With its spirited commitment to a better planet, the Rishi Valley campus, is a realm of modern day rishis.
Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society proclaimed in 1920, that Jiddu Krishnamurthy, a young man of Madanapalle in Andhra Pradesh was an emerging spiritual leader of the world— a Prophet, even. JK as he popularly came to be known, was far too wise to be trapped in the robes of a Messiah. He soon broke loose, and began a life that made him a world renowned teacher. But this story is not about his life. In 1925, JK had motored through villages beyond Madanapalle. He came upon a splendid banyan tree and stopped right there. Here he would found a centre of learning. He did that, and it is today the Rishi Valley School. This story is not about this school either.
Dominating Rishi Valley where the banyan stands even today, is the Rishi Konda or Hill of the Rishis. Legend has it that rishis had lived up its slopes in grand isolation. Folk memory even recalls that a line of flaming torches could be seen up there on some nights as rishis and their students made from one cave to another.
Somehow, that legend of rishis, and the metaphor that a banyan stands for, have a relevance to the story we are about to tell. Ours is the story of this valley's modern day rishis. Rishis of yore lived for the success of this planet. So too, do the people we will meet in this story. They are promoting conservation, restoration and adoration of nature. They are not rishis however, living in isolation, as did the ancients; they are spreading—banyan-like, close to the ground— and reaching out to simple folks, giving them education, health and hope. Their work—like the vines'— shows how committed people can bring about harmony in the extended communities around them.
Two starts in the seventies:
Although the Rishi Valley School dates itself back to 1932, it was not until the 1970s that it entered a mature phase and began to resemble what it is today. For the first forty years it was more a series of experiments under several teachers rather than a system of teaching with an identity all its own.
In many ways, those directionless years are akin to the years of drought that can occur in this valley. The 1910 Gazetteer noted that the Rayalaseema region in which Madanapalle and Rishi Valley belong, was "rich in natural springs". The nearby Horsely Hills were thickly wooded, where elephants and bears had roamed. Yet by the thirties, the valley was a barren, rocky moonscape, thanks largely to pressures of railway building, population growth and profits in timber. It therefore became routine for this man-ravaged land to have several years of drought followed by a year or two of rainfall.