Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, Sri Aurobindo's greatest odyssey of the spirit, is an unparalleled vision in modern times. It is, in the Mother's words, "the prophetic vision of the world's history, including the announcement of the earth's future. Most modern scholars of literature and history say that epic poetry is obsolete. Aurobindo is a seer, and Savitri is his vision of time and eternity, his vision of how love conquers death, the transformation of earth through immortality and the continuum principle of consciousness.
Savitri is a spiritual epic of 23, lines. It presents the drama of integral self-realization, which is its spiritual message.
It has also been called "Eternity in Words". In his book, The Future Poetry, Aurobindo says that the poetry of the future will be the true breath of poetic inspiration and creation; it will be mantrik and, as such, it will have the power to awaken consciousness. Such mantrik power is present in the entire epic of Savitri. Savitri embraces many universes: the universe within the individual and the universe without, the universe below and the universe above, that which lies beyond the human mind in those regions that cannot he reached by the physical, vital or mental being.
Savitri offers a vision of truth that goes beyond the ordinary mind through realms of overmind and supramental truth. Hence Savitri cannot be described only rationally, but must be felt, experienced, and realized. By the time it was published, some passages had gone through dozens of drafts. Sri Aurobindo explained how he wrote the poem: "I used Savitri as a means of ascension.
The English of Savitri Volume 4
I began with it on a certain mental level, each time I could reach a higher level I rewrote from that level In fact Savitri has not been regarded by me as a poem to be written and finished, but as a field of experimentation to see how far poetry could be written from one's own yogic consciousness and how that could be made creative".
The following outline of the composition and publication of Savitri draws upon all existing manuscripts and other textual materials, supplemented by the author's letters on the poem. In brief, Savitri took shape through three major phases. Its last version had a plan of eight books in two parts; the books were not divided into cantos.
For a long time he concentrated on the description of Aswapati's Yoga prior to the birth of Savitri, creating by a new Part One with three books and many cantos.
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He added a book on the Yoga of Savitri, making twelve books and forty-nine cantos in all and completing Parts Two and Three. He expressed appreciation of its style in his 'Notes on the Mahabharata', written around But a report that he worked on an English poem on the subject at this time is not supported by his own statements or any documents that survive. If there was a Baroda Savitri, which is doubtful, it was among the writings of which Sri Aurobindo wrote in , "Most of all that has disappeared into the unknown in the whirlpools and turmoil of my political career.
Further dates occur later on in the draft.
From the death of Satyavan to the end of Savitri's debate with Death, the manuscript is marked every few pages with dates from a three-day period, October. After this, the consecutive narration breaks off and the notebook contains only disconnected passages. Some of these are sketches for the conclusion of the poem. Most of them go back over what was already written. They represent the beginning of the long process of rewriting which was to continue until This earliest surviving manuscript of Savitri shows every sign of being the first draft. It is one of the few versions that Sri Aurobindo dated.
But even if precise dates cannot be assigned to them, the manuscripts of the poem can almost always be placed in a definite order after a careful comparison. This is because changes made when one draft was revised were usually incorporated in the next draft, which would then be further altered and most often expanded. Initially the poem was short enough not to require division into books or cantos.
Its sections were separated only by blank lines. Next he adopted a scheme of six cantos and an epilogue. After making a few drafts in cantos, he started substituting the word 'book' for 'canto'.
A Summary of the Book, Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol by Sri Aurobindo
There were now six books with the same names as the former cantos. Meanwhile the larger division had reappeared as two parts, 'Earth' and 'Beyond'. At first each part comprised three books, not counting the epilogue. But before long, the rapidly growing first book was broken up into two.
The second book kept the name 'Love'; the first was renamed 'Quest'. In early versions, 'Savithr' was the usual spelling of the heroine's name. Sri Aurobindo referred to this stage in the poem's history in a letter of "Savitri was originally written many years ago before the Mother came [i. But the last manuscript actually completed was in six cantos and an epilogue.
After 'books' replaced the 'cantos' and the number of books increased, some books were worked over several times. Others were hardly touched.
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After when Sri Aurobindo incorporated material from the early poem into what was by then a full-fledged epic, he sometimes went back to a manuscript of the six 'cantos' as his starting-point. Savitri was apparently put aside during most of the s, a period when Sri Aurobindo did little writing. The first evidence of its resumption is found in a letter of Here he speaks of a radical change in the conception and scope of the poem. Already the subtitle, 'A Legend and a Symbol', is present in his mind: "There is a previous draft, the result of the many retouchings of which somebody told you; but in that form it would not have been a 'magnum opus' at all.
Besides, it would have been a legend and not a symbol. I therefore started recasting the whole thing; only the best passages and lines of the old draft will remain, altered so as to fit into the new frame. At first this book was still called 'Quest'. But in the early thirties, the brief description of the Yoga of King Aswapati near the beginning swelled to hundreds of lines. What was to become the second and longest book of the epic, 'The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds', began to take shape.
In a letter of , Sri Aurobindo mentioned a new first book, the 'Book of Birth', carved out of the overgrown 'Quest'. Another letter of the same year reveals the internal structure of this book. It was "divided into sections and the larger sections into subsections. As these sections increased in length, they were recognised as formal units and began to be named and numbered. Section marks were usually put before and after the numbers. The Book of Birth, whose last section related the birth and childhood of Savitri, was still disproportionately long and was constantly growing.
Early in , Sri Aurobindo expressed his intention of rearranging the opening books into a Book of Beginnings and a Book of Birth and Quest. Progress on the poem was intermittent in the thirties due to Sri Aurobindo's heavy load of correspondence. From the end of to mid, work on Savitri was suspended.
But on 6 September , a page draft of the Book of Beginnings was completed. The fourth of its eight sections, 'The Ascent through the Worlds', accounted for more than half the total length and had twelve subsections. In the next version, this section became Book Two with the title it now has. The second phase in the composition of Savitri reached its culmination when the first three books were written out in two columns on large sheets.
Many passages, including the whole of the first and third books and much of the second, went through two or more drafts in this form.
SABDA - Savitri: A Study in Style and Symbolism
The last complete manuscript is dated 'May 7. It was while revising this manuscript that Sri Aurobindo reintroduced the word 'canto' which he had not used since an early stage, applying it to the former 'sections' of the books. She is an emanation of the Divine Mother, a previous incarnation of Her Glory and Grace who came upon Earth to nurture and nourish in its heart the dream of a Life Divine. She came to give hope and hold her example as a promise of the Future. She came to prepare and to realize what man has secretly always hoped for, the dream of a perfect life freed from the clutches of Ignorance and Death.
Quite naturally then the Book of Beginnings starts with the coming of Savitri. There is also a hint that this coming has taken place from time to time since the beginnings of civilization, nay since the beginning of Earth and humanity.