G. Soobiah Chetty

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G. Soobiah Chetty

Rao Sahib G. Soobiah Chetty (March 10, 1858 - December 6, 1946), was an early member of the Theosophical Society and a friend of the Founders. In 1882, he was instrumental in the discovery of the piece of land that would become the Adyar estate.

Personal life

Grandhi Soobiah Chetty was born on March 10, 1858 in the small town of Salem, in South India, as the son of Judge G. Muthuswamy Chetty.]].[1] He was thought to have been a still-born baby, when one of the servants noticed a movement in the sheet that covered the baby. As a youth he had visions and mystical experiences.

After Soobiah completed his education, Muthuswami sent him to work in the Madras harbour.

He lived almost 89 years, was the father of seven children, and a successful officer of the British government in India, which conferred on him the title of "Rao Sahib."[2][3] He passed away in December, 1946.

Joining the Society

Mr. Chetty and his two brothers, G. Narasimhulu Chetty and Castur Chetty, came to know H. P. Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott. In 1882, the the Founders had the intention of changing the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society from Bombay to Madras, so they decided to visit that city. It was during this time, on April 27, that Soobiah Chetty joined the T.S. After hearing Colonel Olcott deliver his first Madras lecture: "Theosophy: The Scientific Basis of Religion," which was published in his volume of Asiatic lectures under the title Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science. [4][5]

With the two founders and other members he made a journey to Tiruavallum, where the Master Jupiter is said to reside. Immediately afterwards he accompanied H.P.B. to Nellore, and it was on the return journey that the purchase of the present Headquarters, then known as Huddleston Gardens, was discussed.[6]

On May 31, he and his brother G. Narasimhulu Chetty took them to see a piece of property next to the Adyar River, as a suitable place for the new headquarters of the Society.[7] According to him, when H. P. Blavatsky saw the place, she suddenly said: "Master says, 'Buy this place'." The purchase was completed on November 17, 1882, and on the 17th December the founders took up their abode on the new premises.[8]

Contacts with the Mahatmas

Soobiah and his brother Narasimhalu Chetty met Master Morya in his physical body even before the founding of the Theosophical Society, when the Mahatma visited Madras in 1874. He wrote:

. . . Early one morning a sadhu entered their home unannounced. A strikingly tall man, clothed in a long white dress and white pagri, with black hair falling on his shoulders, and black beard, stood within the door. Narasimhulu and Soobiah drew near to him. He made certain signs which the brothers did not understand, but remembered vividly. He asked for one piece; and when they went to the money-box they found it contained exactly one pice, which they gave to Him. He turned and left the house, followed by the two brothers, and suddenly disappeared, to their great astonishment. They could find no trace of Him in the street. It was this sudden and mysterious disappearance that impressed the visit so deeply upon them that they always remembered it in detail.[9]

He also saw the Masters in 1883 in a couple of occasions:

<blockquote <H.P.B.’s intense desire was to attract the attention of men of position to Theosophy. For this purpose she worked hard and succeeded eventually. One day as we were discussing as to how this object could be secured, a very strong influence was felt. This was due to the appearance of Master M. in the room. He materialised partly, and I was able to see a hazy form and though hazy I saw His arm clearly handing something to H.P.B. My surmise that He had come there to give directions as to how the desired object could be gained was found to be correct. H.P.B. told me so.

During the same year also Master K. H. appeared in my house in Mylapore. Early next morning when I met H.P.B. at Adyar, she told me that the same Master had appeared before her about the same time and presented her with yellow roses which she showed me. Let me say that yellow roses were then very rare, in fact unobtainable in Madras.[10]

In July 1883 Mr. Chetty received a letter from Mahatma Koot Hoomi written in Tamil. It is published as Letter 48 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom First Series.

Friendship with H. P. Blavatsky

As a young man, Soobiah saw H. P. Blavatsky constantly during the three years of her residnce at Adyar (1882-1885). He witnessed various of her phenomena, such as a demonstration of how she could control her weight using the Yoga siddhis [powers] known a "garima" and "laghima."[11] In 1883, she spent the summer at home of William and Alice Gordon in Ootacamund. While there, HPB asked Soobiah to join her, in order to discuss how "men of position" could be attracted to the Theosophical Society. He wrote,

It was here that H.P.B. very kindly proposed to me to give up my family ties and take up work for The Theosophical Society as Damodar had done; she promised to take upon herself any karma that might result from my taking this course. I failed to avail myself of this rare opportunity, and failure such as that generally results in misfortunes both temporal and spiritual. Subbiah Chetty was no exception to this rule. Domestic troubles and misfortunes followed, many of them.[12]

Until HPB left for Europe in 1884, she received daily visits in the Adyar headquarters from the Chetty brothers. They corresponded after her departure, and she playfully referred to Narasimhalu as "Verysimilar" and another brother, Castur, as "Castor Oil."[13]

Work at Adyar

Mr. Chetty kept in contact with Colonel Olcott after HPB left India, and when Annie Besant became President, she asked him to become "Superintendent of Headquarters," residing at Adyar. This work continued until 1910, "when he was recalled by Government to his old office, though he continued to live on the Adyar Estate in obedience to the President's wish."[14]

He was a silent helper to Annie Besant in the Indian Home Rule Movement.

Later years

At the time of the Society's Diamond Jubilee in 1935, Mr. Chetty was 78 years old. The commemorative edition of The Theosophist said "A grand old man is Rao Saheb Subbiah Chetty, one of the few living links with the founders, and with over fifty years of uninterrupted membership of The Society to his credit."[15]

By the end of 1946 he went into a coma for about 24 days, and died on December 6, on the festival day of Karthika Deepam. It is said that he had predicted he would die on this day.[16]


Mr. Chetty wrote some articles for Theosophical periodicals:

Additional resources


  1. L. Davidge, "H. P. Blavatsky: An Unpublished Letter," The Theosophist 57.2 (November, 1935), 149.
  2. S. Sarada, Madame Blavatsky and Soobiah, (Adyar: Adyar Lodge, [1991?]), 2.
  3. L. Davidge, "H. P. Blavatsky: An Unpublished Letter," The Theosophist 57.2 (November, 1935), 149.
  4. S. Sarada, Madame Blavatsky and Soobiah, (Adyar: Adyar Lodge, [1991?]), 2.
  5. L. Davidge, "H. P. Blavatsky: An Unpublished Letter," The Theosophist 57.2 (November, 1935), 145.
  6. L. Davidge, "H. P. Blavatsky: An Unpublished Letter," The Theosophist 57.2 (November, 1935), 145.
  7. Adele Algeo, "Blavatsky at Adyar--From her Letters", The Theosophist 129:9 (June 2008), 340.
  8. L. Davidge, "H. P. Blavatsky: An Unpublished Letter," The Theosophist 57.2 (November, 1935), 145.
  9. G. Subbiah Chetty, "Master M.'s Visit to Madras in 1874".
  10. A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas Case 36, compiled and edited by Daniel H. Caldwell
  11. S. Sarada, Madame Blavatsky and Soobiah, (Adyar: Adyar Lodge, [1991?]), 5.
  12. L. Davidge, "H. P. Blavatsky: An Unpublished Letter," The Theosophist 57.2 (November, 1935), 148.
  13. L. Davidge, "H. P. Blavatsky: An Unpublished Letter," The Theosophist 57.2 (November, 1935), 149.
  14. J. L. Davidge, 149.
  15. . L. Davidge, 149.
  16. S. Sarada, Madame Blavatsky and Soobiah, (Adyar: Adyar Lodge, [1991?]), 2.