We live and learn every day. Trite, but it’s something that struck me the other day when flipping through Meera RaghavendraRao’s new book, Madhwas of Madras. Two-thirds of the book is a listing of prominent members of the community and I’ll come to them in a minute. But one name that caught my eye was that of R. Balaji Rao whom I had mentioned in Miscellany on December 5. I’d said at the time that he was a Maharashtrian and, so, now wondered what he was doing in this book. I’d always thought that Madhwas were from South Kanara, the Udupi area. But I was set right by the book which related the spread of Madhwacharya’s philosophy, dating to the 13th Century, by his disciples in North Kanara and southern Maharashtra. Writes Meera, “Marathas annexed Tanjore from the Naiks and it was with them for the next 200 years. With the result a lot of Maharashtrians converted as Madhwas.” There are also Tamil- and Telugu-origin Madhwa Brahmins, she adds.
Among the many eminent Madras Madhwas she lists are these 10:
- Prof B. Hanumantha Rau, the first graduate from the Kumbakonam Government College who went on to become the first President of the Indian Mathematical Society.
- Dr. M.A. Govinda Rau, who pioneered the field of Chemical Engineering in India and went on to become the first Director of A.C. College of Technology.
- Dr. S.S. Badrinath, founder of one of the largest eye-care facilities in the country.
- Dr. U. Mohan Rau, the youngest FRCS in the country.
- C.S. KrishnaswamyRao Sahib, who served as Cabinet Secretary and recommended the Integrated Guided Missile Programme.
- N. Vittal who played key roles in the Information Technology and Telecommunication sectors in their nascent stages and was a muchlauded Central Vigilance Commissioner.
- Kandadale Krishna Rao who made Udupi cuisine world-famous and whose Woodlands hotels started the first drive-in restaurant in India.
- K. Seetharama Rao, founder of the Dasaprakash Group, who made the dosa legendary.
- N.S. Bhat, first Indian head of one of the earliest British business houses in the country, Binny& Co.
- N. SubbaRao Pantulu, one of the founders of The Hindu, later a member of the Imperial Legislative Council and a general secretary of the Indian National Congress.