Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The Purchase of Adyar Headquarters:
A Reminiscence of H.P.B.

By G. Soobiah Chetty

[First published in The Theosophist
(Adyar, Madras, India) March 1926, pp. 741-747.]

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One evening in April, 1882, as I was returning from office, I noticed a large crowd near Pachiappas. There were many carriages waiting, amongst them was my father’s also. On enquiry I learnt that a lecture was to be delivered by an American gentleman on "The Common Foundation of Religions". My father’s presence assured me that the lecture must be worth hearing. I made up my mind to have the benefit of it. Though the crowd was "crushing," I managed to secure a position sufficiently good to hear every word spoken. The lecture was, as I expected, very interesting and illuminating. H. P. B., some time after, told my father that parts of it had been dictated by one of the Masters.

On returning home, I found that my father was one of the few who had invited Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky to Madras, to form a branch of the Theosophical Society in this city. My father’s permission having been obtained, my brother and I put in our applications for membership the next morning (27-4-1882). There were already over 20 applications received. Next evening, while addressing the applicants, Colonel Olcott made a reference to the Great White Lodge and said that, within a hundred miles of Madras, there lived One of this august Fraternity.

Three days after, my father directed my brother and me to go to Tiruvellum to make proper arrangements for the reception of the founders and the few friends who had been selected to accompany them. The object of the visit, we were told, was to pay respects in person to the Master who lived somewhere near this village. On the morning of the Sunday following they all arrived. A procession with music escorted H. P. B. and H. S. O. to the place assigned for their lodging. We waited for some time to be told when to get ourselves ready to go to the Ashrama, but to our disappointment we were told, after a long waiting, that we could not go, as the Great Ones do not appear before a crowd of layman, like ourselves. It was afterwards rumoured that only H. P. B. and Subba Row, had the privilege of going there. Even Colonel Olcott could not go.

At about five o’clock in the evening, H. P. B. came out. We walked around the village and a visit to the Old Temple was proposed. It is on a river bank. H. P. B. said it is an historic one, and is likely to become a centre of learning at some future time. It was a fine moonlight evening. We sat on the river bed, which was quite dry, till about 8 p.m. H. P. B. talked about several matters, her talks were very interesting. We dispersed to meet again at 10 p.m. We met in the open veranda in front of the lodging. A discussion arose as to who should be chosen to take up the presidency of the Madras Branch, when suddenly H. P. B. got up and held Subba Row’s two hands in hers. There was silence, for a few minutes; then a rustling noise like the moving of a paper was heard; we then noticed a paper falling from the roof.

It was a Communication from Master M., I read it: I do not remember now the exact words; but there was a reference in it to Dewan Bahadur Naghanadhan Row, who was afterwards elected President of the Madras Branch.

We returned to Madras the next morning [Monday].

On the Wednesday following, H. P. B. drove into town; she met me while passing in Mount Road; she stopped her carriage, as I also mine. I got down immediately and went to her.   She told me that she was leaving for Nellore and Guntur on Saturday, and desired me to accompany her. I said it might be difficult for me to obtain leave and that my going would depend upon this contingency. She insisted on my going and said it was Master’s wish. I applied for leave the next morning and it was refused, and I communicated this to her and not having heard from her till Saturday morning, I thought I was not wanted. No, it was to be otherwise. She, on her way to the Boat Basin station - where a boat was waiting to take her to Nellore - called on my father and request him not to stand in the way of my going with her. After some hesitation, he yielded and gave his permission. I could not at once go, as I was taking my dinner. H. P. B. left promising to wait for me at the Boat Basin. I left soon after and joined her at about midnight. We sailed within about 15 minutes.

The journey to Nellore was not particularly eventful. We reached Nellore on the evening of the third day. Next morning I was not feeling well, due to want of proper food during the journey. She advised me not to be particular about little things, and suggested that I should go to the well opposite and draw water and pour it over my head. I did as advised, though Colonel Olcott objected. I felt all right soon after.

Colonel Olcott had much writing to do and he was busy at his table. H. P. B. was talking to friends who had come to see her. She wanted to know what date it was. I said a calendar would be helpful. She looked at me for a minute or two; then a noise was heard as if something had fallen from the roof; due to the fall on her table - which was about 15 to 20 feet from where we were talking - of a diary for 1882. I picked it up. She tried to precipitate the name of the person for whom she intended it. She did not succeed.

That evening the Colonel spoke to a small audience on mesmerism. Next day about 40 members were admitted.

