In 1926, Jiddu Krishnamurti's colleague C.S. Trilokikar on his request went from hamlet to hamlet by bullock cart, buying land until a 300-acre campus had been assembled. By 1929 most of the land for Rishi Valley had been acquired. Trilokikar named the whole basin Rishi Valley, a name derived from legends about rishis, who were rumoured to live in the hills surrounding the valley, thousands of years ago. However, before the land was completely assembled, Besant abandoned the idea of a world university because there were more pressing matters of national importance for her, such as India's Home Rule Movement.
It is located in a sheltered valley in the interior of rural Andhra Pradesh, about 15km from the nearest town, Madanapalle, and about 140 km north-east of Bangalore.
In the senior school the educational programme shifts in its emphasis towards preparation of students in the syllabus for the ICSE (at the end of class 10) examinations.
There are traditions and cultures unique to Rishi Valley.Some practices that the school has maintained for over fifty years are the morning assembly, Asthachal and folk dancing. During the morning assembly, three times a week, the entire school gathers for singing. Children learn traditional chants, as well as songs by poets, ranging from Kabir to Rabindranath Tagore, often set in accompaniment to the traditional south Indian drum, the mridangam. The rest of the week, students, teachers, and visitors take turns speaking about various topics that interest them.
F. Gordon Pearce, the principal of Rishi Valley School after the Second World War, came up with the idea of Asthachal (sunset point), a tradition which survives to this day. During Asthachal, children gather together on a cliff and sit quietly while the sun sets. It is a short but peaceful period of time, which gives children an opportunity for quiet reflection, observation of nature, daydreaming or watching their own thoughts.
An American teacher, David Young, introduced Western folk dancing to the school. Later, another teacher, David Horsburgh, introduced European and American folk dancing. Folk dancing, or 'folkie' as students call it, is held once a week. The senior students teach the dances to the junior students. Over the years, the dances have evolved and visiting alumni usually join in.
Religious and cultural festivals and occasions are celebrated in Rishi Valley like Christmas, Ugadi, Shivaratri and Makara Sankranti (Pongal) when villagers come and perform for the children. During Makara Sankranti, there is a bull dance where all students dance along with the villagers and their decorated bulls. On such special occasions, students are treated to a special dinner.
Student cultural activities include: classical Indian dance (Bharatnatyam), Carnatic music, Mridangam, Violin, Tabla and Piano. Many important Indian artists have performed in Rishi Valley including M.L. Vasanthakumari (Carnatic musician), Amjad Ali Khan (Hindustani musician), Nikhil Banerjee (Sitar musician), Palghat Mani Iyer (Mridangam musician), and Bombay Jayashree (Carnatic musician). Renowned Odissi and Bharatanatyam choreographer and danseuse, Oopali Operajita, is a former Rishi Valley student where she studied Bharatanatyam and performed under the banyan tree in Rishi Valley's fabled dance dramas, for J. Krishnamurti. She was recently invited by Rishi Valley to choreograph a dance drama - The Rishi Valley Dance Drama (from Kalidasa's Kumarasambhavam) - for the school, reviving a Rishi Valley tradition which had lain dormant for 35 years.
Sports include football, cricket, athletics, basketball and volleyball, tennis and badminton. The surrounding wilderness area is an ideal terrain for rock climbers and recreational hikers. There is an annual Athletics Meet ("Sports Day") and seasonal football, cricket and basketball extramural matches (colloquially referred to as "Externals") between Rishi Valley and the neighboring teams. The RV Cup is an annual football tournament for the boys and a handball tournament for the girls.
An arts and crafts department teaches and engages students in carpentry, pottery, weaving, batik and fine art .