Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The life and times of Periya Govindaswamy Naidu (1858 - 1916)


The dawn of the Vijayanagar Empire in the year 1336 ushered in a lot of migrations all over the south. A large number of Telugu and Kannada speaking people migrated to the Tamil speaking parts of the country. The black cotton soil farmers of Andhra Pradesh moved over to the black cotton soil regions of Tamilnadu along with their seeds. This added to the seed diversity of the region in a big way. The Rasakondalar clan from Andhra had migrated to the Coimbatore and made it their home for ever. The clan has been ensconced in Pappanaickenpalayam for a few centuries.

Periya Govindaswamy Naidu of the Rasakondalar clan was born in the year 1858 at Coimbatore. He was known to be a content person who accommodated his siblings well. In fact when the properties of his family were partitioned he took ones the discarded by his brothers. He was a peoples' person and took a keen interest in the affairs of his neighborhood all his life. Periya Govindaswamy Naidu participated in the joys and sorrows of the people who lived in Pappanaickenpalayam. His humanitarian approach made him an endearing person in his village.

Periya Govindaswamy Naidu attended each and every wedding in Pappanaickenpalayam. He was given the honour of garlanding the bridegrooms of his village at the time of the wedding. His fair complexion and well-built personality were further enriched by his massive head and bushy moustache. He had a full attire for both the bride and groom with him. It consisted of a dark coloured alpaca coat, an embroidered dhoti, an angavasthram and a turban for the groom. He had a complete set of jewellery for the brides to wear at the time of the wedding and also a fine white horse with brown spots for the grooms as part of his possessions. The horse was trained to behave in a calm and composed manner during while transporting the bridegroom who rode on it to the bride's place to take the hand of the obliging lady.

Medical relief work was carried out by Periya Govindaswamy Naidu in full gusto. He had a working knowledge of native medicine and he used to offer remedies for the poor. He had medicines for eczema and cure from poisons with him at all times. This was prepared by him at the time of Solar Eclipses and the activity was accompanied by prayer. His home was a dispensary for the locals. The roofs of the houses were made of tiles and they harbored snakes, scorpions, rats and lizards of all kinds. Rats used to drop from the ceilings of houses, spin around and stop dead at the times of plague. The homemakers used to pour kerosene on the rat, burn it and apply kerosene on the limbs for safety. Plagues were common then due to lack of hygiene and it broke out once in the year 1903. The local Government ordered the people to quit with the aid of a ' Dandora '. Periya Govindaswamy Naidu was against this evacuation for he felt that would cause a greater danger for want of proper sanitation in the new place. He asked people to pretend as though they had left the places by living silently. Naidu used to attend on the afflicted day and night. He took the help of two native doctors - Sodalamuthu and Bhashyakarulu to take care of the task of attending to the medical needs of the sick. A Dalit assistant was his other aide in this regard. He was fined a sum of Rs.50 for not complying with Government orders. The fine was paid with a smile. The people of Coimbatore used to move out on pilgrimages during plague. They had get a ' passport ' in order to leave Coimbatore and had to register themselves with the authorities in the place of arrival. Authorities used to pay the people in order to get them vaccinated. The spotted white horse used to take Periya Govindaswamy Naidu from one place to the other. He believed that his prosperity and happiness in life were because of the horse. The horse passed away in the year 1916 and Naidu told his friends that he would not live long. He passed away in the same year.

Periya Govindaswamy was blessed with the birth of a son Kuppuswamy in the year 1884. The son founded the Lakshmi Mills Company in the year 1910 and became a legend in his lifetime. Periya Govindaswamy Naidu had married Ammaniammal alias Eantammal, the sister of the R.Bhima Naidu in the year 1880 and this played a very vital role in the life of the son Kuppuswamy later on. Ammaniammal alias Eantammal who happened to be the mother of Kuppuswamy Naidu hailed from an illustrious family of Uppilipalayam. On growing up to be a young lad, Kuppuswamy Naidu wanted to take over the family lands from the tenants and cultivate them himself. However Periya Govindaswamy Naidu was not agreeable to send the tenants out. He told his son that the tenants were poor people and had enjoyed a long connection with him. The son was also told that if the poor tenants were sent away, they would economically find it difficult to earn their meals. Therefore he told his son Kuppuswamy that he could cultivate on the lands vacated by the tenants voluntarily for he did not want to forcibly break the association with them. Young Kuppuswamy decided to venture into the world of commerce thereafter. The keen father Periya Govindaswamy got his son Kuppuswamy married to Lakshmii Ammal, the daughter of Periya Veedu Ramaswamy Naidu of Vaiyampalayam who belonged to a prominent family. G.Kuppuswamy Naidu and his wife Lakshmi Ammal were blessed with the famous B.R.Ranganayaki Ammal ( wife of B.Rangaswamy Naidu of Rajalakshmi Mills ), G.K.Devarajulu ( Founder Lakshmi Machine Works and South India Viscose ), G.K.Sundaram ( Former Member of Parliament and Chairman - Lakshmi Mills ), G.K.Govindaswamy ( who went along with a number of Coimbatoreans around the world in the year 1949) and G.K.Rajagopal (who dedicated a lot of his time and energy to put Coimbatore on the golfing map of the country). G.Venkataswamy Naidu was the second son of Periya Govindaswamy Naidu.

The religious minded Periya Govindaswamy Naidu took a keen interest in the religious life of people around him. He built a choultry at the self manifested or Swayambhu Venkatesa Perumal Temple at Mondipalayam and arranged for the feeding of the poor in a large scale on the third Saturday of the Tamil month of Purattasi every year. He built and maintained a Vinayakar and Mariamman Temple at Pappanaickenpalayam in co operation with the members of his family. Periya Govindaswamy Naidu played an important role in the annual Mariamman festival and he was responsible for the establishment of the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along with the members of his family at Pappanaickenpalayam. The temple of Lord Srinivasa Perumal has become a great place of pilgrimage in Coimbatore.

The life of Periya Govindaswamy Naidu throws much light of the positive attitude and the living conditions of the people of Coimbatore over a hundred years ago.

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