Garden of Remembrance at Adyar

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Plaque honoring Radha Burnier

The Garden of Remembrance in the Adyar headquarters of the Theosophical Society is a lovely setting honoring the lives of important leaders of the Society. Ashes from each of the deceased presidents of the Society are present, along with those of Charles Webster Leadbeater. It served as the inspiration for gardens created in 1937 at the International Theosophical Centre in Naarden, The Netherlands, and in 2001 at the Olcott headquarters campus of the Theosophical Society in America.

Garden of Remembrance star.jpg Garden of Remembrance pool.jpg
For additional photographs, see Veludharan's Temples Visit blog.


The second international president Annie Besant died on September 20, 1933 and was cremated in Adyar at a site near the Adyar River, not far from where the first president Colonel Henry Steel Olcott had been cremated in 1907.

Two years later, on September 20, 1935, during the Diamond Jubilee year of the Theosophical Society, the Garden of Remembrance was dedicated. The ashes of Mrs. Besant's coworker Charles Webster Leadbeater were interred at that time.[1]

In 1937, with the permission of president George S. Arundale, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hotchener took a little soil from the exact spot of Dr. Besant's cremation. On July 19, 1939, that soil was planted with a tree to commemorate Annie Besant's last lecture at the Olcott headquarters. The Hotcheners wanted to create a physical connection between Adyar and Olcott. The Garden of Remembrance at Olcott was created in 2001 very near to that memorial tree.

The third president, George S. Arundale, passed away on August 12, 1945. His wife, Rukmini Devi Arundale traveled to Haridwar and Rishikesh to immerse his ashes.[2] A small portion of the ashes was sent to the Theosophical Society in America, where it was interred in the Garden of Remembrance in 2015. A plaque was installed in the garden on December 24, 1945.[3]

On December 25, 1954, a plaque was installed in honor of the fourth president, Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa. Brother Raja passed away at Olcott during a lecture tour following his resignation from the presidency. He had been in ill health for some time. He was cremated in the United States, and most of his ashes were scattered on the Fox River by James S. Perkins, Kathrine Perkins, Helen Zahara, Caroline Tess, and Geoffrey Hodson, according to Brother Raja's specific instructions.

Nilakanta Sri Ram, the fifth president, passed away on April 8, 1973. A detailed account of the event was written:

Mr. Sri Ram's mother, Mrs. Seshammal, who is 101 years old, and his brothers and sisters, were by the body until it was removed for cremation on Monday the 9th. Workers at the International Headquarters, friends and relations from Madras and members of the Society, none of whom had expected the passing, offered their respects with flowers and in eloquent silence.

Mr. Vasant Nilakanta, Mr. Sri Ram's eldest son, and his wife, to whom the news of the passing was telephoned, made special arrangements to fly to Madras from Bombay. All arrangements had meanwhile been made for the cremation of the body. At 12:30 p.m., a procession was formed, and the bier was carried to the Garden of remembrance where the cremation was to take place and which is within a couple of furlongs of the President's residence. The Garden is a beautiful place, situated by the side of the Adyar River, where lie the ashes of former leaders of the Society and which is dedicated to their memory. Before the creamation, stanzas from the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita were recited by Mrs. S. Sarada and Mr. M. Krishnamacharyulu, and Mr. C. D. T. Shores read verses from The Voice of the Silence. Then Mr. Nilakanta lighted the fire, and in a few hours the body was reduced to ashes.

On the morning of the 10th April the ashes were collected and enshrined on the spot of cremation in the Garden of Remembrance. The same evening the bones were carried out to sea in a boat–the Bay of Bengal lies two furlongs east of the President's house–and consigned to the waters, a reverent gathering of friends and workers witnessing the moving scene from the beach.[4]

Mrs. Radha Burnier, the sixth person to serve as president, passed away on October 31, 2013. After her body was prepared, she laid in state at Headquarters Hall in Adyar through the rest of the night until her cremation at 2 p.m. on November 1. Over 500 people (including the vice-president Mahendra Singhal who cancelled travel plans) came to pay their respects as the news of her death became public. Radhaji's ashes were consigned to the Garden of Remembrance on the evening of November 1, as is tradition with Theosophical presidents, and to the Bay of Bengal.

Layout of the garden

The central structure of the garden is a six-pointed star comprised of the two interlacing triangles featured in the emblem of the Society. Plaques are attached to the sides of the star honoring each of the people buried there. Lotus pools are in the background.


  1. Josephine Ransom, "The Diamond Jubilee Convention of the Theosophical Society" The American Theosophist 24 no. 4 (April, 1936): 39.
  2. Rukmini Devi Arundale, "Rukmini on Herself," Rukmini Devi Arundale: Birth Centenary Commemorative Volume, Shakuntala Ramani, ed., (Chennai, India: The Kalakshetra Foundation, 2003), 64.
  3. Anonymous, "The 80th International Convention" The American Theosophist 44 no. 3 (March, 1946): 67.
  4. Anonymous, "The Story of the President's Passing" The American Theosophist 61 no.6 (June, 1973):173-174.