K. Venkataswami Naidu belonged to an ancient family of Naicks. His ancestor Beri Thimmappa had built two temples, one of Vishnu and the other of Shiva, in Devaraja Mudali Street in George Town – the Chennakesavaperumal and Chennamalleswara temples. Thimmappa held a seat in the Council and a salute of five guns was fired whenever he paid a visit to the Agent or Governor of Madras on Pongal days. He was presented with six yards of superfine scarlet on that occasion.
Venkataswami’s father K.T. Bashyam Naidu was known for his piety and generosity. Mother Srimathi Andalammal, who died when Venkataswami was young, belonged to the famous Bandla family. Their uncle K. Narayanappah Naidu and aunt Srimathi Narasammal looked after Venkataswami and his brothers. The uncle and his nephews built Appah & Company, which has a history of 60-plus years.
Venkataswami had his education in the institutions connected with the Pachaiyappa’s Charities. The Students’ Club there laid the foundation for his public work. It enabled him to get rid of his shyness and take part in meetings and excursions. Venkataswami studied law and became an apprentice under T. Ethiraja Mudaliyar and P. Venkataramana Rao. The early religious training he had under his father and some Vaishnavite bhaktas made him a great enthusiast for religious study and propaganda. Years later, in 1952, when Rajaji became the Chief Minister of Madras State, he included Venkataswami Naidu in his cabinet and gave him the portfolio of Hindu Religious Endowments. As President of the Tirumalai Tirupati Devasthanam Committee he initiated a number of useful and popular schemes.
Venkataswami was a trustee of the Pachaiyappa’s Charities for two and a half decades. In 1927, he, along with S. Duraiswami Iyer and N. Krishnamachari, filed a suit in the High Court of Madras and secured admission for Harijans in the educational institutions managed by the Charities. He was responsible for the foundation of the new Pachaiyappa’s College buildings at Chetput.
Like Thimmappa, Venkataswami took a great interest in civic matters. In 1928, he became a Councillor of the Corporation of Madras and continued in that post till 1952. He was the leader of the Congress Municipal party for 15 years. Venkataswami joined the Indian National Congress in November 1936. He contested the general elections the following year and topped the polls in the Madras City Constituency. He was elected Deputy President of the Madras Legislative Council. He became Mayor of the Corporation during 1938-39. He preached against war and was sentenced to the Trichy Jail for six months imprisonment.
Venkataswami was also connected with the Corporation Boy Scouts’ Association and was responsible for bringing about the merger of several scout organisations.
A genial host, he loved entertaining people. His devoted wife Srimathi Varalakshmiammal, who also belonged to the Bandla family, served him till the end.