Sri Aurobindo fell ill. He suffered very much yet kept quiet. He didn’t say anything to anybody. In the end he began to find it difficult to breathe. Dr. Sanyal felt it necessary to give oxygen so the Mother asked me to arrange for it. I got an oxygen cylinder and was shown how to use it. The Mother asked me to manipulate it, so I happened to be in Sri Aurobindo’s room at the time of his passing, otherwise I had no business there.
Sri Aurobindo entered into a state which is medically called “coma.” It is the last stage preceding the end. We all were tremendously surprised when suddenly in a clear and firm voice Sri Aurobindo asked, “Nirod, what is the time?” Nobody expected a person in a coma to talk. Even Nirod had such a shock. He is a doctor and he knows. Nirod answered shakily, “Sir, Sir, it is one o’clock.”
After speaking Sri Aurobindo went back into what doctors call coma but what I feel was a deep meditation. His breathing became slower and slower with longer and longer gaps. There were a number of people standing there and Champaklal was massaging his feet. When the end was very near I knew of it because the gaps between breaths became longer and longer.
Dr. Sanyal asked that the Mother be sent for. So the Mother came and stood there—a wonderful statue of strength and silence—and finally there was no further pulse. Sri Aurobindo had taken the last breath. I was just standing back watching the whole scene and keeping quiet because I knew that I was standing at a great moment in history. Dr. Sanyal was feeling Sri Aurobindo’s pulse when he took his last breath, so he knew that Sri Aurobindo had passed away and started removing the oxygen tube that was in his nostrils. Then Champaklal realised that Sri Aurobindo had passed away and he started crying hysterically, “Mother, what has happened? Mother, what has happened?” I could see that everybody was in a state of shock.
Dr. Sanyal didn’t know what to do. He looked around and saw me standing a little to the back. Then he said to the Mother, “Mother, it seems Udar is the only calm person in the room, so I suggest that you give charge of the whole matter to him.” Then the Mother turned to me and said, “Udar, you take charge of everything and come to me for directions,” and she turned round and walked away.
Sri Aurobindo had passed away; yet he didn’t look as if he had done so. There was such a glow around his face. That can happen to some people but after a time the glow passes. In the case of Sri Aurobindo it didn’t pass away. It remained, increased and became a golden light around him. I could see it—it was very visible, very clear, and we knew that some great Force was within him though his soul had left the body.
The Mother said, “The body will be kept as it is. There will be no immediate burial.” Then she called me and told me to arrange for the Samadhi. She said, “I want to keep him in the centre of the Ashram. There are those three tanks in the courtyard. Keep the western tank as it is; the other two you can join into one. [There was a time when what is now the main building of the Ashram consisted of rented houses. When they were purchased and joined together, a lot of construction work went on. In order to wash the bricks, and to mix cement and lime for this work, three tanks were built in 1930, in what is now the central courtyard. When the construction work was over, the Mother gave instructions that these three tanks should be filled up with sand, and that pots with various types of ferns should be kept on top of them.] Go deep down, go down ten feet. Put Sri Aurobindo’s casket at the bottom. Then at five feet, put a slab.” She gave me instructions of exactly what to do and even detailed instructions when it came to cutting roots of the Service Tree in the Ashram courtyard. I consulted the Mother at each step. She would be standing upstairs giving directions from the corridor.
We didn’t get outside labour. The whole thing was dug by ourselves. There was a man named Kaplan at Golconde. He came and worked like three men. I proposed to the Mother and she approved that we make a real room, a kind of vault, a solid room made of concrete blocks, with a concrete slab flooring and with a concrete roof. Then the Mother told me to build two rooms one below and one above and I was very upset and objected, “Why two rooms?” First she was quiet and afterwards she told me, “Because I order you to do so.” After that there was nothing for me to say. I had to make two rooms. Later the Mother told me, “You know, it is good tactics to let the hostile forces think that what they want will happen.” I understood her to mean that if the hostile beings were made to believe that she was sure of her own death, they would not attack her too much, or put too many obstacles in her way.
Then she gave instructions for the making of the coffin. The coffin was made of very solid wood and lined with silver sheet and silk. It was very heavy and had large brass strips and rings for carrying with rope.
Sri Aurobindo was still on his bed. There was this golden light around him. It was something remarkable and marvellous. What a Force was emanating from his body, unbelievable! And of course, thousands of people came as soon as the news of his passing became known. There was a continuous stream of people passing by his body to have his last Darshan. It went on like this till the morning, of the 9th. Then Dr. Sanyal said to the Mother, “Mother, decomposition has set in. Start preparations to have him buried.” The Mother turned to me and said, “Udar, arrange for it.” I said, “No, Mother. You have given me charge and so I protest. I am a layman and Dr. Sanyal is a great doctor and I don’t want to contradict him; but I know one thing. When decomposition sets in there is an unmistakable smell, I have smelt it in several cases—I know. Where is that smell? There is only a perfume coming out. If you go near Sri Aurobindo there is a celestial perfume. As long as there is no smell, as a layman I say there is no decomposition and I will not bury him. You have given me charge. I will physically prevent anybody from burying him.” I was furious—Dr. Sanyal kept quiet. He was a doctor, he knew. But it was something beyond medical science. So I had every right to speak.
