Madanapalle's song

Print edition : May 06, 2011

The town has been a historically important place since pre-Independence times.

in Tirupati

Tagore's hand written copy of the national anthem in English, which is preserved at the Besant Theosophical College library.-K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

MADANAPALLE'S claims to national fame are many, but for the people of Andhra Pradesh this revenue division, the largest in the State, covering almost half of Chittoor district, is unfamiliar terrain.

Madanapalle is best known as the birthplace of the great philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthi, for the Besant Theosophical College established by the theosophist Annie Besant, as the place where Rabindranath Tagore translated the national anthem from Bengali into English, and as the place where the Congress(I) decided on the hand' symbol for the party. On the flip side are its proneness to drought, the vestige of feudalism, and the factionalism that the Rayalaseema region is known for.

Tagore's link

Rabindranath Tagore's connection with Madanapalle is interesting. He penned India's national anthem in 1911 and recited it at the Calcutta (now Kolkata) session of the Indian National Congress on December 27. It was at Madanapalle, in February 1919, that it was set to the tune in which it is now sung.

Margaret Cousins, wife of James H. Cousins, the then Principal of the Besant Theosophical College, attempted to compose the tune when Tagore came on a sojourn. A music teacher by profession, she tried a number of notations before arriving at the tune that won Tagore's approval. On January 24, 1950, the Constituent Assembly adopted the song, in its Hindi version, as the national anthem.

The cottage on Besant Theosophical College campus, Madanapalle, where Rabindranath Tagore stayed in 1919.-K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

It was also in Madanapalle that Tagore translated the national anthem into English. A copy of the English version is preserved in the library of the Besant Theosophical College in Madanapalle, which he named the Shantiniketan of the South'.

The college was established in 1915 by Annie Besant as the first centre of higher learning in the backward Rayalaseema region. The college was formally opened by His Excellency Lord Pentland, the then Governor of Madras, on July 19, 1915. It was initially affiliated to the Madras University, but when Annie Besant took an active political role with her Home Rule League, the affiliation was severed. The college was then tagged to the National University founded by Rabindranath Tagore as the Chancellor. Annie Besant took great efforts to shape the college; the main hall in which she delivered several lectures on theosophy has been named Besant Hall'.

Son of the soil

The noted philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, or JK, was born in Madanapalle in 1895. He was a sickly boy and his teachers and peers at school considered him to be less than average as a student. Soon he came under the tutelage of theosophists Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant, and the dull-headed' boy metamorphosed into a brainy young man. He was shaped into a great teacher by the Theosophical Society, from which he later parted ways in strange circumstances.

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti at Rishi Valley.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

However, JK's links with his hometown were strengthened with the establishment of the Rishi Valley School near Madanapalle, thanks to his avowed commitment to impart standard and holistic education. The otherwise barren land turned green following a reforestation drive in the late 1980s. In fact, the campus has one of the oldest banyan trees in the country. Rishi Valley is also home to around 200 varieties of birds and was declared a bird preserve in 1991. The Institute of Bird Studies and Natural History here offers a course in Ornithology.

On Raghavendra Rao Street in the town is JK's ancestral house, which is now a centre for the dissemination of theosophical knowledge.

Arogyavaram Sanatorium

The Union Mission Tuberculosis (UMT) Sanatorium at Arogyavaram on the outskirts of Madanapalle town is considered one of the best sanatoria in the country. Seven missions had come up with the idea of establishing a sanatorium in 1915, when tuberculosis was rampant in India.

Their search for a place far from a town, free from dust, not exposed to heavy rain and with cooler nights to ensure good rest for patients ended at Madanapalle. The Danish physician C. Frimodt Moller was soon joined by many volunteers.

Arogyavaram remained the only destination for TB research in the region until the establishment of the Tuberculosis Chemotherapy Centre in Madras (1955) and the National Tuberculosis Institute in Bangalore (1958). Following the launch of the National Tuberculosis Programme in 1962 this centre lost its importance and it was eventually converted into a general hospital in 1975.

Congress gets Hand'

It was in Madanapalle, in 1978, that the Congress led by Indira Gandhi decided on the hand' as the party's election symbol. In the elections to be held in three States in February 1978, the party was given the choice of three symbols a farmer with two bullocks and a yoke, the rising sun, and the hand. Indira Gandhi, accompanied by senior leaders P.V. Narasimha Rao and M. Chenna Reddy, had stopped over at the residence of R.K. Rajaratnam, a party man from Madanapalle, when the Election Commission's communication came.

The Besant Hallat Besant Theosophical College. Annie Besant delivered lectures in this hall.-K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

Indira opted for the hand' in no time. Any delay in communicating the same to the E.C. would have forced candidates owing allegiance to Indira Gandhi's faction to contest the polls as independents, Rajaratnam, who was the vice-president of the Chittoor District Congress Committee, recalls.

Development lag

The region is known for its feudalistic rule by landlords. Madanapalle changed hands several times. The Cholas ruled from A.D. 907 to A.D. 1565, when the Golconda Nawabs took control. in 1713 they yielded power to the Kadapa Nawabs, who were followed by the Maratha rulers and finally Tipu Sultan. Every change was accomplished through bloody battles. Even after Independence, feudal landlords held sway over the region and perpetuated hereditary rule.

The region is devoid of perennial water sources and the much-touted Handri Neeva Sujala Sravanthi' (HNSS) irrigation project has not made any progress even decades after its inception.

Farmers here grow tomatoes as it is not a water-intensive crop. The absence of cold storage facilities, the farmers' inability to transport the crop directly beyond the State's borders and lack of awareness regarding rationalising the cropping pattern have kept the illiterate farmers poor.

Veteran Congressman R.K.Rajaratnam in front of his house, where Indira Gandhi finalised the party's hand' symbol in February 1978.-K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

The cool climate along the Karnataka border and the readily available Bangalore market has ensured a flourishing floriculture on vast stretches of land in Madanapalle, Venkatagiri Kota, Kuppam and Palamaner. Mulberry cultivation, taken up in over 1,000 villages, also fetches revenue to farmers.

Madanapalle can do better if there is greater political will and commitment on the part of policymakers to develop the region. A change in the socio-economic perspective of the people will also go a long way in reviving the lost glory of the place.

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