Late Adigar Naganather
Twenty five years ago, this month, pessed away one of the colourful personalities of Ceylon, Adigar A. Naganather, C.B.E., J.P. U.M. It is in the lives of citizens like the late Adigar that we discern the earliest examples of lofty ideals and simple habits, on which so much emphasis has been laid by our leaders from Independence to date. He wore the mantle of aristocracy as he wore his shawl with ease, without pomp or ostentation.
No home was too humble for the Adigar to visit and no worthy cause was too small to have his blessings and unstinted support. This rich and exemplary life lasted a record span of 103 years, at which age, 25 years ago he died in retirement in his native village of Kopay, Jaffna.
His career as a Guarantee Shroff, perhaps the most prestigious financial post in those days, commenced in 1877 with the Oriental Banking Corporation and the New Oriental Banking Corporation. In 1892 the Adigar pioneered the establishment in the Upcountry of the first of the existing British banks (or their successors) in Sri Lanka, namely the National Bank of India Ltd., Nuwara Eliya.
It is significant in the context of the endeavours made today to establish a dialogue between the Sinhalese and Tamils for national unity that Adigar Naganather’s feeling of fellowship and friendliness towards the Sinhala people was reflected, among other things, in the unique reception given him in Jaffna on the occasion of his being conferred with the title of Adigar of the Tamils, when the Diyawadana Nilame of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Kandy, at that time, and a troupe of Kandyan dancers made a special trip to Jaffna to join in the reception to the new Tamil Adigar.
Much of what we talk of today as ideals was part and parcel of the lives of men of the calibre of the late Adigar.