Sahana Devi

Stories by Chinmoy

 

 

Foreword

Sri Chinmoy requested this compilation of stories about Sahana Devi in 2006 and he reviewed it several times, making additions and corrections. From the time that he joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1944, as a young orphan of only twelve, Sahana Devi expressed tremendous motherly concern and love for him. He remained eternally grateful to her.

– Vidagdha Bennett (Compiler)

 

Table of Contents

 
 

 

 

Preface by Sri Chinmoy

I shall tell you a few stories about a singer of the supreme heights. Her name was Sahana Devi. She lived at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram as a most ardent disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for more than sixty years before she passed away in 1990. During my Ashram days, I basked in the sunshine of her affection.

 

1. How Sahana Devi Joined the Ashram

Sahana-di was a student at Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan. She was extremely fortunate because she was so closely connected with Tagore. She sang for him many, many times and he was deeply enamoured of her soul-stirring voice. She also composed many songs.  

Dilip Kumar Roy was responsible for bringing Sahana Devi to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Dilip-da had a golden voice and also he had mesmerising charm. When Sahana Devi saw and heard Dilip-da’s supremely gifted talents, she became a great admirer of him.

 

Dilip Kumar Roy

Sahana-di was a singer of the highest order. She had a most glorious singing voice.1 Dilip-da taught her one particular Bengali song. After Sahana-di sang that song, Dilip-da said he would not sing it any more because she sang it far, far better than he did.2 Look at Dilip-da’s sincerity!  

When Dilip-da joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, he inspired Sahana-di to do the same. By that time, she too had developed tremendous love and devotion for Sri Aurobindo. Dilip-da and Sahana-di both arrived at the Ashram on November 22nd, 1928.  

Tagore was very upset when Sahana-di left Santiniketan. When she came to the Ashram, he sent an unforgettable message: “Had I been an Emperor, like the Moghul Emperors, I would have sent my army to bring you back from the Ashram.”  

Sahana-di had such a great personality. She was very highly educated and extremely talented. In appearance, she had a long face and she was very tall, majestic. She had a certain way of walking that commanded respect. When she walked, you could feel there was something inside her. She carried tremendous dignity, dignity, dignity.  

People were not afraid of her, but she commanded such admiration and respect. To go near her was really something. It was easier to go near Dilip-da. In Sahana-di, we always felt kindness and seriousness at the same time.  

 

2. Sahana Devi’s Version of Tagore’s Musical Tastes

Sahana Devi was a supreme authority on Tagore, specially Tagore’s devotional songs. She wrote in one of her articles that Tagore did not care for tabla or measured Western beat. She said that he wanted only a spontaneous flow.  

Then, in a subsequent issue of the same magazine, another authority on Tagore’s music – Shanti Ghosh – said that Tagore really enjoyed tabla and also Western beat. Whom to believe? Both of them studied under Tagore and now there are two different versions. Sahana Devi was older than Shanti Ghosh by a few years, so perhaps her version is more reliable.  

I have the same problem. When the beat is measured, usually I do not like it. For the fast songs, I do like it but for the slow ones, these one-eighth or one-quarter notes do not appeal to me.  

Tagore had ten or twelve students whom he personally invited to study directly under him. They were selected from the several hundred students who attended Santiniketan. Among these selected students, his nephew Dinendranath3 was the closest. As soon as a tune came to Tagore, he used to sing it for his nephew and his nephew would give the proper notation. When his nephew died, Tagore said that his right hand had gone. Other students began taking notation for him, but the process became very slow. Tagore always used to say that the reason was that his nephew was in his consciousness, whereas, the others were not.  

 

3. The Niece of Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan Das

Sahana Devi came of a very illustrious family. Her maternal uncle was known as ‘Deshabandhu’ – ‘The Friend of the Nation’. That was his title. His actual name was Chitta Ranjan Das. He was the barrister who defended Sri Aurobindo when Sri Aurobindo was interned in Alipore Jail on a charge of sedition.4 Lord Krishna himself came to Sri Aurobindo in the Alipore Jail and told him, “Give all responsibility to Chitta Ranjan. You do not need to give your advice. He is the one whom I have chosen to release you from the jail.”  

