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September 2004

Passings: Madanlal Himatsingka

- by Carel

Sri Madanlal Himatsingka passed away on Friday, July 30th 2004 , in a Bangalore hospital. “A greater devotee, friend, well-wisher and supporter of Auroville we have not seen, and we will miss him very dearly,” stated the email message that circulated in Auroville that day. It ended “Go and come, Madanlalji; a completed Matrimandir will be waiting for you.” Madanlal's deep connection with the Matrimandir was known to all in Auroville.

Madanlal was an accomplished Indian industrialist who owned several jute mills and factories. The death of his son was the catalyst for him and his wife to travel and to eventually settle in Pondicherry in 1953. He realized that to be a channel of the financial power was among the services he could render for The Mother's work. The Mother confirmed this realization. She said that she saw a link between him and Ganapati [the son of Shiva and Parvati, god of material knowledge and wealth, represented with an elephant's head]. “I told him ‘turn to him [Ganapati] and he will give you the right inspiration.' And since then Madanlal has been perfect, really; all that he can do he does to the utmost of his ability,” Mother said to Satprem in a conversation of January 4, 1964 . [Agenda V p. 16]. It was perhaps because of this connection that The Mother told Madanlal, in the early sixties soon after the Sri Aurobindo Ashram had become owner of a house adjacent to the Ganesh temple in Pondicherry , of her decision to gift part of the land around the house to the temple and asked him to facilitate the transfer.

Madanlal became instrumental in fundraising for The Mother's work. He also started the All India Press to publish Sri Aurobindo's Birth Centenary volumes and the books of The Mother, and ran the VAK bookshop. During the last two decades of his life, fundraising for the Matrimandir and, to some extent for the Auroville Land Fund, was his main work. At the end of his life he sold all his assets and donated the proceeds to the Matrimandir. Even though bedridden, he was often on the phone eager to know the latest developments in the progress of the building. Often, he was seen near the Banyan Tree in his wheelchair, in quiet contemplation.

Like many other friends of Auroville, Madanlal derived a deep sense of fulfillment from working for Matrimandir and Auroville. “Look, I am not even an Aurovilian”, he once lightly remarked with a twinkle in his eyes during a brief conversation concerning a particularly impressive donation he had been able to muster for Matrimandir.

Apart from being a proficient fundraiser, Madanlal was also an expert on Sri Aurobindo's epic poem Savitri. Prof. Nadkarni, in a eulogy of Madanlal during the AUM meeting in the USA , said he himself wasn't able to memorize Savitri, but Madanlal remembered thousands of lines and, though he suffered from asthma, he would close his eyes and recite whole sections.

The community of Auroville joined in a silent gathering in memory of Madanlalji at the Banyan Tree on July 31st.

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