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November 13, 1879 – September 26, 1966

sir c.pSir C.P

Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar represented a felicitous fusion of the cultures of the East and the West. He bestrode the political, intellectual and cultural arena of India in its pre-independence and post-independence epoch-spanning period exceeding sixty years, like a colossus.

Dr. C.P., who lived to be 87 years, has left many legacies – in terms of public utility undertakings like Hydro-electric Dams and Industrial Enterprises. These included Mettur and Pykara and Lower Bhavani in Madras, the Pallivasal and Periyar Schemes in Travancore apart from the various industries set up by him (many of them the first of their kind in India). He was responsible for initiating the Cochin, Visakhapatnam and Tuticorin Port Schemes.

He was one of the earliest to plead for the linking of the great rivers of India and in particular for the Ganga-Cauvery Project.

A most vital social reform measure for which he made himself responsible was the Temple Entry Proclamation of the Maharajah of Travancore in 1936. It was his condition for accepting the post of Dewan of Travancore, and his first act as Dewan. It was the first time the avarnas, as they were known, were accepted into Hindu temples. It was hailed by Mahatma Gandhi as an epoch-making measure. How forward-looking he was could be known form the fact that in his time, he took steps to organize Aeronautical Studies and Space Research.

On February 12, 1946, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar visited the Government High School at Vellamadam in the then State of Travancore (now Kanyakumari district, Tamilnadu). He inaugurated the scheme of compulsory education for children above five years.  He also introduced at this school, for the first time in India, the free midday meal scheme for poor and needy students.  These two schemes were to have far-reaching results, making Kerala a 100% literate state with the highest levels of education in India.  They were the fore-runners for the free midday meal scheme conceived much later by Shri. K. Kamaraj and introduced by Shri. M.G. Ramachandran, Chief  Minister of Tamilnadu. He was the first to introduce free mid-day meal scheme for poor children. He inaugurated the Vanchi Poor Fund and Seetha Lakshmi Ammal Anna Dhana Samajam (named after his mother) to fund the free midday meal scheme.

He had this to say about education:

The school shall have served its purpose best, fulfilled its object effectively if, in addition to the teaching of the three R’s and all the things that go by the scholastic name, the wonderful niceties of life are also inculcated, without which man as a gregarious animal would be written down in history as a failure.

“Let the school be the centre, the nucleus, the focus, radiating not distrust, not factions, not a spirit of partnership, but the spirit of oneness and harmony towards conjoint effort and the fulfilment of conjoint purpose and the reaching towards that goal for which all of us are yearning.”

In implementing his marathon welfare projects in Madras and Travancore during an exceptionally critical period of the nation’s history, C.P. earned more foes than friends. But generations to come will acknowledge that C.P. was the man of the hour, needed most in a society riven by caste and creed, religion, language and social prejudices. The role of culture, he believed, was to give people an awareness and understanding of life and the role of the individual:

"In the ultimate analysis, culture involves a vivid awareness of the meaning of life, a conspectus of the world's problems in the proper order and relative importance and the deliberate choice of things that are really worthwhile".


[This excerpt from “A Writer’s Notebook” (1949) is reproduced here as a fine assessment of Dr. C. P. by the celebrated novelist.]

He had the geniality of the politician who for years has gone out of his way to be cordial with everyone he meets. He talked very good English, fluently, with a copious choice of words, and he put what he had to say plainly, and with logical sequence. He had a resonant voice and an easy manner. He did not agree with a good deal that I said and corrected me with decision, but with courtesy that took it for granted I was too intelligent to be affronted by contradiction. He was of course very busy, having all the affairs of the State in his charge, but seemed to have enough leisure to talk for the best part of an hour on Indian metaphysics and religion as though there were nothing that interested him more. He seemed well read not only in Indian literature, but in English, but there was no indication that he had any acquaintance with the literature or thought of other European countries.

When I began to speak of religion in India as being the basis of all their philosophy, he corrected me. “No”, he said, “this is not so; there is no religion in India in your sense of the word; there are systems of philosophy, and theism, Hindu theism, is one of its varieties.”

I asked him if educated, cultured Hindus had still an active belief in Karma and transmigration. He answered with emphasis; “I absolutely believe in it myself with all the strength of my being. I am convinced that I have passed through innumerable lives before this one and that I shall have to pass through I do not know how many more before I secure release. Karma and transmigration are the only possible explanations I can see for the inequalities of men and for the evils of the world. Unless I believed in them I should think the world meaningless.”




