On that one stretch -- which begins at National High School, Basavanagudi, and goes upto the City Market Fort – it’s a line-up of extraordinary institutions that have responded to various historical forces. In fact, all of them are at least a 100- years-old, if not more. The Vokkaligara Sangha, Mahila Seva Samaja, Gayana Samaja, Kalyanamma’s Makkala Koota which skirts this road, Fort High School, Tipu’s Summer Palace, and of course the 128-year- old Theosophical Society which travelled all the way from New York to find its home in India.
In a 1986 souvenir brought out during the centenary celebrations of the Bangalore City Lodge of the Theosophical Society, Secretary C.N. Nagaraj explains the context in which it was formed. He writes: “...Under the dogma and tyranny of various shades of religious beliefs, although not originally intended, mankind needed a re-statement of already available ‘knowledge’ in a form and style which was both universal in content and presentation.” Such an attempt was first made by Madame Blavatsky in 1875, and was assisted by the Americal colonel H.S. Olcott. Blavatsky wrote some strong and brilliant articles to newspapers and journals defending ‘true spiritualism’ and exposing fraudulent mediums. The early history of the Theosophical society narrates that Blavastsky’s scholarship caught the media interest, and she soon became a sought after figure, with men and women thronging her room in New York, with heightened public interest in the Society. On November 17, 1875 Colonel Olcott gave his inaugural address, and this date was considered as the Foundation Day of The Theosophical Society.
The two Founders were determined to carry on the movement. In 1878, they left New York for Bombay and the next few years in India was a period of great activity. They established the headquarters of the Society in Bombay and toured the country extensively to a warm reception at all their stops. By the time the Society celebrated its seventh anniversary, they had 39 branches participating. In 1885, they established a permanent international headquarters in Adyar, Chennai, the first spiritual centre of the society.
By this time, with the reputation of the society spreading far and wide, Sir K. Seshadri Iyer, the then Dewan of the State of Mysore, invited the Founder President of the Society, Col. Olcott to Bangalore. His scholarship in the Vedanta, and his lectures on the essence of theosophy attracted such large audiences that the Bangalore City Lodge and the Cantonment Lodge was founded. In 1909, the Mysore Maharaja gave a 1.27 acres of land to the Theosophical Society.
The City Lodge building was built by the former chief Engineer of Mysore Y. Srinivasa Rao. Recording the history of the society, Olcott wrote in his Old Diary Leaves, “The Diwan of Mysore Sir K. Seshadri Aiyar joined our society on August 1, 1886 as many of his principal colleagues had previously done and I was able to form two large branches in the city and cantonment before returning to Madras, after farewell addresses from committees of both, on my departure at 7 p.m. on August 1, 1886.”
The Bangalore City Lodge is one of the oldest lodges in the Indian section, privileged to have been founded by the very illustrious founder president of the Theosophical Society. The foundation stone for this building was laid by Annie Besant in 1909. In 1910, an event that went down in the annals of history of Theosophical Movement took place and that was the birth of the Karnataka Federation which was inaugurated by Annie Besant at the Cantonment Lodge. In the year 1958, a plan was proposed to transform Bangalore City Lodge premises into a miniature Adyar with avenues, fountains, lawns and gardens. In time for the celebrations, the compound wall had been built, an oval fountain with two magnificent trees planted with the erection of ornamental electrical lamp posts.
(This is the first part of our series on The Theosophical Society)