Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blavatsky and the Atheist

The Arts Section of Chennai’s English-language daily newspaper The Hindu (published continuously since 1878) in its July 19, 2012 edition draws our attention to three books recently published about Rangampalli Jagannathiah, an Indian theosophist who met Mme. Blavatsky in 1882. His great-granddaughter R.J Kalpana (pictured above) has penned his biography titled An Atheist Disciple—Biography of Rangampalli Jagannathiah (1852-1918) and compiled some of his writings in both English and Telugu, Rangampalli Jagannathiah - Collected Writings, in English and Shri Rangampalli Jagannathiah Rachanalu—Telugu Vyasa Samputi.

Initially, R. Jagannathiah had joined the National Secular Society of London and was elected its Vice President along with Annie Besant. “In 1882 he argued the tenets of Theosophy with Helena Blavatsky on a public platform. By the end of the week-long debate, he turned a believer of Theosophy,” informs Kalpana. R. Jagannathiah was also the founder of the Bellary Sanmarga Lodge and was associated with Adyar Theosophical Society. Getting the chronology of events right was important, his personal journals and correspondence which have been preserved helped in the process. “His correspondence with the founders of the Theosophical Society like Helena Blavatsky and H.S Olcott is well documented and sources of information. Gathering all the facts and cross referencing them took a lot of time,” explains Kalpana.

Jagannathiah, who wrote as“R.J.” and “Veritas” in The Philosophic Inquirer of Madras, was introduced to Blavatsky on December 27th, 1882. They spent three days in discussion and he says, “In three days she shattered my seven years’ knowledge of atheistic theories.” He became an ardent worker for Theosophy in India. He penned a memorandum about her in 1909, which can be read here. A biographical sketch, with the picture of him seated with his co-worker, T.S. Swaminatha Aiyar, is in the New York Path of December 1894.

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