The Poetic Strength and Beauty of ‘Baji Prabhou’ – Part II

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Editor’s note: In the second part of the essay, author Shruti Bidwaikar tells us how Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and Shivaji, all three of them practiced the Yoga of Gita while working for the nation without any demands or self-interest.



Ideologically, Baji Prabhou presents the spiritual vision of Shivaji and Sri Aurobindo. Both have been great patriots of the country and have fought for delivering their Motherland from foreign clutches. One fought with the sword, the other with his pen; but both the sword and pen proved to be powerful because they were infused with the spiritual strength of their masters.

According to Swami Vivekananda,

“Shivaji was the greatest Hindu king that India had produced within the last thousand years; one who was the very incarnation of Lord Siva, about whom prophecies were given out long before he was born; and his advent was eagerly expected by all the great souls and saints of Maharashtra as the deliverer of the Hindus from the hands of the Mlecchas, and as one who succeeded in the reestablishment of Dharma which had been trampled underfoot by the depredations of the devastating hordes of the Moghals”

(The Echoes of the the Teachings of Swami Vivekananda, 219)

It is interesting to relate to this comment of Swamiji for he was himself an incarnation of Lord Shiva (God Lives with Them).

Sri Aurobindo has spoken eloquently about both Shivaji and Swami Vivekananda.

About Shivaji he says, “Shivaji with his vivid and interesting life and character,… not only founded a kingdom but organised a nation” (CWSA, Vol. 20, p. 251).

Swami Vivekananda too worked towards awakening the country out of tamas, about which Sri Aurobindo remarks,

Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definite work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, “Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of her children.”…

Not only are the men greater than their definite works, but their influence is so wide and formless that it has little relation to any formal work that they have left behind them.

(CWSA, Vol. 1, p. 662)

These were the lion-hearted men who went forth to deliver India. Sri Aurobindo too came forward to fight for the country not only because of his patriotism but also because he had in him assimilated, evoked and inculcated the spiritual strength like his two predecessors.

It was because of their spiritual strength that Shivaji, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo contributed much towards Indian freedom struggle. Rather, it was their spiritual strength that gave the push to the freedom movement which was then carried forward by other people. They breathed great force into it.

A close reading of the poem Baji Prabhou also helps us see the similarities in the spiritual thought and practice which guided the patriotism of both Shivaji and Sri Aurobindo.

Through the depiction of Baji Prabhou Deshpande this poem sets forth the capability and impact of Shivaji on his pupil. At the same time it speaks of the practice of yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, something that both Shivaji and Sri Aurobindo had practiced. Shivaji’s spiritual practice perhaps had a great impact on some of his pupils of which Baji Prabhou was one.

It may be noted that historical records tell us that Baji Prabhou was at loggerheads with Shivaji. He was also 15-20 years elder to him. But when Baji got defeated in a battle and was generously treated by Shivaji, Baji’s heart melted down and he understood the great vision of Shivaji who was fighting for the whole nation and not for the small provinces. He then remained a faithful chieftain in the service of Shivaji.

It was the vision of Shivaji which made him a great king and it is because of this quality that he was able to win the hearts of some of his enemies. Therefore, in the poem Baji Prabhou was not only a mouth-piece of Shivaji but also perhaps one who followed the ideal of his visionary king and practiced detachment as suggested in the Gita.

It is significant that Shivaji, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo all implored the shakti of Bhavani to shake the country out of tamas.

In the poem we read “We but employ/ Bhavani’s strength, who in an arm of flesh…” We hear an echo of this in the message that Sri Aurobindo gave in “Bhavani Mandir”. Like Baji who calls upon the Bhavani within to take over and fight, Sri Aurobindo too asks all countrymen to realize the Bhavani within.

Come then, hearken to the call of the Mother. She is already in our hearts waiting to manifest Herself, waiting to be worshipped, — inactive because the God in us is concealed by tamas, troubled by Her inactivity, sorrowful because Her children will not call on Her to help them.