13.11.1879 Born on Deepavali Day at Wandiwash, North Arcot about two hours before dawn. Only child of C.R. Pattabhirama Aiyar, City Civil Judge, and Seethalakshmi Ammal (Rangammal).
  Educated in Wesley College, High School, Madras.
Received Peter Cater prize for Bible studies.
  B.A., Presidency College - First Class and Gold medallist in English, Mathematics and Sanskrit;
Double graduate - B.A., Madras Law College.


Endeavoured to become an Assistant Profes­sor in Presidency College, but advised against it by his father.


Married Seethammal, daughter of   C.V. Sundara Sastri and sister of Justice Sir C.V. Kumaraswami Sastri, Judge, Madras  High Court. Three sons - C.R. Pattabhi Raman, C.R. Venkatasub­ban and C.R. Sundaram - were born to C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar and Seethammal.


Enrolled as Vakil and soon became leader of the Original Side of Madras High Court; engaged in several important cases; appeared and won in Besant Vs. Narayaniah (guardianship case against Dr. Besant for custody of J. Krishnamurthi by his father); appeared in the Ashe murder case; helped and supported, along with Dr. Besant, Subramanya Bharathi, Siva and also V.O. Chidambaram Pillai in his company - a pioneering Indian shipping venture.

He was Member of the Madras Corporation, where he took active interest for several terms. His work as Corporator is referred to in J.C. Molony's book on Madras.


Secretary of the All India Home Rule League; was about to be interned along with Dr. Besant, Dr. Arundale and Dr. Wadia in Ootacamund; Messrs Telang, M.A. Jinnah, Kanji Dwarakadas, Motilal Nehru, Rajah of Mahmoodabad, Bhagawandass, C.R. Das, Hasan Imam, Omer Sobani, Satchitananda Sinha, Sri Prakasa, Jawaharlal Nehru, Manjeri Rama  Iyer, Ranganatha Mudaliar  and others who collaborated in the Home  Rule League activities.

Edited NEW  INDIA during  Dr. Besant's internment and for some time thereafter;  stood surety for BANDE MATARAM newspaper (connected with Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and others), Cal­cutta, when, under the Press Act, security proceed­ings  were started against it.

During this period, he travelled extensively throughout India, Ceylon and Burma.


Secretary of the Indian National Congress. Later he and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were Joint Secretaries


Fellow of the Madras University and Member of the Syndicate.


One of the first High Court vakils to be enrolled as an Advocate of the Madras High Court.


Earliest to initiate Writ procedure in High Court, Madras: G.A. Natesan Vs. University of Madras and Dr. Annie Besant Vs. Government of Madras.


Declined Judgeship of the Madras High Court, making the famous statement, "I prefer to talk nonsense for a short while, to hearing  it all  day long", in his letter thanking the Chief Justice of Madras for the offer.


Elected as Member of the Legislative Council under the Reformed Constitution from Madras City.


Advocate-General for the Presidency of Madras. He was one of the youngest men to become official leader of the Bar in
pre-Independent India.


Guided the enactment of several Acts, including the City Municipalities Act, the Madras Local Boards Act, etc. Presided over the first All India Lawyers' Conference at Allahabad, where he suggested a benevolent fund for Lawyers.


Provincial Commissioner of Boy Scouts and presided over the first All- India Scout and Guide Jamboree in Madras; Recipient of Silver Wolf.  Highest award for the Scouts - Secured Wenlock Park on the Marina Beach for Scout and Guide headquarters; also at Coonoor.


Law Member of the Executive Council, Government of Madras, first during Lord Willingdon's and later during Lord Goschen's Governership; in charge of Law, Police, Irrigation and Ports, Electricity etc. Initiated Bhavani project and Cochin, Tuticorin and Visakhapatnam Port Schemes.


Responsible for the Mettur and Pykara projects. He was called the “Father of Hydro-Electricity” in South India. Processed Tungabhadra Project in spite of opposition from the Nizam's Government.


Spoke about the plan for linking up the Ganges and, at a later stage, the Brahmaputra, with the Cauvery river.
Later, in 1954, he gave a Scheme to the Government of India at their request.


Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (KCIE),  a title conferred on him by the British.


