A hundred years ago August 31, 1920. Archives

From the Archives (August 31, 1920): Cunnan Chettiar memorial meet.

The citizens of Madras assembled on Sunday evening last at a memorial meeting to express their deep sense of sorrow at the loss sustained by the City and the Presidency by the death of Rao Bahadur Calavala Cunnan Chettiar, a merchant Prince, a philanthropic of non-sectarian views and an ardent patriot and to take steps to perpetuate his memory in suitable manner. The meeting was representative of all classes and creeds. Among those present were the Honorable Mr. Justice T.V. Sheshagiri Aiyar, Mrs Besant, Messers S. Kasturiranga Aiyangar, K.M. Stathem, C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, Dewan Bahadur D.A. Govindraghava Aiyer, Rao Bahadur T. Rangachariar, S. Satyamurthi, A. Rangaswami Aiyangar, V.V. Srinivasa Aiyangar, Rao Bahadur Dr. C.B. Rama Rao, K. Nageshwara Row, G. Rangia Naidu, B.S. Sastri, Bharata Sastri, Row Sahab Dr. U. Rama Rao, Vidyasagar Pandya, Govindachari, A. Kumaraswami Chettiar, Mohamed Sadulla Badshah Saheb, C. Venkatarangam Naidu, Ayurvaidya Bhushana, Pundit M. Doraiswamy Aiyangar, V.L. Shastri, T. Adinarayana Chetti, K.A. Viraghavacheri, G.A. Natesan, V. Venkateswaralu and Tata Nagiah Chetti.

On the motion of Mr. V.V. Srinivasan Aiyangar, Mr. Justice Seshagiri Aiyar was voted to the chair.

Mr. Justice Sheshagiri Aiyar the Chairman in opening the proceedings of the meeting said that although his acquaintance with the late Mr. Cunnan Chettiar was short he was second to none in his admiration of the character and qualities of his departed friend. Mr. Cunnan Chettiar was simple and unostentatious in his charities. He would never brook a praise to his face. He realized that riches were given to a man for the purpose of meeting the wants of the poor and that a good work done ostentatiously would secure greater to the man himself than done with an object in view. He fully understood the essence of the act of charity when doing charities. When he knew that an institution or an individual deserved his support, he would immediately give his support without caring to inquire whether that would give him any benefit from Government or any other quarter. About the beginning of this year, someone told him (be spoken) that he could mention in proper quarter that Sir Chettiar should be one of the secretaries of the Prince of Wales Reception Committee, the object of which was that the Government should make him a Knight. After writing to the authority that Mr. Cunnan Chettiar should be made one of the Secretaries, the speaker told Mr. Cunnan Chettiar what he had done. Mr. Cunnan Chettiar told him (the speaker) that he had done him wrong, as people would be made to believe that for his charities, he was honoured by the Government. Mr. Cunnan Chettiar believed that Charity should be done for its own sake. By doing charity he believed that he was doing service to God. A resolution would be moved at the meeting as to the proper mode of showing public appreciation of the good work of the deceased, His good works were many. Generations yet unborn would benefit from his benefactions. It was desirable that people who were to benefit by those charities should have the likeness of the man to whom they were so much indebted. There should be a statue for him in Madras. He hoped that his suggestion would be received well in many quarters. The community to which Mr. Cunnan Chettiar belonged should come forward and contribute liberally for such a purpose. This would be the first occasion when a statue for a member of the Vysia community would be put up in Madras. He then called upon Mr. S. Kasturiranga Aiyangar to move the first proposition.

Resolution I

Mr. Kasturiranga Aiyangar moved the following resolution — This public meeting of the citizens of Madras desire to record their profound sorrow and grief at the untimely death of Rao Bahadur Calavala Cunnan Chettiar whose patriotic and philanthropic munificence and activities on behalf of his fellow countrymen will ever be gratefully cherished by them.

