Dewan Bahadur K. Krishnaswami Rao
“His life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him, that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘this was a man’ ”.
The above quotation aptly describes Dewan Krishnaswamy Rao as we know him. He was President of the Mahratta Education Fund from its inception to the date of his death, and the esteem and affection in which he was held render it impossible to take a detached view of his life’s work; but one can feel sure that distance of time will only serve to enhance the value of his services to the present generation.
Mr. K. Krishnaswamy Rao was born in 1845 at Salem. His father Kanchi Venkata Rao had been Huzur Sheristadar at the Collectorate and died at Kurnool, to which place he was transferred, while Krishnaswamy Rao was still young. He was thus thrown on the support of his elder brother Kanchi Subba Rao, a name familiar to us in connection with the inauguration of the S.M.S.O. Sabha at Tirupati. After a brief period of education in the Venkatagiri Raja’s High School, Nellore, where Kanchi Subba Rao was Tahsildar, K. Krishnaswamy Rao joined the Government High School, Madras and completed his Matriculation in due course. Owing mainly to poverty, he could not take a university course. He soon secured a footing as Translator in the District Court at Nellore, and by his diligence and capacity rose to the position of Head Clerk in that Court.
With a view to improve his prospects, he passed the Pleader’s tests and the Criminal Higher Examinations. The then District Judge rebuked him for the mad idea of giving up his clerical post in favour of practicing as a lawyer; but soon after he was made District Munsiff and later Sub-Judge. About 1884, the Hon. Dewan Bahadur V. Rama Iyengar was at the head of the administration in Travancore. When he wanted a suitable person for the Office of Chief Judge of Travancore, the Madras Government recommended Mr. K. Krishnaswamy Rao for the post.
This office he filled with credit for nearly 13 years. Many reforms in judicial administration were set afoot during his period, and the code of Criminal Procedure drafted by him was passed into law. Krishnaswamy Rao soon found himself a member of the Legislative Council which in a different capacity he had helped in bringing into existence. He was finally appointed Dewan of Travancore, in 1897.
The administration of the State remained in his hands for over 6 years, during which period his tact and judgment earned for him the approbation of the Government of India. The titles Dewan Bahadur, and C.I.E. were conferred on him as a mark of personal distinction; in 1903 he retired from service and settled down in Madras.
Public life in Madras after this date was enriched by his presence. His active habits and mental energy placed him at the head of several institutions and their successful working was in a large measure due to his fostering care and guidance. He interested himself in Insurance, Banking, Education and the promotion of industrial training. In politics his place in Madras was no less important. He was the Chairman of the Reception Committee of the Session of the Congress held at Madras under the presidency of Dr. Rashbehari Ghosh. His constant championship of the cause of the citizens of Madras was responsible for a great deal of improvement in Civic amenities. He was easily accessible to all, and his mature advice on all matters was freely availed of by rich and poor alike.
Dewan Bahadur K. Krishnaswamy Rao was by nature extremely pious and generous to a fault. His charitable disposition led him to help many poor students and orphans to the limit of his resources. When he breathed his last in February 1923, the City of Madras became poorer by his loss. In fitting recognition of his services, a sum of Rs. 6,000 collected in pursuance of a Sheriff’s meeting was utilized for the institution of a scholarship in his name in the Madras University.