Sri Aurobindo’s Birthplace in Kolkata

The shrine at Sri Aurobindo’s birthplace at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, No. 8, Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata, yesterday morning.  The picture shows the marble-clad structure containing Sri Aurobindo’s relics and a worker mopping after heavy rains in the morning. A marble bust of Sri Aurobindo is at some distance behind it, on a column pedestal.

The marble bust of Sri Aurobindo. (wet patches on the wall caused by rains.)

The entrance of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan. It is an impressive house but stands in some disrepair with fading and peeling paint.


Signboard for Shakespeare Sarani

The following interesting account of the house was found on the internet – from a letter dated August 1, 1978, from Nirmal Singh Nahar addressed to the Editor, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research:

“It has not yet been established exactly in which year the house was built, although I was able to ascertain that in 1872 [the year Sri Aurobindo was born] 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.

…….There is a curious coincidence [later] 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 (Sri Aurobindo Bhavan) also bears the Nos. 8 (new) and 4 (old).

***

Previous to 1935 normally it was the official residence of Commissioner, Presidency Division and later on became the 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 some time until 1970, when it became the headquarters of the First Free Independent Bangladesh Government in exile,” after Pakistan’s General Yahya Khan, unleashed a massacre in East Pakistan. Bangladesh became an independent country after a 13-day war between India and Pakistan that ended with the surrender of the East Pakistan Army to Indian Army.

Afterwards on August 7, 1972 the West Bengal Assembly passed and enacted “The Sri Aurobindo Memorial Act, 1972 (Act XXIV of 1972)”  (…) which thus gave and converted Sri Aurobindo Bhavan as the National Shrine, with full concurrence and blessings of the Mother. 

P.S. There is also a claim that Sri Aurobindo was born at a different house in Kolkata. You may find the details about it and counter-arguments on the net. Having gone through them it appears certain to me that the one in Shakespeare Sarani described in my article here must be the actual place.

The following extracts from the book Talks with Sri Aurobindo Vol 1 by Nirodbaran removes all doubts in this regard:

December 2, 1939

Nirodbaran (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

Nirodbaran (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.”

***

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