India's Delegate at the League of Nations, Geneva.


Rapporteur of the League of Nations Committee on Public Health, Geneva.


Member of the Executive Council, Government of Madras.


Inaugurated the Madras Music Academy, one of the outstanding music organisations in India.


Stood for election and was elected first to the Legislative Assembly at Delhi and, later, to the Council of State.


He thus completed successful elections to the Madras University, Madras Corpora­tion, Madras Legislative Council, Legislative Assembly at Delhi and Council of State, Delhi.


Resumed Law Practice; appeared for Pandit  Motilal Nehru  in the defamation case against C.S.  Ranga Iyer; appeared for the Maharajah of Patiala and Nawab of Bhopal and advised several other princes such as Maharajah Holkar of Indore, Maharajah of Kashmir and others.


Delegate to the First Indian Round Table Confer­ence in London


Law Member, Government of India. Played an important part in Mahatma Gandhi attending the Second Round Table Conference.


Delegate to the Third Round Table Conference.


Member for Commerce, Industries, and Railways of the Government of India and Leader of the Council of State. Strove to abolish the traditional division of Indian army personnel into "martial and non-martial races".


Constitutional   Adviser to the Maharajah of Travancore.


Member of the Joint Select Committee of the British Parliament, which considered Indian Reforms.


Sole   Indian delegate to the World   Economic Conference.


Drafted a Constitution for Kashmir.


He accepted to be Dewan (Prime Minister) of Travancore on the assurance that the state would promulgate an ordinance to introduce Temple Entry for all Hindus, irrespective of caste.

His first act as Dewan – and his condition for accepting the post - was the introduction of the Temple Entry Act, promulgated in 1936 by the Maharajah of Travancore.

This was the first step taken in India to abolish untouchability by direct government action.

Mahatma Gandhi expressed great satisfaction and addressed meetings throughout Travancore, praising him.

As Dewan, he initiated the Pechipara Hydro-electric Scheme, the Periyar Game Sanctuary and other irrigation projects.

He inaugurated many industries including the Fertiliser and Chemicals, Travancore (FACT), Travancore Rayon, Cement, Aluminium, etc. He enlarged and re-organised laminated wood furniture and screw pine industries. He introduced, for the first time, graded agricultural income tax and abolished land revenue; he expanded the Pallivasal Hydro-Electric Project.

The Maharaja conferred on him the title of Sachivottama, which means “Supreme Counsellor”, as a token of his warm appreciation. 

He revived Maharajah Swati Tirunal’s compositions and helped in founding the Swati Tirunal Academy at Trivandrum.

He renovated and added land (acquired by the Travancore Government) to Sankara's birth place and temple on the river bank at Kalady. Here he received His Holiness Chandrasekara Bharathi Swamigal of Sringeri.

His Holiness stayed at Kalady for some months at his request.

He did pioneering work for the Vivekananda Rock at Cape Comorin and built guesthouses at Kanyakumari. He renovated the Padmanabhapuram Palace of Marthanda Varma's days (now a museum) and expanded the Trivandrum Art Gallery.

He was the Founder and First Vice-Chancellor of Travancore University.  He established the Marine Biological Institute; organized mineral sands, rare earth and titanium products industries.


Awarded honorary L.L.D.  degree by the Travancore University.


Shashtiabdapoorthy (sixtieth birthday)


On the occasion of his Shashtiabdapoorthi, he gave up all inherited immovable properties to the members of his family and his relations in distress; he donated properties and amounts worth about Rupees five lakhs to charities, some of which formed part of the Samaveda Patasala Trust, Kancheepuram, founded by his son C.R. Pattabhi Raman under the trusteeship of His Holiness Sankaracharya Swamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.


He gave Rs.50,000/- to the Travancore University, Rs.25,000/- to   the Madras University and Rs.25, 000/- in Trust for Indological studies.


He formed the first Lawyers' Provident Fund to help indigent lawyers who had fallen on bad days and donated Rs.35, 000/- for the Fund to the Madras Advocates' Association.

He was the first in India to envisage and establish such a fund. (He had referred to this scheme when delivering the presidential address to the All India Lawyers' Conference in Allahabad in 1921).


He appeared for the State of Travancore in the Periyar Arbitration Case. He was opposed by Sri   Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer, Advocate-General of Madras. The award by the Umpire was in favour of Travancore.  Periyar Project was enlarged thereafter.


