Mathoor Krishnamurti: Champion of Indian arts in Britain

 

The sudden death in Bangalore of the lively and ebullient Mathoor Krishnamurti at the age of 85 has stunned his friends, disciples and admirers in both Britain and India. He was born on Janmashtami, the birthday of the Hindu god Krishna, hence his name. Though rooted in ancient Indian culture and literature he was essentially a man of the present: he could quote from the Vedas while busy employing up-to-the-minute computerspeak. He was compounded of past and present and believed in the creed of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ("The world is one family").

As a Sanskrit scholar of the first rank, Krishnamurti matriculated at the Madras Christian College School but never went on to college. However, as a son of a traditional Brahmin family of Mysore state (now Karnataka) he was taught his native tongue, Kannada, as well as Sanskrit, from an early age. The Brahminical scriptures were memorised and recited with due attention to intonation, pauses and pronunciation; grammar was immensely important. That is why he later had no problem in acquiring Tamil, Hindi and English.

He learnt Hindi at 13 when Gandhi was visiting Madras and the organisers wanted young volunteers who could speak Hindi, since Gandhi had no Tamil. Krishnamurti was so keen to talk to Gandhi that he decided to learn rudimentary Hindi. He did so in four days, and became a devoted Gandhian.

Krishnamurti's parents, Ramakrishnaiah and Nanjamma, were loving and caring but could not afford college fees for their ambitious son, who soon started on the long search to find a job. He often went hungry and had to depend on the kindness of friends. A bus company offered him a conductor's job thinking the young Brahmin would spurn the offer. Little did they realise that he had taken to heart Gandhi's teaching of "work is worship". He was soon promoted to ticket inspector. Later he worked as a time-keeper in a Bangalore mill. His break came when he got a job as a reporter for the widely circulated Samyukta Karnataka, a Kannada language daily.

Mysore state, then ruled by a forward- looking maharajah, was economically and culturally more advanced than many provinces. Music, dance and drama flourished and Krishnamurti studied these arts and wrote prolifically about them. Possessing a talent for explaining difficult concepts in simple terms, he developed the art of delivering commentaries on religious subjects to musical accompaniment. His 220 cassettes of poetry narrations are a treasure. He wrote about 40 books in English, Kannada, Tamil and Hindi on subjects as diverse as aesthetics, vedanta, history, philosophy and biography; his translations were also widely read. He was a natural communicator, and a TV series made him a household name.

He had become involved with the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, an organisation whose aim was to study, promote and spread the highest ideals enshrined in Indian culture. In 1972 he came to London without much money but bursting with ideas and idealism. He aimed to start a branch of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in London, but takers were few and far between; he confessed that he was often so dejected that he contemplated suicide.

But with the goodwill of a few well- wishers he procured premises in New Oxford Street, and the Centre of Indian Culture was inaugurated. It was a modest beginning, but the chemistry between Krishnamurti and the Bhavan chairman Maneck Dalal showed amazing results. The Bhavan acquired an old church near West Kensington tube station, which is now Britain's leading Indian cultural centre, with Prince Charles as a patron. Students from many countries train there in the classical music and dance of India. Perhaps Krishnamurti's most treasured memory of London was when he offered Sanskrit prayers in St Paul's Cathedral on the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Krishnamurti had an immense sense of humour, and with a glint in his eye would say, "Whatever little I have achieved so far is perhaps the outcome of my poverty." In 1995 he retired as director of the Bhavan and with his wife Lakshmi went back to Bangalore, where he soon rejuvenated the local Bhavan branch. In 1996 he was made a Padma Shri by his country.

Reginald Massey

Mathoor Krishnamurti, scholar and arts administrator: born Mathoor, Mysore, India 30 May 1926; married Lakshmi (deceased; one adopted daughter); died Bangalore 6 October 2011.

News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Adam Lallana, Juan Cala, Andy Carroll and Cameron Jerome
sportThe latest news and scores
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit