The Beginning

Banyan Tree
Photo Courtesy: Amrith Kumar, Alumnus

The School KFI began in 1973 at Poes Garden and moved to Damodar Gardens of The Theosophical Society in 1979.

The beginning of the school is chronicled evocatively in the following extracts:

How it came to be ‘The School’

Padma Santhanam

After the Krishnamurti Foundations were established in England, America and India, there was talk of opening schools in these places. Brockwood Park in England was started in 1969 as an international residential school. When Krishnaji later came to Madras, the members of the Krishnamurti Centre, an associate committee of the KFI, met him and expressed their wish to start a school. Krishnaji was happy to hear this.

Mrs. Prema Srinivasan and I assured him that we would initiate the school and take the responsibility of running it. Krishnaji discussed with us as to what sort of school we should have, the extent of land for the campus, finding teachers who would be interested in the teachings and communicating it by the way they lived and related to students and others.

Then we asked him what name the school should have. Krishnamurti said, 'Why not simply call it The School since that is what you are going to do. You are not going to mould the child. The child should feel at ease. Feeling secure and free, the child would want to do what he loves to do and pay attention to all the things around.' Finally he said, 'Each school must flower on its own, as one flower is unlike another flower. It is really the feeling of doing things together and out of this comes independence - not independence first and then working together.' In the end he said, 'I hope the school will be a great success and flourish.'

It was a memorable day for us when Krishnaji laid the foundation stone for the building at Damodar Gardens, by the side of the banyan tree. Present on the occasion were a small group of friends like Ahalya Chari, Sunanda Patwardhan, and P.H. Patwardhan, Trustees of the Foundation; and Radha Burnier, Mrs. and Mr. Surendra Narayan, and Norma Sastry of the Theosophical Society.

Krishnaji used to visit the school during his stay in Madras. Once he chanted Sanskrit slokas with the children and on another occasion, gave a talk to the children, which ended with a story. The children were delighted with Krishnaji sat through a play they put up under the banyan tree.

His last visit to the school was on the 10th of January 1986, a few weeks before his passing away in Ojai, California.


Smt Padma Santhanam, an associate of J Krishnamurti, initiated the formation of The School KFI and was closely involved in all ways with the work of the school ever since its inception till her passing away in 2006. 

‘...Like the sands of the sea’

Ahalya Chari

I think it was in the early '80s. There was a discussion at The School between the executives of the Krishnamurti Foundation India with those of the Theosophical Society about locating The School in Damodar Gardens. Krishnaji was present but preferred to walk in the gardens. I happened to be there so I joined him. He had been talking to me about the school.

There was no compound wall at that time and so we meandered all over the place up to where our playgrounds are at present. 'Where will you have the classrooms?' he asked. 'We need to draw up a masterplan for the place, sir,' I said. 'Good idea,' he said and added with some excitement, 'Will you send me the plan to Brockwood?' That was Krishnaji - who gave of himself abundantly to anything he started.

We then walked towards the gate. He stopped at the ancient trees on the way, touched their trunks with great feeling, looked at the roots, at the branches and said very quietly, 'Do take care of these. Get someone who knows about trees to advice. These are old trees.'

We stopped at the pond. There was just a little water but overgrowth all around. He recalled there were lillies at one time. 'You must attend to this pond,' he said. 'It can be a beautiful place. Grow lots of trees. See what you can do about the bunding...' After a while he added, 'You know, you could have a Quiet Room here for the teachers to retreat to and just be quiet after their business of teaching and all that.' I too thought it was a marvellous idea.

We walked back to where the banyan is. He looked at it fondly, held the roots and again said, 'Take good care.' Suddenly he looked up and said, 'Get rid of all this. They should be underground.' Surprised, I looked up. He was pointing to the electric cables and poles!

He paused on the lawn a long while, stood in the silence and then said: Let the school grow like the sands of the sea.

I looked up, a question in my eye. 'You know', he added, stretching his arms, head thrown back, smiling: Eternal.

I felt it was a blessing.

And our friends who were in the room came out just then.


Smt Ahalya Chari, an associate of J Krishnamurti and eminent educationist was Principal of The School KFI and followed its work closely till her passing away in 2013.