Pagadala Narasimhalu Naidu
Salem Pagadala Narasimhalu Naidu or Pagadala Narasimhalu Nayadu (12 April 1854 – 22 January 1922) was a Tamil Congressman, social worker, publisher and the first person to have written travelogues in Tamil. He gave Coimbatore some of its earliest industries and was instrumental in establishing public institutions
Narasimhalu Naidu was born in a Balija Naidu family to Rangaswami Naidu and Lakshmi Ammal in Erode on 12 April 1854. He was named Balakrishna at birth and was later renamed as Narasimhalu after his grandfather. He was married to Ethiraj Ammal of Salem in 1868, who later died of tuberculosis after the death of their two sons. Subsequently, Narasimhalu Naidu married Meenakshi Ammal from Palakkad in 1899.
He wrote his first travelogue Arya Divya Desa Yatari Sarithiram in 1889 describing his experiences beyond the Vindhyas. He began publishing the Salem Patriot in 1877 to write on social issues. After the Salem Patriot closed down, he began publishing the Coimbatore Abamaani and then Coimbatore Patrika in 1879. In 1881, he established another publication, Coimbatore Crescent. The Kalanidhi Press was also established by him.
Narasimhalu Naidu established Coimbatore city’s first textile mill, CS&W Mills. He also established a sugar mill in Podhanur. He was involved in the establishment of the Victoria Municipal Hall (now the Town Hall), Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Club, Coimbatore College Committee and Coimbatore Co-operative store. The Siruvani water supply system in Coimbatore is the outcome of his study and efforts.
He was a visionary and helped awaken social and literary consciousness. He established bodies to spread the teachings of the Brahmo Samaj in Salem and Coimbatore. He wrote more than a hundred books and booklets on religion, history, music, agriculture, law and medicine. Narasimhalu Naidu traced his past to the Vijaya Nagar kings and is the author of Balijavaru Puranam (or Balija Vamsa Purana) published in 1896.
Narasimhalu Naidu was the Secretary of the Coimbatore unit of the Chennai Mahajana Sabha, a social reform movement. He became the Secretary of the Coimbatore unit of the Indian National Congress (INC) when it was formed in 1885. He was one among the 21 representatives from Tamil Nadu who attended the first conclave of the INC in Bombay in 1885. He attended its next convention in Calcutta in 1886 and the third in Chennai in 1887.
A man who made this city his own
S.P. Narasimhalu Nayadu gave Coimbatore many things, most notably Siruvani water and its early industries. Know more about the man who helped awaken social and literary consciousness
A visionary who was not a son of the soil, he made a lasting impact on the city he made his own. S.P. Narasimhalu Nayadu is known for many monumental contributions, but his most popular legacy remains Coimbatore’s pride – the sweet water of the Siruvani.
Salem Pagadala Narasimhalu Nayadu (SPN) was born in Erode on April 12, 1854 to Rangaswamy Nayadu and Lakshmi Ammal. This Balija Nayadu family, which migrated from Andhra Pradesh, traced its past to the Vijayanagar Kings under whom its members are said to have held important positions.
Young Narasimhalu was initially named Balakrishnan but was later re- christened with his grandfather’s name. After early years of education in Telugu, he joined the Salem College, a government-run school. His interest in academics was attributed to the influence of his teacher, Appai Nayadu. He went on to complete his grade exams in 1873.
In his era, child marriages were common. Narasimhalu, then 15, was married to eight-year-old Ethiraj Ammal of Salem in 1868. The couple had two sons of which the second born died a few days after birth. Their older son, Rangaswamy, died in 1897. Soon, Ethiraj Ammal succumbed to tuberculosis and a heartbroken Narasimhalu was persuaded to marry Meenakshi Ammal from Palakkad in 1899.
Narasimhalu was well ahead of his times in thought and action. Of his many contributions, his literary pursuits need special mention. He was one of the leading lights in the field of Tamil journalism and one of the earliest to write travelogues in Tamil.
In 1877, he started the “Salem Patriot” to write on social issues. A friend, G. Subramania Iyar of The Hindu, praised Nayadu for his efforts in bringing about a social awakening. The Salem Patriot, however, did not continue for long. Later, he started Coimbatore Abamaani and then Coimbatore Patrika in 1879. In 1881, he established Coimbatore Crescent. The Kalanidhi press was also established by him during this period.
He wrote about corruption even then. And, action was taken against the guilty in many cases.
Nayadu also represented our region in the first two Congress sessions and played an important role. People woke up to reality with his writings and he authored more than a hundred books and booklets. The writings ranged from widow remarriage to agriculture, religion, history, music and law to medicine.
SPN was inspired by the Brahma Samaj and its ideals. While in Salem, and later in Coimbatore, he established bodies that spread the ideals of the Samaj.
Arya Divya Desa Yatari Sarithiram (1889), his first travelogue, spoke about his experiences beyond the Vindhyas. This followed his travels there in 1885 and 1886 when he visited Bombay (now Mumbai) and Calcutta (now Kolkata) for the first and second Congress sessions.
The travelogue makes for interesting reading even today as it weaves in details of history, life, and people.
He also wrote a similar book on his journeys in South India.
According to poet Sirpi Balasubramaniam, who recently authored a book on Nayadu: “Narasimmalu Nayadu was a man who was much ahead of his times”. He terms Nayadu as the `Father of Travelogues’ in Tamil.
As early as 1903, G.M. Venketram Nayadu wrote a biography on S.P.N and this shows the eminence he must have had in society.
Apart from writing about national issues and working towards social awakening, SPN was concerned about the water situation in Coimbatore made personal efforts to study the mountains and the possibility of harvesting water for use in the city.
The Siruvani water system is an outcome of his study and efforts.
Today, our region is known for its textile and sugar mills and SPN had a role in the establishment of the first mill also.
The city’s first textile mill, C.S. &W Mills, was established in the farm adjoining his house (which is now a school run by a trust founded by SPN) and he was a member of the Board of the mill.
SPN was also instrumental in starting a sugar mill in Podhanur, which was later closed due to some problems.
The Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Club and a host of other institutions of that period like the SPCA, Coimbatore College committee, Co-operative store and the District Board saw S.P.N’s involvement.
He was also instrumental in building the Victoria Town Hall with contributions from others in 1892 at a cost of Rs. 10,000.
On January 22, 1922, this legend of Coimbatore died at the age of 67.
A trust created in his name runs a school in the very house that Narasimhalu Nayadu lived in and this institution remains a faint reminder of the fabulous past.
His home, which is inside the school complex, is now crumbling and in dire need of restoration. His samadhi, a relic of his memory, stands unsung in a corner of the complex.
Looking back, it is hard to imagine that a man who lived in an age when sharing of knowledge was limited and when technology and its pace were measured, could do so much in hither-to unexplored fields. And, influence the people around him and society for posterity.