Famous Personalities





It is a little less than 60 years back that the curtains fell upon one of the glorious careers that Mattancherry had witnessed within living memory by the demise of Sri POPATLAL.


Sri Popatlal's example comes as a pleasing relief to the common run of philanthropists, for not only did he confer benefits but had catapulted many persons into positions from where they need no longer look for his help. This is the real motif of all his acts of benefits, charity or generosity.

His only motto in life was love and service. He was also free from communal prejudice, and was helping his friends without any such distinctions. He had friends both among Muslims and Christians who had received generous help from him to build up their fortune and who are today in a will-to-do position.

A man of vision, he was equally alive to the cause of social reforms in the State. His name shall ever remain associated with the cause of the relief of the poor and the downtrodden classes of the society. In fact his was such a distinguished and unique personality to whom was attached all the national activities of the State. There was not a single institution in Cochin, which had not been benefited through Sri Lalan irrespective of its communal label.

It is impossible to convey an adequate idea of the way in which POPATLAL received and entertained persons of different ranks without any distinction. He was never known to have refused any one, a trait, which characterizes only the very noble and consequently rare individuals.


This great business magnate was also a great believer in education as the great solvent of the numerous problems with which our country is confronted. As the President of the Gujarati Vidyalaya, Cochin, for many years, he never hesitated at any time to extend help to the poor and needy pupils irrespective of caste and creed. He was an ardent exponent of commercial education and had an idea of starting a College of Commerce at Mattancherry, but due to his untimely death he was not able to fulfill his cherished ambition.

He was helping a large number of students in their education during his lifetime. He was even for creating a permanent fund for the education of the poor children. His views on the education of women is borne out by the example that he set in sending his own daughter to School disregarding the custom to the contrary among the Gujaraties at that period of time, thus blazing a new trail which others of his community followed. It was one of his hopes, which he often expressed, to see a High School for girls started in Mattancherry, and had even moved the authorities.


Late Mr. Popatlal was primarily known throughout the State and beyond it as a very big businessman. There is no business concern in the State in which he had no hand. He was the founder, as was stated by the Mover, of the Indo-Mercantile Bank, which is the first Bank registered in our State to become a Scheduled bank. He was friend of the poor and there is hardly any one in the State or outside it who has appealed for any help and did not get the same from him.

There is no field of activity, which he left untouched. It was however in the field of business that his great talents manifested themselves. A keen insight into human nature coupled with unusual prudence and ability in organization easily marked him out as an outstanding figure in the business community. His great services as the Managing Director of the Indo-Mercantile Bank Ltd., and as Chairman of many Mercantile and Banking institutions as well known to need any enumeration. The fact that he represented the mercantile community in the Cochin Legislative Council for some time is in itself an indication of the great popularity, hold and influence he wielded among them. It was nothing but his sheer worth and mettle, which enabled him to preside over the Indian chamber of Commerce and hold the destinies of a flourishing and well-known Bank for a long time.

A colourful and dynamic personality, he was a friend, philosopher and guide to a wide circle of his fellow-citizens, extending to them his helping hand in times of distress and difficulties, for no one who approached him for help, advice or guidance had to return disappointed.


The most remarkable feature of his character was his deep religious nature. Endowed with enormous wealth, Sri Lalan was a favourite child of the Goddess of wealth. But Pride, the natural follower of that Goddess, never even approached him. In him was seen a curious mingling of wealth and humanity. Always loving, always kind, he was, to all his friends. Though living a rich and luxurious life, he never slighted the poor. Like that of Providence, his generosity was unique. He would never utter a single harsh word even to his servants. Intensely religious as heart, he never forgot God in his prosperity.

Add to this, his love for the dumb animals was perhaps greater than his love for his fellow-beings. The stopping of animal sacrifice at the Sri Bhagavathi Devi Temple, Amaravathy, British Cochin and in other temples far and near, was the fruit of his untiring efforts.

Sri Popatlal was a strong advocate of the protection of cows and other animals and did a great service for a long period as the President of the Panjirapole, Cochin.

He was also instrumental in shaping the Cochin Jain temple to its present form. He was a member of the trust board and during his tenure the temple underwent many modification and expansion. His family built the Chandraprabh temple and handed over to the sangh.


His nomination as the Honorary Magistrate at the early age of 24 heralded the entry of a career in the public life at once full of promise and service to the public.
As a member of the Cochin Legislative Council to which he was elected for three successive terms, young Popatlal brought his sound instructive business acumen and his knowledge of men and affairs to bear upon the discussions of various problems of the State. During his membership he played an important role in shaping the industrial and commercial policy of the State. Sri Lalan came to be easily recognized as a stalwart especially in commercial and financial matters with regard to which there was hardly anyone to beat him either on official or on non-official side in the State.

One of his great ambitions in life was to improve the town of Mattancherry and for that purpose alone he consented to become its Chairman. In Mr. Popatlal's death His highness had lost a loyal subject, the State a business magnate, the poor a king of philanthropists, and his friends, a sincere and loving companion.

Mr. Popatlal died as the Chairman of the Mattancherry Municipal Council, an ex-member of the Cochin Legislative Council and the President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Cochin. The deceased Mr. Popatlal was the organizer and Managing Director of the Indo-Mercantile Bank Ltd., ever since it was established and by his undue influence and perseverance, it became a scheduled bank at Cochin.

The flower, which grew and blossomed during forty-five summers, had all too soon and unexpectedly withered away leaving its fragrance to the world. It is now left for his survivors to capture and preserve this fragrance by fulfilling those desires and hopes which were dear to him. There may be greater brains among us, but not larger hearts. Lets strive to keep his legacy alive.