Robert Clive or Edward Clive - Who gave the gift to the Hindu god, Kanchipuram?

Gen. Edward Clive, Madras  Presidency. Art U

Varadharaja Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram India Travel Site

Varadharaja Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, dedicated to Lord Vishnu  is one of the Divya Desams, the 108 temples of Vishnu believed to have been visited by the 12 poet saints, or  Azhwars. They lived between 5th century to 10th century CE, and are venerated especially in Vaishnavism, which believes that  Vishnu or Krishna is  the Supreme Being. The great exponent of   Visishtadvaita  philosophy, Sri Ramanuja is said to have resided in this temple. This temple of great antiquity  is also famous for a different reason. It has the unique distinction of possessing Maharakandi -  grand necklace  purported to have been gifted by none other than Robert Clive, the man who built the foundation for the British Empire  and  as we know that he took up the first job in East India company at Madras (Chennai)  and  rose from a lowly  clerical position to a powerful post by dint of hard work, intelligence and superior quality of  administrative and military leadership without the advantage of the  luxury of good  English education unlike  other  English offers . 

Robert Clive EIC, India.Pinterest

Recently I ran into an article by S. Muthiah  (November 19, 2016; The Hindu ) about the jewelry presented by Robert Clive to the Vishnu temple at Kanchi. Mr. Muthaiah writes many interesting articles on matters related to social history, culture, etc., with particular reference to Madras and the surrounding areas, etc. As for the gift by Robert to the Hindu temple at Kanchipuram, the deity  is adorned with the grand necklace  on certain festival days like Brahmotsavam, etc. Muthiah, unmindful of the temple records, questions the veracity of the story about the donor of the necklace. He is of the opinion that, considering Robert Clive's early job status and low salary in May 1744 , later his preoccupation with wars in the Trichinopoly district and Arcot, his trips back to England in between,  his official engagement in  Bengal and  the  limited mobility of the English out of their jurisdiction except on war expeditions, it is likely that he might not have gifted the  Maharakandi to the Perumal temple. When working  in the southern part of India,  Robert was not rich enough to be generous to give away a highly valuable gift that too to a Hindu temple in a town far away from Madras. Robert left for England in 1763 after amazing vast wealth beyond his expectation.

Mr. Muthiah further mentions: The other possible English candidate who gave the gift to the temple could have been his son Edward Clive who was the Governor of Madras Presidency  1799-1805 and his area of authority included many parts of the south, including Kanchipuram.  Being rich, enjoying the estate of Robert Clive, he could afford a gift to the temple. Given his background  and his inclination towards  worldly pleasures and lavish parties for which he had built the Banqueting hall (now called Rajaji Hall) in Madras (Chennai), it is likely that he was not  a worthy donor. 

 The other version has it that Robert took part in a battle near Kanchipuram on the way back from Trichinopoly  to relieve the town from the siege  and in the war he had a narrow escape from near death when a canon fell near him. 

Varadharaja Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, Dinamalar

Another Clive biographer claims that Robert Clive caught in a severe thunderstorm took shelter in the Varadaraja Perumal temple where he fell ill seriously. He miraculously recovered the following day after his prayer to the deity in the temple. It is likely. as a token of his gratitude to the Hindu God,  he made the gift to the Vishnu temple.

There is yet another account about the necklace presented to the temple. As  published by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam , it is said that it was “Clive the Governor of Madras who donated the jewel.” As we know Robert Clive was never the Governor of Madras. He began his carrier as a writer and circumstances made him lead the British army in the Carnatic war and later to Bengal to repossess Ft. William that had been taken over by Nawab Siraj.  He got a name only in Bengal, though he liberated  Trichinopoly that was seized by Chanda Sahib. His son Edward, on a visit to Kanchipuram,  saw a grand  temple procession and was impressed by the beautiful idol of Perumal.  Upon his request his wife presented the necklace she was wearing to the Lord!

The Varadaraja Perumal Temple records point out the gift was from Clive. Was it from Robert or his son Edward?  That temple  records fail to  mention the first name causes  the confusion over the donor and it may remain a bone of contention till a bonafide record, confirming the donor of the gift surfaces. Till then we have to keep our fingers crossed. 

Anyway, the Clives - both senior and junior  are  associated with this popular deity and I am sure whatever sins Robert Clive had committed during his long stay in India, this wonderful gift to the Hindu god might absolve him of  all his sins committed wittingly or unwittingly.