Mangaluru: Corporation Bank founder Haji Abdullah, though died in debt, evokes nostalgia

By John B Monteiro

Mangaluru, Oct 30: An hour-long documentary, 'Haji Abdullah (1882-1935)', who lived in Udipi (the present Udupi) and founded Corporation Bank (CorpBank), the first of the nationalised banks to be founded in Tulunadu, will be released at the MGM College campus on October 30, 2017. It will also be uploaded on YouTube.

Produced by ‘Being Social’ team, it is claimed to be the first documentary on Haji Abdullah that focuses on his life and achievements. It is interesting to recall the life of this colourful man, who founded CorpBank on March 12, 1906. Incidentally, Canara Bank, the second nationalised bank of the undivided district, was founded on July 1,1906 by Amembal Subba Rao.

Against this background, it is interesting to go back and highlight the life and role of the Founder – Khan Bahadur Haji Abdullah Haji Kasim Saheb Bahadur (Haji Abdullah).

Beginning of a vision

“The public are hereby informed that at a meeting of the principal residents of Udipi held on 11th and 18th instant it has been decided to start an Association styled ‘The Canara Banking Corporation (Udipi) Ltd.’ (after explaining the objects and advantages, the letter continued). It will thus be seen that the primary object in forming the ‘Corporation’ is not only to cultivate habits of thrift among all classes of people, without distinction of caste or creed, but also habits of co-operation among all classes. This is ‘Swadeshism’ pure and simple, and every lover of the country is expected to come forward and co-operate in achieving the end in view. All possible guarantee is offered by the rules for the safety of the funds and their good management. The business will be started from 16th March…”

This is an excerpt from the first official letter, dated February 19, 1906, written by Haji Abdullah under his signature sent to the public, mainly of Udipi. The bank was projected to start, and did, on March 16, 1906 under the title of 'Canara Banking Corporation (Udipi) Ltd.' – the first such bank in Tulunadu. The only other bank functioning then was the Mangalore Branch of Bank of Madras opened in 1868, the predecessor of today’s State Bank of India. That bank was elitist catering mainly to the whites and leading locals. Udipi was served through the visit of British Agent of the bank’s Mangalore Branch once a fortnight. The local system of raising loans comprising Holy, Kuri and Hundi was marked by high interest rates. It was in this context that Abdulla took the initiative to start a bank in Udipi.

Cosmopolitan Bank

Though a Muslim, Abdullah was highly regarded as a leading merchant and landholder. That is how he could carry with him the 12 first Directors of the bank which had only one other Muslim. He was the only Muslim among the 10 signatories to the Memorandum of Association sent for registration on May 13, 1906. But, he walked tall as Founder President of the bank from 1906 to 1929, with short breaks during his Haj pilgrimage. Abdullah brought to the bank not only his prestige and resources but also the participation of fellow Muslims, rich traders of the time, as shareholders of the bank. In 1908, community-wise, Muslims were the largest shareholders – 251 in number representing an amount of Rs.57,609. The other leading shareholders were Saraswaths, 850 (Rs.33,273); Gowd Saraswaths, 376 (Rs.33,003); Shivali, 299 (Rs.16,704); Catholics, 66 (Rs.6,172); and Protestants, 33 (Rs.1,309). Thus, at its very inception the bank had acquired a cosmopolitan character.

It is significant to note that the first office of the bank was started in a portion of Abdullah’s palatial mansion in Udipi. The founders of banks are so gratefully remembered that some banks, like the Founders Day is annually celebrated by Vijaya Bank with the twin display of the portraits of its founder, Attavar Balakrishna Shetty (1882-1960), Founder-Chairman, and Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty (1915-1981),Architect of Modern Vijaya Bank. As for Abdullah, a street next to his mansion is named after him and to mark the centenary of Corporation Bank, his statue has been unveiled in Udipi. His photo is featured on the Bank’s Annual Reports.

Born with a golden spoon

According to the late M. V. Kamath, who wrote the bank’s history, Corporation Bank – A Corporate Journey, Abdullah was a Deccani Muslim and possibly of Turkish origin whose ancestors had migrated from the Deccan to South Kanara. His father, Haji Kasim Haji Budan Saheb, was a rich landlord. Abdullah had no children. His family owned large tracts of agricultural land in the district. His share of wealth was about 1,000 murrahs of rice annually. He was the sole distributing agent for Wimco matches for the whole of the then Madras Presidency. He traded in dried fish in partnership with the head of the fishing community of Malpe (Madhwaraj). He also traded in dry fruits imported from Arabia. His family lived lavishly. Kamath, quoting (also the late) A. Wahab Doddamane in his book Muslims of South Kanara, refers to how Abdullah’s father celebrated his eldest son’s circumcision ceremony by feeding members of all communities with their own special brand of food. Brahmins were given dakshine (monetary presents) on the occasion. Abdullah’s father had the reputation of distributing one murrah of rice every day to the poor and needy.

