T. Vijayaraghava Charlu

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T. Vijayaraghava Charlu (186x-1906) was one of the earliest Indian members of the Theosophical Society, serving in many capacities at the Adyar headquarters. Colonel Olcott referred to him as "Ananda Babu."

Early life and education

Mr. Charlu was born of a very orthodox Sri Vaishnava family, in the early 1860s, at the village of Teralandur in the Tanjore District in Tamil Nadu, southern India. He was an excellent student.

In due course, he passed the Matriculation Examination of the Madras University and completed the course of studies prescribed for the First Examination in Arts. Owing to the sudden death of his father, however, his already slender circumstances became crippled and he had to leave College without passing F.A. A Sudra disciple of his father who held the office of an Inspector of Post Offices, readily provided the disappointed youth with an appointment in the Nellore Post Office, carrying with it a salary of Rs. 20 per mensem. Mr. Charlu did his official work so steadily and intelligently that his superiors were much pleased with him and advanced him in a short time to a post worth Rs. 40. In his spare hours, the young man read much and led a very pious life, serving as an ideal to the many young men with whom he came in contact.[1]

Meeting the Founders

Around the time the Founders established the Theosophical Society headquarters in Adyar:

The inspiring public addresses of Colonel Olcott and the occult teachings of Madame Blavatsky appealed straight to him and he bravely resolved to renounce his worldly career and join the staff of the Head-quarters at Adyar. The unique sacrifice was made and young Vijiaraghava became the companion in work of Damodar, Bhavani, and Nivarana Mukerjee. The life of the Indian student at Adyar in those days was one of hard work, suffering and starvation, and Charlu, belonging as he did to a narrow sect of Brahmins passed through much privation. Time passed by and Vijiaraghava's wife and brother begged Colonel hard to persuade him to live in married life. The President-Founder, on a due consideration of the circumstances, undertook to do it and with some difficulty succeeded in prevailing on the young man to accept once again the responsibilities of the householder and fixed a small salary for the work done by him at the Head-quarters. Vijiaraghava became the favourite of the two Founders and advanced in spiritual life. Colonel in his fondness surnamed him "Ananda Babu" and showed much kindness to him.[2]

Theosophical Society activities

Mr. Charlu acted as Private Secretary to Colonel Olcott, and stepped in as Recording Secretary after the departure of A. J. Cooper-Oakley. Later he served as the Business Manager for the Theosophist for over 20 years, and as the Treasurer during the late years of the Olcott administration. His reports appear frequently in The Theosophist and the General Reports of the Theosophical Society from 1888-1906. He also lectured from time to time, and was the first Treasurer of the Adyar Lodge.

He seems to have been devoted to the Founders. During a White Lotus Day observance at Adyar in 1898:

Mr. T. Vijiaraghava Charlu, Mr. C. Sambiah Garu, and Mr. S. V . Rangaswami Aiyangar spoke of the way in which they had been led to join the Society and of their relationships with Madame Blavatsky, to whom they all felt deep gratitude for the work she had done.[3]

Colonel Olcott mentioned him several times in his diaries. In 1883, when Olcott was being swarmed by crowds during a tour of South India, he wrote:

At this station Damodar arrived from Madras on Society’s business, and brought me a new volunteer to act as my Private Secretary, viz., Mr. T. Vijiaraghava Charlu, now for many years known as Manager of the Theosophist. He had resigned his appointment under the Post Office Department, to work with us. and most faithfully has he done it ever since. Lacking the suave manner by which more than one worthless fellow among our associates has won wide temporary popularity, he has stuck to his work with the stern perseverance of an old Covenanter, and is best appreciated by those who know him most intimately.[4]

Mr. Charlu was one of the few people who was with the Colonel at an important event in establishing the Adyar Library and Research Centre:

In my Diary of 1886 the entry for January 1st, says:

"In the name of the Masters and for the sake of their cause, I, Henry S. Olcott, President of the Theosophical Society, this day turned the first rod for the Sanskrit Library and Museum at Adyar. The only witnesses present were T. Vijiaraghava Charlu and two of the gardeners. The impulse to do it came so strongly — after staking out the ground for the building — that I did not call any of the other people in the house."[5]

In another example, when Olcott was traveling with Miss Edger in 1898:

Some of the faithful ones, among them T. V. Charlu, V. C. Seshacharri and S. Ramaswami Iyengar, saw us off at the pier, leaving with us baskets of fruit and some money towards Miss Edger's travelling expenses.[6]

He is among the faithful workers who was mentioned by Mahatma K. H. in Letter 19 in the Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, First Series.

Later years

Mr. Charlu passed away in December,1906.

In 1904, Mr. Charlu had a sudden stroke of paralysis from which he never recovered. During the four and twenty months Ananda Babu was unfit for work and could not earn, Colonel generously appealed on his behalf for help and a fair response came from far and near. The good man passed peacefully away in December last, leaving his wife and two children to mourn his loss.[7]

Writings

While Mr. Charlu wrote many reports and notices, he wrote only one article for The Theosophist.

  • "Another Hindu Stone-Shower Medium" The Theosophist v3 (June, 1882), 232.

Notes

  1. "Obituary" The Theosophist Supplement 38.5 (February, 1907), 25.
  2. "Obituary," 25.
  3. "White Lotus Day at Adyar" The Theosophist Supplement 19.9 (June, 1898), xxxiv.
  4. H. S. Olcott Old Diary Leaves Oriental Series, Chapter XXX, as printed in The Theosophist 18.6 (March, 1897), 325.
  5. H. S. Olcott Old Diary Leaves Second Oriental Series, Chapter XXIV, as printed in The Theosophist 20.7 (April, 1899), 385.
  6. H. S. Olcott Old Diary Leaves Sixth Series, Chapter XVII, as printed in The Theosophist 27.8 (May, 1906), 562.
  7. "Obituary," 25.