Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Old Diary Leaves

by G. Subbiah Chetty

[Reprinted from Adyar Notes and News, August 9, 1928, pp. 5-6.]

In May, 1882, while returning from the Guntur-Nellore trip [see The Adyar Notes and Notes, No. 10], a proposal was made by me to H. P. B. to transfer the Headquarters from Bombay to Madras. She received it well, but Colonel Olcott was not altogether in favor of it. Soon after returning to Mylapore, where the Founders were staying when they first came to Madras to open a Branch there, H. P. B. desired Colonel Olcott to convene a meeting of the Madras Branch, and put this proposal before the members. The proposal was very well received, and Rs. 750 were at once promised. Other contributions were also promised by people outside of Madras. This being a good start, attempts were made at once to find a suitable place. Our present Headquarters, then known as "Huddleston Gardens," was in the market. So, within two days, details regarding the property were obtained. The price required was Rs. 8,500, though the rent that was demanded was as high as Rs. 175 or Rs. 200. The price having been finally fixed, H. P. B. and H. S. O. were requested to inspect the property, and see whether it would meet their requirements. On the Saturday following, the Founders and myself went to the property and inspected it. As the inspection was going on, H. P. B. said: "Subbiah, Master wants this purchased." So there was no further inspection. Mr. Muthiah Pillai, the owner, who was also a dealer in furniture and sundries, was soon seen. He was willing to sell the property for Rs. 1,000 subject to a mortgage on it for Rs. 7,500. The mortgagee, Mr. Aiyaswami Pillai, was then approached. He was willing to continue the mortgage, and was also willing to reduce the rate of interest, if monthly payments were promised. As the interest at 9 per cent per annum was far below Rs. 66, the rent the Founders were paying for the Crow’s Nest in Bombay, and as nearly Rs. 1,000 had been promised, the prospects of securing the property for the Society were bright. This was very encouraging, and it was then decided to make the purchase subject to this mortgage. But before leaving for Bombay, H. P. B. said that, as the Master had said that the property should be purchased, it would be better if attempts could be made to purchase the property without any mortgage standing on it. Within a few months, through the help of Mr. Muthuswami Chetty (father of Mr. G. Subbiah Chetty) and Mr. P. Ayyalu Naidu, the sum required for the purchase, namely Rs. 8,500, was fully obtained, and the property was purchased and the sale was completed on November 17, 1882.

On December 31, 1882, H.P.B. and H.S.O. with Bavaji, Damodar and the Coulombs, and Babula (H.P.B.’s servant) arrived in Madras and took up their residence for the first time in a habitation belonging to the Society. Before 1883 was over, the full sum of Rs. 8,500 was contributed by friends all over India, and the Founders then became the absolute owners of the property. H.P.B. brought with her a double-bodied phaeton and an Arab horse, the latter a present from Damodar’s father. A jutka and a pony were soon added. Some years after this, the Arab horse died. Then Col. Olcott purchased a big fine phaeton and a pair of white walers. At the time of Col. Olcott’s death, only one of the horses was alive, and that too was too old for work. A. B. who was then in Madras purchased a fresh waler, which died in harness while being driven from Madras to Adyar. There were also two small jutkas and ponies intended for the use of Office assistants and other residents.

The Departments then in existence were the Recording Secretary’s Office, and The Theosophist Office. Col. Olcott made many improvements to the building. The present lecture Hall was built by adding to the old portico and verandah. Then the Library Building, the Shrine Room, President’s Rooms, Office Hall (present Private Secretary’s Office) on the first floor were added to the main building. Three cottages for Office Assistants were also constructed. The swimming bath was improved and changed into residential quarters. Mr. Sambiah, who built a cottage for himself, was the Engineer in charge of all constructions.

At the time of the purchase of the property, there were only standing on the plantation a few mango trees and about 23 cocoanut trees. The Colonel planted about 300 cocoanut trees, and 200 of them are now remaining. When Dr. Besant became President many more were added - cocoanut, mango and other fruit trees.

The residents during Col. Olcott’s time were Mr. Sambiah Chetty, Mr. K. Hanumantha Rao, Mr. Santhana Iyengar, Mr. Srinivasa Iyengar and Mr. Subramania Iyer (Bhojanasala keeper).

The value of the property at the time of the Colonel’s passing away may be fixed at Rs. 25,000. On January 25, 1907, I came to live here as a resident. Soon after the passing away of Col. Olcott, an E. S. Conference was held here. Mr. A. K. Sitarama Sastri, who came for the E.S. Conference, continued his stay, and has since become a very important personage! Dr. Besant wanted to build a small cottage for her use as kitchen and dining room. It is in this cottage that Mr. B. Renga Reddy is now living.

In 1908, Olcott Gardens and Blavatsky Gardens were purchased for Rs. 23,000 and Rs. 40,000 respectively. In 1909, Besant Gardens and Damodar Gardens were also purchased for Rs. 80,000 and Rs. 25,000 respectively. Sometime after, Besant Grove was also purchased.

During Col. Olcott’s time, the extent of the Estate was about 28 acres. Now, it is nearly ten times that. The value of the Estate now is about Rs. 500,000.

G. Subbiah Chetty