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The Telugu World     column# 13        

Telugus Who Built Modern Bangalore

Diwan N. Madhava Rao served as Diwan of the Mysore kingdom of Wodeyars from 30 June 1906 to 31 March 1909. He was, perhaps, the most famous Diwan after Purnaiah. Diwan Purnaiah of Mysore State, ruled then by Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali, was also known as Krishnacharya Purniya or Mir Miran Purniya (1746-27 March 1812) His being a Brahmin confidante of Tipu is one of the main points  shown to back the theory of his being secular and a freedom fighter, despite his massacres of Hindus, especially in Coorg, and his mass forced conversions.

He is also the best example for those from outside who settled in a Telugu area and considered Telugu as his mother-tongue like the Ayyangars of Tirupati. Madhava Rao was born in Masulipatnam (Machilipatnam, also called Masula in short or ‘Bandar’ which means ‘port’) to Nyapathi Venkatakrishna Rao on 8 June 1887. He was originally a Maharashtra Deshastha Brahmin settled in the Telugu country. He declared Telugu as his mother tongue. Educated at Nobel College, Masulipatnam and Pachaiyappa’s College, Madras, he also obtained LL.B. degree from Madras Law College. 

Rau won the Carmichael medal in the Mysore Civil Service exam, which he passed in first rank and was posted as an Assistant Commissioner of Tumkur district. He was later on a commission that investigated a revolt in the Kollegal taluk of the then Coimbatore District and was Secretary of the Bhadravathi Steel Works, the Mysore State Trade Commissioner in London, Chief Secretary and then a Member of Council, Mysore, before being appointed the Diwan of Mysore.

He was the Diwan from June 1, 1941 to Aug. 6, 1946. Mysore  State faced severe food shortages during World War II. He is credited organizing a successful recovery and also dealing well with the damage caused to the Sivasamudram Electric Power Station by a lightning strike in 1944.

As Diwan of Mysore King Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, Rau   played a significant role in the formation of Mysore Legislative Council combining the Mysore Representative Assembly with it. It was India’s first step in setting up a democratic institution.

N. Madhava Rau after retiring as Diwan, was a member of the Constitution drafting committee headed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and of the first Constituent Assembly of India. He died at the age of 85, on August 28, 1972.

In 1906, a law was passed empowering members of the Mysore Legislative Assembly to pass laws. Under this, another Diwan Madhava Rao (son of Vishvanath Patankar) got the Land Revenue Code amended to give charge of the treasury,  as the chief revenue authority, to  the Revenue Commissioner. A Department of Public Health was created and competitive exams for the Mysore Civil Service revived. Taxes on areca-nut, a major produce of coastal Karnataka were revoked.

Kindergarten schools were introduced in the kingdom and primary education was made free. A number of irrigation projects were undertaken. The Marikanite works, completed in 1906-07 and the Cauvery Power Works at Belagola (1907-08) are also credited to him. The Government granted free land to the Indian Institute of Science, India’s top center for higher education and research. Electric lighting was introduced in Bangalore city in January 1908 and in Mysore city 9 months later. He was awarded CIE (Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire) in 1899 and the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal in 1900.

 N. Madhava Rau’s two sons rose to the top. He had three daughters, Rukmini, Sarojini and Sethu, and three sons. One son, N Narasimha Rau, IAS, became the chief secretary of Karnataka and another, N. Laxman Rau, also IAS, was the administrator of Bangalore Corporation (some say he was the Mayor) credited with Bangalore’s planning and development as India’s fifth metropolis. The third, Nagaraja Rau, retired as a Brigadier in the Indian Army.

Nyapathi Laxman Rau  is considered the builder of modern Bangalore, the city of Kempe Gowda Due to caste politics, he and Sir MV get less credit, not because they were Telugu men.


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