Man of varied interests

Abdullah was the first in Udipi to own a car. He was said to be the first one to introduce coffee as the breakfast drink. This fashion started by Abdullah has taken Udipi (a brand name now) far as hoteliers to the nation and beyond. Unlike Muslims of the time, he attended regular secular schools and passed SSLC. He was a well-read man, enjoyed Hindusthani classics and patronised Hindusthani musicians. He lived a disciplined life going out for walks in the morning and playing tennis in the evening. He presided over a meeting addressed by Mahatma Gandhi, during his visit to Mangalore on August 19, 1920, at the Central Maidan. He held public offices from Panchayat level to Madras Legislative Council. He was a member of Central Legislature and visited Delhi often. He was conferred by the government the title of Khan Saheb in 1909 and Khan Bahadur in 1920.

Philanthropist to the core

Abdullah’s generosity knew no bounds. But, at the end, his unbound charity was his undoing. After he relinquished his Presidentship of the bank in 1929, hard times overtook him and he went deeper and deeper into debt. Some said that Abdullah’s generosity exceeded his wisdom. Abdullah, who once lived like a king in a palatial house and bestowed his generosity on others, had gone broke. The turn of events had unnerved him completely.

Tragic end

On the morning of August 12, 1935, he was found lying unconscious in his bed. Doctors tried to revive him in vain. He was 53 years at the time of his death. People from all over the district rushed to Udipi in their thousands to pay their homage. Many had been at one time or another recipients of his largesse or witness to his kindness. Brahmins and untouchables mixed freely on that day. Shopkeepers voluntarily observed a 'hartal' on two successive days. It was a spontaneous tribute to Udipi’s most loved and highly respected citizen.

It is apt that he is remembered on modern media and the producers of the documentary deserve kudos.


Top Stories

Comment on this article

  • Rizwan Shah, ALKHOBAR

    Sat, Nov 04 2017

    Haji Abdullah Saab, May Allah bless his soul with Jannah, is related to me from my great grandfather's side. He was no doubt a great luminary who made great contributions to South Kanara and Udipi in general.
    Starting a Bank those days for a Muslim (Where lending or borrowing money on interest is Strictly forbidden) had not been an easy task for Haji Saab[.
    But being quite a Cosmopolitan person that he was, Corporation Bank was set up with a larger purpose.
    He was large hearted and loved giving charity. His charity did not define religion, class, creed, and community among the beneficiaries.
    Though he lived most of his life like a King,, he died young at just 53 years of age in dire straits.
    But I would say he died Rich in Deeds by the charity and all the great contributions he had made to our Beloved Tulunad.
    May he be a Great Inspiration and a Role Model to us from South Kanara.
    We do need more people like him to bind us South Kanarians together especially when there are so many divisive forces poisoning the environment in this beautiful coastal land of ours.

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Arshad Hussain, Karkala

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    Proud to hail from his family. My great grandmother's brother he was....

    DisAgree [1] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel, Mangaluru

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    Thanks for the generous response to the article. While discussion/comments on interest-averse Islamic banking is an interesting subject in itself, in the case of Haji Abdullah, the founder of the present-day CorpBank, he was not acting as a Muslim but as Udipi-based Indian citizen. Thus, the intrusion of Islamic banking/interest by some respondents is misplaced. He founded the bank as a secular act involving all the communities as reflected in the break-up of shareholders from all communities given in the article.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • sri_elder, Karkala

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    This article is carries correct information.
    I asked my father. His grandfather or my great grandfather told my father about those information. Initially he used visit surrounding places in Karkala in gode ghadi or horse cart seems. Later he bought car. And people used to run and see the first car it seems. And moreover he was trading and exporting sandal wood oil it seems...

    DisAgree Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Don, Mangalore

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    A great man and I salute his achievements, may he continue to rest in peace.

    Robin, Byndoor

    In short Islamic banking is based on the non acceptance of "Riba" which translates as "interest". The topic of interest had also been debated in Christian churches in the yesteryears over the centuries much prior to modern day banking. When the Holy Bible said when you loan money (principle), do not take an additional monies back and this was termed as interest. Hence, when getting the principle back taking of any additional monies for the loan was forbidden. In today's universal banking interest is freely charged to the borrower and paid to the lender or depositor.

