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Wadia, Bahmanji Pestonji

(1881-1958). A theosophist who was one of the pioneers for the cause of the common laborer, and for independence for India. He established the first labor union in India, and worked in the Home Rule Movement of India, leaving perceptible theosophical traces on all he supported; this was in the teens and the twenties of the 20th century. Wadia joined the Theosophical Society (TS) in 1903. During the thirty-five years after his resignation in 1922 from the TS he lived and labored anonymously through the UNITED LODGE OF THEOSOPHISTS (1922-1958) for the cause of Those whom Theosophists call the Masters of Wisdom.

Wadia was born on October 8, 1881, in Bombay, India. He was a direct descendant of the philanthropic brothers Bahmanji Pestonji and Ardeshir Harmosji Wadia, the founders of the Wadia Parsi (i.e., Zoroastrian) Fire temple in Bombay.

Wadia’s studies took him up to the “matriculation examination” (1899). Thereafter, for a short time he worked for an English firm, but resigned when he found that service in its business house meant at times a deliberate departure from truth, on occasions, when business interest demanded it.

During 1899, he received two volumes of The Secret Doctrine written by Helena P. BLAVATSKY. As he read and studied it, it seemed that he awakened to deeper purposes for living. He deliberately chose Blavatsky as his guru. His daily contact with this work remained virtually unbroken throughout his life.

Looking around for a suitable organization through which he might channel his efforts, Wadia chose the Theosophical Society. He made application in 1903 and was accepted. He worked thereafter in the Bombay Branch of the TS. Shortly after the death of President Henry S. OLCOTT 1907 he went to work at the Headquarters at Adyar.

The plight of low-paid laborers in the Buckingham and Karnatic textile mills at Madras (now Chennai) came to his attention when a delegation of these called upon the then President Annie BESANT, asking for assistance. She asked Wadia to attend to the matter for her, as her delegate. He entered into that work with enthusiasm, and campaigned with success for the cause of the laborer and in April 27, 1918, he founded the first Labor Union in India. In 1914, India was involved in the fortunes of Britain during WWI and it was been assumed that India would be granted independence as a result of its cooperation with Britain in that War. When this proved false, Besant launched her Home Rule Movement and Wadia volunteered to assist in this work. He was interned in June 1917 by the British Indian Government along with Besant and George ARUNDALE, only to be released in September of that year.

When in America in 1919, Wadia became acquainted with the work of the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT) and decided that William Q. JUDGE had been dealt with unfairly by the Theosophical Society, Adyar. In 1922, he resigned from the TS, Adyar, and joined the U.L.T.

On the 18th of February, 1955, Wadia laid the corner stone of a seven floor building that was to house the Bombay U. L. T. The new building was opened by him with an inaugural talk on November 17, 1958, to an audience of over 700 who came from all over India and from several foreign countries. The U.L.T. also maintains a lovely building, containing a lecture hall and extensive library, in Bangalore, India.

Wadia died in Bangalore, India, after a short illness on August 20, 1958.

D.T.

 

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