Saturday, July 19, 2014

Around Chennai: Theosophical Society

Continuing our tradition of sightseeing on weekends (three for three so far!), we decided to go check out the Theosophical Society today. Our trusty neighbor/tour guide went with us to show us around and as always get breakfast (or "Idly, Vada, Coffee" as he calls it). Unlike normal, we took our own car! It was a bit cramped with the 5 of us (driver, 3 adults, and a toddler in car seat) but we managed. The Theosophical Society location in Chennai is the international headquarters and is known as "Huddleston Gardens." Brief history: The society was started in the United States by a Colonel from the civil war (Henry Olcott) and a spiritualist (Helena Blavatsky) who essentially decided that all religions were correct and lead to the same place. They later moved to Madras to study Eastern Religions and create the headquarters for their movement. 

The Huddleston Gardens are one of the only real green spaces we've seen in Chennai. It is very popular for morning walkers. So popular in fact, that you have to have a permit to do it. Unfortunately those permits are often sold out up to a year in advance. Fortunately, they only apply to people wanting to walk before 8am. So around 8:30 we headed over to take a walk in the naturally covered (but mostly paved) pathways.

Headquarter building. We liked the elephants.
Aside from being an fantastic green space, the gardens have buildings representing the places of worship of every major (and many minor) religion. These are not "active" facilities, but they can be used for private meditation.

Look! Trees that aren't surrounded by asphalt!
The gardens are also the location of the (certified) largest banyan tree in the world. It is hard to take a good representational picture, but trust me, this banyan takes up acres of space.

Banyan expansion tendrils

The whole place is very pleasant, but many of the buildings seem half abandoned. We were told they are used from time to time, but they have an air of neglect around them.

The paint is newish, but the furniture inside was insanely dusty
If only I could live here... it'd be worth the commute!
Jain temple with a fantastically mustachioed statue. 

We noticed some men cleaning up a tree fall. Looks like it demolished that brick wall!

Hope no one was under it

More banyans. Also, she's watering the 'grass'

Col. Olcott is one of the few (only?) Americans to enjoy having a statue in India. As it turns out, there were at least four around here. This one commemorates the site of his funeral pyre.

The gardens is on the south side of the Adyar river. The Adyar has quite the stench to it on the north side, but it appears the smell is confined to the north side of the uninhabited "Adyar River Mangroves" island. Don't ask me how that works, but it did.

You can see the "Leela Palace" hotel in the background.
We wrapped up our visit with a walk inside the main meeting hall.



We finished up our morning with a trip to Elliot's Beach, a pretty wealthy college town area, for breakfast at Murugan's Idli Shop. We were told they had the best Idly in town... and we weren't disappointed. We'll have to make it back out for a better look at Elliot's Beach though, especially at night. We were lead to believe the area draws quite a crowd and has fantastic food.

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