19 Jun 2009

The Birth Place of Sri Aurobindo -- by Nirmal Singh Nahar

[Letter dated August 1, 1978 from Nirmal Singh Nahar addressed to the Editor, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research.]

I have gone through “Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo” on the above noted subject in your highly useful half-yearly journal. Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, Volume I, No.1, April 1977.

You have been kind enough to include in it the document with which I was associated as the then Special Correspondent of the Press Trust of India in 1949 (1947-1951).

Subsequently also, on my return to Calcutta, my continued interest as to the various claims and counter-claims relative to the exact birth place of Sri Aurobindo, made me probe the question in some depth. As a result of my deep interest and devotion to Sri Aurobindo, the Government of West Bengal proposed my name to be a member of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary State Committee, which resulted in the small part I had to actively play and to intervene with the blessings, concurrence and full knowledge of the Mother in 1971-1972, for converting No.8, Shakespeare Sarani (originally it was No.4, Theatre Road in 1872) as Sri Aurobindo Bhavan. In recognition of my service and assistance rendered in the matter, in 1972, the then West Bengal State Government nominated me to the First Board of Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Samiti, which was entrusted with the task of looking after Sri Aurobindo Bhavan by an Act of West Bengal in 1972, and then the Minister in Charge, Sri Bhola Nath Sen, specifically invited me to assist him while he was piloting the bill on the floor of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. This background is necessary for my following observations in the matter and, on the basis of the points raised by me, may lead to deeper investigation.

In 1949, on 15th August, Calcutta celebrated Sri Aurobindo's birthday on a large scale under the leadership of Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, Bar-at-Law, and then leader of the Hindu Mahashabha and later an independent M.P. (Lok Sabha). It was only at that time that a concerted move was made by some interested group of persons to establish that Sri Aurobindo was born at 237, Lower Circular Road (now renamed Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road). But when a photograph of the old building, as it existed in 1872 (published in Sri A. B. Purani's Life of Sri Aurobindo), or the block picture which was published in Amrita Bazar Patrika, Calcutta, was shown to Sri Aurobindo, he is reported to have said: “No, not this house” and soon after on 2nd September 1949, the press statement was issued. To the best of my knowledge and memory, I may add that the statement issued by Nolini Kanta Gupta as Secretary, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, was actually dictated by Sri Aurobindo himself and, as was the practice, Nolinida was authorised to issue the same in his name. I was an inmate sadhaka of the Ashram then. I supposed either Nolinida, Champaklalji, Dr. Satyendra or Dr. Nirodbaran may throw light and confirm the same, as I am writing the above two facts from memory.

Puraniji in his book, Life of Sri Aurobindo, has given the illustration of 237, Lower Circular Road as the house where Sri Aurobindo was born, but he records that Sri Aurobindo was born at a house at Theatre Road (page 3)!

It is now confirmed that the present house which is now known as Sri Aurobindo Bhavan was the same building which existed (from earlier time) in 1872 ¬the year Sri Aurobindo was born - and at that time it was No.4, Theatre Road. Unfortunately some authentic documents that I was able to collect were lost when I had to leave the Ashram (Pondicherry was then the capital of French India) at a moment's notice due to political expediency in 1951.

It has not yet been established exactly in which year the house was built, although I was able to ascertain that in 1872 the house belonged to a Jewish gentleman (most likely, one Mr. Ezra) and it is most likely that Sri Mono Mohan Ghosh, Bar-at-Law, had either taken it himself, or on behalf of his friend Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghosh, rented it to provide accommodation for the family of Dr. K. D. Ghosh, Sri Aurobindo’s father. It may be mentioned that Dr. K. D. Ghosh was a member of the Indian Medical Service and was posted at different district head-quarters and thus was constantly on the move. At that time his two elder sons, Benoy Bhusan and Mono Mohan, were born, and his wife Swarnalata Devi showed early symptoms of mental derangement and it was more necessary for her to stay at Calcutta for medical treatment. Financial consideration also comes to mind and Dr. Ghosh was quite well off then. Moreover in 1869, Dr. K. D. Ghosh went to England for higher medical studies and after three years, in 1871, he returned. It is most unlikely and unusual that both the families of Dr. K. D. Ghosh and his close friend Mono Mohan Ghosh stayed in one house for such a long period of time (ten years - 1869-1879). Both the friends were known to be highly individualistic, independent minded and had accustomed themselves to stay in the fashion of European Lords. Therefore, it may safely be deduced from the fact that Dr. K. D. Ghosh, when he left for England in 1869, had put his family in a separate house. As was arranged by his friend, an European governess was placed to look after his wife and two young sons. It may be that they resided near the place where Barrister Mono Mohan and his family lived, which facilitated him to keep an eye and take overall care of his absent friend's family. Dr. K. D Ghosh returned in 1871 and Sri Aurobindo was born at the house, which to the children was the house of his father's friend.