(CWSA, Vol. 6, p. 89)

Also read:
Something of the Stuff of the Hero and of the Titan

There is a striking similarity between Shivaji and Sri Aurobindo and that is the practice of Gita’s yoga. N.S. Takhakav in his book Life of Shivaji Maharaj records many evidences when Shivaji was guided by two of his mentors Sant Tukaram and Swami Ramdas to practice Gita’s yoga. Most essential teaching they gave him was to act without attachment, the act of inner renunciation.

It is said that Shivaji had offered his entire kingdom to Swami Ramdas and was commanded by the latter to rule over it as its custodian without any attachment for fruit of his actions. Shivaji Maharaj seems to have practiced it most sincerely. That is why Sri Aurobindo says,

Not until Shivaji was ready to offer his head at the feet of the Mother, did Bhavani in visible form stay his hand and give him the command to free his people. Those who have freed nations, have first passed through the agony of utter renunciation before their efforts were crowned with success, and those who aspire to free India, will first have to pay the price which the Mother demands.

(CWSA, Vol. 7, p. 1032)

Sri Aurobindo’s speech given at Uttarpara reveals to us how although he was working for the freedom struggle he was not fully detached from the act.

It was only when he was taken to prison in 1908 that he got the message from Sri Krishna and he practiced the inner renunciation of the Gita. He says in Uttarpara speech:

Then He placed the Gita in my hands. His strength entered into me and I was able to do the sadhana of the Gita. I was not only to understand intellectually but to realise what Srikrishna demanded of Arjuna and what He demands of those who aspire to do His work, to be free from repulsion and desire, to do work for Him without the demand for fruit, to renounce self-will and become a passive and faithful instrument in His hands, to have an equal heart for high and low, friend and opponent, success and failure, yet not to do His work negligently.

(CWSA, Vol. 8, p. 5)

This is the philosophy of inner renunciation pronounced by Baji Prabhou almost in the beginning of the poem.

“Me thou shalt not burn.
For this five feet or more of bone and flesh,
Whether pure flame or jackals of the hills
Be fattened with its rags, may well concern
Others, not Baji Prabhou.”

These words resonate with the words of Bhagavad Gita chapter two:

It is uncleavable, it is incombustible, it can neither be drenched nor dried. Eternally stable, immobile, all-pervading, it is forever and forever.

(BG, II: 24)

Baji Prabhou was dauntless, fearless, enduring and courageous only because he was not attached to the phenomenal world. He realised Bhavani who was the “all-pervading” divine in him. He did not bother about the last rites of the body about which most of the ordinary men are concerned.

Neither Baji nor Shivaji were attached to each other just emotionally. Their relation was strong and had a meaning only as the children of their Mother. Therefore Shivaji tells Baji,

We part, O friend, but meet again we must,
When from our tasks released we both shall run
Like children to our Mother’s clasp.

He does not say we shall embrace each other, but would run to their Mother’s clasp. This is the solidarity, conviction and shared love they had for their Motherland. No wonder it was with the same conviction that Sri Aurobindo set out to deliver his Motherland from the “demon” (the British rule).

This poem truly is a marvellous example of patriotism that is based on spirituality and practice of Gita: to work for the nation without any demands from it; to lay one’s life without any grudge and to realize that it is the Mother who will act and give the strength to act, that we are mere instruments in Her hands.

Although written before independence, Baji Prabhou still has the power to move the readers to remind us of our duty toward our nation and the Lord. It certainly reminds us of our rashtra dharma and sanatana dharma.


Have you read PART 1?

  • Sri Aurobindo, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA), Vol.  2 Collected Poems. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2009
  • Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 26 The Future Poetry. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1997.
  • Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 27 Letters on Poetry And Art. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2004.
  • Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 6 Bande Mataram. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2002.
  • Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 7 Bande Mataram. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2002.
  • Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 8 Karmayogin. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1997.
  • Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20 The Renaissance in India. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1997.
  • Anil Baran Roy, Ed. The Message of the Gita. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1972.
  • Swami Chetanananda, God Lived with Them. Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, 1997.
  • K. D. Sethna, Sri Aurobindo the Poet. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, 1972.
  • M. C. Nanjunda Rao, The Echoes of the Teachings of Swami Vivekandanda, Vedanta Kesari, 1916.

Also Read:
The Conquest of India by the English

~ Design: Raamkumar
~ Baji Prabhou drawings: Sushanto

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