The founder of R.B.A.N.M’s Educational Charities, Dharmarathnakara Rai Bahadur Arcot Narrainsawmy Mudaliar (1827-1910) believed that the propagation of knowledge was philanthropy at its best.
Sri Narrainsawmy Mudaliar was born at Arcot on 14th May,1827 at a time when the family fortune was at a low ebb. His childhood and youth formed a period of test and trial. The death of his father, while he was yet in his teens and his marriage at the age of 22 threw on his youthful shoulders the responsibility of maintaining a large family including his mother and two younger brothers. It was during these days ,without an opportunity for a sound English education, that he studied and acquired a deep knowledge of ancient sacred Tamil Literature, which moulded his character and inspired his thought and outlook in his life.
Thus equipped, and under stress of necessity, he began life as a travelling salesman selling Bangalore vegetables at Madras and salt at Bangalore. His natural resourcefulness and perseverence strengthened as they were in the school of adversity, enabled him in course of time, to operate on a large scale and in 1852, to establish an emporium in Cavalry Road. The venture prospered and as days passed attracted the notice of his Highness the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III and later in 1892, earned the honour of a visit of his Highness Chamarajendra Wodeyar (whereafter it was known as the “Mysore Maharaja Hall”).
Sri. A. Narrainsawmy Mudaliar widened the sphere of his business activities. One of them was the construction partnership with two others with whom he built the magnificient “Public Offices” in Cubbon Park which brought him a large fortune and he was honoured and acclaimed as the ” Merchant Prince of Bangalore”. He was successful and wealthy and at the top of the business world. Yet, it may be said of him as of few others that he “Could walk with Kings and not lose the Common Touch”.
He was simple, pious and unassuming.He was profoundly influenced by the example of Tamil Saivite Saints of whose lives he was a devoted student. He held with the fervour of conviction that wealth was a trust and means for the help and upliftment of the poor and the needy, that diffusion of knowledge was philanthropy at its best – perennial, self-propagating and showering its blessings on generations to come – and that discerning charity lay in providing for the needs of the poor and the helpless.
A survey of the situation could not but impress on his keen and observant mind imbibed with such idealism that the basic needs of the day were facilities for educating and for training both boys and girls to enable them to start life as useful members of society and for relieving the distress of the poor, ailing and the socially backward and downtrodden.
In those days there were no schools for teaching poor children either in their mother tongue or in English, no techhnical or commerical school to give a vocational training, no school for Panchamas and other backward classes, no school for girls, no orphanages for destitute children nor hostels for students in Bangalore.
The reaction of this noble soul to the sorry state of affairs calling for pioneering effort at social regeneration expresed from 1873 onwards in a stream of benefaction(truly national in scope) providing for the needs of all classes and castes in the sphere of education, social welfare and religion. His numerous charities comprise among other
1. RBANM’s High School(Main).
2. RBANM’s High School(Bifurcated).
3. RBANM’s Middle School.
4. RBANM’s Primary and Nursery School, St. Johns Road.
5. RBANM’s Thirukulathar Primary School and Nursery School, Ulsoor (Merged with RBANM’s Govindammal Girls Senior Primary School, Ulsoor).
6. RBANM’s Thirukulathar Primary School, Cantonment (Merged with RBANM’s Govindammal Girls Senior Primary School, Ulsoor).
7. RBANM’s Govindammal Girls Senior Primary School, Ulsoor.
8. RBANM’s Chaturveda Siddhanta Sabha (C.V.S) (Merged with RBANM’s Govindammal Girls Senior Primary School, Ulsoor).
9. RBANM’s Kannappa Mudaliar Balika Patasala, Kancheepuram (Handed over to Govt. of Tamil Nadu).
10. RBANM’s Pre-University College.
11. RBANM’s Pre-University Evening College.
12. RBANM’s First Grade College.
13. RBANM’s First Grade Evening College.
It is remarkable that then a century ago without the guidance or example of parallel institutions, he could plan and setup centres of education and training so modern in conception and in purposes they subserve and that he could forestall such present day courses and movements as basic education, vocation and industrial training, girls education, upliftment of the depressed and removal of untouchability.
In recognition of his eminent services in the cause of the poor Sri A Narrainsawmy Mudaliar was honoured by the imperial Assemblage at Delhi with the title of “Rai Bahadur” in 1875 and with “Dharmaratnakara” (Ocean of Charity) by his Highness the Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar in 1894. But the real title to his lasting fame rests on his enduring works which opened up vistas of useful charity in tune with the changing times and on the memory of his life which quickened the social conscience of the rich and provided an example and guidance to subsequent philianthropy in Bangalore.