Kovai Kizhar C.M.Ramachandran Chettiar, A Multifaceted Personality Par Excellence

Kovai Kizhar C.M.Ramachandran Chettiar was writer, leader, learner and teacher all his life. He was the President of the Cosmopolitan Club for a few years. He lived on Trichy road and Late Prof T.A.Venkatachalam used to recall the academic help and mentoring received from him in connection with Tamil during his school days. Prof T.A.Venkatachalam accompanied Kovai Kizhar C.M.Ramachandran, five of his relatives and visited Sri Lanka at the dawn of the Republic. Kovai Kizhar has written a book about this experience. He had attended a Tamil conference and given a number of speeches. Fortunately those were the non political days of Tamil. Therefore one could enjoy the literary and historical Tamil language.
Coimbatore is a multi lingual city and was always blessed with a huge number of Tamil, Telugu and Kannada speaking citizens. The Telugu speaking weavers lived in the Pettai area for centuries and they used to worship their community deity Ramalinga Sowdeswari Amman from their temples in Raja street and Rangai Gowder street. The Raja street temple is very old and the deity is listed among the Nine Sisters of Coimbatore.
Sukrawarpet was the hub for weaving. The availability of mill yarn and the travel through the rail road helped the weavers and the weaver merchants to increase their business. Many of them began to learn Hindi also. A few Hindi schools came up and this helped them to flourish further. Entrepreneurs like Verivada Chettiar and Giriya Chettiar ruled the roost towards the end of the nineteenth century. They were quite famous and were leaders in the city. Giriya Chettiar was a leading textile person and he was also a social leader. He was involved in the textile trade along with his brother Marudachalam Chettiar. Giriya Chettiar was involved in quite a few commercial ventures and he owned a lot of property. The members of this community understood the importance of education and social networking as a result of their business tours.
Kovai Kizhar C.M.Ramachandran Chettiar was born in this environment to Marudachalam Chettiar and Konammal (Akkammal) in the November of 1888. He belonged to a Shaivaite background and yet he was named after ‘Maryada Purushottam’ Lord Rama because of the star day at the time of his birth. C.M.Ramachandran Chettiar (CMR) was blessed with eight siblings. The family understood the value of education and therefore he had a private teacher in spite of being a student of a Primary school. He joined the London Mission School in the year 1899. Plague made the CMR family to migrate to Madurai in the year 1903. Unfortunately a lot of people in the city perished due to the same.
The Theosophical Society came to Coimbatore due to the efforts of T.S.Sadasiva Iyer (Munsif) during the year 1904. Giriya Chettiar became a member of this society and this gave an oppourtunity for CMR to visit the place. The young CMR was his uncle’s constant companion and this had helped him to learn much while also enabling him to build contacts with interesting people. This gave CMR the chance to visit the Theosophical Society’s library and this helped to assimilate much knowledge for he was an avid reader from his childhood days. CMR cleared his school exams by the year 1904 and joined F.A (they used to call it Fellow of Arts) in 1905. After clearing the same in 1906, CMR heard out from Krishnaswamy Iyer and Venkataramana Iyer in order to ensure that he was in the right path. It was felt that one could learn history at anytime but subjects like Science had to be learnt formally.
CMR joined the Presidency College in Chennai. He learnt Science, English and Tamil in the prestigious institution. Mahamahopadhyaya U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer was teaching Tamil in the same institution. Therefore CMR learnt Tamil with great interest. He attracted the attention of Maraimalai Adigal while participating in an event where he (CMR) spoke about Ramayanam and Kanda Puranam. Kovai Kizhar CMR used to visit religious places like Thiruvottriyur and make notes. This was to be a life long trait. He used to visit the Theosophical Society at Adyar and listen to the speeches of Annie Besant. It was the year 1907 and Kappalottiya Tamilan V.O.Chidambaram Pillai began his Swadeshi efforts in the shipping industry. Pandithurai Thevar (Founder – Madurai Tamil Sangam and Director Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company founded by V.O. Chidambaram Pillai) came to Chennai and addressed a gathering. CMR attended the event. The youngster completed his basic degree and pursued law thereafter. He completed his law degree by the year 1912 and returned to Coimbatore.
In spite of being qualified to pursue a professional career, Kovai Kizhar was keen to pursue his interests – Tamil and historical research. Therefore he turned the sails of his ship towards his interests. Kovai Kizhar C.M.Ramachandra Chettiar did much to the world of History, Shaivism and Tamil due to this wise decision. The people of Coimbatore will forever be grateful to C.M.Ramachandran Chettiar for his noble deeds.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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