Further, it is most unlikely and one will hardly believe that Sri Aurobindo's memory betrayed him in 1939 when he said that he was born at the house of his father's friend, Mono Mohan Ghosh, Bar-at-Law, at Theatre Road and most likely at No.4. Therefore it can be concluded that Sri Aurobindo was born in the early hours of August 15, 1872 at No.4. Theatre Road (now No.8, Shakespeare Sarani). In 1879, When Sri Aurobindo was 7 years old, Dr. K. D. Ghosh took his three sons and daughter along with his wife to England where his fourth son Barindrakumar was born. The purpose of taking his three sons to England was to provide them with an English way of life and English education and his wife for further medical treatment and check-up; otherwise normally Dr. K. D. Ghosh would not have taken his wife, who was in such an advanced stage of pregnancy. So, it fits with the fact that in 1879 Dr. Ghosh's friend, Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh, moved to the then No.4, Theatre Road house after Dr. Ghosh left for England with his family.

There is a curious coincidence that during the initial period of his stay in England, Sri Aurobindo lived in a house on the street named after Shakespeare at Manchester and it bore both Nos. 8 and 4. The coincidence is this that the original Theatre Road of Calcutta was also eventually changed to be named after Shakespeare and this house in Calcutta also bears the Nos. 8 (new) and 4 (old).

Subsequently, the house was purchased by Mono Mohan Ghosh and changed hands afterwards and eventually it was purchased by the Government of Bengal. Documents relating to the details and years are at your Archives, the photostat copies which were sent to you by me in 1973. Previous to 1935 normally it was the official residence of Commissioner, Presidency Division and later on became official residence of Premier or Chief Minister, First of Bengal, then of West Bengal. After Dr. B. C. Roy became Chief Minister, it was the official residence of the Home Minister. After his death (Kiron Shankar Roy), the house was allotted as the official residence of the Central Rehabilitation Minister, Government of India. Afterwards it remained vacant for sometime until 1970, when it became the head-quarters of the First Free Independence Bangladesh Government in exile, at a time when General Yahya Khan unleashed the massacre in East Pakistan.

Afterwards on August 7, 1972 the West Bengal Assembly passed and enacted “The Sri Aurobindo Memorial Act, 1972 (Act XXIV of 1972)” - (copy of the Gazette Extraordinary was also given by me for the records of the Archives) - which thus gave and converted Sri Aurobindo Bhavan as the National Shrine, with full concurrence and blessings of the Mother. (Coincidentally August 7, is a historic date when the people took a vow and proclaimed their determination to attain Swaraj) – birthday of Indian Nationalism on that date in the year 1905).

The Preamble of the Act states as follows:

“An Act to establish the Sri Aurobindo Bhavan and the Sri Aurobindo Samiti, to perpetuate the memory of Sri Aurobindo.

“Whereas, it is expedient to establish at 8, Shakespeare Sarani, Calcutta, the place where Sri Aurobindo was born and spent his childhood days, the Sri Aurobindo Bhavan and to constitute a Society for propagating the teaching of Sri Aurobindo amongst the masses so as to help them raise their mental and moral outlook and to solve their cultural and spiritual problems in the light of such teachings.

“It is hereby enacted in the Twenty Third Year of the Republic of India, by the Legislature of West Bengal.”

The assent of the President of India was first published in the Calcutta Gazette Extraordinary dated 12th August, 1972 and the actual handing over took place on August 15, 1972 - Sri Aurobindo's Centenary Birthday.

