Annamalai was born on Bharani Deepam (26/11/1926) to the groundnut merchant, Ramaswamy Chettiar and his wife, Angammal. The patriot understood the value of education from the word go. He would walk quite a distance in order to reach his school. The committed Indian did his B. A. History from the Government Arts College in Salem. He moved to Chennai thereafter. Meanwhile, the younger brother, Shanmugham started working in order to sustain the family. The family had been living in Kuttikapalayam in Namakkal District, Tamil Nadu. They had moved over to Murungapatti near Rasipuram in search of economic opportunity. The economy had been brought to the knees due to the exploitation of the British. Lala Lajpat Rai has finely documented British exploitation in a book committed by him. It was published in 1917.
Annamalaiji worked as a part-time teacher in Bharatmata School at Chennai. This helped him to reduce his family's financial woes. The School Correspondent, Venugopalji was very kind to him. Annamalaiji had been doing a teacher training programme alongside and he secured a gold medal in the same. This got him the opportunity to teach history at Pachaiappas School. His tough upbringing helped to lead a life of thrift. He would save money and send it home every month. Annamalaiji sent his younger brother, Shanmugham to do his ‘Hindi Sahitya Ratna’ at Agra. The teacher began to render his duty in his favourite subject history at Pachaiappas College from the year 1958.
In 1959, Annamalaiji got married to Janaki, the daughter of rice merchant Palaniappan Chettiar and his wife Sivagami of Tiruchengode. The couple were blessed with Devasena (1960), Sumathi (1961), Shanthi (1963), Jayanthi (1965), Hemalatha (1967), and Ramesh (1973). Meanwhile, the entire family had moved over to Chennai and all of them lived as a joint family. While the first younger brother, Shanmugham was made a Hindi Pundit, the second brother was given the opportunity to do Zoology by Annamalaiji. The younger sister, Kokilavani was made into a Secondary Grade Assistant, and she became a teacher. Except for the elder sister, Kulandhaiammal, the rest of them became postgraduates. All of them were employed in Government educational institutions. Annamalaiji ensured that his wife, Janaki took up studies and became a teacher later. Janaki shouldered the family responsibility along with her husband.
Annamalaiji was a complete patriot. He loved the nation and was a staunch Hindu. He fed patriotism, faith, and devotion to his children. This patriot was an expert in astrology. He would always state that fear can be driven away through mental strength. Annamalaiji became a full time RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) member from 1950. Rama Gopalanji of Hindu Munnai had been of help during his tenure at Bharatmata School.
The teacher in him ensured that the girl child was given a chance to flourish. One, Vedagiri's elder sister, Suseela had to give up her education on the attainment of puberty. Annamalaiji fought with her family and got her educated. The life of Suseela was tragic but her son landed up with a job in Commercial Tax Department because of the seed sown by Annamalaiji. Vedagiri joined RSS thereafter and served the country. Annamalaiji was like a magnet and people swarmed him every day. He was the most preferred teacher during the history tours. He, thus, got a chance to go to Singapore in the company of his students. Annamalaiji was the NSS Head and his team did a lot of good work in nearby Pazhanchanoor. The students cleaned the village, did fence work, planted trees, created awareness about education and instilled patriotism. He used to visit the village even after his retirement. The Professor would help at the times of college admission. Much of that time would be spent in offering guidance to his students. He would participate in all the sorrows and joys of his students. Annamalaiji had also served in the World University Service Centre.
Vidya Bharati, the sister unit of RSS began its first school at Gorakpur in 1952. The number of schools swelled to 26,000. The Vivekananda Kalvi Kazhagam was inaugurated in 1972 in Chennai. It was run on the principles of Swami Vivekananda. The institution followed the CBSE pattern of education. Priority was given to kids from economically depressed classes. The fees were low and Annamalaiji worked along with this institution. He would go house to house and recruit students for the institution. Annamalaiji was interested in character building. Several teachers got impressed with him and they joined the RSS as an effect of the same.
Annamalaiji wanted each of his students to be punctual, self-confident, spiritually oriented, and courageous. He would spend time with the students and teachers. His lunch would be the curd rice that was savoured in their company. He would ensure that his students became good leaders. One of his students, Setubai had set a tough question paper. Annamalaiji advised the teacher not to test the students based on the knowledge level of the teachers.
It was the younger brother who had been part of RSS and Annamalaiji joined later. He had observed that neither caste, class nor money were considered by RSS, and this made him join them. He attended the Belgaum meet in 1943. Gandhi was killed in 1948 and the blame fell on RSS The patriotic organisation was banned by the Central Government. The energy behind RSS, Madhavrao Sadashivarao Golwalkar (1906 - 1973) had been groomed by Keshav Baliram Hegdewar (1889 - 1940), the founder of the Nationalist Movement. RSS had wanted the ban to be lifted. He wrote to Nehru and Patel. However, the result was blank. Thereafter, Golwalkar requested the RSS members to continue with their work. He was arrested and lots of people offered Satyagraha thereafter. The Government ended up arresting more than 80,000 in the process. Annamalaiji was among the people who were arrested.
Annamalaiji had understood that RSS was a patriotic organisation. Hegedwar had been part of the Hindu Mahasabha and had differed with them. He quit the organisation and founded the RSS Gandhi was always considered to be a Hindu spiritual leader by the RSS His name has been there since decades in their daily prayers. However, the RSS had been attacked often. Annamalaiji was in jail not just once but three times. The first time was when he offered Satyagraha along with others in 1948. It was when RSS was banned. He got beaten up in jail and was injured. He was arrested along with RSS volunteers during the Emergency of 1975. The third arrest was during the year 1992. This was when the disputed structure was demolished by Karsevaks at Ayodhya. Annamalaiji would not purchase items from people who did not believe in Indian Nationalism.
