Obituary: Achyut Patwardhan

Achyut Patwardhan, politician, theosophist, philosopher, philanthropist, born Ahmednagar 5 February 1905, died Varanasi 5 August 1992.

Achyut Patwardhan, the founder of the Socialist Party of India, was a political activist and philosopher who believed fundamental change in society begins with man himself.

Patwardhan was one of the last few survivors of Mahatma Gandhi's Quit India movement against the British in 1942, and also a wily urban guerrilla who skilfully defied British rule in his native Satara region in the former Bombay Presidency (modern-day Maharashtra state) in western India by setting up a parallel government, earning himself the epithet 'The Lion of Satara'.

As a follower and friend of Jiddu Krishnamurti, the former Theosophist philosopher who declared that true revolution happens in the psyche of man and not through economic and political systems, Patwardhan enlarged the Krishnamurti Foundation and founded a chain of excellent schools across India. But Patwardhan's relationship with his mentor was stormy. In 1929, when Krishnamurti broke with the Theosophical Society and went abroad, a disillusioned Patwardhan left to join India's freedom struggle and the yet unknown Mahatma Gandhi. The struggle between politics, theosophy and Krishnamurti's philosophies which was to dominate Patwardhan's life had begun.

With the zeal of a new convert, Patwardhan joined the Congress Party in the forefront of the freedom struggle; he was frequently interned for participating in civil disobedience campaigns in the Thirties and Forties. Whereas Gandhi abjured violence Patwardhan channelled it to demoralise the British Raj through looting government offices and treasuries. He was a fighter who could seldom brook being thwarted.

An extensive tour of England and Europe in the early Thirties, however, exposed Patwardhan to the changes brought by socialism and, encouraged by people like Jawaharlal Nehru, Patwardhan launched the Congress Socialist Party in 1934, becoming its general secretary at the age of 31. He realised the climate in the Congress was inhospitable to socialism and, 13 years later, at the time of India's independence, Patwardhan formed the Socialist Party proper, in 1947.

Patwardhan was born in 1905 into a prosperous Brahmin family in Ahmednagar in western India and was adopted soon after by his uncle, Sitaram Patwardhan, after the death of Hari Keshav, his father. After schooling in Ahmednagar, Patwardhan did his masters in economics from the Central Hindu College in Benares (modern-day Varanasi) and joined his Alma Mater as a lecturer, but left in 1932 to join Mahatma Gandhi.

From childhood, Patwardhan was deeply influenced by theosophy, a philosophy professing to achieve a knowledge of God through spiritual ecstasy and occult mysticism, as his entire family were ardent followers of Dr Annie Besant, its high priestess in India, and Jiddu Krishnamurti, its modern messiah. Patwardhan's commitment was further strengthened by a deathbed promise made to his uncle that he would never desert Krishnamurti. His opulent uncle, influenced by Malthus's population theory, also made him promise he would never wed nor ever work for a living. Patwardhan kept all three promises, but his fealty to Krishnamurti was neither unquestioning nor without turmoil.

Soon after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Patwardhan came to see the significance of Krishnamurti's belief in alleviating human suffering not through politics, science or social reform but through spiritual change in man himself.

In 1947 Krishnamurti returned to India and with it began Patwardhan's journey back to his mentor and endless debates on the fundamental problems of life and death. It took time for him to withdraw from politics, something he achieved by the Fifties. He then exclusively devoted himself to spreading Krishnamurti's message through a newly instituted foundation.

Welding theosophy, politics and Krishnamurti's teachings, Patwardhan in his later years argued that socialism cannot be concerned merely with man's economic needs but must create an equality of spirit. He wrote over 100 books and pamphlets on socialism and philosophy and most recently was expressing distress about India's declining political standards, corruption and blind consumerism. It was his belief that these ills were aggravated by overpopulation and at all public forums he stressed the need to control rising numbers, something which today's political establishment is seriously considering.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'