Day in and day out, C.R. Das worked so hard. Then, while summing up his case before the court, C.R. Das gave such an historic message. He said, “Long after he [Sri Aurobindo] is dead and gone, his words will be echoed and re-echoed not only in India but across distant seas and lands …” That was the day Sri Aurobindo was released.  

 

Chitta Ranjan Das

 

C.R. Das became a very great political figure. He was extremely close to Mahatma Gandhi, ‘the Father of the Nation’. They had mutual admiration and appreciation for each other.  

For many years, C.R. Das used to come and visit Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo told him, “Politics and spirituality do not go together. Give up politics if you want to realise God.”  

C.R. Das could not give up politics. He continued to work for his country until death snatched him away in 1925.  The Master-Seer of the age, from his silence-hushed Ashram, said,  

Chitta Ranjan’s death is a supreme loss. Consummately endowed with political intelligence, constructive imagination, magnetism, a driving force combining a strong will and uncommon plasticity of mind for vision and tact of the hour, he was the one man after Tilak who could have led India to Swaraj.

Tagore’s glorious tribute to the mighty departed soul runs:   

With thee came down
            The immortal breath.
This thou booned us
            With thy body’s breath.   

Mahatma Gandhi said:   

Time cannot efface the memory of a man so great and good as Deshabandhu.   

 

4. Sahana-di Sings for Sri Aurobindo

The Mother and Sri Aurobindo lavished their affection and love on Sahana-di. She was such a superlative singer; her voice was unimaginably haunting. In the beginning, Sri Aurobindo gave Dilip-da, Sahana-di and one or two more permission to sing for him once a week. Then, gradually, it became once a fortnight, then once a month. Perhaps I was not even born at that time.  

Sahana-di was among those who used to receive letters from Sri Aurobindo almost on a daily basis from 1930 to 1938. She received hundreds and hundreds of letters from him. Sri Aurobindo had very special blessings, very special concern and very special affection for her. In her immortal book, entitled At the Feet of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, Sahana-di published many, many letters that she received from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.  

 

Sahana-di and the Mother

 

5. Sahana-di’s Experience while I was Singing

The Pondicherry sun is very, very powerful. Many days we had scorching heat. The following incident happened in 1946 or 1947 on one of those days. I was just a young boy of fourteen or fifteen. Between midday and one o’clock – absolutely the hottest time of the day – I was inspired to walk along the shore of the Bay of Bengal. Then, what is more, I was inspired to sing some songs. Deliberately, from beginning to end, I was singing them all wrong! I was singing in Bengali at the top of my voice and I was using all unbearable melodies. In this way, I was getting much more joy than when I sang those songs correctly!  

The Bay of Bengal was only one hundred metres away from my house. I walked there for at least five or six hundred metres. I was not wearing sandals even. Sometimes I was singing, sometimes I was whistling. I was absolutely carefree. This kind of carefree life is something we can never recapture, never! After walking there, I came back home. When I came near my house, I could not continue to sing in such an uncivilised way, so I stopped my singing. I became a silent Brahman.  

In three or four hours’ time, Sahana Devi came to my sisters’ house with a poem. Her house was very close to the Bay of Bengal – only two and a half blocks away. She told my sisters that from her balcony, she had seen me walking and singing. I was acting like a madcap, but she had seen inside me the living presence of God. She did not see me as a human being at that time; she saw a living God inside me. She herself was such a great singer, but she did not care about my deplorable singing.  

She was so deeply inspired by this experience that she wrote about twelve lines to say, “I vividly saw God, not a human being.” At that time, I was not yet well acquainted with her, but I knew who she was. That was her first comment.  

Even now, I cannot believe how badly I was singing, deliberately, on that day. I was getting tremendous joy by singing the wrong tune. But Sahana-di went beyond my singing. What a beautiful poem she wrote! Afterwards she came to know that I happen to be a good singer.  

Afterwards, she reminded me of that incident many, many times. In 1989, when I visited my family at the Ashram, she was 92 years old. Even then, she had to remind me of that incident.

 

6. The Cousin of Atulprasad Sen

Recently, I have come to learn that Sahana-di was the cousin of Atulprasad Sen, the great composer.5 6 I have borrowed the melody of his song “Balo balo balo sabe” for my song “Chalo chalo chalo chalo”. Here, in the West, if you borrow the melody of another composer, then you will be placed in jail. But, in India, if you mention that you have borrowed a melody from someone, then you are exonerated and the composer is so proud that you have taken his melody. Our “Chalo chalo” I have freely taken from “Balo balo”. Like that, I have taken seven or eight supreme tunes from different musicians – Kaji Najrul Islam, Dilip Kumar Roy and others.

 

7. A Serious Misunderstanding with Sahana-di

Sahana-di became one of my Ashram ‘mothers’. My own physical mother left me when I was eleven and a half, so when I came to the Ashram, there were five elderly women who lavished their affection on me unreservedly and unconditionally. They all claimed to be my mothers and they showered me with boundless love and affection. My main mother was Mridu-di.7 Then came Sahana-di. In so many ways, she poured her boundless affection, concern and fondness upon me.  

Alas, somehow a serious misunderstanding arose at one time between Sahana-di and me. She had a devoted student, but later on, this lady became Sahana-di’s rival. The rival’s daughter was in Sahana-di’s music class. One day, this girl was angry with Sahana-di for some reason. She stood up in class and said, “Even Chinmoy-da says that your voice is not what it used to be. You have lost your singing capacity.”  

All on a sudden, out of the blue, that girl had to ruin everything for me. It was only rivalry because this girl’s mother, who was also a singer, was jealous of Sahana-di. Although we were brought up together at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, I never had the occasion to speak to that girl, even for a fleeting second. She was two years my junior and she was in a completely different class from me. But I happened to be a very good singer, so she thought if she uttered her criticism in my name it would have more effect.  

I was a great admirer of Sahana-di’s singing voice. What is more, Sahana-di was so kind, so affectionate and so indulgent to me. How could I speak ill of her? It was unthinkable for me to criticise my Ashram mother. It was all an utter lie. But that is how fate goes.  

Sahana-di believed the story and she became so mad. Life is always like that. When people speak ill of us, we always believe it. But when they flatter us, we are reluctant to accept their praise; we feel there must be some motive behind it. I told Sahana-di that the report was absolutely false, but she did not believe me. She was so furious that she would not even talk to me, nor would she include me in any musical activities. Before, I was one of the first to be invited.  

 

8. I am Forbidden to Participate

My unfortunate experience with Sahana-di happened in 1947. Her punishment came a few months later. Our greatest Ashram singer, Dilip Kumar Roy, had composed an excellent song in Sanskrit on India’s freedom. The name of the song was “Avirbhuta bharata janani” (Mother India is fully awakened). In this song, he is worshipping the soul of India as the Mother Goddess.  

Dilip-da wanted at least two hundred Ashramites to perform the song at a special function that would be held at the football playground. Pondicherry’s Governor would be there. Sahana Devi and Dilip-da were extremely close friends and Sahana Devi was his assistant. In order to make up the number, Sahana Devi invited singers of all different standards to join – including my own brother Mantu, who cannot hold a note! Give him any song and it is off the track. When my brother Mantu used to sing, my sister Lily used to disappear because he ruined everything. When they were singing in a group, my sister would become so embarrassed, she used to run away.  

Anyway, I was not allowed to be among those two hundred singers. Can you imagine? Sahana-di said, “If Chinmoy sings that song, I am not going to sing.”  

Who was I in comparison with Sahana-di? So Dilip-da’s reply was, “Oh, who needs Chinmoy!” I received a message via one of Dilip-da’s friends that I must not join the group; I was discarded.  

The singers used to practise at Dilip-da’s house. It was only forty metres away from the house where I lived, on the same street. Two hundred people could not be accommodated in his house, so some of them had to stand outside on the pavement.  