He was the first to nationalize road transport in India and responsible for the construction of the first cement concrete road from Trivandrum to Cape Comorin.

He was the first in India to start aluminium, ceramic, fertilizer, rayon and other industries with major government collaboration.

He was the first to abolish capital punishment.

He was the first to introduce adult franchise.

He was the first to appoint a lady advocate – Mrs. Anna Chandy - as District Judge. She later became the first Indian woman High Court Judge.

He started extensive tapioca cultivation.

He took steps taken for storing of rice in modern godowns to meet the food crisis during World War II, for which he procured rice from various sources, including Burma, to avoid shortages.


The British conferred the title Knight Commander of the Star of India (KCSI) on him.


He was a Member of the Governor-General's Council for Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.


He resigned in August after 17 days in office on differing from the Government of the day and by way of protest against the non-supply of newspapers to Gandhiji and the inability to meet Gandhiji during the latter's detention.


He was one of the Founders of the Vivekananda College, Mylapore, and gave a personal donation.


He agreed to be Vice-President of Kalakshetra at the request of Smt. Rukmini Devi;


Chairman Mahamahopadhyaya U.V. Swaminadha Iyer library & manuscripts collection;


Patron of the Besant Theosopical High School. along with Rabindranath Tagore.

He was the first to introduce compulsory education and free mid-day meals for poor children, which he inaugurated in the Government High School at Vellamadam on 12-2-1946.

These two schemes were to have far-reaching results, making Kerala a 100% literate state with the highest levels of education in India.   

He provided his personal funds for the Vanchi Poor Fund and Seetha Lakshmi Ammal Anna Dhana Samajam (named after his mother) to fund the free midday meal scheme.


He resigned from Dewanship of Travancore but was persuaded to return.


An attempt made on his life by conspirators in response to the Maharaja’s refusal to accede to the Indian Union.


He resigned from Dewanship of Travancore


Returned the titles KCSI and KCIE in a letter to the Governor-General.


Visited U.S.A. and South America on a lecture tour on Hindu philosophy and Indian culture.


Professor of the American Academy of Asian Studies at California. Lectured at the Yale, Stanford, Berkley, and other Universities on Indian Philosophy and Culture and other subjects.


Delegate to the East West Philosophical Congress at Honolulu.


Delegate to the International PEN conference.


On the invitation of the British Council, visited industrial   and university centres   in   Great Britain.


Delegate to the PEN conference.


Visited Australia and New Zealand.


Rotary Governor.


Vice-Chancellor, Annamalai University. At   the request of the Government of India, accepted Vice-Chancellorship of Banaras Hindu University also. (First person in India to be Vice-Chancellor of two Universities at the same time).


Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Library Building opened in Annamalai Nagar, Chidambaram.

to 3.7.1956

Vice-Chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University.


Member of the Indian Press Commission.


Leader of the Indian Universities Delegation to China. Sent a report to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the Government of India on the political situation in China and her policy vis-à-vis India, predicting the India-China fallout. His report was ignored by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who called him an “alarmist”.


Member of the University Grants Commission, later Chairman.


Awarded Honorary D. Litt. Degree by the Annamalai University.


Awarded Honorary LL. D.  Degree by the   Banaras University. Delegate to the International P.E.N. Conference.


Delivered Maharaja Sayaji Rao Lecture, Baroda.


Awarded Honorary D. Litt. Degree by the   Madras University.


Shatābhishekham  (80th birthday). A publication C.P. at 80 - an appreciation of his life and work - was brought out by his admirers, with contributions from several eminent scholars.


Awarded   Honorary LL. D.  Degree by   the University of Mysore.


Chairman   of   the Hindu   Religious   Endowment Commission, Government of India.


His report is still an authority on temples, maths and puja vidhis.


Member of the Punjab Commission, Government of India.


Chairman of the National Integration Committee on Regionalism, Government of India. As a result of the report, Parliament passed a Bill making the demand for secession an offence.


Chairman of the Standing Committee on University Education, Government of India.


Delivered the inaugural Chitale Lecture of the University of Madras.


Assumed charge, for the second time, as Vice-Chancellor of Annamalai University.


Delegate   to   the   Commonwealth    Universities Conference.


President of the Inter-University Board of India and Ceylon and Chairman of its Standing Committee.


