Annie Besant did more to free India from slavary of Imperial British. As President of the Theosophical Society from 1907, she wrote number of books and pamphlets on Theosophy. She traveled (1926-27) in England and the United States with Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom she announced as the new Messiah. She played such a prominent role in not only the National Secular Society but also the Theosophical Society. Dr. Annie Besant’s speeches focused on the greatness of the culture,religion and scriptures. She said, as from the East, travels light west ward, so travelled the religion of India with its moralising effect. Wherever Dr. Besant appeared, thousands flocked to see her. She sympathised with the people of this land. She felt that she was one with them in their thoughts and feelings. Dr.Besant thoroughly studied the History of India. She worked for the people in their aspirations and political freedom. Dr. Besant felt that she could make India again a nation, with its ancient traditions of common ancestry and it had reference to the great philosophy which belonged to every Indian as a birth right.
Anne Besant’s educational endeavors in India were a deliberate attempt to counteract the disappearance of Indian traditional thought as well as its rationalization. This was emblematic of a larger movement within Indian intellectual history, represented by figures such as Swami Vivekananda, who sought to actively re-construct (or, it has been argued, simply construct) a uniquely Indian spirituality that emphasized the intuitive aspect of texts like the Upanishads. Raychaudhuri write “A selective veneration for elements of the Hindu culture was thus the cultural bed-rock of the nationalist awareness.” She founded the Central Hindu College in 1898, which was eventually absorbed into the Benaras Hindu University.
Dr. Arthur Richardson, an English science graduate, was made the principal. English staff members taught science and mathematics, while Indians taught Sanskrit, logic, and history. Besant’s primary goal was the education of girls, specifically Indian education. She remarked that “Western education was not suitable for the education of Eastern girls” and that “the national movement for the educationbof girls must be one which meets the national needs”. Besant’s notion of “national education” was thus one that combined both western and eastern knowledge. This was applauded by contemporary observers sympathetic to the nationalist cause: The crowning achievement of Dr.Annie Besant in the field of Education was the establishment of the University education in India. As she felt that the first ideal of National University is that service to the motherland and to the training of national character. The next great ideal is that it must be a centre of an all-round culture for the nation. The National University must be a centre of research and be a centre of men trained to develop knowledge.
Dr. Annie Besant opined that the NationalUniversity should set a standard of education by its own methods and to encourage it on good lines. It was her desire to prepare them for the heavy burden of national responsibility and to make them strong physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The Chief educational want of India according to her was colleges on national lines and under national control, which should make it their one duty to train up pious, honorable, brave and cultured Indians, loyal to their motherland. To fulfill this end, the boys should grow up through their school and college life in an atmosphere of pure and passionate patriotism, full of pride in their country and full of aspiration for her service. For this high spirit, the boys must be trained and disciplined but never broken; love and not fear must be the root of their obedience, and trust not terror must characterize their attitude to their teachers. They must realize that their work is to train citizens for a Free India, not clerks whose value lies in their servility, and whose aim is to become petty tyrants in their turn. Dr. Annie Besant strongly opined that present generation of lads was splendid material, but mostly uncared for, hated and unloved by their teachers, in the schools. “Their budding patriotism is treated as sedation, their self-respect as insubordination, their high spirits as rebellion; their national heroes must be worshiped in secret, and the national patriots which should long in their class-rooms, must be hidden away in their boxes. Their high spirits, their daring, their pride, their sensitivity, dignity, were the jewels of a free nation, though dreaded by the authorities over a subject people. Indian students should be as free in India as English boys are free in England”. To achieve national education in India she was keenly interested on morality based on religion and wanted that it must be an integral part of education.
Patriotism must be nourished by Indian History, by national songs and by observing the national festivals. 1. The most marked speciality of the proposed University will lie in the fact that it will officiate no college in which religion and morality do not form an integral part of the education given. It will make no distinctions between religions, accepting equally of Hindu, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian and Muhammadan, but it will not affiliate any purely secular institution. It will draw together all the elements which regard the training of youth in honour and virtue as the most essential part of education. It will be nursery of good citizens instead of only a mint for hallmarking a certain standard of knowledge. 2. The second important specialty was the placing in the first rank of Indian Philosophy, History and Literature and classical languages of India, the chief means of culture. While western thought will be amply studied, Eastern thought will take the lead, and Western knowledge will be used to enrich but not to distort or to cripple, the expanding of the national life.
Theosophical education was devoted to the overall development of a student based on various subjects and religious principles as enshrined in the established world religions, like Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. A few significant aspects stand out from a study of Theosophical education. Theosophical education was not conceived as a mode of cultural dominance as in the case of the colonial English Education. This is primarily because of the nature of these two western institutions. Colonial rule operated from political and economic platform; hence it was a historical inevitability for them to mould every new policy in India into a mould of colonial dominance. The new economic and educational policies and their functional aspects bear out this facet. National University consisted of three important features. In the first place she wanted that the University should breath Indian spirit when the western system was the order of the day and that scientific education should be taught to Indian Youth. The second feature was that the religious education should form an integral part of the curriculum.
Indian Boys Scout Association: The most important aspect of Dr. Besant’s Youth Programme was her initiative in organising the Indian Scout Movement in 1917. The Boy’s Scout Movement had on its agenda the programme of training the Young Citizens of the state. It was a peace movement rather than a military movement. It was intended to give national unity. The object of this movement was to bring home to every citizen and his duty to the state, kindness towards his fellow-citizen and indeed to all things, animate and inanimate which live under state’s protection. It aimed at developing character, citizenship and physical and mental fitness through a book. Dr. Besant published the All-india Scout monthly called The Indian Scout to spread the movement on a large scale She was prompt to attend scout rallies, displays, camp-fires and initiations of new scout officers. She invariably wore the bottle-green turban of the Indian Scouts, for such functions, with a ‘purple scout-scarf round her neck and the chief-scout badgead programme of work and play. The scout had to lead a clean life and obey all lawful orders. It gave training which provided keenness and alterness. The scout movement was independent and was above race, religion or social po sition. Madanapalle college became a model centre to promote the Scout Movement. G.P. Aryarathna of Ceylon had organised the first Madanapalle Scout troop of South India. As soon as the Madanapalle Scout was on sound footing, Aryaratha applied to the London Head quarters of the Baden-Powell Scouts Association for the affiliation of the troop.
The people of Rayalaseema specially Madanapalle students of B.T.College owe much to Besant, she changed the social fabric of life of this region. Many may wonder how this alien lady did marvels in India. Really she was a warrior for the emancipation society from dogma and ignorance. It is high time we having benefited and inspired by her sacrifices need to carry forward her mission. The Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department has great pleasure in bringing out a special stamp to honour this great lady.
By Ranga VC