Auroville launches month-long festival to mark Sri Aurobindo’s sesquicentennial celebrations

Month-long programmes have been conceived to offer glimpses of Sri Aurobindo’s wisdom as a revolutionary, poet, seer and guide to a larger audience.

Auroville set the ball rolling on the “Invocation-the Gnostic Festival”, a series of events coinciding with Sri Aurobindo’s sesquicentennial celebrations and the 75th Independence anniversary, by engaging former civil servant D.R. Karthikeyan and dancer-choreographer Anita Ratnam in a conversation about life experiences and their connection with the spiritual philosophy of the visionary.

After sharing a little-known aspect of her maternal ancestors’ ties with Sri Aurobindo, virtually, from the moment he arrived on the shores of the French territory of Pondicherry in 1910 and as the freedom movement gained impetus, Ms. Anita Ratnam dwelt on the touchpoints between dance and spirituality.

“Dance is a wonderful entry point as it deals with the mind, body and spirit — all the three spheres that Sri Aurobindo talks about. The artiste has to create only from that unified space,” the dancer said.

Pointing out that while sport teaches you to win, and lose, gracefully, the arts involves looking at yourself in the mirror, “because you need a bit of ego and narcissism to be an artist,” she referred to what sportspersons performing at the height of their prowess call the “zone”, a duality where the athlete while being present is also absent (in terms of a slight mental detachment). 

Likewise, in arts too, after hours of training, practice and rehearsal, during the performance muscle memory starts to take over allowing the mind to be both “in the moment” and simultaneously a little detached to think up a strategy, she said.

“You leave the space for what I call the moment of creation. For an artist, it could be a tactical moment that just comes as a flash of inspiration, or a movement on stage that will come in the moment,” Ms. Anita Ratnam said.

Attaining this mind-body duality is more a constant journey than a destination point for an artist or a sportsperson. “To open that space in the mind, you need both a sense of adventure and a sense of surrender,” Ms. Anita Ratnam said.

She also saluted the genius of the Tamil soil which had planted so many seminal ideas be it in the arts, the freedom struggle, in politics or in thought that have germinated over time into wonderful outcomes for the individual and the society as a whole.

For Mr. Karthikeyan, former CBI director, when faced with challenging times, whether in personal or professional life, one should be guided by the conscience, and not by what is convenient or what is beneficial.

“Whatever the challenges on the personal and professional front, there should be no compromise on values,” he said. A mind that is spiritually strengthened through yoga practice, rather than the best Ivy League education, will equip you to navigate life with composure, he said. 

Mr. Karthikeyan felt that the 150th birth anniversary was an ideal time to realise the dream of Sri Aurobindo and the vision of The Mother for Auroville. 

Jayanti Ravi, Secretary, Auroville Foundation also participated. The panel discussion was steered by Anu Majumdar, author and long-time Aurovilian.

“The event is planned not as grand celebrations, but rather as a reminder and a means to come together or go inwards through various programmes”, a spokesman said. 

The venues include the Matrimandir, Bharat Nivas, Savitri Bhavan, Unity Pavilion, Town Hall, and various other locations in Auroville.

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