The patriot considered it to be an honour to be part of RSS. He told his friends that he would have ended up becoming a criminal if he had not joined RSS Annamalaiji would participate in the RSS. Shakas regularly. The one-hour programme would help the participants better their body and mind. Members were taught self-defense, patriotism, spirituality, and meditation. Community service would also be discussed. Annamalaiji would attend the Shakas in white shirts and khaki shorts. He had been the Head of Department of History in Pachaiappas and was on board in several other educational institutions. This did not deter him from attending the meetings daily. He would go along with his letter pad in order to write recommendations for the ones who were in need of them.
RSS camps gave an opportunity for people to interact with each other. Some of the camps went on for a few days. Annamalaiji would regale the participants with the story of Chatrapati Shivaji. His history background would add to the flavour. The listeners would be in tears. Besides all this, Annamalaiji would appropriately introduce special guests in the Shakas. This would be done in a fine manner and would encourage the guests to join RSS. He would celebrate Rakshabandan with all classes of people each year. Annamalaiji considered Thirumuruga Kripananda Varier and Sankaracharya to be his spiritual teachers.
Guruji, M. S. Golwalkar knew Annamalaiji very well. On knowing that Annamalaiji had five daughters, Guruji recited the names of five great women - Ahalya, Draupadi, Seetha, Tara, and Mandodari. The patriot visited Rameswaram and was blessed with a boy. He placed the child at the feet of Golwalkar and got his blessings. Annamalaiji would never seek another person's recommendation. His daughter wanted to do medicine and she got in all by herself. The father did not try to get her the seat through his pull. Another daughter went to Pachaiyappas to study, and the principal came to know that she was Annamalai's daughter on looking at the application.
The Indian Government decided to build a memorial in order to celebrate the centenary year of Swami Vivekananda in 1962. They decided to commemorate the occasion by creating a memorial on a rock in Kanyakumari. Swami Vivekananda had gone there continuously for three days in order to meditate. He used to cross the sea in order to do it. The memorial work was taking place under the leadership of a person named Velayudham. One day, the people on the shore noticed that a Cross (Christian Sign) had been placed on the rock. The story went like this - it was the place where Saint Xavier had meditated centuries before. A committee was set up and an enquiry took place. It was discovered that the place had nothing to do with the story, and the Cross was removed thereafter.
Chief Minister, M. Bhaktavatsalam felt that the construction of a memorial on the rock could result in communal riots. Therefore, he felt that a small symbol would do. Just a board was fixed on the January of 1963. This subject came to Golwalkar. He handed over the matter to the eminent social worker, Eknath Ranade (Important member of RSS). Eknath Ranade did an analysis and understood that there were only two obstacles. One was the Chief Minister, M. Bhaktavatsalam and the other was Humayun Kabir, the Central Minister for Culture. Humayun Kabir was from West Bengal. Eknath Ranade travelled to West Bengal and stated in an interview that it was Humayun Kabir who came in the way of honouring a fellow Bengali. This forced Humayun Kabir to retract his stand immediately.
Eknath Ranade met Lal Bahadur Sastri and based on his advice, he took the signature of 323 Members of Parliament. These signatures were in support of the memorial. This letter was submitted to Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The Prime Minister gave his consent, and an order was issued. Finally, Chief Minister M. Bhaktavatsalam was forced to fall in line. A committee was formed for the construction of the memorial and politicians including C. N. Annadurai and Communist leaders from Tamil Nadu were part of the same. Annamalaiji served on this committee. Eknath Ranade had a staunch support in the form of Annamalaiji. Resources were raised all over the country and the memorial came up in 1970.
The RSS Leader, Eknath Ranade founded the Vivekananda Kendra and Annamalaiji served as its secretary. Annamalaiji was a close friend of Eknath Ranade. He served as the Vice President of the Kendra for some time and was on the Managing Committee for the rest of his life. The patriot would ensure that the teachers with patriotic fervour would only be appointed in the Vivekananda Kendra. He trained teachers in distant places like Arunachal Pradesh. Schools were created by the Vivekananda Kendra in the places inhabited by the tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh.
Annamalaiji took care of RSS in the Chennai region. This had been a Dravidian hotbed those days. However, he curious to see that patriotism was preached through RSS. He was very careful with the budget. Annamalaiji paid personal attention by visiting the residences of members at the times of sorrow and joy. The nationalist got his entire family involved with RSS He would take his daughters to RSS celebrations.
The committed patriot, Annamalaiji passed away in 1997. He was active all his life. His eyes were donated to Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai. Thousands of RSS members participated in his memorial service. Heavy rains did not deter them. Annamalaiji was a true patriot. If RSS had survived and grown in Tamil Nadu, it was because of the efforts of patriots like Annamalaiji. He and his friends had safeguarded nationalism through RSS even during the troublesome times. The growth of RSS in Tamil Nadu owes a lot to Annamalaiji and his colleagues.
Patriotic Annamalaiji had ensured that our culture and tradition was kept safe. His work ensured that the ideals of patriotism & nationalism are carried from one generation to the other. Such patriots are to be revered.
Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of the Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, and entrepreneur. He is a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.
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