A 'Diamond Soul' who played a crucial role in shaping independent India, Annie Besant was a famous Theosophist, orator, author as well as the supporter of the Irish and Indian self-rule.
Born on 1st October in a middle class family, Besant lost her father when she was just five years old leading to a rough childhood. However, her mother did ensure that she received good education.
The Theosophical Society
Besant who was a preacher of free thought suffered a failed marriage and this deprivation caused her profound grief. Life for Besant changed only after she was introduced to H.P. Blavatsky. She then let go of her secularist idea and decided to walk on new path of wisdom embarked upon her by Blavatsky, devoting herself to the cause of theosophy.
She joined the Theosophical Society on 21 May 1889 and pledged her loyalty towards President-Founder, Col. H. S. Olcott. Becoming the torchbearer of the society, she represented it at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.
Besant and Indian freedom struggle
She landed in India in 1893 along with H.S. Olcott and managed to spread the roots of theosophy among the orthodox Brahmins with her inclination towards Indian spiritual heritage. One of marvels India witnessed with her approach was the transformation of religious life in the country. She fought for the radical changed in social conditions and worked rigorously for basic rights of women.
Unmatched service for education in India
With the remarkable set of workers including Dr Bhagavan Das, his brother Govinda Das, Gyanendra Nath Chakravarti, Upendranath Basu, I. N. Gurtu, and P. K. Telang, she established the Central Hindu School and College in Benares (now Varanasi). A few years later she started the Central Hindu School for Girls, which became the part of Hindu University.
Applauding her services to Indian education, she was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Letters in 1921.
Shaping up Indian politics
Hoping for a bright future for the country, Besant became a prominent figure in Indian politics. She is well recognized for her Home Rule movement, which spread like a fire all over India. She made untiring efforts to bring together on the common platform of the ‘All India Home Rule League’ the two sections of the Indian National Congress which had been divided since 1907.
Acting as an inspiration for many Indian in the freedom struggle, she later became the President of the Indian National Congress. She also started two journals: The Commonweal, a weekly that discussed the issues of national reform; and New India, a daily newspaper that became an influential medium for promoting Home Rule and revolutionizing Indian journalism.
Annie Besant’s remarkable efforts for independent India are still engraved in history of country’s freedom struggle. She lived a life of a warrior soul and took her last breath On 20 September 1933 at Adyar.