Hailing from Chidambaram, Nisha came to Auroville and married Raj, who works as sysop in the Auroville Language Lab. The couple lived in Inspiration. Being a trained nurse with earlier experience in other hospitals, it was but natural that she came to work in Santé.
“I met Nisha in 2013 as I joined Kailash clinic, in 2015 we moved as a team to Sante. I noticed her exceptional loving care and truly believed that her small gentle hands have healing power. I visited her one month before she passed and last time one week before. I was awed by her courage to fight the terminal decease and strong will to live, even as her body was failing there was a fire that burned in her eyes and and determination that made me believe in a miracle. I will always cherish Nisha’s courage and dedicated love of Raj (her husband) in my heart.” says Helena on Nisha.
“The strength of Dyuman’s character is his essential straightness of aim, fidelity to the highest he sees and intensity of will to receive the Light and serve the Truth.”
10-4-1934 Sri Aurobindo
Occasionally, late at night, one would observe an interesting and amusing sight inside the Ashram main building. The Mother would call from Her room on the first floor, “Dyuman!” Instantly, a man in his early thirties would rush out of his room below with a ladder in his hands, place it near the open terrace of his room, climb it and announce, “Yes, Mother. I am here.” He did this so he would not lose time using the staircase (which was further away from his room) and then cross the corridor to reach the Mother. Should one keep the Divine waiting! The Mother would ask him some questions or give him some instructions and he would climb down the ladder, go back to his room, and carry out Her wishes. Thus was the magnitude of his devotion, dedication and urge to serve.
Chunibhai Desaibhai Patel was known as Dyuman — the luminous one — the name given to him by Sri Aurobindo. The Mother found him to be a wonderful worker when She met him for the first time. He joined the Ashram at the age of twenty-four (in 1927) and till his passing at the age of eighty-nine, he assisted, managed, and laboured for its growth and prosperity. This devotion was reflected clearly in a letter written by Sri Aurobindo in 1936 when replying to an inmate of the Ashram: “If Dyuman and a few others had not made themselves the instruments of the Mother and helped her to reorganize the whole material side of the Ashram, the Ashram would have collapsed long ago under the weight of mismanagement, waste, self-indulgence, disorder, chaotic self-will and disobedience. He and they faced unpopularity and hatred in order to help her to save it.”
He came from Gujarat, the land where the Narmada, one of the seven holy rivers flows and meets the sea. During the formative years of the Ashram, many sadhaks including Champaklalji, Puraniji and Pujalalji flocked around Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to further their tapasya for attainment to Supramental yoga and also laid the foundation of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s vast and daring work. Dyuman, the karmayogi, was one of the pillars on whose selfless work and faithfulness the Ashram grew to its present stature.
Born on 19th June 1903 in Napada village near Anand, Gujarat, at the age of eight he was called away from school and married to Kashi-ba, also eight. When he was eleven, he realized that his life was not to be an ordinary one, but was meant for something higher. Since then, an unknown force guided his life. He was restless and kept searching for something without knowing what it was or where to find it. He travelled all over the country, went to Shantiniketan and Belurmath and when he came back home, he also met Gandhiji. He also came to know Lele, but his thirst was not quenched. Little did he know then that his destiny lay south, beyond the Vindhyas, on the eastern shore of India, in a small town under French rule, lulled by the chant of the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal.
Bhakti-ba, a relative of Kamalaben, was aware of Chunibhai’s restlessness. When she returned after visiting Pondicherry, she told him, “Your place is not here with us, but at the feet of Aravinda Babu in Pondicherry.” Chunibhai forgot everything else — even Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, whom he revered — only one name filled his whole being: Pondicherry. He had heard of Sri Aurobindo in 1920 and had already started reading the Arya, and The Secret of the Veda. In his school, his boy-scout troop was called “Aravinda troop.” Finally, Bhakti-ba got permission from Sri Aurobindo and arranged for his journey to Pondicherry. Chunibhai and his wife Kashi-ba reached Pondicherry on 11th July 1924.