While they were practising, I used to enjoy singing the song. Who could remain silent? I could hear it very well, even from my room. I learnt it very, very nicely, but I was not allowed to participate in the final performance. That was my punishment.  

Some people told me that I should just go up and sing on that day without an invitation. They said it would not matter because so many people were taking part. But I did not dare. I did not want to make Sahana Devi even more furious. So I stayed in the audience.  

I suffered so much because one girl told a lie. I incurred Sahana-di’s anger and also Dilip-da became really angry with me. It took many long years for Sahana-di to forgive me.  

 

9. Sahana-di Forgives Me

This incident happened in 1952, when I was twenty-one years old. One day, Sahana Devi caught me on the street and gave me a notebook. In it, she had written a poem in Bengali of ten or twelve lines. It was very short. My mothers did not believe in ‘request’. Their heart-dictionaries housed only ‘demand’ and ‘command’. She did not beg or request me – she ordered me to translate it into English. She said she would forgive me on one condition: if she was satisfied with my translation. This poem was all about Sri Aurobindo. The title was “Aurobindo Pranam”. Sahana-di’s notebook also contained a long poem by her in Bengali. It ran to two hundred lines.  

I immediately translated the short poem and then I was inspired to translate the long poem as well. I thought, “I have so many things to do, but at least I should do this for Sahana-di. Whether it is to her satisfaction or not, I should do it.”  

Master! To Thee I Bow
By Sahana Devi
 

Thy Feet of immortal lustre are all my world,
My life, a worship of Thy Form divine,
My haven, the fulness of Thy desire unfurled,
Extinction of earth’s will in Thee is mine.  

Devoutness of my heart Thy Bounty’s rays,
The splendour of Thy Compass is my might,
The ken of Thine is my liberation’s ways,
Blessings of Thee on me Thy Acceptance-light.  

My realm, Thy world unveiled of supernal Play,
Mine is the whole of Thy eternal swing,
My loneliness is the fire-touch of Thy ray,
And that alone the door unclosed to Thee, King!  

The Form of my form is Thy Apocalypse,
The Fountain of my thoughts is Thy Will’s Sun,
Existence Thine my song’s citadel-deeps,
My bow the withdrawal of “I”, and union.

                                   (Translated by Chinmoy)  

Fortunately, Sahana-di liked my translations very much. When she read them, she once more became all love, all affection, all kindness, all compassion towards me. And I received from her the same scoldings! She was all-eager to forgive me, so she said she liked the translations very much and she was so happy, so happy. She arranged for both the long one and the short one to be printed in the Mother India.8

Many years later, during one of my visits to the Ashram, she said to me, “Now I want you to keep this. You will value it because it is your own handwriting.” My notebook that I gave her with my translations, she gave back to me. My original handwriting was quite beautiful. Nowadays, it is unreadable! I still preserve that notebook.  

 

10. My Table Tennis Adventures

I am beginning with the story of how my pride was smashed when I was a young man. Sahana Devi used to beg me to play tennis. Because I was doing well in athletics, I did not listen to her advice. I thought that if I practised tennis on the hard court, I would ruin my legs for sprinting. I was also very poor and I could not afford to buy the necessary shoes and racquet. At the Ashram, I played tennis only twice.  

One year, for some reason, I decided to participate in the tennis tournament. Since I had no experience, they put me against K. Rajangam. This was the gentleman who gave the money to buy the main building of the Ashram. He was quite young when he joined the Ashram and he came of a very rich family, so he offered Sri Aurobindo and the Mother a very large amount of money and the main building was purchased.  

About ten years ago when I was visiting the Ashram, I was nearing the Ashram Dining Hall. Somebody from behind called, “Chinmoy!” I turned around only to see him. He grabbed my hands and immediately put them on his head for my blessings.  

This happened right in the street. I said, “What are you doing? What are you doing?”  

He said, “I know who you are.” 

