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Tiruppur Subrahmanya Avinashilingam Chettiar (5 May 1903 – 21 November 1991) was an Indian lawyer, politician, freedom-fighter and Gandhian. He served as the Education Minister of Madras Presidency from 1946 to 1949 and was responsible for introducing Tamil as the medium of instruction. He ia also credited with having commissioned the creation of the first Tamil encyclopaedia.
Avinashlinam Chettiar was born to K. Subrahmanya Chettiar at Tiruppur. He was a nephew of politician T. A. Ramalingam Chettiar. Avinashilingam had his early education at Tiruppur, Coimbatore and Madras and graduated in law from Madras Law College of the University of Madras. He joined the Indian Independence Movement and participated in Civil Disobedience and the Quit India Movement. He also served as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council and later, education minister of Madras. He is also credited with introducing reforms in Indian society.
Avinashlingam was a devout Gandhian and was a strong follower of Gandhian economics. He was also a renowned social reformer and follower of the Ramakrishna Mission.
Avinashlingam was born in Tiruppur in the then Coimbatore district on 5 May 1903 to K. Subrahmanya Chettiar, a rich and prominent merchant of Tiruppur and his wife, Palaniammal. Avinashlingam was a nephew of Indian National Congress politician and freedom-fighter, T. A. Ramalingam Chettiar
Avinashilingam had his schooling at Tiruppur High school, Tiruppur and London Mission High School, Coimbatore. He graduated from Pachaiyappa’s College, Madras in 1923 and studied law at Madras Law College. In 1926, he commenced practice as an assistant to his uncle Ramalingam Chettiar before entering the Indian independence movement.
Avinashilingam participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement. He joined the Indian National Congress and adopted Gandhi’s philosophy. He also served as the President of the Coimbatore District Congress Committee. When Gandhi visited South India in 1934 to collect money for the Harijan Welfare Fund, Avinashilingam assisted him by collecting and donating rupees two and half lakhs to the fund. He also bore the expenses for the entire tour.
Avinashilingam was arrested four times, in 1930, 1932, 1941 and 1942. When his final prison term came to an end in 1944, he entered provincial politics and was elected to the Madras Legislative Council in 1946. He was also a member of the Imperial Legislative Council from 1935 to 1945
Avinashilingam was elected to the Lok Sabha from Tiruppur and served as a member of parliament from 1952 to 1957. Avinashilingam also served as the Member of the Rajya Sabha from 1958 to 1964.
In his later life, Avinashilingam served as the chairman of the committee which brought out a 10-part Children’s Encyclopedia in Tamil in 1975.
Avinashilingam died on 21 November 1991 at the age of 88.
Avinashilingam was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour for his contribution to education and literature in the year 1970. He is also the recipient of the G. D. Birla award and the 1985 Jamnalal Bajaj Award.
Avinashilingam established the Avinashilingam Home Science College for Women in 1957 In June 1988, this college became the Avinashilingam University for Women. In 2007, the Chancellor T. K. Shanmughanandam released a CD in memory of Avinashilingam Chettiar.