By Prof. A.V. Narasimha Murthy
Former Head, Department of Ancient History & Archaeology, University of Mysore.
Most people in Mysuru city have heard of the Town Hall opposite the Clock Tower but many do not know in whose memory this Hall was built. Just to test this I asked my grandson about it. He knew Town Hall but had not heard of Rangacharlu, the former Dewan of Mysore State.
Now let us try to know about this illustrious Dewan of yesteryears. Chettipunyam Veeravalli Rangacharlu was born in 1831 at Chettipunyam belonging to Chengalpattu. He had his early education at Pacchayappa School and Madras High School. He passed a proficiency examination and joined Madras Collector’s Office in 1850 on a salary of rupees fourteen per month. His first appointment was that of Assistant Munshi (Clerk).
Then he was made the Record-Keeper to the Government and he did this job to the complete satisfaction of his superiors. One Assistant who was jealous of Rangacharlu misplaced an important record. After a day or two, he asked for that particular record. Rangacharlu said that the Assistant was in charge of the records and naturally he should be suspended and further action should be taken against him. That Assistant whose plan misfired fell at the feet of Rangacharlu and requested to be pardoned. The latter took a letter from him to this effect and warned him.
He further recorded that this should be shown in the personal file of the employee and this shows the administrative acumen and official procedure to which Rangacharlu gave importance. But he did not forget the humane side while taking important decisions in administration. His efficiency and hardworking nature attracted the officers and hence they gave him many more responsible positions such as Deputy Accountant, Head Writer and Translator.
He felt that a good administrator should have a sound knowledge of Law without which he will not be able to take firm decisions which cannot be questioned. Hence, Rangacharlu went to Madras and joined the Law College. He got a good glimpse into various aspects of civil and criminal law and appeared for the civil court pleader examination in 1856. He came out with flying colours and his teachers were greatly impressed not only by his knowledge of law but his interpretation to suit the contexts. He was appointed as the Tahasildar of Siadapet and it gave him a good opportunity to test his knowledge of Law in administration. Many officers and people felt that the orders passed by him cannot be surpassed or even revised. Subsequently he was appointed as the Naib Shirastedar of Nellore. In 1859 he was promoted as Deputy Collector of Rajamahendri.
The work that was being done by Rangacharlu attracted the attention of British Officer Taylor and the latter, studying the working of Railways, suggested ways and means to improve the Railways. In 1864 he was appointed as the Deputy Collector of Treasury at Calicut. Taylor was greatly impressed by the way Rangacharlu filled up the State Treasury by increasing the revenue collection. Rangacharlu himself went on tours and encouraged the officers to collect proper revenue.
In the meantime, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar passed away in 1868 and it was a big blow to Mysore Kingdom. This unexpected event put the British officers in serious difficulty. Major Elliot was appointed to take stock of the situation and solve it amicably. On the recommendation of Bowring, Rangacharlu was appointed to assist Elliot and the former did an admirable job. The Treasury was practically empty. Many precious articles and gold were stolen by the unethical officers. Rangacharlu stopped all the unnecessary expenditures. He also recommended to the British that Chamaraja Wadiyar, who was still a boy, should be coronated and it was accepted by the British. The Wadiyar’s responsibility was given to Rangacharlu, including his education.
Rangacharlu took stock of fifty years’ of British rule in Mysore and wrote a scholarly note on it, in which he wrote that the Mysore State has not developed as it ought to have been as progress and development have not taken place, though the British have done their part. In 1881, he was appointed Dewan of Mysore State and took up many developmental works such as the Railway line between Bangalore and Tiptur.
On 25th August 1881 he constituted the Prajapratinidhi Sabhe, an elected representation of the people in Mysore State and became famous for this institution.
Another contribution of Rangacharlu is the development of education of women. He gave many incentives for the education of women and used the State machinery towards this end. If there is good percentage of educated women in Mysore the major credit should go to Rangacharlu.
Rangacharlu appeared to be very strict in official matters, but he was kind in heart. Many private individuals have had the good fortune of his kindness and generosity. Thus he occupies an important position as Dewan of Mysore in the development of education, administration, economic, social and cultural life of Mysore State. The British government gave him the title CIE in 1878 for his contributions. He worked without any rest throughout his career and went to Madras for taking rest. But he passed away there on 20th January 1883.
In memory of his services to Mysore, the Town Hall here has been named as Rangacharlu Memorial Hall. That will remain as a fitting tribute to the great soul forever. Next time you go to the Town Hall, stand there in silence for a minute and pay your respect for this illustrious man who made Mysore great.
Note: However, it is a matter of regret that the MCC has not thought it proper to install a statue of Dewan Rangacharlu in Mysuru.