 

Rajan-da outside the main entrance of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram

 

Coming back to my tennis story, Rajan-da was then on the wrong side of 50. He was either 55 or 58. I was about 22 years old. I had such pride because I was the fastest sprinter, the best athlete. I said to Rajan-da, “I will easily defeat you!” Then the game commenced and I discovered that my racquet had a big ‘hole’! He was such a skilful player and he was enjoying the game immensely. Poor me, I was running this side and that side, but I could not return the ball. Needless to say, he defeated me very nicely. He crushed my ego.  

The second time I played was the following day. I went and practised against the wall with the hope that in the near future I could again challenge Rajan-da. Alas, it did not help. I failed to make any progress. Sahana-di begged me and begged me to persevere. She even said she would give me a tennis racquet.  

I said, “No, no, no.”  I did not follow her suggestion. But now, you see, her vision was better than mine. If I had listened to her and started playing tennis at age eighteen, today I would be able to play really well. These were my two experiences of playing tennis in the Ashram.  

Then Sahana-di said, “At least play table tennis.”  I agreed to try table tennis.  

Sahana-di was so happy. She immediately gave me three wooden table tennis bats. I began to learn the game and I became a very good player.  

One of the main pillars of the Ashram – A.B. Purani – used to enjoy playing table tennis very much. Unfortunately, he was quite stout and also at that time he was around sixty years old. Therefore, nobody wanted to play on the same doubles team as him. I happened to be a great admirer of his. I used to call him ‘Lion’, and he used to call me ‘Baby Lion’. He was very, very fond of me. So I said that I was ready to play doubles with him.  

Alas, we never won. Why? Because people are not kind. Our opponents used to direct all their tricky shots to him. He was the weak point in our team. How much area could I cover? But I did not mind at all because I was able to give Purani-ji so much joy, so much joy.  

 

A.B. Purani

 

I wish to add something more about Purani-ji. He was a very great scholar and writer. His Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo offer us so many insights into Sri Aurobindo’s views on a wide range of subjects.  

In 1955, Purani-ji went to England to gather information about Sri Aurobindo’s early life there for his monumental biography entitled The Life of Sri Aurobindo. In his book, he has reproduced a photograph of the room Sri Aurobindo occupied as a student at King’s College, Cambridge University.  

On June 27th, 2003 – nearly half a century later – I went to Cambridge to honour various professors with our “Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart Award”. One of my students made arrangements with the Provost tor me to go and see Sri Aurobindo’s room after our ceremony was over.  

There are actually two rooms where Sri Aurobindo lived from 1890-1892. The smaller of the two rooms was used as a study by Sri Aurobindo and some other students. The rooms are now occupied by an elderly gentleman, Dr. John Avery, who is retired. Formerly, he was a lecturer in Persian studies. He showed me everything with such love and respect. He made repeated requests for me to sit down, but how could I dare to sit down in the room where my Master had studied? I was trembling with delight inside that room. My eyes were flooded with tears and my heart was swimming in the sea of delight. My heart was literally throbbing. Out of reverence, I remained standing and meditated.  

Afterwards, Dr. Avery thanked me for paying a visit to his room. I replied, “It is I who should be grateful to you. I am a humble disciple of Sri Aurobindo.”  

I will cherish this most precious memory of my visit to Sri Aurobindo’s room until the end of my days. Fortunately, we were able to take many, many photographs, so perhaps I have been able to add something to Purani-ji’s immortal book.  

 

11. Nolini-da Immortalises Sahana-di

On January 30th, 1962, I said to Nolini-da, “It seems you have immortalised Sahana-di in your writings.”  

Nolini-da replied, “Chinmoy, I do not write anything false. She deserves my sincere appreciation.”

 

Sahana-di, Nolini-da and Nolini-da’s son Robi-da – March 1969.
Photo by Chinmoy

 

12. Kings and Queens of Imagination

Kalipada-da, Rose-di and Satinath-da were working in Amrita-da’s room. Around eleven o’clock in the morning, Amrita-da said to me: “Chinmoy, yesterday I read your article on Raja Rammohun. You are all Bengalis here; I am the only non-Bengali. I must say that all you Bengalis are rajas and ranis [kings and queens] of imagination.”  