They both had the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo in the Library House. Chunibhai told Him that he had come here for Yoga and Sri Aurobindo talked to him about it for about an hour. His ears heard every word and in his heart Chunibhai replied, “You are my all. This is my life, this is my home.” Kashi-ba offered her gold bangles at the feet of Sri Aurobindo. One offered his life and the other her precious possession. That was the end of Chunibhai’s search. At last he had found his home — his Guru — his life’s fulfillment.
They went back to Gujarat after two months. Chunibhai wrote to Sri Aurobindo every week seeking the Guru’s permission to stay permanently in the Ashram. The long wait finally ended when he came to the Ashram permanently in May 1927. He left behind his parents, his wife, and the non-cooperation movement of Gandhiji. He even left his fight for the freedom of India. The moment he joined the Ashram, he no longer felt the pull of all his old connections.
He met the Mother for the first time in 1927. Her remark to Sri Aurobindo was, “He will go very far.” She asked him to help Satyen in serving rice in the Dining Room in the main building of the Ashram — that was 22 May 1927, and till his passing on 19 August 1992, his close connection with the Dining Room remained uninterrupted. It grew deeper and closer as he treated the workers there as his close family members. The Mother accepted him as Her close attendant — a faithful, dependable worker. On his part, he had already accepted Her in 1924 as the Mother, even though he had not even met Her!
This was the beginning of a close association between the Mother and Her child, Dyuman. Sri Aurobindo had given him that name on 24 November 1928 based on his request earlier that year. His only aim in life became to serve Her. Yoga was far away, but through his work, he started understanding the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. That is why one day the Mother told him, “You do my work and I will do yours” — meaning his sadhana. In those early years, the emphasis was on discipline and work. No sadhak could talk to another without informing Her. So when Kashi-ba came in 1930, the Mother asked him not to talk to her. He obeyed and met her only once in the presence of the Mother when she went to Her for pranam before leaving Pondicherry.
The Mother asked him to keep two notebooks. One was to note down his daily inner movements and the other was about the details of daily work. One was given to Her at noon and the other at night. One day the Mother asked him if it was necessary to keep these diaries. He replied, “Not necessary, Mother.” She instructed him to inform Her whenever any difficulty arose. That was the end of his writing the diaries. The external need was over. Henceforth, his inner guide would guide him. She gave him a picture of Her taken in Japan and told him to meditate in front of it before opening the Dining Room door in the morning and before closing the door at night.
His passion for gardening began when along with others he participated in a flower exhibition at the Pondicherry Botanical Garden in 1930. The people of Pondicherry were surprised to see the size of the carnations and discovered that these men of the Ashram were not making bombs but were engaged in growing flowers! It was at that time that the Mother asked them to get a sapling of a Service tree from the Botanical Garden. Manibhai, Ambubhai and Dyuman-da planted it at the place indicated by the Mother. They watered it and took care of it. Planted in 1930, the tree still stands high and mighty in all its majesty over the Samadhi — proud, protective and undaunted. From then on, he started his double work of Dining Room and gardening and this was soon followed by numerous errands as the Mother slowly started putting more confidential work into his trustworthy hands.
In the Dining Room, which was then located in the Ashram main building, the cooking was done by servants under the guidance of an inmate. When Tara-di and Lila-di joined the Ashram, they proposed to the Mother that they would cook for the inmates. Later they took charge of Datta’s kitchen, which came to be known as Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s kitchen and was managed by Dyuman-da. He would carry Their food upstairs — a service that could only be done by a punyatma. When the fruit room had a cold chamber, he arranged to get fruits from various parts of the country to have an uninterrupted supply for Them. The Dining Room was shifted to its present building on 4 January 1934. Life went on smoothly in Their service but the strain started with World War II. More and more people joined the Ashram and the money was not enough. Dyuman-da was worried. How to feed so many! One day, as he was walking down Gandhi Road and thinking about the funds, he was taken in his subtle body to visit Kubera’s treasures and realized that everything was there — he need not worry. Somehow or the other, the funds would come and the needs of the Ashram would be provided for.
