The neighborhood gets its name from the Adyar River which flows through its northern limits. Adyar and the neighbouring Guindy had been used as hunting grounds by British officials of Fort St. George from the 1680s onwards though Adyar is first mentioned as a suburb of Madras only in a map from the year 1740 when the British purchased the village and integrated it with the Madras Presidency.
Adyar started to grow rapidly at the turn of the 20th century following the founding of the headquarters of the Theosophical Society by Mrs. Helena Blavatsky here in 1883. Following the establishment of the Theosophical Society headquarters, the Kalakshetra, a cultural organisation to promote traditional arts and culture was established by Rukmini Devi Arundale at Adyar in 1936. The 1931 census records Adyar as a zamindari village in Chengalpet district. Adyar was included within the Chennai Corporation limits in 1948. A typical scene of charming Adyar, 1905. "Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries."
The Mass Rapid Transit System (Chennai) runs through Adyar and has three stations within the neighbourhood - Kasturbai Nagar, Indira Nagar and Thiruvanmiyur. Adyar has a bus depot operating both intra-city and inter-city buses.The Theosophical Society, is headquartered in Adyar. The campus, located on the south bank of the Adyar river provides a calm environment for quiet contemplation on comparative religion.
The Adyar estuary has been home to over a hundred species of birds but has been affected by urbanization. The Adyar Eco Park was set up by the Government of Tamil Nadu in January 2011 to restore this fragile eco-system to its natural state.
The Elliot's beach in nearby Besant Nagar is the nearest point to the sea, and a popular recreation spot.
Adyar is also home to Adyar Cancer Institute and Central Leather Research Institute, the world's largest leather research institute. Fortis Malar, one of the best speciality hospitals in Chennai, is also located in Adyar. IIT Madras, Anna University, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Asian College of Journalism and the Technical Teachers Training Institute are all located in adjacent neighbourhoods.
Schools in the neighbourhood include the oldest and a very big campus school in Adyar St Patrick's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, which was started in 1875, St Michael's Academy Kendriya Vidyalaya, Bala Vidya Mandir, The Hindu Senior Secondary School, Bharath Senior Secondary School, Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School, Sishya, St Johns English School & Junior College, The School K.F.I., Maple Bear Canadian Preschool, and Indus Early Learning Centre.
The École Franco-Indienne Sishya is co-located with Sishya.
Sub-localities of Adyar include Gandhi Nagar, Kasturibai Nagar, Nehru Nagar, Indira Nagar, Venkatarathnam Nagar, Padmanabha Nagar, Bhaktavatsalam Nagar, Parameshwari Nagar, Jeevaratnam Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Karpagam Gardens, Besant Nagar and Arunachalapuram..
Adyar Ananda Bhavan was founded and is famous in chennai, The Grand Sweets and Snacks which is famous for its Akkaravadasal, the famous Coimbatore based Sri Krishna Sweets which is known for its Mysorepak.Ganga hot chips, a famous stand alone sweets and snacks store has opened here.