Patriots > Social and Religious Reformers > Iyer,S.Subramania
Iyer,S.Subramania(SIR) (1842-1924)
Sir S. Subramania Iyer was popularly known as 'Mani Iyer'. Just as Dadabhai Naoroji elicited the title 'Grand Old Man of India' by his services to his countrymen, Sir S. Subramania Iyer earned the title 'Grand Old Man of South India' by rendering yeoman's service to the people of the Madras Presidency.He was born in the District of Madura on 1 October 1842. His father Sooravali Subbier belonged to a middle-class Brahmin family. Subbier remarried after the death of his first wife and Subramania Iyer was the child of the second wife.

Subramania Iyer had his early education in an English Mission School. Later he joined the Zilla School in Madura which was established in 1856 with Mr. Williams, a tutor from the Presidency College, Madras, as its Headmaster. Subramania Iyer came under the influence of this Headmaster. He passed all the examinations in the School including the public examination with merit.

As his mother was not willing to send him to Madras for higher education, Subramania Iyer decided to join Government service. He served as a clerk in the Deputy Collector's Office, Madura, Deputy Collector's Office, Ramnad, and collector's Office, Madura. While working in the Collector's Office, he studied privately for the pleader's examination and stood first among the successful candidates.

But he could not secure a Sanad to practise in the court because he failed to Salaam the court when he appeared before R. R. Cotton, the District Judge of Madura, to obtain the Sanad. But later when the Criminal Procedure Code came into force in 1862, the District Collector appointed Subramania Iyer as Public Prosecutor.

Subramania Iyer's ambition was to practise as a lawyer. Therefore, he studied privately for the Matriculation examination and passed the same in 1865. He also passed the F. A. examination in 1866. Two years later (1868) he passed the B. L. examination standing first (in the Second Class) among all the successful candidates. He served as an apprentice under J. C. Mill, Barrister-at-Law, and thus qualified himself to practise in the High Court as a Vakil.

Subramania Iyer married a middle-class Brahmin lady but she died in 1884. He never remarried. His wife's death was a turning point in his life. From that time onwards, he turned his attention to religion and philosophy. He came into contact with Colonel Olcott, founder of the Theosophical Society, and himself became a Thesophist. He served as the Vice President of the Theosophical Society for a number of years. Subramania Iyer later on acknowledged that Theosophy made him a more staunch Hindu than before.

Subramania Iyer used to read many English periodicals and books. Among his favourite English periodicals were the Saturday Review and the Fortnightly Review.
He studied seriously Herbert Spencer's 'Sociology', Draper's 'Conflict of Science', Huxley's 'Lay Sermons', Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' and 'Hamlet' and Bacon's 'Essays'.

He practised as a Vakil at Madura from 1869 to 1885. He had a very lucrative practice and appeared in some important cases, the most notable among them being the Ramnad Zamindar's Case and the Meenakshi Temple Funds Misappropriation Case.

While at Madura, he earned reputation as a public worker. He was appointed a Municipal Commissioner of Madura and a member of the Local Board. He also served as the Vice Chairman of the Madura Municipality. He was associated with the Municipality until his departure for Madras in 1885. He was also elected as a member of the Devasthanam Committee of the Meenakshi Temple at Madura.

When the Prince of Wales visited Maduras in 1875, Subramania Iyer in his capacity as the Vice-Chairman of the Municipality, presented an 'Address of Welcome' on behalf of the people of Madura. (He also presented a Welcome Address to another Prince of Wales in 1914 on behalf of the public of Madras.) The Government awarded a Certificate of Merit to Subramania Iyer on 1 January 1877 as a mark of their appreciation of his services to the public, on the occasion of Lord Lytton's Durbar at Delhi.

He gave evidence before the Famine Commission when it visited Madura in 1877, pleading for the necessity of protecting the tenants from arbitrary eviction by the landlords.

When he shifted to Madras in 1885, Subramania Iyer was already reputed as a learned lawyer with a lucrative practice. He rose to fame in Madras within a short time. Recognising his merit, the Government appointed him as Government Pleader in 1888 and he continued in that position until he became a Judge of the Madras High Court in 1895.

As Government Pleader, he appeared in two most sensational cases-the famous Nageswara Iyer Forgery Case and the Tirupati Mahant Case. He used to appear in the most important cases opposed on the other side by one or the other of the two equally famous and reputed lawyers of the time- V. Bashyam Iyengar and Eardley Norton.

Subramania Iyer was nominated in 1884 as a member of the Legislative Council by the Government of Madras. He left a creditable record as a non-official member of the Council even though the Act did not permit non-official members to play a very useful role. Largely due to his initiative, an Act was passed providing compensation for tenants' improvement in Malabar. Nominated for a second time, Subramania Iyer made his association with that body as useful as possible under the system of Legislative Councils existing at that time.
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