Kamarajar was born on July 15, 1903, in a family of traders at Virudunagar. His real name was Kamakshi Kumaraswamy Nadar but was affectionately shortened to Raja by his mother, Sivakami Ammal. His father, Kumarswamy Nadar, was a coconut merchant. Kamarajar was enrolled at the local elementary school, the Nayanar Vidyalaya but was later shifted to the high school Kshatriya Vidyalaya.
Unfortunately his father died within a year of Kamarajarar’s enrollment in school. Kamarajar’s mother sold all jewellery except her earrings and deposited the money with a local merchant and cared for the entire family on the monthly interest that the money earned.
Kamarajar was not a good student in school and dropped out when he was in the sixth grade. When he entered mainstream public life he felt handicapped and realized the importance of a good education. He educated himself during his periods of imprisonment and even learned English from his co-worker.
Kamarajar joined as an apprentice in his maternal uncle Karuppiah’s cloth shop after dropping out of school. He would slip out from the shop to join processions and attend public meetings addressed by orators like Dr. Varadarajulu Naidu and George Joseph. His relatives frowned upon Kamarajar‘s budding interest in politics. They sent him to Thiruvananthapuram to work at another uncle’s timer shop. Even there Kamarajar participated in the Vaikom Satyagraha led by George Joseph, of the Congress, against the atrocities of the higher caste Hindus on the Harijans. His elders had him called back home and pressured him to marry. Kamarajar resolutely refused to bow to the dictates of his elders.
At the age of 16, Kamarajar enrolled himself as full-time worker of the Congress. He participated in inviting speakers, organizing meetings and collecting funds for the party. He also participated in the march to Vedaranyam led by Rajagopalachari as part of the Salt Satyagraha of March 1930.
Kamarajar’s political guru and inspiration was S. Satyamurti, orator and parliamentarian. Satyamurti was elected President of the Provincial Congress and he appointed Kamarajar the General Secretary. Four years later they swapped positions. The party base was strengthened under their leadership.
On April 13, 1954, K. Kamarajar reluctantly became the Chief Minister of Madras. To everyone’s surprise, Kamarajar nominated C. Subramaniam and M. Bhakthavatsalam, who had contested his leadership, to the newly formed cabinet. Kamarajar gave simple advice to his ministers, “Face the problem. Don’t evade it. Find a solution, however small… . People will be satisfied if you do something.” The State made immense strides in education and trade. New schools were opened, better facilities were added to existing ones. No village remained without a primary school and no panchayat without a high school. Kamarajar strove to eradicate illiteracy by introducing free and compulsory education upto eleventh standard. He introduced the Midday Meals Scheme to provide at least one meal per day to the lakhs of poor children. He introduced free school uniforms to weed out caste, creed and class distinctions among young minds.
Kamarajar remained Chief Minister for three consecutive terms. On October 2, 1963, he resigned to serve a greater purpose. Kamarajar noticed that the Congress party was slowly losing its vigor . He came up with a plan which was called the “Kamarajar Plan.” He proposed that all senior Congress leaders should resign from their posts and devote all their energy to the re-vitalization of the Congress. Six Chief Ministers and six Union Ministers resigned under the Plan. Kamarajar was elected President, Indian National Congress, on October 9, 1963. Twice he played a leading role in choosing the Prime Minister of India.
Kamarajar proved himself as Chief of all the C.Ms in India. He was the first C.M. who was in the post for a long period of 9 years . ie. from 1954 to 1963 unless he resigned the post voluntarily he would have continued to be the C.M.
He did his duty boldly and patiently without discourage. He listened to the views of the opposite parties. He easily solved the political problems. He attracted every one to his side. He listened to others without himself speaking . He never concentrated on his food or dress.
He honored the news reporters ,. He affectionately moved with photographers. He never angered with anyone. Listened the grievances and solved them immediately. He gave more data. Understood the problems easily and keenly studied the files. He did not like luxury , flattering and advertisement. Right from his young age Kamarajar never liked luxurious life . His food , dress and speech were very simple. But he was not a miser. When he was C.M. he used to spend most of his salary for the poor who came to him for help. He never uttered harsh words. Because of these habits he ornamented the C.M’s post . It would not be an exaggeration that the post got honored through him.
The words of W.R.S.Sathyanathan who was a high official were the evidence of the administration of Kamarajar. He served as Chief Secretary to the state under Kamarajar. He said that Kamarajar’s efficiency made him to respect him. Kamarajar was fast and clean in finalizing the things. He could judge people in a lightning speed who came to meet him.
He could solve even a sophisticated big problem within seconds. He approaches the problem directly. Judgment would be very clean. He detected the problems in an astonishing way. He used to read the files kept for his advice completely, then only he used to decide.
There was no village in our state which his feet never touched. Whatever the place whether mountain area or river side he could explain with evidences about the climate of that region.
A cup of coffee in the morning , lunch at 11.00 a.m. evening a cup of coffee and 2 Idlies and a cup of milk at supper were his daily food. His lunch was a simple vegetarian meal. Occasionally an egg would be added with his lunch. He never celebrated Hindu festivals. He used to get up from his bed at 7.am.
He gave interview to all whoever came to meet him. He never sent anyone without seeing . He helped all as far as possible. He never helped anyone on the basis of caste or creed. For genuine reasons he never hesitated to help. He used to read books before sleep , some times upto 2′o clock in the mid night . Sometimes he used to discuss serious political problems upto 5. A.M in the next morning. He used to have a nap after lunch. Just helped the needy ones. He never wounded anybody’s feelings . He moved friendly with everyone without political enmity.
On October 2, 1975, Gandhi Jayanti, Kamarajar awoke from his afternoon nap feeling uneasy. His housekeeper, Vairavan, rang up his physician. While he was on his way out, Kamarajar said, “Vairavan, put out the lights when you go out.” K. Kamarajar died that day. He was honored with the highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1976.