It’s Rukmini Devi Arundale’s 112th Birthday, says the Google doodle. What it doesn’t say, and what we all(adis) know and are immensely proud of, is our family’s connections with Rukmini Devi.
First, the marriage of 16-year-old Rukmini Devi and 44-year-old Dr George S. Arundale in 1920,was performed by Alladi Mahadeva Sastri, the Vedic scholar, who happens to be our great-grandfather. After serving as curator at Oriental Research Institute, Mysore, the great-grandfather had become the Director of Adyar Library, in the 1920s.
Wikipedia informs me that “The ceremony was conducted by Alladi Mahadeva Shastri. Rukmini Devi “was the first well-known Brahmin lady to break caste by marring a foreigner.” She and her family were ostracized by their Brahmin associates, but with support of Theosophists, the Indian public eventually adjusted to the marriage.
His son , M. Krishnan ( younger brother of my grandfather Ramabrahma) who was a theosophist, and worked for the Olcott Memorial school run by the Theosophical Society.
And then our aunt, Sarada Hoffman, ( cousin to my father and my mother) became her student, her second , after Radha Bernier, danced and taught at Kalakshetra all her life, and now lives a quiet retired life close to it.
As Sarada says in an interview, -I belong to the third generation of theosophists. My paternal grand father, Alladi Mahadeva Shastri was the Director of the Adyar Library in the 1920s. My father M. Krishnan, also a theosophist worked for the Olcott Memorial schools. (There were five schools originally, with one left right now, which is being run by the society.) He was the first Indian to head the institution, who opted to work for the downtrodden, in those times. So, I was born and brought up in the theosophical estate.
The Great Grandfather also taught Annie Besant Sanskrit for a while. His daughters, my maternal grandmother Indira, her sisters Padma and Kamala were married on the campus. There is a photograph of Paddu Pati’s wedding ceremony , being held under the banyan tree on the theosophical estate, which, I’m afraid I’m not able to lay my hands on at the moment. I am not sure if their youngest sister, Vasantha was also married there.
Mahadeva Sastri has authored a slim volume titled “The Vedic Law of Marriage Or The Emancipation Of Women”. Which I have started reading, and in which he explains that the Vedic times were good times for women. More on this as I finish reading, this and his other works, chiefly. The translation of Shankara Bhasya on Bhagavadgita and Dakshinamurthy Stotram
Here is the interview of Sarada Hoffman, a legend in her own right, of whom my father speaks of with fondness and deep affection.
Thanks for this item on the great Alladi Mahadeva Sastri. I have been searching for some information on him as I found his translations of Bhagavad Gita and Dakshinamurti Stotram to be exceptional. I do not remember whether the Samata edition gave any biographical details about Sri Sastri. Can you do a full article on him or have you already done it ? We have a duty to remember our great ones. Thanks.
Dear Mr Nanjappa, how wonderful to hear from you! Its not very often that I hear from people who know the GGF. The Samata books do not have much biographical de tail. I have a detailed article written about him by his son (our granfather M Ramabrahma, a part of which was used in the introduction by Samata books. I have been meaning to share it, and now that you have asked for more information, I will write it up within the next few days.
Dear Jayasri, I’d love to hear more about your great grandfather. I’m working on a book about the history of the TS in Adyar Chennai and I’d like to dedicate a chapter to him. I’m not sure how to contact you, I hope you will receive this message and will send me an email to email@example.com
Thank you so much! Terhi from Finland