Rose-di said, “Amrita-da, what you say is perfectly true. But, unfortunately, we have all lost our kingdoms, so we are crownless kings and queens.”  

At this point, Sahana-di entered the room. Amrita-da said, “Don’t worry. Sahana can easily solve the problem for you. She can afford not only to buy you crowns but also to crown you.”  

Sahana-di said, “What? What? What kind of arrow, Amrita, are you hurling at me?”  

“We are not aiming arrows at you. We are just admiring your supernatural capacities and qualities,” he said.

 

13. I Set Music to Sahana-di’s Song

Sahana-di wrote many, many beautiful songs. I learnt quite a few when I was in India. One song of hers was my favourite. After I came to America, I set music to this particular composition in my own way.
 

 

Agni mayi agni jwalo kayai tuli sara
Rakte mama bahao taba bani rasha dhara
Tarar mato urdha shikha dhari utuk sab dhulika
Mukta karo bhangi amar mritikar kara

                                                                                    – Sahana Devi

 

On one of my visits to Pondicherry, I wanted to sing that song for her. Sahana-di was head of the tailoring department in the Ashram. The Mother gave her that job. My cousin Nirmala-di also used to work there. There were about ten workers altogether. So one day I went there. The workers were so thrilled that I had come to visit their department. And Sahana-di herself was so happy and surprised to see me.  

She asked, “What brings you here?”  

I replied, “I have come here to sing a song. One of your songs I have set to music. I know your melody well; I learnt it when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. I fully appreciate your melody, but in America, I was inspired to set a different melody to your song. I want you to hear my version.”  

She said, “I know you are a daredevil. Now, what do you need from me? You have not come with your harmonium?”  

“From America, I will carry my harmonium?” I answered.  

Then she said, “Ja! Go inside. There are three harmoniums. Choose whichever one you want. Bring it out and sing.”  

I said, “I do not need your harmonium. I can sing better without a harmonium.”  

I was told that Sahana-di was very fussy about her instruments. Usually, she did not lend them to anyone. But on that occasion, she begged me to use one of her harmoniums. So I played on her harmonium and sang the song. Although my tune was totally different from hers, she was very deeply moved.  

That kind of affectionate command or demand we exchanged – the ‘son’ and the ‘mother’. At that time I was forty-two.9

 

14. The Last Meeting

Every time I went to India to visit my family, I used to visit Sahana Devi. The last two or three times, she came to our house in a rickshaw to see me. I would have gone to see her, but she did not trust me to come on my own, so she came to see me. She said, “You have become such a great person, it is I who should visit you.”  

The last time I saw her, she said to me, “Kindly give me some money, Chinmoy. I have written a novel and I need money to print it.”  

I said, “Fine. How much money do you need?”  

She told me how much money she needed. Then immediately I gave her much more than what she needed. This was a kind of mother-and-son business.  

Then she asked me if she should send me an autographed copy. I said, “Yes, you can give me. But, forgive me, I am not going to read your novel.”  

She knew I am of that type. In my entire life, I have read only three novels: Anandamath by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee,10 Srikanto by Sarat Chandra Chatterjee11 and War and Peace by Tolstoy.  

So Sahana-di did not send me her autographed copy. She passed away on April 6th, 1990 at the age of 93.  

 

15. The Grandson of Deshabandhu

The grandson of Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan Das became India’s Ambassador to the United States in 1992. His name is Siddhartha Shankar Ray. His mother, Aparna Devi, was the eldest daughter of Deshabandhu. Formerly, Siddhartha Shankar Ray was the Chief Minister of West Bengal.  

He was, to some extent, anti Sri Aurobindo because he did not understand why Sri Aurobindo left politics and opened up the Ashram. And yet, here in America, he and his wife, Maya Devi, poured their affection into me in so many ways. They were so kind to me.  

