Jiddu Krishnamurti’s life - an unusual portrayal

“Truth is a pathless land,” said Jiddu Krishnamurti, sage, philosopher, thinker and the man who spoke nearly a million words in a lifetime that spanned 90 years and three continents. And yet, it is the sandy path that weaves between trees and shrubs that many will walk this week to reach Vasanta Vihar to understand his version of the Truth.

The white colonial bungalow, tucked away in a leafy, quiet corner of Chennai is where Krishnamurti lived, held talks and discussions on the meaning of life for nearly five decades. It is a repository of his thoughts and the venue for ‘The First Step is the Last Step’ — an exhibition, curated walks, a music concert and book launch that are part of the year-long celebrations that began last May, to mark Krishnamurti’s birth anniversary.

Krishnamurti, a tall, striking figure, was born at the end of the 19th Century in Madanapalle and ‘discovered’ by theosophist Charles Leadbeater on the banks of the Adyar. Raised under the tutelage of Annie Besant (Vasanta Vihar, built in the 1930s was named for her) and Leadbeater, Krishnamurti travelled to England with his brother to be educated and gave his first public speeches during the First World War. His public orations that touched upon life, education, love, religion and the discovery of the self, were to roll like a juggernaut until his death.

On the words chosen to be highlighted at the exhibition, SP Kandaswamy, secretary, Krishnamurti Foundation India, that is headquartered at Vasanta Vihar, says, “A few years ago, the worldwide foundations of Krishnamurti decided that the teachings should be made available to everyone; they are available on the Foundation’s website and on YouTube. So, in that sense, the material for the exhibition is available in the public domain. However, it is the curation and the presentation of this material — text, photographs, audio clips and videos painstakingly archived from across the world — which has been the primary endeavour of the exhibition.”

The exhibition draws its title from Krishnamurti’s dialogue with Pupul Jayakar in 1970 in which he first used the phrase, underlining that the transformation of the individual does not lie in time-indexed practice but in an instant and total perception of the truth, that is available to anyone willing to see it.

Conceptualised and designed over two months by Miti Desai, materiality has been a very important element of the exhibition that also travels to Varanasi and Bengaluru. “I have worked with the use of transparency through cloth and acrylic; offsetting that with bamboo and wood and finally detailing concepts metaphorically through the use of ropes, mirror and water. All the materiality has manifested through different dimensions of engagement,” says Miti.

The exhibition is scattered across Vasanta Vihar’s stately building and its shaded grounds and is conceptually visualised in four spaces —The Voice, The Life, The Teachings (which has seven themes in it) and The Study.

“It’s hard for me to pick, but I would say my favourite are two: The Voice because of its experiential aspect that reveals itself through the grandness, interactive element and the intervention of sound and light — and Death in The Teachings. I am drawn to it because of its simplicity of conception — the rope going through all seven panels, symbolises the umbilical cord. Finally, the last panel on the door is also the exit. The most difficult to conceptualise was Love. I hope to assimilate that kind of spatial integration in the other venues too,” says Miti.

At Vasanta Vihar
  • February 7, 6 pm: Music of the Mystics, a public concert by Monali Bala and Vedanth Bharadwaj.
  • February 8, 5.30 pm: A curated walk with designer Miti Desai to help the viewer understand the exhibition design process.
  • For details, write to

The exhibition winds its way past a grand wooden staircase, a terrace bordered with bougainvillea, the study, up and down iron steps and a cement floored hall. It encompasses Krishnamurti’s life in a series of striking photographs from child to man, his work and words of many decades that leap out to grab your attention from aesthetically displayed cloth panels, and finally comes to fruition under a wild badam tree that dominates the landscape.

Here, from its branches that lance the sky, under which Krishnamurti addressed those who sought him, hang ropes with tiny placards of his quotes. When you stand under it you can hear The Voice.

The exhibition is on till February 8 at Vasanta Vihar, 124, Greenways Road.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:08:08 AM |

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