Better known as the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mirra Alfassa was a French woman who found solace in India. Despite her immense contributions, many are still unaware of the work that ‘The Mother’ did for India. Her love for the country was such, that she once described herself as ‘French by birth and an Indian by choice’.

While her spiritual collaborator Sri Aurobindo is more widely known in India, Alfassa’s contributions haven’t been highlighted much. Here are a few things you must know about The Mother and her role in the freedom movement of India.

Early life

She was born in 1878 in Paris to Turkish and Egyptian Jewish parents. She is believed to have held an interest in various fields of art, tennis, and singing.

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She became an accomplished painter and musician at an early age and it is believed that she had many inner experiences from early childhood on. In her 20s, she studied occultism in Algeria with Max Theon and his wife Alma. After her return to Paris, the Mother worked with several different groups of spiritual seekers.

Meeting Sri Aurobindo

She had heard about Sri Aurobindo from her second husband Paul Richard, who had visited him in Pondicherry in 1910. In 1914, she travelled to Pondicherry, along with her husband and met Aurobindo in person. There, she immediately recognised him as a mentor she had encountered in earlier visions and knew that her future work was at his side.

During World War I, she had to leave India but in 1920 she returned to join Sri Aurobindo and never left again.

Role in freedom struggle

Sri Aurobindo recognised in her an embodiment of the dynamic expressive aspect of evolutionary, creative Force. After the recognition, Alfassa became the Mother. She played an important role in motivating women like Annie Besant and Nellie Sen Gupta through her spiritual teachings.

It was her teachings that motivated Besant to fight against the British for India’s independence. She became a supporter of Indian self rule.

Alfassa also aided in the formation of Auroville and infused a sense of pride among Indians of its age old history and heritage, thwarting cultural homogenization attempt of Britishers.

After Jawaharlal Nehru’s first visit to meet the Mother in 1955, many politicians started visiting her on regular basis for her guidance. Indira Gandhi was in close contact with her and often visited her for guidance. At an event in Kanpur, Indira Gandhi had said: “The Mother was a dynamic lady, who came from France and adopted the Indian culture. She played an important role in motivating women like Mrs. Annie Besant and Mrs. Nellie Sen Gupta, The Mother had also contributed to enrich India’s age-old heritage and culture.”

Later years and death

In the later years of her life, Mirra tried to physically transform herself and open herself to the Supramental Truth Consciousness to become ‘a new type of human individual’, a new power of spirit that Sri Aurobindo had allegedly discovered. Sri Aurobindo had always considered her to be an incarnation of the Mother Divine. The Mother gave her final darshan on August 15, 1973 and died on November 17, 1973. She was buried next to Sri Aurobindo on 20 November in the courtyard of the main Ashram building.

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As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom.  This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: inuthsocial@indianexpress.com

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