Together with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in New York on November 17, 1875. A group of students belonging to any religion are united to draw people together in the common search for and aspiration of Truth. It is the society’s goal to form a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity regardless of race, sex, and color. They also aim to study the laws of nature, religion, philosophy and science.
In 1882, the International Headquarters also known as ‘Adyar’ moved to Adyar, Madras, presently known as Chennai, India. The headquarters sits on a 260 acre garden also known as the “Huddleston Gardens”, sitting on the southern part of the Adyar River. Special features of the garden include sightings of migratory birds, wild cats, mongooses, snakes, and jackals. The campus is also home to a variety of trees including a rare mahogany and the famous 450-year-old banyan tree, which covers about 60,000 square feet. The main trunk however was uprooted by a cyclone in 1989, but a small portion of the trunk along with its branches survived and thrives up to this day.
The TS Headquarters Hall is a symbol of unity. Upon entrance, the figure in plaster of H. P. Blavatsky is displayed in an alcove behind a marble platform. It bears the Latin inscription, ‘HPB Amicitiae nostrae testimonium. H.S.O. 8.5.1899’ and beside it is the plaster statue of Colonel Olcott. Visitors will also see bas-relief figures on halls of the Headquarters representing different religions. The living religions are placed in the north, east and west halls while the south represents the extinct religions. A large board with the section names of the society with their dates of formation is also displayed in the hall. The motto of the society, represented in a symbol, is then found on the south side of the hall. Visitors will also find the busts of Colonel Olcott, the founder-president, and Annie Besant, the succeeding President in the Hall.
Aside from the Headquarters, there are other interesting buildings and edifice surrounding the campus. Along the gardens, visitors will find a non-sectarian beautiful architecture, the Hindu Shrine, or also called as the ‘Temple of Light’. Every morning, a small group of worshippers perform the ‘Bharata Samaj Puja’, a simple ceremony of beautiful chants. Aside from this shrine, visitors will also find other places of worship like the Jain Temple, a church and a Buddhist temple on the grounds.
Other buildings found in the campus are the Adyar Library and Research, which has a vast collection of rare oriental manuscripts, some written on palm leaves and parchment. These collections are of great archeological value. Aside from that, the library is also a vessel of great knowledge of culture and history. Inside the campus garden, visitors will also get to see a River Bungalow, The Youth Lodge Building, and Leadbeater Chambers.
The International Headquarters of the Theosophical Society was once referred to as the ‘Flaming Center’ where The Power of Wisdom and Compassionate radiate their benevolence to rest of the world. Today, the TS garden and its campus not only serves as a tourist attraction, but it also serves as a pride of its followers and the rest of Chennai.