Memoirs of Rishi Valley School
by Sourabh Tolasaria ('01)


This article was originally published at www.amrita.edu/asb. (This is an edited version).

In 1926, when the philosopher J. Krishnamurti decided to set up his first school, he chose a remote valley in the interior of rural Andhra Pradesh, in Chittoor District at the edge of the Karnataka Plateau, about 135 km northeast of Bangalore.

I would like to talk about my time spent at RVS (class 6 to 10th), wherein I experienced some of the most memorable and unforgettable moments of my life.

I had a typical first day, a day that almost every hostel goer has… I felt extremely home sick and wanted to go back home to Kolkata, a decision that I luckily didn’t take for what I was about to experience over the next 5 years would completely change me for the better. From then on I was to discover that education does not only mean academics but something deeper and more far seeking.

What was most unique about my school is how we were bought up in an uncompetitive environment, which is very hard to avoid today. Here I would like to quote J. Krishnamurti on education.

“The purpose, the aim and drive of these schools, is to equip the child with the most excellent technological proficiency so that the student may function with clarity and efficiency in the modern world. A far more important purpose than this is to create the right climate and environment so that the child may develop fully as a complete human being. This means giving the child the opportunity to flower in goodness so that he or she is rightly related to people, things and ideas, to the whole of life. To live is to be related. There is no right relationship to anything if there is not the right feeling for beauty, a response to nature to music and art - a highly developed aesthetic sense. I think it is fairly clear that competitive education and the development of the student in that process.... is very, very destructive” .

During my stay there I was exposed to and picked up diverse crafts such as pottery, carpentry, aero- modeling, batik, tie & dye and painting.

Of the above I developed a great love for painting (medium water colors), sketching and pottery. My love for painting led me to pick it up as a formal subject in class 10.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the general assembly were we all sang from the chant book containing songs of Kabir Das to ancient Sanskrit slokas. The assembly was conducted in an open-air environment wherein the echo of 100 odd voices coupled with the wind brushing against your face made a wonderful start for the day ahead.

We were also introduced to “Asthachal” a sitting wherein we used climb a small rocky hill and sit there in silence observing the nature or mediating.

Through out my stay in RVS I attended various programme’s ranging from science expos, theatre workshops to philosophical talks given by eminent personalities.

The students were encouraged to address the assemblies about any topic under the sun. Students regularly organized plays, music performance and various others cultural programme’s.

Hiking, rock climbing, excursions etc were a part of our regular outdoor activities. Among these climbing up the famous “Cave rock hill” was my favorite, essentially because I liked the adrenalin rush of jumping over a deep gorge between the rocks!!

Apart from “cave rock” I also enjoyed exploring the hills around the valley namely Bodi & Rishi konda. We paid regular visits to The Rural Education Center (REC) set up RVS to extend the educational resources of Rishi Valley School into the neighboring impoverished countryside.

During my stay there I developed an intense love for the flora and fauna present in our campus infact I had learned how to handle poisonous snakes as well!!

This serene campus is officially declared a Bird Preserve by the International Council For Bird Preservation.

During our stay there we were encouraged to take part in many social activities. The prominent one being a massive aforestation programme undertaken along the slopes of the valley.

Experience shows that not all children flourish in this system. In particular some of the children who tend to be dependent and who need constant prodding cannot adjust to the absence of pressure at the school.

Keeping this in mind I would like to say that after my stay at RVS when I was exposed to the competitive world I felt a bit strange, maybe a bit apprehensive at the beginning but deep in my heart I carried something that I knew would take me over all of life’s greatest hurdles.