Annie Besant's statue at a junction in Madanapalle

Many residents of Madanapalle may know about Annie Besant. Many students of Indian history and those who gain education past teenage could be aware of Annie Besant. Madanapalle in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh in southern India honours Annie Besant with a statue, and there are also roads and areas named after her in the town and in Chennai (earlier known as Madras, and it was the capital of Madras Presidency during the British colonial rule).

Annie Besant: Annie Besant (1 October 1847-20 September 1933) was an educationist, theosophist, women’s rights activist, author, orator, philanthropist, supporter of Indian and Irish independence or self-rule or home rule from British colonialism, contributor for the founding of BT College in Madanapalle and Banaras Hindu University in Uttar Pradesh. She was the one who adopted and nurtured Jiddu Krishnamurti who went on to become one of the leading thinkers and talkers of twentieth century.

In Madanapalle, Annie Besant is remembered as the guardian spirit of BT College, and she is almost synonymous with the philosophy of theosophy. She had passed away in 1933 but her legacy has not passed away in Madanapalle. She is remembered and honoured for her service to the people of British India through education: education as a service. She was at the forefront of Home Rule Movement, and was arrested, but she continued her service to the people of India. She founded the theosophical educational trust in 1913, and persuaded the governor of Madras Presidency in 1915 to start a theosophical college, and that was the beginning of today’s BT College.  In 1917, Annie Besant led the agitation for ‘Home Rule’ in India, and the British to leave India. At this time, BT College became a centre for activities of nationalism.

Annie Besant was the mentor of Jiddu Krishnamurthi. In late 1920s, Annie Besant took Jiddu Krishnamurti along with her to the USA for he was her protégé; in him she saw the spark of a messiah and a Buddha. But Jiddu Krishnamurti parted away from the Theosophical Society and rejected her expectations of him in 1929, and established himself independently as a talker of on philosophical matters. However, Annie Besant indirectly supported him, and her campaign for Indian independence until her death in 1933.

‘If it wasn’t for the support and mentoring of Annie Besant, we wouldn’t have known about Jiddu Krishnamurti,’ a policy expert observed. ‘She adopted him, and also funded Jiddu Krishnamurti’s father who had a large family.’ She also supported Jiddu Krishnamurti when he wanted to establish educational institutions in the world including the one in Madanapalle named as Rishi Valley School.

Annie Besant was married to clergyman named Frank Besant when she was 20 years of age, and they had two children. The couple separated for her views on religion and philosophy were incompatible with her husband among others. In London, she chose a different path by associating with National Secular Society and in publishing a book related to birth control before planning to visit and stay in India. Annie Besant came to India as part of freemasonry and theosophical work, and subsequently involved in politics of British India and joined the Indian National Congress.

Madanapalle credits Annie Besant’s service to education, and for establishing the first college in the perennially drought-prone and rocky region of Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh.

One of the top 12 experiences to do, to feel, to see in Madanapalle is to visit BT College, or Rishi Valley where one can feel the contribution of Annie Besant: education as a service.

You may also want to read:

Madanapalle: Rabindranath Tagore

Madanapalle: Tomato Market

Madanapalle: Rishi Valley School

Madanapalle: Terracotta Pottery

Madanapalle: BT College

Madanapalle: Horsley Hills

Madanapalle: Geroge Horsley

Madanapalle: Silk Sarees


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