Rukmini Devi believed that young children must grow in a natural environment of music, dance, colour, sports, fun and laughter. It is with this in mind that she started the Besant Arundale School in 1973, with three students and the two dogs that followed them to school!Mr. Kelkar was the first Principal of the school with Parvathy Sundaresan, P K Revathy, Kamakshi Subramaniam and Lalitha being the first teachers to join the staff. They were personally guided by Rukmini Devi herself and together they created an environment of love and affection that would set the tone for the years to come. Classes under trees with sand, sunlight, chirping birds and dogs and the odd goat kid for company are a part of the learning experience in Besant Arundale where students are even today encouraged to explore the school grounds, to climb the trees and to play a variety of games and sports outdoors.
At the time of its founding, the dress code was white pyjama-kurta for boys and the girls could wear pavadais and davanis in any plain colour. This was created with the idea that children should feel the experience of choosing and blending colours in their everyday life. On Mondays alone the girls wore purple and yellow (the colours were chosen based on the Theosophical scheme of colours, where purple stands for devotion mixed with affection and the chosen yellow stands for strong intellect). The Monday colours stand even today.
The teacher student ratio is such that close bonds are fostered with healthy interpersonal relationships. Nurturing children in an atmosphere of kindness and creative exploration, and providing them a holistic education, which included an appreciation of nature and an exposure to the arts was Rukmini Devi’s tribute to the two wonderful people who were together perhaps the biggest influence in her life. In some ways the school and the College of Fine Arts were to complement each other where students in need of academic completion and children of the staff of the college could benefit from the Besant Arundale School and students from the school who grew up with an exposure to art could pursue it full time or part-time with specialized training in the College.