Annie Besant

In June 1914, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was released from Mandalay. In the beginning he supported the British endeavors in the war. All the moderates and extremists alike were on a mistaken belief that a grateful Britain would repay India by making political concessions towards self-government, once the war is over.

The congress was rendered politically inactive practically, after 1910. During the initial period of the World War-I, the new element of reunification of the congress started with the rise of Annie Besant, a theosophical leader. This 66 years lady (in 1914) had begun her career in England as a proponent of free thought, radicalism, Fabianism (socialism), and theosophy and was an ardent supporter of Irish and Indian self rule.

She was born in 1847 into a family of Irish origin. The conditions prevalent at home taught her fighting for freedom of thought, secularism, women’s rights etc. She started keeping in touch with the Irish home rulers and gave them support, while writing in the newspaper items.

  • She had a close relationship with George Bernard Shaw, an Irish struggler living in London, who later cofounded London School of Economics.
  • George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion.
  • George sponsored Annie to join the Fabian Society.

    In 1875, Theosophical Society was established in New York as an organization to advance the spiritual principles and search for Truth known as Theosophy.

  • Its prominent founding fathers were Helena Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge etc.

    In 1891, Helena Blavatsky died and soon after William Quan Judge was accused of forgery by Annie Besant and Henry Steel Olcott. Both Henry Steel Olcott and Annie Besant took most of the American society with themselves and this society which exists today in India is called the Theosophical Society – Adyar, when the organization’s headquarters moved to Adyar, an area of Chennai in 1883.

    Prior to Annie Besant the leader was Charles Webster Leadbeater who got in some controversy over a sexual insinuation of the spirituality with the boys of the society.

    In 1898, she was instrumental in setting up of Central Hindu College, which in 1911 culminated as Banaras Hindu University with her joint efforts with Madan Mohan Malviya. In 1908, Annie Besant became President of Theosophical Society. By 1914, she had been associated with the Indian National Congress. When the war broke out and England declared a war against Germany, she famously said:

    ” England’s need is India’s Opportunity”.

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