Mumbai Lens: The Sri Aurobindo Memorial Tower

If you’re travelling towards Chembur or beyond from Navi Mumbai by the Sion-Panvel Highway, look left as the road curves right into V.N. Purav Marg (also known as the  Sion-Trombay Road). You will see this white tower standing tall in the shade of trees against the BARC boundary wall.

Aurobindo Me orial Tower, Mumbai, DeonarThis is the Sri Aurobindo Memorial Tower, which I have been seeing every day on my commute to work for the last 19 years. And every day I would look at the Memorial Tower with curiosity and tell myself that I would stop by one day to have a closer look at it. That day finally happened to be yesterday !

A plaque at the site says:

This Memorial Tower was originally constructed in 1978 by Sri Soomatichand Kooverji Shah, Kooverji Devsi and Company Bombay, and unveiled by Shri B.G. Deshmukh, Municipal Commissioner of Greater Bombay, and Chief Guest Shri Murli Deora (Mayor of Bombay)…

The plaque also goes on to say that the Tower was “renovated by the BMC and Sri Aurobindo Society Mumbai in Match 2011″ and that it was built in the Mother’s centenary year.

image Aurobindo Me orial Tower, Mumbai, Deonar Aurobindo Me orial Tower, Mumbai, DeonarSri Aurobindo’s (1872-1950) famous words “All life is yoga” is inscribed on the front facing side of the tower. Symbols associated with Aurobindo (interlocking triangles with water and lotus in the central square) and the Mother (flower) have been etched on the sides in the upper portions of the Tower. The ground on which the Memorial Tower is built also has the same flower pattern (see photo above).

In spite of the Memorial Tower being on the road, sound of vehicles going past and road construction activity in progress, it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful there. Was it because of the person in whose honour the Memorial Tower has been constructed, I wondered? I must confess here that I don’t know anything about Sri Aurobindo  — Indian nationalist, philosopher, spiritual guru, yogi and founder of the philosophy behind Auroville — other than what I learnt in school and what Wikipedia says.

I’ll take this visit as a sign to do some reading on Sri Aurobindo and his work. Today is his 64th death anniversary and I think it’ll be a good idea to begin by finding out more about the people behind the Memorial Tower and also why that particular spot on a very busy road was chosen for it.

Have you seen or visited Sr Aurobindo’s Memorial Tower? Are you familiar with Sri Aurobindo’s works and philosophy? Do tell.


Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.

16 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: The Sri Aurobindo Memorial Tower

  1. I would rather read Aurobindo. I visited Auroville (supposedly based on his vision and ideals) in Puducherry (Pondicherry) in 1998-99 and gained a first hand account of how a person’s legacy can be distorted or even undone by his acolytes. To begin with, there were separate lines for natives and foreigners (who were let in faster). There was a donation box at the entrance to the Matrumandir. The volunteer (naturally, a foreigner) by the box would give really nasty looks to persons who walked past the box without dropping any money in it. All in all, non-foreigners were made to feel that they did not deserve to be there. I do not know if things have changed since then or whether mine was a one-off experience. But that was not what Aurobindo was about. Time we rediscover him and his towering intellect. His writings are relevant, especially in our present times.

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    1. I haven’t read Aurobindo at all so can’t comment on his writings, but am pretty sure that he would not have been discriminatory.

      I visited Auroville and Matrimandir in the summer of 1997 and it was as you described it — natives in one line and foreigners in another. What disturbed me more at that time was the question of rehabilitation of people whose land had been taken for constructing Auroville. Answers were either evasive or dismissive.

      I’d like to go back now and see is things have changed, but first read his work and philosophy.

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      1. Hello! … visited there in feb. 0f 2015 … little familiar with the teachings and philosophy …. and as far as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are concerned – their writings are the real essence….whatever they may mean to the reader….there is no right or wrong interpretation….it is what one absorbs.

        With regard to the land for Auroville, to my knowledge the land initially earmarked for the Matrimandir and Auroville was arid land and as such was hardly inahabited. (However, for clarity sake both concepts came up after Sri Aurobindo’s time in 1968). Even today if you go to Auroville, you see the red sand everywhere…its taken years of effort to make it green. Though it is also true that Auroville continues to expand and procure more land through its governing trust.

        With regard to the discrimination, i believe there is bit of snootiness and a superiority complex which has crept in amongst the Aurovillians towards all ‘outsiders’ specially in the last 15 years, as a newer generation takes over charge, but is really not aware of the philosophy behind both – Auroville as well as the Matrimandir. Its sad, but it is happening. The focus is growing more in the commercial direction than the spiritual direction. But the politics of it diminishes neither the philosophy on which they were based, nor are a reflection on those who saw these as a vision/model towards human growth and progress.

        So aside, the visible ongoing wrongs, the writings hide wonderful insights…thankfully politics can’t alter those.

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        1. Hello Vidur. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and sharing your views.

          The problem is rarely the writings themselves; it is almost always the inheritors of a legacy and their interpretation. It is true of Aurobindo and the Mother. Having said that, I feel that Auroville is a utopian concept or maybe I should say that the ones who are spreading the idea of Auroville are treading on a problematic philosophy. However, I’m willing to admit that my perspective is based on observation alone and not backed up with reading or understanding of Aurobindo’s philosophy. It’s time for me to do that.

          Thank you for sharing your views.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you for taking the time to reply. Wherever the implementation of a generically good philosophy requires resources, politics takes roots, and sooner or later the philosophy suffers, and eventually is forgotten, even by those who claim to be the flag-bearers.

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  2. Nice post, Sudha! I have seen this too, and was planning to go visit it peacefully some day, and write about it too! and now you have beaten me to it 😛 btw, i even clicked a pic once but it wasnt too good, so never posted it 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yayyyyyy ! Me first. Me first. Me first 😛

      I have been seeing the memorial for 19 years, Anu, and also saw it through a renovation. And yet I didn’t go. So when December 5th approached, I knew I just had to visit the memorial. I hopped off the bus one day and well… this post is the result. 🙂

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    1. It is ! and definitely worth a visit as well. I think if a bench or two were added it would be a great place to sit and watch the world go by or maybe even read a book ! 🙂

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  3. Thank you for Beautiful pictures. I was observing this tower and will continue. As it gives different sort of peace and put you in contact with true self. I was staying at sri aurobindo ashram-delhi branch for five years. and after 5 years gap when i saw it last sunday, i felt blessed. and Hope if Lord’s grace work, will be seeing it everyday.
    thanks for this lens.

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    1. Hello, Vaibhav. Welcome to My Favourite Things and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Glad that you liked the post on Sri Aurobindo Memorial and that it struck a chord with you. 🙂

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