The Gounders are the sons of this soil and one family among them who are still remembered for their contribution to societal development are the Vellaikinar Gounders. And the star in that line is Vellaikinar Chinnappa Vellingiri Gounder, popularly called V.C.V.
The Vellaikinar Gounders hailed from the Erode region and migrated here about seven generations ago. Originally financiers, they later became large landowning agriculturists.
GREEN STRETCH The tamarind trees on the Mettupalayam Road that were planted by VCV.
VCV was born on October 28, 1880 to wealthy landowner V. K. Chinnappa Gounder and Parvathi Ammal of Velankuruchi. Chinnappa Gounder owned lands in about six villages around his own and purchased a large estate of 1600 acres in the Vellingiri mountain valley, bordered by rivers and with a large pond in the Semmedu area. It is possible that VCV was named after the Vellingiri mountains.
Chinnappa Gounder had seven children and many of them lead a remarkable life. VCV had his initial education in Coimbatore. Due to the sudden demise of his father, his education was cut short at the FA level. VCV and his siblings stayed in a traditional row house in the town area of the city. In 1898, VCV married Nanjammal of Narasipuram. The couple had two daughters and a son.
INNOVATOR AT HEART
Following his father's footsteps, VCV pursued agriculture as a full time activity. His innovative thoughts benefited his family and our region a lot. In his time the family estate swelled to almost 6,000 acres. The new additions were in areas ranging from Attur in Salem district to Pattukottai in Thanjavur district. Besides, he also acquired lands in Ooty, Mettupalayam and many farms across Coimbatore.
Agriculture and the way it was practised in our region were influenced by VCV in many ways. One of his major contributions was the development of innovative methods of cotton cultivation. It is in this connection that he became the first South Indian to be a part of the Indian Central Cotton Committee, of which he later became President.
The forward thinking farmer had a "hotline" installed exclusively between the 25-kilometre Vellaikinar-Semmedu stretch, with the wire mounted on a stone pole to help him manage his large estate.
Once on the path of progress, the next step in VCV's life was to grow in stature and give back to society. In the early part of the last century, VCV was a very influential man. This led him to become the President of the District Board. The then district board was an authority, which controlled not just Coimbatore but most of the Kongu region.
From railways to roads to public transport to institutions, many of the well-known infrastructures today are results of his tenure. The famed public bus transports companies of our region - ABT, SRT and KMS - all saw their launch during his period. The Coimbatore-Pollachi Railway link and the ghat road connecting Sathyamangalam to Mysore were some of the important contributions of the District Board during his presidency. With the experience and credibility gained in local governance, VCV moved on to nation building and became a member of the Provincial Legislative Council in the 1920s.
After this, VCV stood and won elections to the Council of State (equivalent of today's parliament) in 1932 after a fierce electoral battle with other personalities of our region. He got re-elected in 1945 as a Congress Party candidate. In his time, he must have been one of the few people to have held such positions in Delhi. Sadly, many papers and documents relating to that period were lost to termites in later years.
David Arnold in The Gounders and The Congress says: "Conspicuous among the emerging Western-educated elite of the caste (Gounders) were V.C. Vellingiri Gounder and his family. Vellingiri was one of the principal mirasdars of the Presidency and he introduced to his estate near Coimbatore improved methods of cultivation developed at the neighboring agricultural college..."
VCV was one of the first to start cotton ginning. He also established the Gnanambika Mills in his village in 1936. A tile factory in the Kottaimedu area and a rice mill in one of his farms (the area now opposite the city's flower market) followed. A road is also named after him in that area. He also started the Saradha Nidhi bank for the welfare of the farmers in Mettupalayam in the 1920s and it is said to have been inaugurated by the then Acharya of Sringeri.
The Kongu Vellala Sangam started in the year 1921 came about mainly due to his thought. He seems to have organised his caste to help in the political and social development of his people. A market in Mettupalayam was also established to help farmers of the hills sell their produce. It still goes by the name - VCV Pettai. This legend also played a role in the Animal Husbandry Association.
SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS DUTIES
A beautiful domed structure built by him in 1907 houses the Bajanai Temple. VCV was the Principal trustee of the Palani and Maruthamalai temples.
The Ramakrishna Vidhyalaya had a humble beginning in his farms and he patronised T.S. Avanashilingam Chettiar. A trust set up by him to run various social and religious duties draws income from about 6,000 tamarind trees in the six-kilometre stretch between North Coimbatore and Thudiyalur planted by VCV in 1922.
The staunch Congress supporter did not want to accept any British honours and was happy working for the progress of his nation and his people.
VCV died tragically in Coimbatore on November 7, 1948 in a car accident. His descendents today run a school in his memory and maintain the various trust activities initiated by him. Valuable information about him, documents, photographs and the house he lived in are well maintained by his descendants as reminders of VCV - a man remembered for his progressiveness, political might and simple ways.