M.A. Muthiah Chettiar was born on 5 August 1905 at Pallathur in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu. He graduated from Presidency College, Madras (1922) where he majored in history and political science.
Prior to his political involvements, Chettiar worked for his family’s banking business. He was appointed as a member of the Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee (1931). Chettiar was elected as the President of South Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1941) and the Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (1943). He was the first mayor of the Madras Corporation.
For his services in the field of education and social life, the British government conferred knighthood (1941).
Role in India’s Independence Movement:
While he was not an active participant in the independence movement, Chettiar was deeply interested in various social reform movements and joined the Justice Party. Along with other leaders of Madras, he fought for the rights of non-Brahmins.
Chettiar had a vibrant political career. He became the Chief Whip and Chairman of the Justice Party in 1930. He was elected to the Madras Legislative Council in 1930 and later appointed as the Minister of Education, Public Health and Excise. Chettiar was also the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Madras and a part of IIT Madras’ Board.
He was elected as a Member of the Madras Legislative Assembly. When C Rajagopalachari formed a Congress Ministry (1937) in Madras, Chettiar became leader of the opposition in the Legislative Assembly.
He played a crucial role in the Assembly during his tenure as an opposition leader. In the Assembly, Chettiar opposed the introduction of Hindi as a compulsory language of study in schools and colleges (1938). However, he stated that he had no objection to Hindi being made an optional subject.
Contribution to Constitution Making:
He was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Madras. Chettiar did not actively participate in the Assembly.
Post-independence, Chettiar was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly through a Congress party ticket (1952 and 1957). He was later nominated as a Member of the Madras Legislative Council (1963 to 1983).
Chettiar had a keen interest in Tamil language, literature, music, and culture. He was given the title of ‘Tamil Isai Kavalar’ (Protector of Tamil Music) by the Government of Tamil Nadu. He was instrumental in passing a bill to protect Tamil Isai (music).
The Government of India awarded the Padma Bhushan to Chettiar for his service to society (1973).
He passed away on 12 May 1984.
In 1987, the Government of India also released a postal stamp in his honour.
- Life And Achievements Of Rajah Sir Muthiah Chettiar – A Study by Dr. G. Palanivel
- Dr. Rajah Sir Muthiah Chettiar: A Biography by K Nagarajan