This article explores the ways in which Pachaiyappa Mudaliar (1754?–1794) has been panegyrized as the quintessential benefactor of our times in Tamil prose, poetry, and pictures over the course of the past century and a half. In the bureaucratic and legal documents of the colonial state, he appears as a rapacious moneylender and behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealer, a member of that hated class of ‘Madras dubashes’, a ‘most diabolical race of men’. In contrast, Tamil memory work since at least the 1840s has differently recalled this shadowy eighteenth-century man as a selfless philanthropist whose vast wealth financed some of the earliest educational institutions in the Madras Presidency. I track the posthumous fate of Pachaiyappa's bequest to argue that even as the founding of the public trust and its educational philanthropy departed radically from his willed intentions, a new complex of living, dying, and giving for the sake of native education was put in place in the Tamil country in the age of colonial capital and pedagogic modernity.
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