C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, part three

C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar
C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar



To read parts one and two first, click here for part one and here for part two.



On the third day, realizing that the young man must want to speak to him, he got out of his car and walked over to him.  The young man told him that he was a recent law school graduate, but though he had applied to many law offices, he could not find a job because he was a dalit, and no one would hire him. Sir C.P. told him, “Come back tomorrow morning, and you can start work.”


The next morning the young man arrived and started work as a junior in the law firm. Later in the morning, before going to the court, they would all gather every day for an early lunch. As they started lunch, Sir C.P. looked around for his new employee, but couldn’t see him anywhere. When they left to go to the court to take up their cases of the day, he spotted the young man outside under the same tree where he’d been standing the day before.


Sir C.P. walked over to him and said, “Why are you here? We were expecting you to be at lunch.” Unaccustomed to being spoken to like a regular human being, the young man, with tears running down his face, replied, “Sir, I didn’t think you would want to sit down for lunch with someone like myself.”


The man worked for many years in Sir C.P.’s law firm, as a valued member of the legal team. His adult grandchildren have remained in touch with Sir C.P.’s family.


Sir C.P., though he was from Madras, began to be called upon to serve as an advisor to the Maharaja of Travancore, Maharaja Moolam Thirunal. His advice was always wise, principled, and practical.


Maharaja Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma


Travancore was an Indian state that was later divided up, in 1956, with most of the land becoming part of Kerala, and a smaller section becoming part of Tamil Nadu.


In Travancore, at that time, there was a traditional matrilineal system in place, which meant that the ruler would be succeeded not by his own son, but by the son of his sister. So when the Maharaja died, his sister’s son was in line to inherit the throne. There was a difficulty though. The Maharaja’s sister had been adopted, and after her brother died, her son Chithira Thirunal, became the subject of controversy. Rumors were spread about him that he was not mentally stable and not qualified to occupy the throne. Sir C.P., as a good friend of the family, was asked to help.


Sir C.P. arranged for the young man, Chithira Thirunal, to meet with the British Viceroy, Lord Wellington, who during their meeting, was very favorably impressed. He had Chithira Thirunal appointed as the Maharaja; but with a condition attached. Because Chithira Thirunal was quite young, and because of the amount of controversy that had been swirling around him, Lord Wellington insisted that Sir C.P. must be permanently on hand as Legal and Constitutional Advisor to the young monarch.


edited Chithira_Thirunal_Balarama_Varma
Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma


Living and working in Travancore, instead of Madras, was not the course Sir C.P. might have chosen for himself, but since it was the only way the young Maharaja could take his place on the throne, he reluctantly agreed.


Sir C.P.’s mother Rangammal, who he was very close to, was not happy about this, and though she could understand Sir C.P’s position, she never entirely reconciled herself to the decision. She had envisioned her son spending his career in Madras, as his father had done, as a brilliant, successful lawyer.


This is how Sir C.P. came to be in Travancore, where he was to play a major role, as Dewan (or Prime Minister) of Travancore, from 1936 to 1947.  He and the young Maharaja, whose position he had helped to secure, worked extremely well together.


edited Palace_of_Trivandrum
The Palace of Trivandrum, Travancore


Sir C.P. brought fresh new energy to the state of Travancore, and did much to guide the state into the modern world.


As well as advancing the cause of social equality with the issuance of the Temple Entry Proclamation, he introduced a great many other bold reforms. Travancore, during his term as Dewan, became the first Indian state to abolish capital punishment, the first to give voting rights to every adult, the first to provide compulsory education to all children and the first to ban hunting of wild animals.


He nominated the first woman district judge in India, and the first woman to serve as Surgeon General anywhere in the world.


He was often kind in simple, down to earth ways.


When, one day, he saw a poor boy lying sound asleep in the sun, discovering that the boy had had nothing to eat for two days, he not only gave the boy money, but he also set up a program to provide free midday meals to schoolchildren. The program continues to this day for poor schoolchildren in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.



Top photo: Courtesy of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation / C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar


Second photo: A painting by Raja Ravi Varma / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.”/ Maharaja Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma.


Third photo: Source: http://www.kamat.com/database  / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, c. 1938


Fourth photo: Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Manu rocks at en.wikipedia” / The residence of the Maharajah of Travancore.









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