As far as I was concerned, this day was rather unwelcome. I received a telegram from my office, directing me to return at once. I telegraphed back asking for permission to resign. It was refused, and the next message was from my father advising me to return and not be foolish. H. P. B. permitted me to return remarking that she would not encourage disobedience to parents.

I returned, but only to get back again as soon as I could. No sooner did I join the office, then I applied for leave; it was granted, but without allowance, and I left Madras that very evening, travelling by train to Renigunta, and thence to Nellore by quick marches. I was in time to join the party of friends, who were preparing to go to Muthukur to meet H. P. B. and H. S. O., who were expected to return from Guntur. She was glad to see me back.

I sat with her while going to our lodging at Nellore, and she related to me what had happened during my absence and made a special reference to a Communication she had received from her Master. Without waiting for her permission, I request Mr. V. V. Naidu to show it to me. He had it in his purse. I was not permitted to see it, nor to know anything about its contents. This was a lesson to me.

While in the carriage, H. P. B. asked me how it had happened that I was able to go to Madras, and come back to Nellore so soon. I told her that I had taken the overland route. We reached Nellore at about midnight.

Next evening a Brahmana Yogi - Brahmananda Swamy - came to see H. P. B. A long conversation was held. He was a good Samskrt scholar, but not an Occultist. We stayed at Nellore for two days. Then we started for Madras not by the Boat Canal, but via Renigunta and thence by rail. We left Nellore after dark. Next morning we had to cross a wide stream; it was dry and the bed was very sandy. The carriages were hard to pull. H. S. O. and I got down from our carriages and helped the coolies to drag H. P. B.’s carriage to the other side. The Colonel remarked that I was responsible for this change of route, and said I should not henceforth sit with her in her carriage, she however heard this and as hitherto, made me sit with her in her carriage. We talked about many matters. Her talks were edifying and I benefited considerably by them.

The conversation turned on the Bombay residence, "Crow’s Nest". She said it was a rented house; then I asked her if she would make Madras the Headquarters of the Society, if a suitable place could be secured. She said she would consider my suggestion, and communicate her decision to me after reaching Mylapore.

We reached Renigunta rather late for the train to Madras. We waited till next morning in the station waiting-rooms. At the station an incident happened: H. P. B. came where the scales were and wanted to be weighed. I put weight after weight, she weighed heavier than any and all of them. Then she weighed lighter as weights were removed. We arrived at Madras the next morning by the Bombay mail, where friends were waiting to receive the party.

A meeting of the Madras Branch was called for that evening. The Colonel was asked by H. P. B. to put the proposal regarding the transfer of the Headquarters to Madras. While doing so the Colonel said that if sufficient inducement were offered the proposal could be considered. Three friends came forward, promising to contribute Rs. 250 each in case a suitable place were secured. This was rather a good start. I was encouraged to go ahead. No time was wasted in making a search and before next evening, I had information about the Huddleston Gardens - Adyar; our Headquarter Bungalow was then known by this name.

Details were then obtained as to the price, owner, etc. It was found that it had been mortgaged for Rs. 7,500. The owner was willing to sell the property for Rs. 1,000 subject to this lien. After the price had been fixed, my brother and I requested H. P. B. and H. S. O. to inspect the property. On the 31st of May, the founders, my brother and myself drove to Adyar. As soon as we reached the main building, H. P. B. got down and went straight upstairs. The rest of us went about inspecting the riverside bungalows, out houses, godowns, etc. H. P. B. after a few minutes, sent for me. I ran up to her; she said: "Soobiah, Master says buy this." Before leaving for Bombay, she was pretty certain that there would be nothing wanting on our part to secure the property for the Society, and see Master’s desire carried out.

June and July passed without much being accomplished, though several attempts were made to obtain contributions. I received a letter from H. P. B. in August and I wrote to Mr. Iyalu Naidu to know exactly what he would do. He said he could lend Rs. 3,500 only and the remaining Rs. 5,000 should be secured elsewhere. Mr. Iyalu Naidu a few days later came to see my father and tried his best with his old friend whom he had known for nearly half a century, but with no result.

The parting of the friends was rather unpleasant. A fortnight after, I entreated my father not to let slip a very good opportunity of doing some service. He refused to do anything beyond contributing Rs. 250 towards the purchase. At about three in the morning (the next day) he called me and said he would give me Rs. 1,500 as soon as the day dawned. I could not sleep further, but waited anxiously for the sunrise. He, then, gave this sum with instructions as to how the receipt should be worded. The advance was made and property secured.

On the 17th of November following, the remaining Rs. 7,000 was paid, and the purchase completed. H. P. B. and H. S. O. entered the Headquarters as their permanent abode on the 31st of December, 1882.

G. Soobiah Chetty