Therefore, the West Bengal Government was also convinced and came to the conclusion that Sri Aurobindo was born and spent his childhood at the same said house - 8, Shakespeare Sarani - Sri Aurobindo Bhavan.

Nirmal Singh Nahar
August 1, 1978
A letter to the Editor, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research


A Rejoinder By Nirmal Nahar

Mr. Peter Heehs has sought to establish that the premises at 237 Lower Circular Road (Acharya Jagadish Bose Road), Calcutta was in all likelihood the place where Sri Aurobindo was born on 15th August 1872, primarily because that was the residence of Dr. K. D. Ghosh’s friend, Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh, at that point of time and on the basis of his reposing full faith in the entries in the Calcutta Street Directory of 1872.

But perhaps he is quite unaware or wants to ignore the fact that during 15th August 1949, a large scale birthday celebration of Sri Aurobindo was held at 237, Lower Circular Road - residence of the then Finance Minister of West Bengal Nalini Ranjan Sarkar. A coterie grew up under the patronage of Nalini Ranjan Sarkar to make a concerted move to proclaim that Sri Aurobindo was born at 237, Lower Circular Road, Calcutta. Savitri Prasanna Chatterjee, a renowned poet was his personal assistant and P.R.O. of his company Hindusthan Cooperative Insurance Company Limited and its group of companies, gathered a powerful group of intellectuals under the leadership of Sajani Kanta Das, Editor of Bengali monthly Sanibarer Chithi. This corroborates with the account of Peter Heehs when he cites Nalini Ranjan Sarkar and others in support of his fanciful exploration.

But this controversy should have been long ended when Sri Aurobindo himself declared categorically soon after the birthday celebration reports and photos were shown to him most likely by A. B. Purani or Nolini Kanta Gupta. On seeing the photo of the building at 237, Lower Circular Road, Sri Aurobindo was reported to have said, “NO, NOT THIS HOUSE” in the presence of his personal sadhak attendants.

Earlier also on December 2nd and 3rd 1939, Sri Aurobindo said that he was born at Theatre Road – “It was No.4, I think” in course of his Talks with Sri Aurobindo as recorded by Dr. Nirodbaran (Talukdar), one of his personal attendants.

Sri Aurobindo confirmed the fact once again in September 1949, through a statement to the then Special Correspondent of the Press Trust of India, Sri Nirmal Nahar - writer of this rejoinder. The statement reads as follows: “Sri Aurobindo was born at the house of Late Barrister Monomohan Ghosh, a close friend of his father, Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghosh. The house was in Theatre Road and the number being most likely 4 (Four). We are not aware whether the house still exists or not.” The writer was also authorised to send a letter to the Editor of an English daily, the NATION, now defunct (Editor: Sarat Chandra Bose) on the same lines. (Xerox copies are enclosed herewith being the carbon copy of the original to prove the authenticity of those press statements.)

In this connection it is also interesting to note the findings of the National Committee, mainly based on the Bengal Directory (Calcutta Street Directory) of 1871 and 1872 - which states “the late Shri Monomohan Ghosh is shown as a resident of 48 Chowringhee which was a part of then Ballard Building facing Theatre Road.”

It is also curious to note that although A. B. Purani publishes the photograph of old 237, Lower Circular Road as the house where Sri Aurobindo was born, at the same time page 3 of his book Life of Sri Aurobindo (lst Edition. Feb. 21, 1958) states that Sri Aurobindo was born at Theatre Road.

Sri Himanshu Niyogi, President of Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir is stated to have said on 15th August 1973 (as reported in the Sri Aurobindo Mandir Bartika, a Bengali journal) that Sri Aurobindo was born at the present 8, Shakespeare Sarani (previously 4, Theatre Road) and added that Surendra Mohan Ghose, [1] M.P. and Congress leader of Bengal and a close devotee of Sri Aurobindo always used to point out the house where now Sri Aurobindo Bhavan stands as the house where Sri Aurobindo was born.

Mr. Peter Heehs cites in favour of his claim the findings of the Sub-Committee of the National Committee on Sri Aurobindo's Centenary, but the committee clearly and unequivocally states: “The arguments in favour of the present 237, Lower Circular Road could not be sustained.” The committee further states that most likely Sri Aurobindo was born at 48, Chowringhee Ballard Building, as has been noted above.

