Editor’s note: As part of our offerings in this ‘Divine Shakti’ special issue, we are happy to present a short video inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s sonnet The Hill-top Temple. Dated 21 October 1939, the sonnet ‘The Hill-top Temple‘ is about an experience Sri Aurobindo had at a Devi shrine in the temple-complex on Parvati Hill in Pune around 1902. The editors of Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo found three handwritten manuscripts of this poem. The first two were entitled “The Temple on the Hill-Top”.
Sri Aurobindo’s sonnet ‘The Hill-top Temple‘ describes a deeply spiritual experience he had at a Devi temple near Pune. This was during his visit to the temple-complex on Parvati Hill, near Pune, probably in 1902, during his Baroda years. The oldest heritage structure in Pune, Parvati hill temple complex was built during the Peshwa dynasty. It a popular observation point that offers visitors a panoramic view of the city. One climbs 108 steps to arrive at the temple complex.
The third Peshwa, Shrimant Nana Saheb, built the main temple in the year 1749 CE. The story goes that his mother Kashibai was suffering from a severe ailment in her right foot. And she was miraculously cured after her visit to an old Devi temple situated on this hill. It was to fulfil his mother’s vow to build a grand temple at this hill that her son built what is today the famous Parvati temple complex.
The Hill-top Temple
After unnumbered steps of a hill-stair
I saw upon earth’s head brilliant with sun
The immobile Goddess in her house of stone
In a loneliness of meditating air.
Wise were the human hands that set her there
Above the world and Time’s dominion;
The Soul of all that lives, calm, pure, alone,
Revealed its boundless self mystic and bare.
Our body is an epitome of some Vast
That masks its presence by our humanness.
In us the secret Spirit can indite
A page and summary of the Infinite,
A nodus of Eternity expressed
Live in an image and a sculptured face.
Sri Aurobindo’s conversation, 5 January 1939
Disciple: When did you begin yoga?
Sri Aurobindo: Sometime in 1905.
Disciple: How did you begin?
Sri Aurobindo: God knows how! It began very early perhaps. When I landed on the Indian soil a great calm and quiet descended on me. There were also other characteristic experiences — at Poona on the Parvati hill, and then in Kashmir on the Shankaracharya hill, — a sense of a great infinite Reality was felt. It was very real.
~ A. B. Purani, Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Third edition, 1982, p. 591
Sri Aurobindo on his poetic style, 29 October 1935
I never manufactured my style; style with any life in it cannot be manufactured. It is born and grows like any other living thing. Of course it was fed on my reading which was not enormous—I have read comparatively little—(there are people in India who have read fifty times or a hundred times as much as I have) only I have made much out of that little.~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 27, p. 215
For the rest it is Yoga that has developed my style by the development of consciousness, fineness and accuracy of thought and vision, increasing inspiration and an increasing intuitive discrimination (self-critical) of right thought, word form, just image and figure.
Watch another visualized poem HERE.
~ Design: Suhas Mehra