Born on 22 March 1908 as Tribhuvandas Luhar to Purushottamdas Keshavdas Luhar and Ujamben in the village of Miyanmatar (located in the district of Bharuch), Sundaram was a legendary poet of Gujarat. At the age of eighteen, his first poem ‘Ekanshe De’ was published in Sabarmati, a Gujarati magazine. After graduating from Gujarat Vidyapith he started teaching in Sonagadh-Gurukul. In 1934 he received the prestigious Ranjitram Suvarna Chandrak, a gold medal considered to be the highest literary award in Gujarati literature for his anthology of poems, Kavyamangala. He visited Pondicherry in 1940 and had the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He visited Pondicherry again in 1943 and two years later joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram as an inmate with his wife Mangalagauri and daughter Sudha. In 1946 he received the Mahida Paritoshik Award for his Arvachin Kavita, a critical survey of modern Gujarati poetry which went on to become a classic. In 1947 he started the publication of Dakshina, a quarterly magazine in Gujarati to spread the teachings of Sri Aurobindo in Gujarat. In 1954 he participated in the third ‘All India Writers Meet’ organized by P.E.N. in Chidambaram. In 1955 he received the Narmad Suvarna Chandrak for his anthology of poems, Yatra. His book Avalokana earned him the Delhi Sahitya Akademi Award in 1969. In 1975 he received an Honorary D. Litt from the Sardar Patel University. On16 March 1985 he received the Padmabhushan Award, the third highest Civilian Award, from the then President of India, Giani Zail Singh. In 1990 he received the Shri Narasinh Mehta Award for his contribution in the field of education and literature from the Government of Gujarat. On 13 January 1991, he left his body.
As our humble tribute to Sundaram on the occasion of his 113th birth anniversary, a short write-up of his entitled What Sri Aurobindo Means to Me has been published in the website of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
What Sri Aurobindo Means to Me
If Sri Aurobindo is merely a word, it is a word which is more meaningful than a whole set of dictionary-full words. If he is more than a word, if he is a person, a personality, he is more than all persons put together, a personality that outpersonalises all personalities. But I should not go more into such imaginative expressions and I would rather make a simple statement of how he came to me and revealed his meaning to me, how like a splendid lotus he opened himself to me petal by petal and finally took me to the fragrance-loaded bosom of his great Self.
The first direct impact I received from him was through his poetry. It was his short epically narrative poem, ‘Love and Death’. It was a happy surprise to find that in modern times, a verse could be written like this, embodying all the glorious elements of English epic poetry as well as brilliant flashes of our Indian epics, an unusual combination or rather integration of these two great poetic traditions, and yet endowed with something more that surpassed the past achievements also.
But there was, prior to this, an indirect but still deeper impact from him. It was in the 1920s, when I was just a kid of 12 years. It was the glorious and stupendous upsurge of the Non-cooperation movement started by Mahatma Gandhi. For us, the young generation, it was a great feast in innumerable ways. Our schools were nationalised and portraits of our eminent national leaders filled up all the so far barren walls around us. There among many other leaders like Tilak and Gandhi and Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was Sri Aurobindo, just one of them yet quite apart from them also, with his serene face adorned with an unusual tuft of beard. While listening to the flowing oratories from our teachers I would silently go on gazing at his picture, and after a time a silence would descend upon me from him.
That silence from him became a slow but poignant question for me from 1930 onward. For more than 4 years we were in a desperate grip with the mighty British empire, and I would ask myself, what is this great person doing while we are fighting out our great battles for freedom, why is he not with us, leading us, supporting us in our harsh moments?
The reply came in 1940, when I had his Darshan for the first time in his Ashram at Pondicherry. His silence was still there, but it was not a silent silence, it did not shut out things, but rather opened out many things which the spoken word could not. He was there before us, not with his words, or his thoughts, or his so many programmes, but with something that is beyond the speech and the mind. He presented himself to us with his whole being reaching out to our self which is deeper in us than the mind and the word, touching, awakening our secret depths, so far even unknown to our own self, and beckoning and carrying us out of our present self to something far beyond all that is expressed in life, to the Thing that transcends all that is here.
It was almost a revolution, a far astounding experience than all our talk and work for revolution had so far brought unto us. It was a revelation, an unfolding of realities, far more real, far more convincing, far more effectively active and effectuating themselves than all our present-day realities with which we were dealing and for which we were claiming a superior height for ourselves while disclaiming such ‘silent’ people as Sri Aurobindo for their ‘inaction’, for their ‘withdrawal’ from the active struggle of life, from the whole active world of earth.