Mr. Kasturiranga Aiyangar said: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. In moving the resolution which has been entrusted to me, I value the privilege of paying my humble tribute to the high worth and the public service of the most esteemed fellow-citizen whose premature death is a grievous loss to the Indian community in this Presidency. Although Mr. Cunnan Chettiar was not a personal friend of mine, I had occasions to come in contact with him in his numerous acts of public activity and private munificence. He was a most successful merchant. He had business aptitude of a high order and his shrewdness, spirit of enterprise and integrity of character rendered his business a very prosperous one. He in his own field of business acquired a very prominent and commanding position by the manner in which he conducted his work. His business, however he did not allow to to engross all his time and attention. He took deep interest and active part in the social, industrial, political life of the country. In every movement which tended to promote the good of his fellow countrymen he had more of less an active part. It was very gratifying thing that he not only took a personal part in all these matters but also contributed materially to the success of several undertakings by making substantial financial contributions. During his lifetime he utilized his fortune in various benefactions. He has left a Will, a copy of which has been published by the kindness our friend. Mr. V.V. Srinivasa Iyangar, making a number of bequests which form an inspiring and splendid example of private munificence. In a letter which Mr. V.V. Srinivas Iyangar wrote he has mentioned the principle points of Will in which the bequests have been made. I desire to read that portion of it which will give you an idea more vividly than any words of mine regarding the philanthropic spirit of our deceased friend. Mr. Srinivas Iyangar says: It is well known that during his life time he started and maintained a very large number of charities of various kinds. The public of the Presidency is therefore naturally entitled to know whether he has made suitable provision for the upkeep and carrying on of all or any of the various charitable institutions funded or maintained by him.

After providing for the funeral ceremonies the residuary estate is continued into a trust. Provision has been made for the up-keep and maintenance of the following charities:

Ayurvedic Dispensary at Triplicane

Ayurvedic Dispensary at Nungambakkam

Ayurvedic Dispensary at Nellore

Boy’s High School at Perambur

Boy’s High School at Puraswalkam

Boy’s High School at Triplicane

Girl’s School at Chintaderipet

Girl’s School at George Town

Sanskirt College at Triplicane

School for boys and girls at Mambalam

For 10 Night Schools

For distribution of milk to children at Triplicane

For the feeding of the poor in Krishnappa Naik Agraharam

For the Society of Protection of Children

Provision has also been made for the maintenance of the Calavala Cunnan Chetty choultry built by the deceased near the South Indian Railway, Egmore Station.

There are also several festivals and in connection with the various Temples such as those at Sriperumbudur, Kanchipuram, Srirangam, Triplicane and so on.

The Testator has also provided for the annual series of public lectures on the faith and philosophy of Vaishnavism and such publications.

Provision has further been made for gold medals and prizes annually to the proficients in Indian Music. Indian painting, Indian acting on the stage, Indian sculpture and story-telling of Bagavatha Kalakshepam.

I need hardly tell you that the Will for such numerous benefactions that the Indian community can be proud to have had such a benefactor in their midst. One feature of the late Mr. Cunnan Chettiar’s career, I wish to mention. He was entirely munificent in his views. His benefactions were not confined to particular section or class of people but embraced the interest of all classes from the highest to the lowest. A man who combined in his life so many private and public virtues which he considered an ornament to any community. The Indian Community suffered a great loss in his death and the numerous benefactions will focus in the making of memorials for the great and noble work which he carried on his lifetime which he has further propagated by means of his numerous charities.

Mrs. Besant

In seconding the resolution Mrs Besant said that wherever it was needed, help was given by the late Mr. Cunnan Chettiar. His presence at a public function always meant self-sacrificing and generous help. His help was of the kind most welcome to the poorer classes — education in schools or succor in his dispensaries. He was a strong supporter of the indigenous system of medicine. To such a man a memorial in the form of a statue might very well be raised not for the sake of the man who had left behind him several charities but for the sake of the community which has largely benefitted. The good deeds of Mr. Cunnan Chettiar would accompany him after death and protect him on his onward path to the other world.

