Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta, on August 15, 1872, at 5:00 am, the hour of dawn.
The name given to Sri Aurobindo at birth was quaintly Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose! His father Dr K. D. Ghose had returned from England with a completely Western outlook. But Dr Ghose was also ‘generous to a fault’. Nobody went empty-handed from his door.
And Sri Aurobindo’s mother, Swarnalata Devi, was so beautiful and gracious that she was known as the ‘Rose of Rangpur’.
Sri Aurobindo was the third among five children. The two elder brothers were Benoy Bhushan and Manmohan, younger sister was Sarojini followed by the youngest brother Barindranath.
When Sri Aurobindo was five years old, he was sent to Loretto Convent School in Darjeeling. Two years later, in 1879, Dr Ghose sent his sons, including Aurobindo who was then only seven, to England.
Sri Aurobindo lived in Manchester with the Reverend and Mrs Drewett.
In 1884, Sri Aurobindo shifted to London for his schooling and was admitted to St. Paul’s. It is here that Sri Aurobindo plunged into the literature of the Western world and studied several languages—French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Latin, and absorbed the best that Western culture had to offer him.
In 1890, at the age of eighteen, Sri Aurobindo got admission at Cambridge.
It was thus that Sri Aurobindo grew, away from his family, away from his motherland, away from his roots and his culture. He knew seven foreign languages, but could not speak his own mother tongue, Bengali.
Dr K. D. Ghose had by now become aware of the atrocities being committed by the British on Indians and began to send paper clippings of these to Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo also felt that a period of great upheaval for his motherland was coming in which he was destined to play a leading role. He began to learn Bengali and joined a secret society, romantically named ‘Lotus and Dagger’, where the members took an oath to work for India’s freedom.
Sri Aurobindo now looked for a way to disqualify himself from the ICS. He found his opportunity soon and did not appear for the horse-riding test.
The Gaekwad of Baroda happened to be in London and offered him a place in his service. For long after, the Gaekwad boasted to his friends that he had got an ICS man for Rs. 200 per month.