Then the Mother called me to one side and told me very quietly, “Udar, I don’t go by what the doctor has said. I have my own reasons. You know that golden light that was around his face and body all these days?” I replied, “Yes, Mother, it was a marvellous light.” She asked, “Do you see the light now?” And I had to admit the light had gone and a greyness was setting on his face. She said, “For me that is the sign. I am not concerned with the medical advice. I am concerned with the inner signs. Sri Aurobindo has given the sign that now is the time to bury. So go and do it.”
Of course after that I could only say to her, “Mother, I will bury him. I have the coffin ready. But I have the faith that the body is not decomposing and it will not decompose. It will last for thousands of years. This is my firm belief.” The Mother said, “Udar, you keep your belief. I don’t want you to lose your belief. But the body has to be buried.” So I said, “Yes, I have made a coffin and now I will make an airtight lid in such a way that nothing from outside can get within. If it decomposes, it decomposes by itself. Nothing from outside will be able to enter to attack it.” The Mother said, “Yes, do that. That is very good. I fully approve.” I made such a solid coffin and so heavy that it took ten people to lift the empty coffin. The time came for the burial. The coffin was brought into his room and we lifted Sri Aurobindo up to put him into the coffin. A lot of liquid had come out of his body. Normally this body liquid has a foul smell. But in this case there was a celestial perfume. The whole mattress, the whole bed was wet with it. (For years the mattress carried the perfume.) I was drenched with it. Such a wonderful perfume! I did not change my clothes or take a bath for two days in order to keep that perfume with me as long as I could. We laid him in the coffin. I used a rubber seal between the lid and the box with a large number of screws, so that nothing could enter the box from outside. I was down there in the pit when the coffin, was lowered, head towards the east. It is just like lying in a water-proof room fully built of concrete. Then a concrete slab was laid. The Mother asked for marble slabs. It took days. The other room was left empty. For that I got some nice clean beautiful river-sand and had it washed and that room was filled with that sand and the concrete slab was put and the Samadhi was built. [When we placed the Mother’s body in the Samadhi, I removed the sand very carefully and have kept it safely. It is the sand that has covered Sri Aurobindo’s Samadhi chamber for 23 years and so is imbued with his force. This sand is now made into little packets and given to devotees who want them. They can be had from me, at my office at Harpagon.
Even today I am fully convinced that Sri Aurobindo’s body has not decomposed. There is another reason for my strong conviction. I have seen the body of Saint Francis Xavier in Goa and I noted then that it had shrunk, due to loss of liquid it had a grey colour as in the case of Sri Aurobindo’s body, otherwise it was perfect. He died in China and was buried there. He had worked a lot in Goa and he had requested before he died that his body should be buried in Goa. In respect for his last wish the Church sent a team to bring his body. They dug it up and found that it had still not decomposed. It was still intact. It was brought to Goa and kept in a golden-framed case of glass. He was laid out in full priestly attire and kept open for exposition. Thousands used to go to these expositions.
Once, when I was a little boy, I went to one of them. Our whole family went and due to our very good contacts we were given a private Darshan. The body was so kept in its case that one could kiss the feet. When I went and saw the body I was really surprised. The nose and the eyelids were perfect. The body had shrunken. It had become quite small. He was a European. He must have had a white colour but now it was greyish. Otherwise everything was perfect. I really could not believe that it was a dead body and had been dead for hundreds of years. I thought that it must be made of wax. It seemed too perfect to be real. I was a very curious boy and had lots of queer ideas, so I wanted to be sure. As the feet were exposed I put out my hand and gave them a poke to see if they were really flesh and bone. I was convinced.
When I told this to the Mother she scolded me and said, “I know you were a naughty and curious little boy but, Udar, you did a very wrong thing. The fact that the body has not decomposed means that the subtle body is still with the physical body. Normally the subtle body remains with the physical body for about six days. The ancients knew this. Many people have a sixth day ceremony, for that is the time when the subtle body gets dissolved. For six days the subtle body is very close to the physical body. It knows everything that happens to the physical body and feels it. So when people weep and cry and lament the subtle body suffers very much because it loves the people and it wants to respond to them but cannot do so. People don’t realise how cruel they are to the person they love by all their weeping and lamentation. If they knew how the subtle body suffers they would not do it. In the case of St. Francis Xavier the subtle body continues to be there and is fully conscious. It was aware of what you did and was very unhappy about it.”
I am sure that if it ever happens that the Samadhi is opened and Sri Aurobindo’s body exhumed, it will be found to be intact.
Originally appeared in: More Vignettes of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, p.164-168