On August 8th, 1993, we honoured them both with a special programme at a local school, PS 86. During the programme, we played a recording of Sahana-di singing and Ambassador Ray was very deeply moved.12

This is what Ambassador Ray said on that occasion:  

Sri Chinmoy, sisters and brothers, I want everyone to know how deeply grateful I am for the exalting spiritual experience that you have provided me tonight. There was tremendous spiritual serenity, but it was coupled with a great deal of mundane gladness. Not only have you, my sisters and brothers, and, of course, Sri Chinmoy, uplifted me towards great spiritual heights, but suddenly listening to my own aunt singing after so many years was something I did not ever expect, certainly not in the United States.   

Sahana Devi was my mother’s first cousin, the daughter of the sister of Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan Das. The last time I saw her I was perhaps eight or ten years old. She renounced the world and went to Pondicherry to join Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo, of course, she knew, not only because my grandfather defended him, but also because of my grandfather’s spiritual affinity with him, but more than that, because of my grandmother’s love for Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and his thinking. Our family and Sri Aurobindo’s family were very near, very close. As a result of which, when Sahana Devi wanted to renounce the world and seek spiritual attainment, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was probably the only place she could really have gone, the only place that she had really heard about.   

But to suddenly hear her voice today, on the 8th of August 1993, has completely taken away the soil from under my feet, and I do not really know what I am saying. Her singing voice was exactly the same as my mother’s voice and suddenly, when I heard her voice coming through the speakers, I thought it was my mother’s voice. My mother passed away in 1973, after a very long illness. She suffered from cancer. And after twenty years to suddenly hear the same voice was mentally, as well as spiritually, shall I say shattering. I felt that I was living in a different world altogether.   

And I am grateful to Sri Chinmoy for having done this for me. I would not say that it is for me. It is because I am the grandson of Deshabandhu. Otherwise, there have been many ambassadors, many ministers.  

 

Conclusion

Sahana Devi was a very, very great soul. Sri Aurobindo used to have many great souls among his disciples. She was undoubtedly one of those.  

Life is a flower of the soul that unfolds its petals
When touched by the Light of the Divine.

                                                    – Sahana Devi     

 

– End –

 

Endnotes:
1 An old recording of Sahana Devi singing may be found at the following: Hummaa.
2 This is confirmed by Anurag Banerjee who writes: “Once, at the University Institute Hall, Sahana Devi had sung Dwijendralal’s ‘How can we worship Thee in an image /When all the world’s Thine image Divine?’ which Dilip Kumar had taught her. After her performance Dilip Kumar got up and announced to the audience: “I’ll never sing this song again!” – except from The Mother’s Lasso.
3 Refer: Visva-Bharati.
4 Refer: Sri Aurobindo Society.
5 Refer: Munshiganj District.
6 A very rare recording of Atulprasad Sen singing his own composition may be found at: Hummaa.
7 Mridu Bhashini Devi. For stories about her, refer Mridu-di: My First and Foremost Mother of Affection [Agni Press, New York, 1998].
8 Mother India (journal)
9 1973 or 1974.
10 Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
11 Sri Chinmoy was fond of telling an amusing story about Sarat Chandra Chatterjee: “He had a dog, uglier than the ugliest, named Bulu. Bulu’s barking was not enough. He used to bite Sarat Chandra’s guests also. Sarat Chandra was such a great writer. He had many, many admirers. Now when Bulu died, many literary figures came to see him and pay their respects. When Bulu was buried, they all shed tears. Then some of them even went to the length of writing poems and short stories about Bulu to please Sarat Chandra.” Sri Chinmoy added: “If you like someone, then you will try to like the things that he likes.”
12 In 1996, Ambassador Ray offered the introduction to Sri Chinmoy’s Peace Concert in Washington, D.C. in which he said, “Sri Chinmoy is an embodiment of Rabindranath Tagore’s concept of the universal man.” On another occasion, Ambassador Ray said to Sri Chinmoy, “We are ambassadors. We deal in politics, but you are India’s real cultural ambassador. Our contributions do not last. Your contribution is the real contribution which will last in America and the West.”