was in Pondicherry. I learnt a lot from him. It was my good fortune. I learnt from him especially the subtler things of overhead aesthetics. He was kind to me always and was never reluctant to teach.
    Goutam Ghosal

  15. It is a personal loss. He taught me a lot of things regarding the subtler things of overhead aesthetics at his residence of 21 rue francois matin street.
    Goutam Ghosal

  16. Dear Anurag,

    Thanks for your article. I still remember my days in the Ashram when I used to go to Udar every day and it was Udar who took me to Amal and it was Mother’s Grace that both of them accepted me as friend and helped and guided me. I was only 21 years old at that time. I used to go and meet him every Sunday when he used to return from Park Guest House and used to remain with him till his dinner was served to him in the evening. He was so kind and helpful, no matter how busy he was, he used to listen me out very patiently whenever I approached him.

    With warm regards,


  17. Whether Amal Kiran is there or not, at least his book “Light & Delight” will forever keep bringing the same to all of us.

  18. Hello Dear One…!

    Thanks for providing this crisp adieu on Sri K.D. Sethna-“Amal Kiran “. We have circulated this beautiful piece with pictures to some of our devotee-friends by e.mail

    Geeta & Kartikeya Amin

  19. Amal Kiran demonstrates cracking walnuts

    Here is an anecdote for you. One Xmas evening, I was sitting by Amal Kiran. He asked me whether I had received walnuts and, on hearing me confirm it, he proposed to teach me how to crack them without nut-crackers.

    He picked up two nuts from the bag, carrying one in each hand, superimposed the two sutures cross-wise and cracked one noisily, with a glorious smile.

    “What about the last one?” I asked.

    He took the last one, set it on the cement bench and with the pressure of a hand cracked it without trouble.

    This reminded me that before I met Amal, our teacher Premanand had been very proud of talking about the tremendous force Amal had in his arms.

    Prithwin Mukherjee
    17 January 2012

  20. When I stayed at Ashram in I think 2006, there was a man who sat in a chair inside I believe SABDA bookstore. He was lovely and I always wondered who he was. Did Amal Kiran tend to sit there? It seemed the man sat there often.

  21. A model scholar, a Parsi man, a Sanskritist, a cultural critic, a samadhist and above all an Aurobindonian disciple learning at the feet of the guru in his ashrama!

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