Once in 1937-38, the Mother gave him a piece of Her jewellery and asked him to sell it as an inmate was in dire need of some money. That was the first time, but it was not to be the last! Soon, selling Her jewellery became one source of income for the Ashram to maintain the numerous devotees who had started pouring in. The Mother gave Her ornaments — the timepiece given by Her grandmother, the Durga crown, which She did not want to sell but had to because of adverse circumstances, and even her pearl necklace, which She was in the habit of wearing on Darshan days. However, She wanted to know whom these were given to as they carried a special aura and power and any mishandling would be disastrous for those who had bought them. She warned them against misuse. Dyuman-da became Her instrument for such work. Soon Her jewellery coffer became empty.
Her next step was to sell Her saris. That disturbed Dyuman-da a lot and he protested as Her children embroidered most of them for their loving Mother. But She insisted on selling them in one lot to a single person. The saris were brought out and Vasudhaben wept on seeing them. But who could imagine the play of Dyuman- da! He collected the amount that the Mother wanted from a disciple who was close to him, took away the saris and kept them in his room! The generous disciple did not want the saris even though they were paid for. However, he requested Dyuman-da to sell them piece-by-piece and offer the proceeds to the Mother.
The Mother also used to distribute saris to inmates and devotees who were present before each Darshan. Once She wished to give Her own saris to Her children but alas, the remaining saris were not enough. When Dyuman-da heard about this, he told Her that Her wish would be fulfilled and brought nearly 500 saris from his room from the lot that was supposed to have been sold! What joy, what inner fulfillment he must have felt to be an instrument to execute Her wish! Not only this, but no one really knows how many of Her wishes he fulfilled. For example, She once saw a blue Ford V8 car and wished to have a similar one. Dyuman-da collected the required amount from a friend and bought an exact replica of the car She wanted. But was he satisfied with this? No! She must have something better; so he again collected money from some friends and bought a Humber for Her. The Mother used that car till 1952. Imagine how closely he was connected with those devotees staying far away from Pondicherry that they immediately gave — in cash or in kind — whatever he wanted for the Mother, without a question or a doubt crossing their mind. The trust they had in him only reflected the trust the Divine Mother had in him. If Hanuman was the Dasa of Rama, then truly, Dyuman-da was no less a Dasa of the Mother.
The work to clean Sri Aurobindo’s room was given to Dyuman-da, as Pavitra-da was unable to do it because of his knee problem. Dyuman-da cleaned Sri Aurobindo’s room for five years and never even glanced at Him as that was the Mother’s instruction and he obeyed it. Once he had to repair the beams of Sri Aurobindo’s room as some bees had made holes in them. He had to climb a ladder, clean the beams with a vacuum cleaner, and seal them without dropping anything on Sri Aurobindo, who was lying on the bed directly below the beams. Surely that must have been the toughest work in his life-long service! And he was aware that the Mother had put him to test; he did his work to Her satisfaction.
The Ashram started growing rapidly with the School, Playground and many other departments. Dyuman-da’s activities also increased; other than his regular work, he now also had the additional responsibilities of a trustee. The Mother created the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust on 1st May 1955 and She made Dyuman-da one of the Founder Trustees. She gave each of the four trustees the flower “Divine’s Love” on the first day and the next day, She gave each of them the flower “Faithfulness.” It was a duty he discharged till the end even though the other Founder Trustees had long since passed away. He had to stay, for that was the Mother’s wish and She wrote it on his Birthday card in 1972:
And a long, long, long life of happy and remarkably useful life.
With love and blessings.
For February 29, 1960, the first recurrence of the leap year after the Supramental Manifestation, Dyuman-da decided that the entire celebrations would be in golden colour. We were given golden-coloured dresses, the saris had a golden border, the Meditation Hall was decorated with golden satin curtains and the lights glowed golden. Her room was spread with golden satin. On the first floor corridor, he spread golden satin so She could walk on it to the Balcony Darshan. Her dress had gold buttons, and the cutlery She used was of a golden hue. She distributed gold-coated symbols to the Ashramites. The whole Ashram vibrated with a golden aura; truly a dreamland on earth! In the evening, the Service Tree was decorated with coloured lamps; in the quietness of the night, they glowed golden — a fairyland — a wonderland in the universe! She asked him, “Why do you want to do all this?” His reply was that even if the vibration touched one soul, he would be happy and fulfilled. Then the Mother asked, “And if I ask you to sell all these things off later?” His immediate reply without any hesitation was, “Yes, Mother I will do it.” A detached, unsentimental, disinterested worker.
