Martandrao Babaji Nagnath

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Martandrao B. Nagnath was one of the early Indian members of the Theosophical Society who was well known to the Founders, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott.

Theosophical Society involvement

Henry Steel Olcott describes one of their conversations soon after the arrival at Bombay in 1879. Following the resignations of M. M. and A. M. Kunte,

[H. S. Olcott] said to another Hindu friend, whom I knew to be really dependent on his paltry Government appointment of Rs. 40 per month: "Martandrao Bhai" suppose, on going to office to-morrow morning, you should find on your desk a note to the effect that you had to choose between your membership in the Theosophical Society and your place, as we were under suspicion of political designs, what would you do?" The man's face grew serious, he seemed as if casting up the chances, and then, in a stumbling sort of utterance peculiar to him, and with a shake of the head and compression of the lips, he answered: "I— I could—d not go against my principles!" I threw my arms about him and shouted to H. P. B. in the, next room: "Come! come and see a true Hindu and a brave man!" That man's name is Martandrao 'Babaji Nagnath; he is a Maratha Brahmin.[1]

Witnessing phenomena

Martandrao B. Nagnath was frequently with the Founders at Bombay from 1879 to 1889. He recorded some instances of his seeing the "generally unseen Brothers of the 1st Section of the Theosophical Society." He wrote:

I have had constant occasions to visit [Theosophical] headquarters at Breach Candy, Bombay. My connection with the Founders of the Society has been close, and my opportunity good for studying Theosophy. I am therefore inclined, for my satisfaction and for the information of students of Nature, to record here my experiences of certain phenomena, which came under my observation on several occasions in the presence of brother Theosophists and strangers. I have also had the rare privilege to see the so-called and generally unseen Brothers [[[Mahatmas]]] of the 1st section of the Theosophical Society.

In the month of April 1881, on one dark night, while talking in company with other Theosophists with Madame Blavatsky about 10 p.m. in the open verandah of the upper bungalow, a man, six feet in height, clad in a white robe, with a white [turban] on the head, made his appearance on a sudden, walking towards us through the garden adjacent to the bungalow from a point—a precipice—where there is no path for any one to tread. Madame then rose up and told us to go inside the bungalow. So we went in, but we heard Madame and he talking for a minute with each other in an Eastern language unknown to us. Immediately after, we again went out into the verandah, as we were called, but the Brother had disappeared.

On the next occasion, when we were chatting in the above verandah as usual, another Brother, clothed in a white dress, was suddenly seen as if standing on a branch of a tree. We saw him then descending as though through the air, and standing on a corner edge of a thin wall. Madame then rose up from her seat and stood looking at him for about two minutes, and—as if it seemed—talking inaudibly with him. Immediately after, in our presence, the figure of the man disappeared, but was afterwards seen again walking in the air through space, then right through the tree, and again disappearing.[2]

After Mr. Sinnett published his book The Occult World where he talked about the Masters, some Spiritualists claimed the Masters were but disembodied spirits. Martandrao B. Nagnath sent a letter to the London Spiritualist along with Bhavani Shankar saying:

In common with some other Theosophists of Bombay, we have had, on several occasions, the honour to see these ‘Brothers’ of our Society’s First Section. We have thus been led to know that they represent a class of living, not ‘disembodied’ men or ghosts - as the Spiritualists would insist upon; that they are in possession of the highest virtues and psychic capabilities, and have, as we are assured from the opportunities we have been permitted to enjoy, ever exerted such powers for beneficent purposes, regarding the whole humanity as a Universal Brotherhood, but keeping aloof from the world for reasons best known to themselves.[3]


  1. H. S. Olcott. Old Diary Leaves, Second Series (1878-83), pp. 23-24.
  2. A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas Case 14, compiled and edited by Daniel H. Caldwell
  3. See "First Report of the Committee of the Society for Psychical Research, Appendix XII" at Published by Blavatsky Study Center