Therefore, Mr. Heehs’ conclusion with the support of Purani and the Government has no basis at all. And what others stated in support of his contention is not based on their own very valuable research and documentations.

Now let us look at other records of the West Bengal Government. While enacting the Sri Aurobindo Memorial Act 1972, it states as follows: “Whereas it is expedient to establish at 8, Shakespeare Sarani, Calcutta, the place where Sri Aurobindo was born and spent his childhood days, the Sri Aurobindo Bhavan and to ...” although, according to Footprints on the Sands published by the Government of Indian states that “doubts were, however, raised by the Government of West Bengal whether 8, Theatre Road, Calcutta, was the correct place of birth of Sri Aurobindo”, the State Government must have changed their views considering the overwhelming evidence which pointed to 8, Shakespeare Sarani as the house where Sri Aurobindo was born.

Mr. Peter Heehs says, “Sri Aurobindo’s impression that he was born in Theatre Road was not based on his personal knowledge; it must have been communicated to him by members of his family, other than his father and mother. It is not surprising that when Sri Aurobindo was informed that he was born in the house of Mono Mohan Ghosh, he or his informant came to the incorrect conclusion that his house was 4, Theatre Road.” Then in the footnote No. 17 he has the audacity to taunt Sri Aurobindo's Yogic Siddhi “memory”. And still he is tolerated. No child knows where he was born. He always comes to know the time and place of his birth from his family and records. How does Peter Heehs say that Sri Aurobindo's father and mother did not tell him about the place where he was born?

Did the planchet of Dr. K. D. Ghosh and Swarnalata come to tell him that? He seems to be determined not to give any credence to what Sri Aurobindo repeatedly said but relies on the statements of the daughters of Barrister Mono Mohon Ghosh. All of them were born long after Sri Aurobindo's birth. How can we give more credence to them than Sri Aurobindo when they state that Sri Aurobindo was born at 237 Lower Circular Road? Did they know by "Yogic Siddhi" that Sri Aurobindo was born at 237 Lower Circular road or is it also the case of mere hearsay?

It seems that a lot of importance is being given to the “Bengal Directory” or "Calcutta Directory" but as is well known that in those days only the names of the owners were indicated. So, how can anyone state categorically that in 1872, Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh did not rent the present house at 8 Shakespeare Sarani from its owner, one "Ezra", for the purpose of putting up the family of Dr. K. D. Ghosh? It was not customary to record the name of a tenant, moreover it is but natural that Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh was not shown as the resident of the present 8 Shakespeare Sarani as in actual fact it was rented for his friend Dr. K. D. Ghosh. It is to be noted that soon after the return of Dr. K. D. Ghosh from England in 1871, he was forced to sell his ancestral house at Konnagar, Hooghly, due to his refusal to do "Penance" for going across the seas as demanded by the then conservative Hindu society and permanently shifted to the house provided for his family by his friend Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh at Calcutta. Sri Aurobindo was in the womb of Swarnalata and she was showing early signs of insanity and needed constant medical attention / treatment. One should not overlook the fact that both Dr. K. D. Ghosh and his friend Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh as well as his brother Barrister Lal Mohon Ghosh, were fully westernised, not only in their own taste etc. but also forced their wives to change their dress to gowns, imitating the European ladies. It is most unlikely that these two highly individualistic independent minded families stayed in the same house and therefore, as per Mr. Peter Heehs's footnote No. 28 following the principle that "All historians know that historiography deals in probabilities, not certitude..." Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh rented the house to provide shelter to his friend with two young sons and a European Governess, with their mother who was in an advanced state of pregnancy and looked after the family in the absence of Dr. K. D. Ghosh. He was, on his return made to rejoin as Sub-Assistant Surgeon attached to Bhagalpur dispensary and only on 28th October 1871, he was transferred to Rungpore to act as the officiating Medical Officer, still under 3rd grade of Sub-Assistant Surgeon and was first promoted to 2nd grade on May 16, 1872 and on 8th February 1873 was promoted to the rank of uncovenanted Medical Officer by the Government of India on his petition for having passed M. D. & F.R.C.S. degree examinations with honours from England. And it was only afterwards, he would take his family to Rungpore from time to time. He, in all probability, maintained his Calcutta residence till 1879, when he sailed for England with his wife and 3 young boys and a baby girl. It was only in 1879, after Dr. K. D. Ghosh left the house that his friend Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh shifted to the present 8 Shakespeare Sarani house. This is further substantiated by a letter received from Sri Anil Ghosh, eldest son of Sri Aurobindo's elder brother Binoy Bhushan Ghosh and resident of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, New Delhi which states that "Sri Aurobindo was surely born at 8 Theatre Road on 15th August 1872". The above statement was communicated to them by their father Binoy Bhusan Ghosh.