One day when he saw that the Mother wanted to lie down after coming back from the Playground in the evening, he was worried. She must have a room of Her own. The Mother hesitated. Finally, She agreed to have one constructed on the second floor with money he would collect from his friends. She shifted to Her new room on 9 December 1953, but slowly, even that room turned into Her working place when She retired there in 1962.
That was not the end of his untiring endeavour. He found out that a parcel of land near the Lake was up for sale. Once again he collected funds from his friends so that the Ashram could purchase the land. Here his normal life pattern changed again. Until now his responsibilities included looking after the Mother, the Dining Room, the Granary, going to the market to buy vegetables for Dining Room, the store, etc. Now he had to look after a farm. His dream was to grow vegetables and fruits without chemical fertilizers because the Mother was against its use. So how could he give Her food that was grown with chemical fertilizers? His life was simple because he had a single, one-pointed aim — to serve Them in whatever way he could.
He was a visionary and never stepped back for fear of overwork or paucity of funds to give shape to his vision. It was his idea to make the documentary film “Sri Aurobindo Ashram — Four Chapters.” It was filmed by Ajit Bose and was displayed in many centres of the Ashram. Where the money came from, no one knew, and neither did anyone need to know. The immense archival value of the documentary can never be measured. It is a treasure for future generations as it shows some of the activities of the Mother in real life. His preparation for the centenary of Sri Aurobindo in 1972 started many years in advance and he got a steam boiler in 1967 for the Dining Room, which was well geared to cater to innumerable visitors who came for the celebration. For the second time in the history of the Ashram, the Service Tree glowed with coloured lamps in the evening:
Champaklal was not only a respected member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, but almost an institution in himself. His devoted and meticulous personal service to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for over fifty years was an inspiring example of selfless service. His helpfulness to devotees who sought the Mother’s blessings and advice on personal questions made him a friend and well-wisher of all. His impressive physical features -a big head, with a flowing beard, a robust body -and a sense of purity about him, lent awe to his unique personality .The Mother called him her lion!
It is surprising that in spite of the rigorous of his constant attendance upon Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and his innumerable small but essential tasks, he could still find time to develop his artistic interests. This was only possible because of his deep urge to express himself through form and colour. Apart from dedicated service to the Master and the Mother, painting seems to have been his second love. This was an inborn capacity which grew in him and found scope for development in the Ashram.
Champaklal’ s upbringing from early days sheds light on many traits of his character, especially his simple and deeply devotional nature. He was born in Patan on 2 February 1903. His father was Chhotalal and mother Umiya. He was the second of four sons and one daughter. Theirs was a Brahmin family serving the religious requirements of the Hindu community of the town, as the surname Purani indicates: Puranis were the traditional priests engaged in reading out Puranas before Hindu audiences and conducting religious rites for families and for the community at large.
From his childhood Champaklal showed a character and temperament quite out of the ordinary .He insisted on having the best whenever he needed something, but he always took good care of it. He was conscious in all he did, so that his work was flawless and perfect. He used to paint doors and windows and even helped his mother in household work, generally a prerogative of the daughter of the house. He was not interested in studies and did not go beyond the fifth class in school. Nor did he study the Puranas and other religious scriptures as demanded by family tradition and the priestly profession. What he learnt of the ancient lore was from the stories he heard from his father in his childhood. His father was a liberal man who did not impose anything on his children. He knew that his son was a simple boy and indulged him in his childish occupations.
Even as a child Champaklal aspired to live constantly in the presence of someone like Sri Ramakrishna. He was fascinated by Ramakrishna’s life and the intensity of his devotion to Kali, the Divine Mother. Champaklal once observed: “I started my higher life after reading Sri Ramakrishna. I liked him very much and on reading him I lost all interest in ordinary life.” His aspiration to live in the presence of someone spiritually great was, of course, later fulfilled.