Mr. Govinda Raghava Aiyer

Diwan Bahadur L.A. Govinda Raghava Aiyer in supporting the resolution said that the late Mr. Cunnan Chettiar had provided for the recurring expenditure of Rs. 75,000 a year on works of charity and another Rs. 30,000 after the death of his wife. Mr. Cunnan Chettiar embodied in himself in a number of virtues which might be found separately in very many, but the collection of which very few had the privilege to possess. A statue should be erected in memory of the man. If funds collected through the munificent contribution of his fellow citizens and the member if his own community, other forms of memorial too might be thought of.

Mr. Rangaswamy Aiyangar

In further supporting the resolution Mr. Rangaswami Aiyangar said that he moved intimately with the late Mr. Cunnan Chettiar and his death was a great personal loss to him. His munificence was discriminating but genuine. Once he satisfied himself after near searching enquiries that his munificence was in to right direction his munificence knew no bounds. In the midst of the multifarious duties he took enough to think for himself the solution of questions in connection with public activities. His ideas of public questions on various matters were sound. His political views were thoroughly rational. He has a large programme of public and social work about which it was (the speaker) privilege to discuss with him. Madras was bereft of a most charismatic personality who did not want a name but who was always ready to help say public cause. It was his (the speaker) fortune that he was given an opportunity to pay his tribute of respect to the memory of the great patriot and philanthropist.

The resolution was put to the meeting and carried, the audience standing.

Resolution II

Mr. Guruswamy Chettiar

Mr. Guruswami Chettiar moved the following resolution: “This public meeting appoints the following Committee with power to and, for taking steps to have a suitable public memorial for Rao Bahadur Calavala Cunnan Chettiar and to collect funds and do the needful in this behalf.

Messers S. Kasthuriranga Iyangar, C.P. Ramaswamy Iyar, V.V. Srinivasa Aiyangar, S. Satyamurthi, Vidyasagar Pandit, Mrs Besant, Mr. Justice Seshagiri Aiyar, A. Rangaswami Aiyangar, Mohamed Sadulla Badshah Saheb, Guruswami Chettiar, Swami Venkatachellam Chettiar, Pandit Gopalachary Jambunathan, Lodd Govind Dass, G. Raghavulu Chettiar, T.D. Namperumal Chettiar, Harisarvothama Row, T. Rangachariar Chettiar, T. Nagiah Chettiar, V. Parthasarathy Chettiar, K. Nageswara Rao, with Jambunathan as Convenor.

Mr. Guruswami Chettiar said that there was none more deserving of a statue than Mr. Cunnan Chettiar. Although only three to four members of the Vysya Community were present at the meeting, he hoped that the members of his community would come forward in large numbers with liberal donations for carrying out the object. A statue would be a fitting memorial which would inspire generations yet unborn with the spirit of munificence and love of humanity.

Mr. Satyamurti

Mr. Satyamurthi in seconding the resolution said that with the advance of time the amount of charity of the philanthropist had advanced. Mr. Pachaiyappa Mudaliar endowed three and half lakhs, whereas Mr. Cunnan Chettiar endowed over 20 lakhs for charities. Apart from his wealth he had many great qualities of head and heart and his memory deserved to be cherished by them all. Mr. Cunnan Chettiar was not one of those who advertised their charities sometime before June and sometime before January. His charities knew of no communal leanings. His path of life was no one leading to glory but was one of charity leading to immortality. He belonged to the nationalist party and he lived and died a loyal adherent of the Indian National Congress. At the time his death he stood as Congress candidate for one of the four seats of the Council of the State to represent Madras.

Pandit Gopalachari, Mohamed Sadulla Badshah Saheb and Mr. T. Audinarayana Chettiar supported the resolution which was part of the meeting and carried. Letters of sympathy from Messers Lodd Govindas and B.P Wadia were read. With a vote of thanks to the Chair proposed by Rao Bahadur T. Raghavachariar, the meeting was terminated.

Letters of Tribute from Messers Lodd Govindas and B.P. Wadia were read.

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