The gathering of the staff of the Indian Bank here reminds me of the late Mr. V. Krishnaswami Aiyar. He was associated with three institutions which continue to keep his memory green, more than the statue that has been erected in his honor. In Tamil, we speak of the triad, udal, porul, and aavi (உடல் பொருள் ஆவி) which in Sanskrit are referred to as sareeram, arttham and praanan. Jiva, which is atman, includes the manas and the praanas. A sound body and wealth so necessary for a good life, depend for their maintenance on a pure mind free from the taints of kaama and krodha, lust and anger. Realizing that this can come about only on a foundation of sastraic training, Mr. Krishnaswami Aiyar established the Sanskrit College at Mylapore, with the intention that sastraic learning and tradition should be preserved from extinction. For the upkeep of the body and rescuing it from ill-health and disease, he founded the Venkataramana Vaidyasala, named after his father. Knowing fully well that wealth is the foundation for a successful life in this world and that, without it, physical health and the means for a disciplined mind cannot be secured, he, in cooperation with other eminent men of Madras, helped to found a Bank after the crash of the Arbuthnot Bank. He had the courage to call it the Indian Bank, at a time when the British referred to us as ‘natives’.
To vindicate the high culture of the Hindus, Mr. Krishnaswami Aiyar published “Arya Charita”, containing a number of moral stories from the Mahabharata. He was one of the leading men of Madras, who sponsored the visit of Swami Vivekananda to America to attend the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. The Rt. Hon. V.S. Srinivasa Sastry, who was a leading personality of the last generation, used to visit him frequently and receive from him constant guidance and counsel.
The position of Madras, referred to in all ancient works as Sennapattanam, is unique as the central place of Tamil Nadu, with its four kshetras (temples) sung by Nayanmars and Alwars,namely, Tiruvotriyur in the North, Tiruvanmiyur in the south, and Tiruvallikeni and Tirumayilai in the centre. It is worthy of note that the consort of Sri Adi Kesava in the Mylapore Temple is known as Mayuravallithayar and in Sri Kapaleeswara’s temple close by, tradition has it that Sri Parvathi worship Her Lord, Siva, taking the form of a mayuri (pea-hen) (मयूरि). Madras, which is thus sanctified by being the abode of Siva and Kesava, is also famous for the intellectual giants who lived in it. Among them was the late Mr. Krishnaswami Aiyar, well-versed in law and advocacy, which correspond to the vyavahaara kaanda of our ancient lore.
All dharmas depend on women for their maintenance – streemoolah sarva dharmah. It is sad to see girls nowadays remaining unmarried till a late age, due to the indigence of their parents, to the exorbitant demands of dowry, or due to the inability to get proper bridegrooms. The Parsi community has an organization to help the less rich among the community. It is desirable to organize a bank to aid the marriage of unmarried girls belonging to poor families, who have attained puberty, but whom their parents are obliged to keep at home, because of their sheer inability to give them away in marriage. It is also necessary to perform all marriages as economically as possible, without, however, omitting the prescribed religious rites. It should be our endeavor to avoid wasteful expenditure in marriages as well as in other ceremonial occasions.
The Brahmin community has forgotten its tradition of plain living and high thinking and taken to expensive ways of living. Time was in our land when Brahmins lived the same simple and unostentatious lives as other communities. This ancient identity of life of different communities is exemplified in some of the expressions we still use. The cooking pot in our house is called Vengala paanai, and the diamond ear-rings, which rich women wear, are called vaira olai. The words, paanai and olai underline this affinity among all communities. We should avoid the costly new fangled habits, wear only simple apparel, and live frugal lives.
November 17, 1957