It is not necessary, nor possible, to recount all that happened with my first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. I would only say it gave me a great lift in my life. I was almost at a dead-stop. After 1934, when Gandhiji wound up his mass Satyagraha movement and turned to quiet constructive Harijan work, we relapsed into our old activities. Many of my friends during this struggle had turned towards Socialism and Communisn discovering the insufficiency of Gandhiji’s approach to our problems. But for me, I could see the gaps and loopholes in the Socialist and Communist approach also. The problem was not only of the political or social structure of life. It was far deeper, reaching out to the very roots of existence. There even Gandhiji’s prayerful approach of surrender to the Divine was not sufficiently effective. I was in search, rather I should say, I was in need of a more effectuating force that could really change and master things, that could really establish the victory of Truth. And the problem of Truth itself was there, far more puzzling and intriguing than all problems put together. I had at my disposal all the Vedantic philosophy, all the traditional ways of Bhakti and Sannyas, the modern materialistic and other western approaches with their teeming isms. But something in me demanded a thing far deeper than or far superior to all these. And I was at a standstill. Even my little glory of poetic creation was not an answer to what I needed. I discovered, to my own surprise, that with all these activities, with my willingness to offer the best of myself, there was nothing around me that could absorb all that I had to give or could give. During the periods of our jail-life, by which we had satisfied to the full our obligations to our national struggle, I discovered that my inner self was still left unemployed for any active participation in a higher creation of life. I found that there were still large tracts in my being which had remained untouched so far and all this wanted to come into some action. There was a great vacuum facing me on almost every side of life.
And I could see that Sri Aurobindo offered to me, as none else had done so far, something which met my necessity in whatever aspect I formulated it to be. Like a thirsty child I could hardly resist the drink that Sri Aurobindo offered to me. And I sought for the ways and means to integrate myself more and more with all that Sri Aurobindo was giving to me, not only to me, but to the whole world.
And I discovered that I was invited to a new revolution in everything that I had and I gratefully accepted the invitation. There came a moment when I could see that I could entirely offer myself for the work Sri Aurobindo was busy with. In the fulfilment of that work I could find that there was the complete fulfilment of all that I also had wanted to achieve. Thus there came about a complete union of my approach with his approach to life and to all that it contained, and to all that was to be added to it.
There happened a full merging of my life-flow into the great surging life-force that he embodied. It was a perfect sense of realising all that I wanted to realise in my little life. I offered myself to him and he accepted it.
Thus starting from his written poetic word which culminated in his great epic Savitri I ended at the unwritten and unspoken Presence enshrined in Sri Aurobindo, covering the whole circuit of all human effort and all its achievements. As I read more and more all that he had written I saw the great poet in him, the adroit politician, the subtle thinker, the sharp logician, the deep seer, the profound philosopher, the great man of action that aroused the whole of India to the first battle-cry of freedom and the person that left behind him all these to follow a higher call to realise things that were not realised so far on the human plane. The action, the force, that I had found wanting in all our active great people, in our leader and our politicians, was discovered in him. The thought that I had found still escaping in all philosophy I found amply illumined by him. And still more the deep experience of love and delight that life seemed incapable of providing, was given to me in its extreme amplitude by him. All that I had desired, aspired for, worked for, all that I had dreamt about, all that I had struggled for, fought for I found, surprisingly enough, being done by him on a much larger scale, almost on a superhuman scale. My deepest urge was to do something for the life at large, and I found that Sri Aurobindo was there to do that very ‘something’ — the ‘Thing’ most necessary for the whole of life. Our great battle-cry for India’s freedom was for him only a prelude to a greater battle-cry for humanity’s freedom from all that kept it chained to a basic incapacity in life, to the inborn slavery to ignorance and misery. The call that took him away from India’s active life was to cast the whole human stuff, the whole of humanity, the whole life of earth into a new mould of superhuman nature. And along with this call, Sri Aurobindo says, the necessary knowledge and the effectuating force was revealed and given to him in course of his Sadhana at Pondicherry, and even before that.
As he says, in so many words, the secret Reality had opened all its treasures to him and the same treasures he is now offering to the whole world. And the whole world is there now receiving with gratitude all that is simply outflowing from him. His dream, his proposition of a Life Divine on earth is no longer a mere dream, but a profound subtle Reality that is working out its materialisation in the most material conditions of human existence.