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A Mangalorean PM and his RBI Governor Brother: The Extraordinary story of the Benegal Brothers

A Mangalorean PM and his RBI Governor Brother: The Extraordinary story of the Benegal Brothers

A Mangalorean PM and his RBI Governor Brother: The Extraordinary story of the Benegal Brothers

Mangalore Today News Network

By Dr. Anil Shetty

Mangaluru, March 1, 2019:
What if I told you that a Mangalorean was once a Prime Minister and was also one of the principal framers of the Constitution of India? And that his equally accomplished brother was the longest serving Governor of the Reserve Bank of India? The headline might sound like click bait, but all of it is true - this is the incredible true story of Mangalore’s Benegal brothers.  

Our city has had many eminent and distinguished citizens but probably the most illustrious family ever in Mangalore and probably one of the most illustrious in this country was the Benegal family. But sadly, hardly anyone knows that these super achievers were Mangaloreans nor is Mangalore associated with their numerous accomplishments, something this article hopes to remedy. The sons of Benegal Raghavendra Rau an eminent doctor in Mangalore, the eldest son and probably the least well known among the siblings, Benegal Sanjiv Rau, was a Dean of Benares University.

Benegal brothers

Sir Benegal Narsing Rau, Sir Benegal Rama Rau and Benegal Shiva Rao

The second son Sir Benegal Narsing Rau, was born in 1887 in Mangalore. He studied at Canara School and was the topper in the Madras Presidency and joined Presidency College, Madras. There he earned degrees in English, Sanskrit, Physics and Mathematics. He then obtained a scholarship which enabled him to study at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1909 he returned to India and cleared the Indian Civil Service Examination and joined the Civil Service but shortly thereafter shifted to the judiciary. Due to his stellar work he was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1934. In 1935 he was appointed as a judge of the Calcutta High Court. He also chaired the Indus Water Commission on the sharing of river water between Punjab and Sind.

He was knighted in 1938, retired from service in 1944 and was then appointed as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir! Yes, I am not making any of this up. He was appointed the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir from February 1944 to June 1945 by the Dogra Kings. The chief executive of Jammu and Kashmir was called the Prime Minister and this continued even after Independence until March 1965, when the elected post was re-designated as the Chief Minister after a constitutional amendment. In 1945 Sir Benegal Narsing Rau resigned from the post of the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir following major differences with the Maharaja of Kashmir.

In 1946, he was invited by U Aung San, the Prime Minister of Burma to assist in drafting their constitution. After completing his task there, he began working at the reforms office of the Government of India and was subsequently appointed as the constitutional advisor to the Constituent Assembly.  So the first draft of the Indian constitution was prepared by a Mangalorean! Sir BN Rau prepared 243 articles of the constitution. Later the drafting committee headed by Dr B. R. Ambedkar expanded it to 315 articles. Dr Ambedkar himself credits Sir Benegal Narsing Rau for doing a major portion of the work of drafting the Constitution. From 1949 to 1952 he served as India’s permanent representative at the United Nations and was the President of the United Nations Security Council in 1950. In 1952 he began to serve on the bench of the International Court of Justice but a year into his tenure he succumbed to ill health and died at Zurich in 1953.                                     

The third brother, Sir Benegal Rama Rau was born in 1889. Like his elder sibling he too studied at Presidency College in Chennai, and then further at King’s College in Cambridge. Following his brother’s career path, he joined the civil service in 1919, worked as undersecretary and then deputy secretary to the Government of Madras and subsequently as Secretary to the Government of India first at the finance department and then the industries department. Later he was the Deputy High Commissioner for India in London from 1934 to 1938 and High Commissioner of India to South Africa from 1939 to 1941. In 1939 before he was elevated to High Commissioner he, like his brother earlier, was knighted.

currency note bearing B. Rama Rau signature

An Indian currency note bearing B. Rama Rau’s signature as the Governor of Reserve Bank of India. He is the longest serving governor of RBI and also the second to resign.

He was appointed the first ambassador to Japan in 1947, and in 1948, the Indian ambassador to the U.S. From July 1949 to January 1957 he served as the 4th Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Among all the Governors of the RBI, past and present, he holds the longest tenure. Sir Benegal Rau resigned from the post of the Governor of the RBI because of serious differences with the then Finance Minister of India T. T. Krishnamachari, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sided with his Finance Minister and this made the Governor s position untenable and he gracefully resigned.

Sir Benegal Rama Rau’s wife, Lady Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, was as illustrious as her RBI Governor husband. A Kashmiri pandit raised in Hubli, she had first met her husband in Madras.  She founded the Family Planning Association of India and served as the President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1959.

The youngest brother, Benegal Shiva Rau was born in Mangalore in 1891. He graduated like his brothers from Presidency College in Chennai, worked as a journalist for the Hindu and then the Manchester Guardian. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly and a member of the Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1957 and the Rajya Sabha from 1957-1960. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan. He died in 1975.