Now let us look to the points raised by Mr. Peter Heehs's relative, Annette Akroyd's papers. Although she was a guest of his friend Barrister Mono Mohan, at his house in Lower Circular Road, she nowhere mentions that his friend Dr. K. D. Ghosh's family also stayed in the same building, neither does Rajnarain Bose, father-in-law of Dr. K. D. Ghosh when he describes in his autobiography his visit to Miss Akroyd at the 237 Lower Circular Road residence of Barrister Mono Mohan. Therefore, there is no information from them either that the family of Dr. K. D. Ghosh was staying at .the residence of Barrister Mono Mohan at 237 Lower Circular Road. It may be noted that Sri Aurobindo was christened as Aurobindo Akroyd Ghosh by his father Dr. K. D. Ghosh in her honour and in her presence.

We refrain from other irrelevant points written by Mr. Peter Heehs in his article as it is quite apparent to Calcuttans with some knowledge of the background of "Rajani' and difference between north and south dividing side of Lower Circular Road.

In view of the fact that no authentic documents are available to date to prove where Sri Aurobindo was actually born, the question is whose views can be accepted as authentic? That of the two daughters of Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh or that of Sri Aurobindo and Binoy Bhushan Ghosh? It is almost certain that Sri Aurobindo was born at the north outhouse of the present 8 Shakespeare Sarani "Sri Aurobindo Bhavan", the building as it originally existed in 1872. This is further confirmed by the Mother, when she handed over the relics of Sri Aurobindo to the representative of the Government of West Bengal in the centenary year 1972 of Sri Aurobindo's birth for enshrinement at the house where he was born in 1872 (vide report appearing in the Bengali journal Sri Aurobinder Arya Patrika 2nd year 10th issues 15th September 1973).


A Rejoinder by Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Calcutta
To Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry

Mr. Peter Heehs has sought to establish that the premises at 237 Lower Circular Road, Calcutta, was in all likelihood the birthplace of Sri Aurobindo, primarily on the basis of his analysis of the entries in the Calcutta Street Directory and on the presumption that Sri Aurobindo must have been born in the house where Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh himself was residing with his family at the relevant time. Mr. Heehs also claims that this is supported by the findings of a Sub-Committee of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Committee set up by the Central Govt. and by A. B. Purani's book, The Life of Sri Aurobindo.

In this connection it may be noted that the aforesaid sub-committee after due scrutiny and consideration of the entries of the same Calcutta Directory categorically held that "the arguments in favour of the present 237, Lower Circular Road could not be sustained." Mr. Heehs finds this decision erroneous but that is a matter of opinion. Puraniji did publish in his book Life of Sri Aurobindo a picture of 237 Lower Circular Road as the birthplace of Sri Aurobindo but at the same time wrote on page 3 of the book (lst Edition) that Sri Aurobindo was born at the house of Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh in Theatre Road. Mr. Heehs is perhaps not aware that in 1949 on being shown the photograph of the same building published by Puraniji Sri Aurobindo reportedly commented, "No, not this house." The official statement issued by the Secretary, Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1949, with the approval of Sri Aurobindo, asserted that the birthplace of Sri Aurobindo was located in Theatre Road and the number was most probably 4 (four). This is consistent with what is mentioned in Talks with Sri Aurobindo by Nirodbaran. Mr. Heehs, however, summarily rejects Sri Aurobindo's own observations about his birthplace as fanciful and not deserving any credence (vide footnote 17 of the article). The competence of Mr Heehs to comment on the nature and powers of 'Yogic Siddhi' is not known but his remark about Sri Aurobindo's statement is considered to be, to say the least, highly irresponsible and presumptuous. It is quite possible that Sri Aurobindo learnt about it from either his parents or elder brothers. In fact his eldest brother Benoy Bhusan had the same opinion about the location of Sri Aurobindo's birthplace being in Theatre Road. This is borne out by a letter of Sri Anil Ghosh, son of Benoy Bhusan. There is no reason to disbelieve Anil Babu.