At the age of fifteen Champaklal met a devotee of Sri Aurobindo who asked him to follow the path of Sri Aurobindo. His desire to see Sri Aurobindo grew very strong and in 1921 he got the opportunity to visit Pondicherry . On seeing Sri Aurobindo for the first time, Champaklal prostrated himself before him arid remained in that condition for almost one hour. During his stay of eight days in Pondicherry , he met Sri Aurobindo every day. In one of their conversations, he told Sri Aurobindo that at times he felt peace and also saw light. Sri Aurobindo explained to him: “You see, the Peace which you feel shows that God is near you, and the Light shows that you can meet Him in that Peace and gradually you will be able to stay in This.”
Champaklal’s week-long stay in Pondicherry made a very favourable impression on Sri Aurobindo; lie understood the young man’s sincerity and dedication to the spiritual life. Later, when Champaklal wrote a beautiful letter to him, Sri Aurobindo instructed one of his disciples to bring Champaklal along when he visited Pondicherry again.
Champaklal’s diary of this period, written in Gujarati, shows his inner conflict and his great yearning for God. In one place he writes: “What have you done about the practice of sadhana shown to you by Arvind Babuji? Free yourself, free yourself from pride and attachment. What a shallow life! Have you come here for worldly attachments? Follow the straight path of faith. …O God, show me Thy mercy; give me Thy refuge!”
Champaklal’ s aspiration to be with Sri Aurobindo was fulfilled two years later. In 1923 he came back to Pondicherry to offer himself in the service of the Divine, never to return again to worldly life. His service of five decades to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was one-pointed and constant. This was his supreme Sadhana. As a matter of fact, he looked upon Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as his real parents and they accepted him as their child.
Champaklal once admitted that he had not read many works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother other than Sri Aurobindo’s book, The Mother. During his first visit to Pondicherry , he had asked Sri Aurobindo what he should read. Sri Aurobindo recommended shandilya sutra and Prakriti Rahasya in Gujarati; he even told him where to get them from. Prakriti Rahasya (The Secret of Nature) deals with Apara and Para Prakriti. The higher or Para Prakriti is known as the Mother .
It is very difficult to summarise Champaklal’s long service, which passed through all the phases of the developing life of the Ashram, reflecting many aspects of the life of the community and the workings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. When he came in 1923, the Ashram was a group of only ten to fifteen persons; when the Mother left her body in 1973, it had become a community of nearly two thousand, humming like a beehive with activity. The Mother’s one or two serious illnesses in the 1930s, the leg accident that Sri Aurobindo met with in 1938 and the last days of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, were all traumatic experiences for Champaklal; at the same time they greatly added to his duties and resulted in a constant rescheduling of his other programmes. But though the physical strain greatly increased over the years, there was never any laxity in his work nor any sagging of devotion. He had to cope with the frequent change of the Mother’s activities, especially after the Ashram School was started in 1943, the Department of Physical Education in 1945 and the Centre of Education in 1952.
In 1950, when Sri Aurobindo left his body, Champaklal suffered a tremendous emotional shock, but he never wavered in his work. The Mother depended on him for innumerable small services; he alone was able to do them because he alone knew what the Mother needed at any particular time. Whatever came under his charge, he had to keep in order, because the Mother was an exacting master as far as order was concerned; and she expected that material things would be cared for well. All this gave Champaklal a strict discipline, but also the rewarding joy of faithful and sincere service. Nobody except the Mother knew what this demanded in terms of vigilance of spirit and tireless self-offering. The following tribute she paid to him is perhaps the highest one could think of for one whose whole aim was to serve Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as Hanuman served Sri Rama:
Nirod says: “Champaklal was not a bhakta of the traditional type, but one who has chosen service as the means of self- expression and fundamental realisation. ..that is exactly the spirit he maintained unflinchingly throughout the long decade that we lived and worked together. ”
After the Mother left her body in 1973, Champaklal had to reorganise his life. He put in order everything he had so far looked after and passed on many things to the departments concerned. We now find that in his diaries, he maintained voluminous records of Sri Aurobindo’s life, his daily engagements and activities, numbering more than five thousand pages. Of those who served the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, the two who kept such records were Dyuman and Champaklal. Dyuman dealt with the physical life of the Ashram, Champaklal with the personal life of the Master and the Mother .
