by Peter Hees
Jayantilal Parekh was born on 21 June 1913 in a village near Surat, Gujarat. His father was a pioneer in the Indian banking industry, his mother a deeply religious woman who had a strong influence on her six sons and two daughters. Jayantilal attended a progressive high school in Bombay, where he excelled in his studies and developed his inborn artistic talent. After spending a year in the Bombay School of Architecture, he entered the Kala Bhavan (art school) of Vishwabharati, the college that grew out of Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan. Here he studied painting under the renowned artist Nandalal Bose. While at Vishwabharati, Jayantilal had the opportunity of traveling in Tagore’s entourage to places like Bombay and Ceylon. During trips to the south, he visited his friend Krishnalal Bhatt in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. A reading of some articles by Sri Aurobindo during one such visit touched a deep chord in Jayantilal, and after finishing his course in Vishwabharati in 1935, he came for a longer stay. In 1938 he settled permanently in the Ashram.
The Mother entrusted Jayantilal with work of different sorts and encouraged him to continue his drawing and painting. His flower drawings, nature studies and town-scenes show a keen sense of beauty and refined artistic technique. Jayantilal played a significant role in the development of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, and was the guiding force behind the publication of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library. In 1973 he established the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, which continues the work of preserving and publishing the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
In 1995 he initiated the publication of the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo. Early in 1998 Jayantilal began to experience respiratory problems as a result of cancer of the thyroid. After suffering in silence for a number of months, he agreed to go to Germany in January 1999 for a surgical operation. He died there before the operation could be performed shortly before midnight (German time) on 25 January.
Jayantilal will be remembered by all who knew him as a self-effacing servant of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo who quietly produced lasting results.