Mr. Heehs has referred to a letter of Nolinida to Abinash Bhattacharjee. It would be wrong to construe this letter as acceptance by Nolinida of the claim of Mrs. Mrigen Mitra - he had written this for obtaining the reaction of Sri Barin Ghosh on the contention of Mrs. Mitra.

The facts and circumstances tend to indicate that it was quite likely that Mono Mohan Ghosh had arranged a house in Theatre Road (presumably erstwhile No.4) near his residence for the stay of Dr. K. D. Ghosh's family when Sri Aurobindo was born - this is considered probable particularly since the life-style of both Sri Mono Mohan Ghosh and his friend Dr. K. D. Ghosh was fully westernised. Therefore, naturally, the name of Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh did not appear in the Street Directory in 1872 against this house in Theatre Road because he was not the resident. The letters of Mrs. Akroyd do not reveal that the family of Dr. K. D. Ghosh had been staying in the same house as that of Mono Mohan Ghosh. In the absence of conclusive documentary evidence, it is sincerely felt that Sri Aurobindo's own statement should be the guide and the determining factor in the matter of the location of his birthplace.

Mr. Heehs is entitled to his views. But in view of the foregoing reasons, it cannot be accepted that Sri Aurobindo was born in a house situated at 237, Lower Circular Road. The article in question endeavours to prove that in August 1872 Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh used to live at the present 237, Lower Circular Road. But, as explained above, if Sri Aurobindo was born in a house other than the actual residence of Barrister Ghosh, then the article is hardly of any relevance so far as the location of the birthplace of Sri Aurobindo is concerned.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust may like to consider what useful purpose will be served by publishing the article of Mr Heehs particularly in the face of the Master's own pronouncement on the subject.

One is reminded of the following line from Savitri:

"God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep."



Nirmal Singha Nahar Pondicherry

The Press Trust of India

To :
When attention was drawn to several press enquiries particularly in Bengal as to the exact birthplace of SRI AUROBINDO, Srijut Nolinikanto Gupta, Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Asram told P.T.I.:




DECEMBER 2, 1939
N (when Sri Aurobindo lay in bed): Professor Mitra has asked me to tell you that his native village is the same as yours: Konnagar.
Sri Aurobindo : I see, but I went there only once. My village is Theatre Road, Calcutta.

DECEMBER 3, 1939
N (after Sri Aurobindo's walk): Did you say Theatre Road was your village?
Sri Aurobindo : Yes, I was born there in the house of the lawyer Manmohan Ghosh. It was No.4, I think.


Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, Vol. XXV No.2 April 1973

On 15.1.73, the Mother gave the Sacred Relics of Sri Aurobindo to Bholanath Sen. Minister, Government of West Bengal and Himanghsu Kumar Niyogi, President, Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, for installation at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, the house where Sri Aurobindo was born, and which has been consecrated by the Government under that name. At Calcutta, the relics were taken to the Alipore Central Jail where Sri Aurobindo was detained as an under trial prisoner and then to Alipore Court where he was tried and acquitted. Arranged by the Government in collaboration with the Pathamandir, the relics were taken round all the Districts of West Bengal. On 16.02.73, the Relics reached Jadavpur University, developed out of the National College of which Sri Aurobindo was the first Principal. From there, in one of the longest of recent processions in Calcutta, they were taken to Sri Aurobindo Bhavan where they were installed by Shri A. L. Dias, Governor of West Bengal.



Before relating the divine visit of Sri Aurobindo's relics to different districts of West Bengal I will state something about Sri Aurobindo Bhavan.

We were to ascertain the exact place of birth of Sri Aurobindo for the past several years. We had gone through records and birth registers kept in Calcutta Corporation, street directories in the National Library but failed to get any conclusive proof because at that time, only the name of the owner of a house, not its occupier, was kept in records. In 1947, the birthday of Sri Aurobindo was celebrated in 'Rajani', a house in Lower Circular Road. Hearing this news Sri Aurobindo said, “That is not the house where I was born. It was somewhere on Theatre Road, may be 4 Theatre Road.”