After a time Champaklal freed himself from most of his duties, took the vow of silence and went out to see the world, visiting various centres of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples. The vast natural beauty of God’s wonderful world now opened wide before him, particularly the snow covered mountain ranges of the Himalayas with their floral and faunal grandeurs, for which he had cherished -, a subconscious attraction for long. He was received with love and respect by all in the United States, France, Germany, England, Singapore and many other parts of the world and India in particular .” Around 1988 his health began to deteriorate seriously and no treatment could give him relief. In 1992, while he was convalescing at a health clinic in Jantral, near Baroda, Gujarat State, he passed away; his departure occurred on May 9 at 8.15 p.m.
Champaklal had a rare capacity for visions and dreams. This line of spiritual development began to flower from 1929. These dreams and visions reveal the cardinal principles of the sadhana that he followed. They have been collected in the book Visions of Champaklal, published in 1990, with significances explained by his discerning friends.
Champaklal’s two books, Champaklal Speaks and Champaklal’s Treasures, are valuable contributions to the literature on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. With Nirodbaran’s Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo and Memorable Contacts with the Mother, they give us an inside view of the daily life of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, a view which would have otherwise remained unknown to us.
Champaklal had absolute trust in Divine Grace as reflected in his “Prayers and Utterances” (Gujarati). These utterances spring from authentic experiences and total dedication. There is a constant flow of pure and true feelings of a devoted heart and the fragrance of Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Champaklal once showed the Mother one of his early attempts at drawing and asked: “How is it? Will I be able to learn?” The Mother replied, “To learn means months and months of study before any picture can be done; studies from nature, drawing first for a long time, painting only after .”
Champaklal again asked her after some months, “Is there any possibility in me of doing something creative or original in drawing? If so, what should I do?” “Go on doing,” the Mother said, “and it will come of itself at its own time. You are progressing rapidly.”
Sri Aurobindo also wrote of him once, “Champaklal has a natural talent already developed to an unusual degree. ” Another time he wrote, “You have the capacity .You have only to be steady in your endeavour.”
All this was back in the 1930s when the Ashram was a small community and there was leisure for sadhaks to practise painting, poetry and music. This was the period when Champaklal achieved all he could with the encouragement of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He was aided by the supportive atmosphere created by artists like Sanjiban and Krishnalal, who continued their artistic activities after joining the Ashram; he benefited much from their company. Then came 1938 when Sri Aurobindo fractured his leg. This brought a big change and kept Champaklal very busy with personal service to Sri Aurobindo for the next twelve years.
As a boy in Patan Champaklal often copied from copy books – perhaps from the Foster Series, which was common in those days. His copies of animal drawings from such books are still with us. At the age of twelve he passed a drawing examination conducted by the Government which even older boys failed; this confirms his interest and ability in drawing. Of his early copies, the most interesting is one of Sri Ramakrishna with the image of Mother Kali in the background. The entire drawing is very well executed, though after starting to colour it, he did not finish, perhaps for want of time. After coming to Pondicherry also, he made copies of some Japanese prints in black lines. It is only in the early thirties that he started painting from nature. He began with flower studies and everyday painted a new flower and offered it to the Mother. These studies together with the significances given by the Mother were gathered into three albums and referred to for a long time. He later did still-life and even attempted figure drawings. As we have already mentioned, Champaklal’ s best artistic period was in the 1930s. During this decade he made great progress in art. His beautiful paintings of lotuses and his fine still- life drawings and paintings were done at this time. His drawing of an earthen water jug and his painting of the interior of the Library-room (reproduced here in the album) are perhaps the best examples of this period. The break that came in 1938 more or less put a stop to his painting work. But he still kept his interest in art alive. We find from his diaries that he used to show reproductions of the Bengal School to the Mother and note down her comments on them. During the 1938-50 period, many paintings by eminent artists were shown to Sri Aurobindo for his comments; Champaklal was present at these dialogues on art and other subjects which became a veritable training ground in culture for those who had the privilege of serving Sri Aurobindo.
