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 Crows 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 Damodars 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. Olcotts
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 Secretarys
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, Presidents Rooms, Office Hall (present
Private Secretarys 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. Olcotts time were Mr. Sambiah Chetty, Mr.
K. Hanumantha Rao, Mr. Santhana Iyengar, Mr. Srinivasa Iyengar and Mr. Subramania Iyer
The value of the property at the time of the Colonels 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
During Col. Olcotts 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