The family name ’Benegal’ comes from Benegal a small village between Karkala and Mangalore. The Raus were Chitrapur Brahmins. Like the Jews and Parsis, this small community of 30,000 people has had an overwhelming influence on society. Today it seems we have consigned to oblivion our city’s and its citizens’ history. Nostalgia often renders a rose tinted perspective of the past, but sometimes we have to look back at our glorious past to realize the accomplishments and contributions of our forefathers, the great deeds and significant actions that shaped our present and will determine our future.    

Dr Anil ShettyDr Anil Shetty is a Professor of Pediatrics at Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore. He is an avid chronicler of Mangalore’s past.




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Comments on this Article
Gokul Rathi, Pune Tue, July-27-2021, 11:34
No doubt, the Benegal brothers have contributed immensely to the development of this country. Sir Narsi Raju’s contribution in drafting the Constitution which has stood the test of time, is not well researched nor made public. He studied constitutions of different countries and prepared a draft , in record time, which didn’t need much debate. It laid a strong foundation for the new Republic for ages to come. His brother Rama Rau stood for the autonomy independence of RBI. Truly, they were great patriots.
Ashwin Benegal, Mumbai Wed, February-10-2021, 10:36
Thank you Dr. Anil shetty for this wonderful Share! I feel honoured and immensely lucky to have been born in this illustrious family! Had visited my small Benegal hamlet few years ago! It so beautiful! Thank you once again sir! . Best. Ashwin Benegal
Raghuveera Acharya, Adikmet Thu, February-4-2021, 10:52
Feel proud to be an Indian and a Mangalorian. Thanks to Anil Shetty for this valuable information
Dr.T.Mohan, Delhi Tue, January-19-2021, 12:30
Thanks for taking somuch pain to give us knowledge about this illustrious family. Who have contributed so much for our nation building. Children should know their stories and be motivated. Thanks to Dr Shetty once again for great research.
Shashidhara M, Bangalore Tue, July-7-2020, 8:20
Yes, Sri Divakar. The Benegal village is near Brahmavr, Cherkady and Kokkarne. But their ancestors long ago migrated to Mangalore. The father of our benegal brothers Sri Raghavendra Rao was a Medical Officer in Madra Presidency of British India and he was settled in Mangalore.
Jai Kumar, Bangalore Sat, March-21-2020, 11:07
Dr.Shetty, Ian glad to learn about Sir.B.N.Rau in a Personel letter to SRI.Nehru by Dr.Karan Singh,Successor/Regent of The Kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir,in his book Examined Life.I am more happy to learn about his brothers.God Bless.
Santhosh K Hegde, Udupi / Mangaluru Wed, October-16-2019, 12:03
Good to know the recent/past history of our own 3 great Brothers born South Kanara.
vishwanath Nayak, MangaloreUSA Sat, October-12-2019, 2:15
Thanks Mr.Anil.Shetty. Very nice artical, mangalore mangaloreans and karnataka people might not be knowing about this ( including my self), now I know. Thanks once again? Does that mean Sham Benegal ( Bharath eka khoj) is also a mangalorea? just curious
Rashmi Fauzdar, Chandigarh Sun, April-7-2019, 3:47
Being an RBIit, I found the story fascinating. Though familiar with achievements of Governor Rama Rau, was not aware of others. Thank you for sharing., India Thu, March-7-2019, 5:20
Thanks Dr Shetty, for keeping alive the memory of the Benegal brothers through this article. Readers of this article may also be interested in the book "The Benegal Brothers: The story of a family and its times 1864-1975" ( by Kanchan Karopady Bannerjee) which chronicles the lives and contributions of the quartet in great detail. It’s available for free download at
Dr shwetha Shivakumar, Haveri Wed, March-6-2019, 12:33
The long lost past of BENEGAL BROTHERS of mangalore was indeed a glory to read. Thank you for sharing Mr. Shetty,for you have enhanced our knowledge. Do continue the noble work.
Chanchala Rao, Karkala/ Bangalore Mon, March-4-2019, 3:07
Very useful and encouraging information for all Mangaloreans!
Divakar, Mangalore Sun, March-3-2019, 11:47
Is Benegal near Brahmavar Cherkady? and not between Karkala and Mangalore?
Gurudatt Kundapurkar, Kundapura/Pune Sun, March-3-2019, 9:56
Dr.Shetty, thanks a million for your well-researched article on the Benegal brothers, who contributed to the making of modern India in their own scholarly patriotic ways. If Bharat Ratna could be awarded posthumously, you have identified three such illustrious sons of Bharat Mata in the true sense. Gratitude, sir, for your yeomen service to the Mangaloreans and the Indians through your research-based articles.
Nirupama Satish Pai, Mangalore/ Bombay Sun, March-3-2019, 12:52
Very interesting info. Thank you.
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