Taking this statement as a lead we were able to prove from municipal records that 4 Theatre Road in 1935-36 is at present 8 Theatre Road. One Mr. Ezra was the owner of that house. During British rule the house was purchased by the Bengal Government to use as residence of the Commissioner of Residence Division. After Independence the house was requisitioned as the residence of Chief Minister of West Bengal. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, the then Chief Minister used to live in that house. Home Minister Kiranshankar Roy also resided and breathed his last there. Afterwards it became the residence of Relief and Rehabilitation Minister of the Government of India. During the Bangladesh Freedom Movement this home was the headquarters of the Bangladesh Government in exile; it was the Muzibnagar. Sri Surendramohan Ghosh used to say, “Look at that house! Can you tell me why none can live there for long?”

We have seen in records that Barrister Mono Mohan Ghosh a friend of Sri Aurobindo's father lived in that house No.4 which was later renumbered as 8 Theatre Road. We then clearly assumed that Sri Aurobindo's childhood memory was associated with this very house.

When we approached the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Celebration Committee for that house, the National Committee formed a sub-committee and sent them to Calcutta to verify all the documents. After seeing the records the sub-committee was convinced that Sri Aurobindo's childhood memory was associated with this house, most likely he was born in that house.

The National Committee then requested the Central Government to preserve this house as a national memorial and after crossing some bureaucratic hurdles we were able to get it with the personal help of the Prime Minister of India and assistance from the State Government.

The State Government then passed a Bill in the state legislature to form a trust which should look after the house named Sri Aurobindo Bhavan.[2]



“Whereas it is expedient to establish at 8, Shakespeare Sarani, Calcutta, the place where Sri Aurobindo was born and spent his childhood days, the Sri Aurobindo Bhavan and to constitute a Society for propagating the teaching of Sri Aurobindo amongst the masses so as to help them to raise their mental and moral outlook and to solve their cultural and spiritual problems in the light of such teachings.”


From the Calcutta Gazette, Extraordinary, August 12, 1972, Part III, page 1708 of the Sri Aurobindo Memorial Act, 1972, First Schedule [See Section 2(b)].

(a) Premises No.8, Shakespeare Sarani, being all that piece or parcel or plot of rent-free land measuring 0.61 hectare, more or less, situate in the town of Calcutta bounded in the following manner, that is to say, on the north by Shakespeare Sarani, on the south by 16 and 17, Lord Sinha Road, on the east by 10 Shakespeare Sarani, and on the west by 6, Shakespeare Sarani.

(b) together with all buildings, structures and erections standing or being on the said land, which said premises and buildings are commonly known as 8, Shakespeare Sarani, Calcutta, and

(c) together with all rights, casements and appurtenances whatsoever belonging or attached or appurtenances to the said land, buildings, structures and erections or held or enjoyed therewith.

EXTRACT from the Sri Aurobindo Memorial Bill, 1972, Bill No. 35 of 1972 with Statement of Objects and Reasons.


On the basis of clause 7, of the Bill the premises known as 8, Shakespeare Sarani with all its buildings and structures and land will be transferred to the Sri Aurobindo Samiti of West Bengal. The rough valuation of the property, according to the books of the PWD, is Rs. 1,82,838. The current valuation in terms of the records of the Calcutta Corporation is Rs. 4,14,720. In terms of clause 9 of the Bill the Statement Government may make contribution for the maintenance of the property of the Samiti and for discharging the functions of the Samiti. The amount involved will vary according to the needs of particular year, but it is not likely to be considerable.

Calcutta B. N. Sen, Member-in-Charge
The 29th July 1972


[1] Surendra Mohan Ghosh, M.P. and a leader of Bengal Congress was a direct political disciple of Sri Aurobindo in the early part of the century belonging to the Jugantar Revolutionary group. In later life, he was a frequent visitor to Sri Aurobindo Ashram and had several personal exclusive interviews with Sri Aurobindo from 1948 to 1950. He also acted as a political liaison between Sri Aurobindo and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and National Congress leaders of the period.

[2] Extract translated from an article published in Sri Aurobindo Mandir Bartika, 15th August, 1978.

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