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"Shraddhavan" is the Sanskrit name given in June 1972 by the Mother to an Englishwoman who joined Auroville in 1970. After studying English Language and Literature at Bristol University in the U.K., she travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Australia before coming to Auroville, where she has lived ever since, working as an educator, translator, editor and writer. Several of her poems, stories, essays and book reviews have been published in the Ashram journal Mother India as well as in Heritage magazine. At present Shraddhavan is in charge of the "Savitri Bhavan", a centre focussing on Sri Aurobindo studies, and especially his revelatory epic poem Savitri.

Watch video: Shraddhavan reading her poems at Savitri Bhavan

Deep places

I'm in no mood for mountains ...
Too near down-pressing sky,
Too barren, bright, unmysteried they lie!
So, climbing to a bald white peak
I stopped - knee-deep in grass and flowers.

Better by far the lower forests,
Where water gurgles out of sight,
And calling, chuckling, birds unseen
Flit from green to deeper green;
There suddenly a single bloom
Strikes to the heart's enchanted depths
With its clear bell-note of deep blue.

Or let me swim, far from all shallows,
In the still waters where the kraken sleeps,
Where whales slide singing through the shadowy deeps;
There let me dive and drown
All littleness and all fatigue.

But best of all, in deep embracing interstellar spaces
Beyond the sky-lid, free of every limit,
To float forever marvelling
Through endless symphonies of stars!



Too much on my mind!

A jumble of worries
Jostle and shove inside my head :
An overloaded lift, stuck between floors.

Cut the cord, Lord!
Let them hurtle - crash,
Smash to smithereens
At the bottom of the shaft!

Or better, haul them up -
Up into the open empty blue above the roof.

Released into light,
Let them spread wide wings
And swoop away -

Earth Bird

Once my lord Jesus, as a boy,
Found on the village street a little toy -
A bird of clay. He took it in his hands of joy
And breathing on it secretly
Filled it with life and ecstasy.
So it took wing and eagerly
Flew singing, singing, high and high -
Lost in immensities of sky.
And still its triumphant loving cry
Was heard below in streets of mud
By men of earth. O Loving Lord,
I offer you my human heart -
It is not very wide nor very pure
And all its depths are still obscure
To me, though you with your clairvoyant eye
Have plumbed perhaps its little mystery.
This struggling heart, O purify -
Let it be worthy of the flame
It longs to bear, and of its name.
O take it in your hands of joy
And breathe upon it secretly
Then will this little bird of clay
Take wing and fly towards the Sun.

Utter blackness

In utter blackness
Shrill-voiced bats
Flap leathern wings;
A sharp-toothed wind
Tortures rickety trees.

Scree clatters down to where
The river grinds the boulders of its bed
Like angry teeth.

This tyrant dark
Grants us no star to see by;
Not one bright pebble gleams.

Blinded we hear
Bat-flap and squeak,
Boughs' groan and creak;
Unvisioned suffer
The rush and moan of wind and water,
Their icy clasp.

What resplendent delicacy of dawn
Is this night-womb nurturing ?

At Kovalam


1. The Lighthouse
The beacon sweeps its three long arms of light around;
Between them, after many nights of storm,
Suddenly - stars!

2. The Evening Dress
Many-layered skirts
Of pale silvery silk,
Swinging intricate pleats and folds
That flare out satin-smooth again,
Under a web of most delicate lace
Gathered here and there
To rich foaming ruffles, fine rippling frills,
A sprinkle of sequins,
A hazy veil of twilight-golden gauze :

The ever-young enchantress yet again
Puts on fresh evening finery to assail
The stony self-absorption
Of these unresponsive rocks.

3. The Dragons

On the edge of the twilit ocean
The baby dragons innocently play -
Their curving bodies formed of spray
This way, that way
Splash and crash across the bay
Leapfrogging on their way
The foamy fingers of the nymphs who tirelessly push
The wrinkling ripples one by one to shore.

Further out and deeper down
In palaces of coral and shell
The dragon-mothers gather
Sipping seaweed tea,
Showing off their burnished scales
Dripping emeralds and pearls;
As they play mah-jongg, their elegant tails
This way, that way
Sending great waves into the bay
Where their dragon children boisterously play.

In the profoundest gulf of all
The Father of all Dragons sleeps
His silver whiskers on his paws
Smoke curling gently from his jaws
His massive jewelled tail around him curled.
Beneath his scaly claws he keeps
The fabled treasures of the deeps.
When in his sleep he stirs
Here there are storms and wars;
When that mighty monster wakes
The abyss heaves and quakes.
If he should rise in fury -
Lash and roar and rampage -
The gulfs might burst apart and rip
This way, that way
Amidst the gigantic surges of his rage
Spilling those unimagined riches out
Onto this tranquil shore where we so lazily sit about
Not at all expecting the ending of an Age.

(September 2001)

At the fish-ladders

It's January again.
The river's in full spate
Between snow-laden banks and branches.
In this black-and-white landscape
Again and again flashes steel-silver :
Trout are leaping the ladders.

Why now,
When all's at its hardest?
It's no fun for the fish!
Driven against the flow,
Battered and bruised by the torrent,
Again and again they fall back, thwarted.

No angler wants them now.
(In smooth summer he would lure them
Out of lazy leisure in the soothing shadows
Of their cool underwater gardens,
Flashing a silver fly to make them rise ...)

Nearing the end of their course
They must face its greatest challenge.
How many will reach the quiet spawning-grounds above,
To pour out their last strength in sacrifice to the future?
How few !

But someone has fun !
Oh, You who drive the fish upstream,
What fun You have !

Standing here on the bank,
I too delight in the tensing muscles,
The silver springing
Against the foaming glassy rush that pours over,
The patient breathing of the winter woods -
Dark, leafless, damp, beneath their load of snow,
A sudden sparkle of bird-song,
Twig crackling underfoot ...
I sense life eddy and slither
Out of one form into another,
Feel You feeling each of us
Within Your whole.

Oh, You who drive the fish upstream,
You drive us too !
How many will reach the tranquil pools ?

Yet, even now,
Standing here on the bank,
We can taste your silver springing laughter.
Plunged in the torrent,
Like fish we can bathe and leap -
Battered and bruised but elated -
In its breathtaking onrush,
Goaded for ever upwards
Against the current
By Your insistent will.

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