If you stand a few meters from the Theosophical society and ask for directions, people will probably give you a blank stare.
Or if you are lucky you would probably hear a person scream, “Keep going straight! It is about 300 meters from the Fashion Folks store.”
It is ironic how the society that mobilized thousands of people during the freedom struggle and the social reform movement is no longer one of the “significant” landmarks of the city.
G. Sundari, fondly called Sundari Teacher in the society, is a third generation theosophist. She talks about the society with immense pride and nostalgia, “A Russian woman named H. P. Blavatsky and an American man Col. H. S. Olcott came to India from America to establish the Theosophical society because this was a country where all religions were represented.”
Coming down south after establishing a centre a centre at Bombay, they established the society in with the help of the rishis and the mahatmas in Madras.
The British and the Anglo Indians stayed near the Adyar River during summer in the early 19th century. Soon Adyar became the centre of all the activities of the Theosophical Society.
Sundari Teacher goes on to talk about the purpose of the society and says, “In the 18th and 19th century, our society was very materialistic and conflicts took place. The world had to be united without any distinction between caste, creed or race. The Theosophical society was started with universal brotherhood as its underlying principle. ”
Theosophy is defined by the theosophists as the wisdom underlying all religions when they are stripped of accretions and superstitions.
Col. Olcott took up various initiatives to create a society without distinctions. He fought for the rights of the Panchamas (a caste division having low socioeconomic status) and founded the Olcott school to provide free education for them.
Ms. Sundari talks about the current role that the society plays, “The activities in the theosophical society range from spiritual, religious and philanthropic activities. The society has undergone various changes, but the fundamental principle of universal brotherhood is what the society continues to operate on.”
The society also has a printing press called the Vasantha Press and a library and a research centre. The Vasantha Press is one of the oldest publishing houses where several books on various topics like history, philosophy and art were published. But the Vasantha Press today just publishes work about the activities of the theosophical society. A monthly magazine called The Theosophist is published every month which reports the activities and events carried out by the theosophical society.
The Theosophical Society, which started in 1882 in a small hall in Adyar, has today metamorphosed into the international headquarters with multiple wings.
Apart from conducting international conventions and wisdom classes every year, this branch today only seems like a centre bustling with administrative functions.
Krishnan, who takes care of the gardens in the Theosophical Society, says, “The Theosophical Society has attracted visitors from across the world. They come here to see various botanical features. The Banyan tree is a special attraction here.”
Visitors of the Theosophical Society marvel at the huge dense trees that run across 400 acres of land. One may probably stop and admire the architecture of the various temples, houses and the Churches within the society.
However, amidst the beauty of the place, the essence and the philosophy of the Theosophical Society seem to be forgotten.
- Tanu Kulkarni