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CHETTY, Suberayaloo Palani

Born: 1890 07 23
Died: 1962 11 03

Architect


Born in South Africa, Chetty was apprenticed to a carpenter in Durban, a Mr Cato, before launching out on his own as a building contractor. He and his partner, B NAIKER, were responsible for many temple projects in and around Durban in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, two temples were built by them after 1940 (see Mikula 1982).

(Kearney 1971-5; Mikula 1982)

The following was written by Kumarasan Suberayaloo (Kumi) Chetty, grandson and namesake of KS CHETTY who also kindly sent us the photographs.

"This is a biography of my grandfather, SUBERAYALOO PALANI CHETTY, pioneer builder trading as SP CHETTY & SONS from the year 1912 to 1962. The business then continued trading to the late 1980’s, run by his sons.

I am fiercely proud of my grandfather, the late SP Chetty (23rd July -year unknown -3rd November 1962), widely regarded by family members as being the first Indian Building contractor in KZN (by word of mouth I could be wrong here), his company SP Chetty & sons was established in 1912.

Famous Buildings:
Valbro Chambers: First Indian high rise building (8 storey's - 1950's)

Many old buildings in Central Durban and Pinetown too many to mention.

First refurbishment of historic Phoenix Settlement in 1953 - see picture above he is seen with his 7 son's and flanked on either side by family members of the Premji Jeweller's.

What was so special about him then? Despite his humble beginnings he rose up to be one of the entrepreneurs of his time (at the height of his business success, he had 100 employees).

His Heritage:

His Father:
Name of emigrant: Palani Shetty
Father's Name: Shapan Shetty
Name of ship: Coldstream (Madras)
Date of Arrival: 1882 April
Colonial No: 26321
Age:28 years
Employer : Equeefa Estates( Hawksworth Brother Avoca Durban) Sugar

His Mother:
Name of emigrant: Goundammall (should be Govindama)
Father's Name: Muthia Naik
Name of ship: Pongola III (Madras)
Date of Arrival: 1890 February
Colonial No: 40592
Age:20 years
Employer : Equeefa Estates( Hawksworth Brother Avoca Durban) Sugar

My grandfather espoused the entrepreneurial spirit of our great forefathers. From a young age he worked as a servant in the Cato family household, Cato (Probably a relative or son of Mayor George Cato) saw the talents of this young man and took him on as an apprentice carpenter. He first worked in the roads department and then moved into building & construction. His great passion in building was the numerous Temples he built between the early to mid twentieth century. Taken from - Mikula P, Kearney B and Harber R, 1982. Traditional Hindu Temples in South Africa. Durban: Hindu Temple Publications. p, 16. - makes very interesting reading some other great indian people of the time are mentioned here like the "Great Temple Sculptor" Barasathi NAICKER.

He had a very strong community focus - he built the first school in Mariannhill and provided transport to many people in need in those days. I am told that he liked cars and owned cars (from the 1920's till his death in 1962. Sadly the family tradition of building is now all but lost, the last 2 great temple builders in our family were my Father Pathbanathan (Boy) CHETTY (1931-2004) and his brother TSP (Rathnam) CHETTY (1918-1996) are now late.

Driving past the numerous buildings my grandfather built, quite a few are still around gives me a great sense of pride, if I have a regret, it is the fact that I did not follow the footsteps of a great man that even today inspires me everyday of my life."

Books citing CHETTY

Mikula, P, Kearney, B. 1982. Traditional Hindu Temples in South Africa. Durban: Hindu Temple Publications. pp 16, 64-67, 81, 82, 92, 93, 104, 105