The second and final phase of Champaklal’ s artistic work began in the 1950s. He saw an exhibition in the Ashram of paintings made with bright colours by a foreign visitor. They struck him as representing subtle realities behind the world we know. He thought to himself, “This is the type of pictures I have always wanted to paint. I have been waiting for an opportunity to paint them.” Champaklal had attempted once before with some free brush-work to realise his dream, but he had not succeeded. Then, long after this exhibition of boldly coloured paintings, he witnessed the technique of “marbling”. Here, he felt, was the method he had been waiting for, the medium he had not found so far. He set about experimenting with the technique by himself. After some trials on small bits of paper he saw the possibility of expressing his feelings and intuitions through marbling.
In this technique, one generally uses three or four colours, either oil paints or varnish paints. The colours are poured on water in a tray and while they float on the surface, the water is gently stirred so that the colours break up into different forms and movements. When a piece of paper is placed over this surface and then carefully lifted up, the colours sticking to it make a surprising and fascinating design, an unexpected pattern of colours and forms. One has very little control over the shape and structure of the design, but this is what gives it a character of its own.
Champaklal used this challenging technique not with any fixed idea or superficial notion, but as a way of expressing the emotions and intimations which sprang from a deeper consciousness in him. He may not always have been conscious of what he was trying to achieve, but in some works at least he deliberately attempted to produce something which corresponded to his feelings or inner perceptions. In such cases he got the result only after many trials. Choosing colours, mixing them and giving movement to the water-surface was prompted mainly by his consciousness at the time.
The Mother gave titles to many of these paintings after looking into the movement of forces they suggested; these revelatory captions focus on the hidden meaning they represent. To those who are sensitive in their imagination and can feel the inner impact of these pictures, they bring a strong sense of the wondrous – an outburst of light and delight taking mystic and dynamic colour-shapes through the inspiration of an artist who has striven to lose himself in the Unknown.
We may say that in one sense there is nothing in life or art like accident, chance or fluke, even when the result is most unexpected. Marbling is a fine field of experimentation in which unpredictable, unimaginable forces play through what is apparently accidental. It is a new line of creative work far removed from the traditional. Like surrealism and painting in trance or a half-conscious condition, marbling can be a field for the expression of hidden influences and occult movements and realities. Certainly this should not be made a fetish; to go beyond its suggestive limits would be to turn it into a pseudo art-form, a decorative jugglery of some sort.
At one stage Champaklal also did a number of graphic designs with colour pencils or felt-pens. These interesting designs have a spontaneity about them and are far from being conventional patterns or mere decorative motifs. There are also a few paintings in which Champaklal has attempted to translate his visions into form and colour. These have a boldness of colour and originality of conception so natural to him.
There was one special artistic duty which Champaklal had to perform, often on an urgent basis. On birthdays and other occasions, the Mother used to send to sadhaks and devotees , pictorial cards with her blessings and sometimes a personal message. It was Champaklal’s duty to prepare these cards. It was his originality and artistic skill which made them very often unique in design. It became indeed a craft of skill in his hands and the Mother complimented him on a number of occasions. She even wrote, “Champaklal is an artist.” This work was not as simple as it may appear. It took hours of labour and ingenuity . At times, he had to make eight or ten such cards in one day. Can one imagine that he did this work, besides other things, for thirty years or more? On Champaklal’s birthday in 1964, the Mother wrote:
The great doer of cards
This card is to tell him my appreciation of all what he has done and my expectation for still better things to come .
Again, the next year the Mother asked: 2.2.1965
Champaklal, master of the ” cards ” , how to prepare a card for you ?
About Honouring Participation:
This site is being developed for honouring the participation of those involved in the creation of the reality of Auroville. If you have any information on the people who have contributed in the Auroville process and whose information has or hasn’t yet been displayed here, kindly share them with us with the relevant information, stories, pictures and videos of memorable instances involving them.