Pitty Theagaraya Chetty Senior and Sir Pitty Theagaraya Chetty Junior founded the North Madras Hindu Secondary School in 1897 to cater to the educational needs of the local population. For nearly 25 years, the school was nurtured under the munificence of the acclaimed philanthropists-the Pitty Brothers. After the demise of the Pitty brothers, the school was renamed as the Theagaraya Chetty Hindu Secondary School.
In 1931,the Pitty Family, with the approval of High Court of Madras, rightly vested the management of the School into the broader hands of a committee constituted for the purpose. The first Correspondent of the school was the coveted personality Dewan Bahadur Pt. Kumaraswamy Chetty.Subsequently, he was succeeded by his brother Pt. Chengalvaraya Chetty, in 1942. The School flourished well and soared to greater heights in the web of education and by June 1947, the students strength fittingly rose to the laudable figure of 1600—a no mean achievement in an environment otherwise engulfed with traders and artisans. The lofty ideals of the Noble souls started yielding fruitful results.
Fittingly, the Management realized the need to raise the school into a college to provide higher education to the residents of North Madras – a luxury offered at hand’s reach, which even the affluent could not easily dream of, in those days.
The hand of prodigy prevailed on Sri. P. Ramaswamy Chetty (grandson of senior PT.) – a talented and visionary icon of the Pammy Family (a family closely knitted to Pittys) while serving as a Special Engineer in the then Corporation of Madras, spearheading himself as a member with the Managing Committee, worked relentlessly, almost single handed, despite his fragile health, towards the establishment of an institution of higher learning – a solatum for the weaker and underprivileged sections of the society.
Sir Pitty Theagaraya Chetty was born on April 27,1852. Senior Theagaraya Chetty was born exactly one year before his younger brother. Their father, Aiyappa Chetty, a prosperous merchant of Old Washermenpet, dreamt of his younger son to grow into one of the greatest political leaders of South India.
The Junior Theagaraya was so precocious that his father gave him the best possible education. He passed his matriculation examination with honours and entered the portals of the Presidency College. In 1876, he pursued his B.A. Degree Examination creditably with Mathematics as the optional subject. Soon after graduation, Theagaraya chetty joined the ancestral business of tannery, and by dint of his hardwork and acumen, he paved the way to retain a high standard of perfection in tanning. Indeed, the Pitty stamp was the hallmark for highest quality in tanned skins, those days.
Pitty Theagaraya Chetty sincerely believed that people must wear clothes manufactured from weavers and for that he set up a large weaving mill equipped with fly-shuttle looms near his palatial residence in Tondiarpet. The products of his textile mill were of the finest quality and Pitty Theagaraya Chetty won many prizes for his exhibits in the All India Weaving Exhibition, held in March, 1909.
Towards the end of 19th century, he was elected as a member of the Corporation Council. So popular he was, in those days, continued to be the Councillor till the end of his life.
In recognition of his meritorious services to the city for nearly forty years, the people of Madras, with gratitude, erected his statue near the main entrance of the Rippon Building which houses the office of Corporation of Chennai, for decades.
Pitty Theagaraya Chetty (Junior) was a born nationalist and he aroused the political consciousness of the people by starting a party with the sole aim of improving the socio- economic conditions of the poor and the down-trodden. He threw his heart and soul into politics and worked selflessly for the noble cause which was so dearer to his heart. The Government was pleased to confer upon him, the title of the Dewan Bahadur in 1918 and in 1920, he returned to the Legislative Council by a overwhelming majority. As the leader of the party, he was offered the ‘Chief Ministership,’ and was requested to form his own Cabinet. Theagaraya Chetty was such a selfless social worker that he declined the offer, preferring the Honorary post of the President of the Corporation of Madras than that of the paid and famed post of Chief Minister. For his valuable services to the Province as the leader of the party in power, he was knighted in the year 1921.
Sir Theagaraya firmly believed that education is the panacea for all social evils. His elder brother and he himself founded an educational institution in Washermenpet in 1897 to cater to the needs of the people of North Madras. After passing through many vicissitudes, the institution has now become a First Grade College as a result of the support given by the public and the active co-operation of philanthropists. Sir Pitty Theagaraya Chetty served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Pachaiyappa’s Charities for nearly half a century and in the loving memory of his services to the cause of higher education in the province, his portrait was unveiled in the Pachaiyappa’s College Hall by the then Governor of Madras and thus, the Grand Old Man had the unique privilege of being honoured in his own land.
Sir Theagaraya lived ahead of his times and the solutions that he offered to some pressing problems in those days such as untouchability, prohibition, labour organization are worth studying even today. God endowed him not only with an outstanding intellect but also with a robust constitution. He put his power to the fullest use for the benefit of humanity till April 28,1925.
Sir Pitty Theagaraya Chetty and his elder brother Theagaraya Chetty Senior were twin souls discharging complimentary functions. While the elder brother with meticulous care looked after the family estates and filled the family coffers, the younger was given free reigns to his adventurous spirit and took part in multifarious social and political activities. They resembled with each other to such a great extent of same height that all but those who knew them intimately could nearly distinguish between them. The elder brother played a vital role in bringing up the brilliant career of his younger brother, for that, he gave him the much needed moral support and guidance and provided him with the wherewithal for carrying on his public activities.
The Pitty brothers have become immortal in the imperishable Institution they have founded and it must be gratifying to their souls to see that it is flourishing under the able guidance of their descendants.
A word must be worthy note to mention here about Sri Pammy Ramaswamy Chetty, an illustrious icon of the Founders’ family, that he has accomplished his life’s mission—the creation of Sir Theagaraya College.
“MAY THE SOULS OF THESE GREAT MEN REST IN PEACE”