Delivered the first Malaviya Memorial Lectures at the Banaras Hindu University.


Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Hostel opened in Banaras, as also a new temple in the University Campus, with Panchamukha (five-faced) Shiva Linga and Devi, sculptured in Madras.


Represented the Inter-University Board of India and Ceylon at the Quinennial Conference of the International Association of Universities at Tokyo.


Delivered the Convocation address of the Annamalai University.


Delivered the Rajaji birthday Lecture at the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs at Bangalore


Left for England to deliver lectures in Oxford and London and to inaugurate Mahatma Gandhi Institute as also to collect material from the India office and the British Museum, London, for his book  "A History of My Times". (Four completed chapters appeared in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Journal from October 1967, after his death).


Passed away suddenly and peacefully, sitting in an armchair, at the National Liberal Club in London at about 11.30 a.m.


THE C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION, a cultural and educational centre for organising and administering studies and research in subjects dear to the heart of Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar was founded by his friends and admirers as a registered society.


The family house, "The Grove", inherited by his eldest son C.R. Pattabhi Raman, was gifted to the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.


Other milestones



Trustee, Pachiappa's College Trust and, along with Dr. Annie Besant, acquired present grounds for building the Chetput hostel; Sri Masilamani  Pil­lai, later High Court Judge, assisted him in the Pachayappa's College Trust.


Founder-President of Soma Sundara  Kanya Vidyalaya (S.S.K.V.) Girls' High School, Kanchipuram, which began in one of his houses.


Founder of Y.M.I.A. Madras.


Trustee of Madras Sanskrit College,  Mylapore.


First President of the Chintadripet High School; Member of the Madras Anjuman Muslim Association and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).


Won prizes for gardening as member of Madras Agri-horticultural Society.


A keen rider and good horseman; tennis player and Doubles champion, M.U.C.


One of the Founders of the Indian Bank Ltd. & its first Director – the building & property stand in his name.


One of the founders along with Ramaswami Iyengar and C. Ramanujachariar of the Ramakrishna Poor Home  - later became Ramakrishna Students Home.


Helped and supported Dr. Pat­tabhi Sitharamayya in his work in the Andhra Jatheeya Kalasala founded by Hanumantha Rao at Masulipatam, Andhra Pradesh.

Gazette extraordinary issued on 10th March 1928 on Mr. C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar relinquishing office as Member and Vice-President of the Governor's Executive Council, Madras.


G.O. No.240                                                                                                 Dated 10th March 1928
                                                                                                                      Read the following papers:-


The  following notifications will be published in  the  Fort St. George Gazette as a Gazette Extraordinary:-



Whereas the Honorable Sir Chetput  Pattabhirama  Ramaswami Ayyar,  Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of Indian Empire has  on the afternoon of the 10th March 1928 vacated the office of a Member of  the Executive Council of the Government of Madras, and whereas His Majesty  the King Emperor of India has been graciously pleased to appoint Tiruvalangadu Raju Sastri Venkatarama Sastri, Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, to be a Member of the said Council in the room and place  of the  said Sir Chetput Pattabhirama Ramaswami Ayyar, it is  hereby  notified that  the Hon. Mr. Tiruvalangadu Raju Sastri Venkatarama Sastri has on  the afternoon of this day taken upon himself the execution of his office.

2.  His Excellency the Governor in Council desires to take this opportunity to place on record his high appreciation of the services which the Hon'ble Sir C.P. Ramaswami Ayyar has rendered to the State during his term of office as Advocate-General and Member of Council. Sir Ramaswami Ayyar's high legal attainments, his powers of exposition and skill in debate have been of marked assistance to His Excellency in Council, and in the administration of the departments committed to his charge he has displayed a versatility, enthusiasm and energy which has materially helped to inaugurate and advance undertakings such as the Cauvery-Mettur project and schemes for the utilisation of Hydro-electric resources. The execution of these schemes will greatly influence the agricultural and industrial development of the Presidency.

(By order of the Governor in Council)


Chief Secretary to Government

/True copy/



Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar was a scholar in English, Tamil, Sanskrit and French. He published many books, and booklets on politics, economics, Indian culture, philosophy, religion, etc.

He delivered twenty-one Convocation Addresses at various Indian Universities, which were brought out in book form by Annamalai University, Chidambaram.