Important People from Chettinad Who Have Shaped History

On June 9, 2014

people who shaped history

How many of us know that Chettinad is more than just tasty cuisines and bright colours of art? Can you name some of the famous Chettinad people who contributed greatly to our country? If your answer is no, then this article will prove as a good introduction for you to famous Chettinad personalities.

Chettinad is a region named after the Nattukottai Chettiars, who originally came and settled from Cauvery Poompattinam in the 13th century after their homeland was destroyed in a massive flood. Their migration also brought with them a unique culture of hard work which proved useful in the unforgiving Chettinad weather and terrains. Over the centuries, their community flourished and spread across the world causing great cultural exchange between Tamil Nadu and the world. The Chettiars travelled to various places such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

In addition to having a rich culture, they were experts in banking and have been pioneers in the modern banking sector in India as well. The modern world has seen many people from Chettinad rise up to the highest echelons of the society through their sheer hard work and perseverance. The following are some notable Chettiars who were instrumental in shaping our country:

Dr. Alagappa Chettiar

A recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan, Dr. Alagappa Chettiar is responsible for starting various educational institutions in Karaikudi and its surrounding areas. He was a successful businessman and philanthropist who renounced his Knighthood when India gained Independence.

The famous Alagappa University, Alagappa Government Arts College and Alagappa Chettiar College of Engineering and Technology are named in his honour.

Kaviarasar Kannadasan Kannadasan, referred to as Kaviarasar or King of Poets was a 20th century Tamil poet and lyricist, considered one of the most important writers in the language. He has contributed about 5000 lyrics to Tamil films in addition to publishing 6000 poems and 232 books which include novels, epics, essays and plays. He was given the National Film Award for Best Lyrics in 1969 and the Sahitya Academy Award in 1980.

P. Chidambaram

Perhaps the most well-known among all Chettiars would be Mr. P. Chidambaram, the former finance minister of India. A corporate lawyer by profession, his entry into Indian politics has contributed to bringing discipline in government spending. He launched the ambitious tax reform program that
tackled the unwieldy fiscal deficit. He also played an important role in boosting the aggregate demand in the Indian economy by a bold move of waiving farmer debt. This move also insulated India from the impact of the global economic downturn.

Raja Muthiah Chettiar

A native of Kottaiyur in Chettinad, Raja Muthiah Chettiar was a great bibliophile who had a deeprooted passion for books. He founded a library that consisted of over 100,000 volumes of books, journals and other materials, making it one of the most famous collections in the world. In 1994, the collection was acquired by the University of Chicago and was later moved to Taramani in Chennai. The place later came to be known as the Raja Muthaiah Research library.

M. A. Chidambaram Chettiar

M. A. Chidambaram Chettiar was the son of Sir Annamalai Chettiar. He is known for being a highly successful and influential industrialist and a cricket administrator. Starting his business career with a scooter factory in Mumbai, he later became the Director of Indian Aluminium Company and also started the Southern Petrochemical Industries Corporation. He served as the Mayor of Madras in 1955 and was the head of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association for 32 years. His role in negotiations between the TNCA and the Madras Cricket Club led to the construction of Chepauk Stadium in Chennai, which is now known as the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium.

Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar

Born in Kanadukathan, Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar was a banker, industrialist, educator and philanthropist. He is largely remembered for his social and educational activities and the founding of Annamalai University in Chidambaram. He was also the director of Indian Bank, which he co-founded with his brother Ramaswami Chettiar. He was bestowed the title of Diwan Bahadur by the British King for his exceptional services to the kingdom. Further, he was conferred knighthood and the title of hereditary Rajah of Chettinad.

M. Chidambaram Chettiar

He is yet another great Chettiar, whose legacy still lives on. M. Chidambaram Chettiar was a great banker from Kanadukathan. He worked as the director of Indian Bank, the post which he succeeded after his father’s death in 1929. In 1937, he founded the Indian Overseas Bank with an intention ofhelping the Chettiars abroad with branches in Karaikudi, Singapore and Rangoon. His knowledge in the banking sector also enabled him in co-founding United Indian Assurance, one of the leading general insurance companies in India.

These are but a handful of great persons from the Chettinad region. It is evident that Chettiars have made significant contributions to the societal, economic and cultural development of independent India.