Sunday 17 March 2013

The contractor who is even now remembered for his buildings

RBANM is a well-known educational institution on St John’s Road and it is also among the oldest in the city. Both the institution and the RBANM Grounds are quite popular just in the city.
But not many know that RBANM stands for  the name of a person.
He was a civil contractor and he is credited with the construction of some of the most memorable buildings in Bangalore, including the much admired Attara Katcheri or High Court building.
The civil contractor was born with a sliver spoon in his mouth. However, he soon became penniless when fire destroyed everything that the family had and they soon became penniless. He started out as a vegetable seller and quickly rose to become one of the most respected civil contractors of Bangalore.
He then went on to become one of the leading philanthropists of Bangalore and also established several educational institutions to cater to the needs of people.
Both the High Court building the educational institutions survive to this day, a standing testimony to the man who built a fortune from a scratch. This is Rao Bahadur Arcot Narayanswamy Mudaliar, the name which is more known now as RBANM.
The young Mudaliar was born into an aristocratic family. His great-grandfather was secretary to the Raja of Gingee, while his father, Muthu Pillai, was a headman and supplier of provisions to the Raja. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed everything that the family had and a heart broken Muthu Pillai died soon after, leaving his son Muniyappa Mudaliar nothing much to survive on.
Muniyappa’s son was Narayanswamy Mudaliar and he was born   on May 14, 1827. It was Muniyappa who decided to come to Bangalore and start life afresh. He took up work as an accountant.
Muniyappa died and the ten-year Narayanswamy Mudaliar, was left with the onerous job of supporting his widowed mother and his two younger brothers. Sometime in 1850, he began trading in vegetables, buying them in Bangalore and selling them in Chennai. The vegetable business prospered and soon the young Mudaliar set up several shops in Bangalore. Even the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar, became a patron from 1859.
When the then Commissioner of Mysore, Lewin Bentham Bowring, decided to construct a new building to house the Public Offices, he asked Col. Richard Sankey to come up with the design.
The contract for the construction of the public offices was awarded to M/s Wallace and Co.
When Wallace decided to give sub contract, Narayanswamy Mudaliar joined hands with Bansilal Ramrathan, the regimental banker, and bid for the project. He got the contract. More importantly, he finished work on time and earned the respect of one and all.
He also built the Plaza Cinema on MG Road and very soon he came to be called the merchant prince of  Bangalore. He also used the money to set up educational institutions in Cantonment. The earliest such institution was the free English primary school in 1873.
In 1877, the British conferred on him the title Rao Bahadur and in 1894 Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar honored him with the title Dharmaratnakara.

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