SUNIL BHATTACHARYA (3 NOVEMBER 1920 - 30 APRIL 1998)
Sunil was born on the 3rd of November 1920 in Krishnanagar, a small town situated about 90 Km north of Calcutta, West Bengal. His youth was spent in a wide range of studies; literature, science, mathematics (and chess) were serious interests. He took the Bachelor's degree in Chemistry with honours from Saint Xavier's College, Calcutta.
Sunil came to Pondicherry in 1942 and joined the Ashram's Centre of Education as one of its first teachers. He taught mathematics and botany. His love for these subjects was avid as well as contagious.
Although Sunil had no formal musical education, during his youth he received classical training on the sitar from his brother. Sunil was a gifted player, and after hearing him play the Mother sent him no less than three sitars as gifts. His musical career began in the Ashram, composing original music and orchestrating traditional Indian instruments for dance dramas.
Sunil was a footballer and was captain of the Ashram team. In what was to be his last competition, he sustained a serious fracture of the right hand. The fracture healed badly and forced Sunil to put aside his beloved sitars. It was then that he took up keyboard instruments in earnest, first the harmonium, then the electric organ and later, modern analog and digital synthesizers.
Sunil's New Year's Music had its genesis with the Mother. At the beginning of each new year, the Mother gave a special message and played original themes on the organ. In 1958, the Mother asked Sunil to orchestrate something based upon the broad outlines of one of her organ compositions. This became the New Year's Music of 1959. The Mother was so pleased with the music that beginnning with the year 1965, she asked Sunil to compose the annual new year music himself. This he did until his passing in 1998.
In 1966, the Mother asked Sunil to set her readings from Sri Aurobindo's epic masterpiece Savitri to music. She wrote to him, "Toi seul peut faire cette musique comme il convient." (You alone can do this music as it should be done). Continuously for over thirty years, this music was Sunil's preoccupation and labor.