    In Islamic banking the use of "Riba"(interest) is forbidden, hence they take what is called "Faydha" (profit) and there are two ways of doing it. If you are salaried person who borrows from an Islamic bank say a hundred thousand rupees, and the repayment period is say 2 year they would add an additional fixed amount money as their profit. So , when you sign the loan application the amount being borrowed would be the principle of Rs.100,000.00 + say Rs. 15,000 would be fayda, so the total loan would be for Rs. 115,000.00 payable in 24 equal installments. Unlike in the universal banking system as you pay down the loan, the interest is lesser. In the Islamic system even if you prepay in o six months you still have to pay the full amount owing.

    The second way is if you are in business and need money Islamic bank will not give you hard cold cash as in traditional loans. However, say you are a builder and go to an Islamic bank for help, if you are approved they will purchase cement, steel or wood from the manufacturer or wholesaler and give it to you and keeping a markup which again is fayda and then when you repay you have for the cost of the merchandise + fayda.

    Nevertheless, in some schools of Islamic thought taking of interest if forbidden, but as a borrower it is permissible to pay interest.

    DisAgree Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Robin, Byndoor

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    Thank you Don....

    In today's world Islamic Banking system may not go well. But it is something interesting that generosity existed earlier. Today it is unimaginable.

    There are organizations issued loans cutting the first installments before giving loan only !!! We also saw that money never returned "Loan melas". Waiver (Mannaa) schemes. Pressuring to get loan and using Goondas to recover loan.

    Failed Nationalization.... For Privatization.... Public Sector .... Publicity Sector.... many more ideologies may be in queue.....

    Thank you...

    DisAgree [1] Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Rita, Germany

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    sad to know he died in debts.Thats why one should have a limit and overlook by givingout money.Recievers are many ,when one donates ,and give loans ,but paying back without reminder arent many.

    DisAgree Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mushtaq Paniyadi, Udupi, Dubai, U.A.E

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    "BEING SOCIAL" team has done a wonderful job by making a Documentary on Khan Bahadur Haji Abdullah Haji Kasim Saheb Bahadur (Haji Abdullah). the Founder of one and only Udupi Based Nationalized Bank that is Corporation Bank . this Documentary will help the up coming Generations to know about Haji Saheb ,

    Good luck & Thank you so much Being Social Team this Documentary will be a very successful one
    I believe this Documentary will be a Gift on Karnataka Rajyostava to Udupi peoples.

    Jai Hind.....
    Jai Karnataka.......
    Sare Jahan se Acha Hindustan Hamara...................

    DisAgree Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sethu, Mangalore

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    How this great visionary and founder of the Bank became insolvent and how the Bank was forcibly taken over, which may have lead to this tragedy, needs to be introspected by each of us who claims to be soul searchers of society. Be what it may, the great son of soil and messiah of poor deserved a better end.....! As a respectful homage, the descendants of those who may have driven him to penury shall not be allowed to celebrate his anniversary. The fact that he still lives in the heart of people at Udupi speaks for itself and Haji Abdullah does not require memoirs and monuments to remind his legacy to future generations....!.

    DisAgree Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    I salute Khan Bahadur Haji Abdullah Haji Kasim Saheb Bahadur (Haji Abdullah). I had the privilege to work in Corporation Bank for 37 years. Earlier I was getting a monthly salary; now after retirement, monthly pension.

    DisAgree Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Prashant Karkera, Hejamady/Mumbai

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    I was born & brought up in Udupi dist., but never heard and read about such a great soul, Mr. Haji Abdulla was indeed a legend in genoroicity, thanks daiji for publishing his life story

    DisAgree Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Hamdan, Udupi/Dubai

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    Dear Prashant,

    Most people knew him as Abdullah Sahukaar in Udupi.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    Most Nationalized Banks are on the verge of closure because of mounting NPA's ...

    DisAgree [3] Agree [21] Reply Report Abuse

  • sri_elder, Karkala

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    How about India post?

    DisAgree [5] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    Do I need to teach you English ...

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    Now where does India Post fit ...

    DisAgree [2] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • sri_elder, Karkala

    Tue, Oct 31 2017

    Did you forget that India post to accepted demonetized notes.
    They are equivalent to nationalized banks .
    But only government is the share holder.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Report Abuse

  • Phuku, Bangalore

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    Discussion is about great Haji Abdullah.

    Your topic on NPA, is due to Manmohan Singh, where loans were given out Left/right during UPA 2 rule in the form of freebies to appease certain vote bank pocket s

    DisAgree [13] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • sri_elder, Karkala

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    What was the price of first car?

    DisAgree [2] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Bhakta, Bangalore

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    Great person, will remain a legend forever.
    Truly ba secular and an INDIAN.

    Hope politicians will not take credit for all the celebrations.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [30] Reply Report Abuse

  • mavin, mangalore

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    truly inspiring individual .. such stories shed more light to the tolerance of coastal people during those days ... it might also be a mirror reflection to this generation as to how to lead life in truly mangalorean way ...

    DisAgree Agree [19] Reply Report Abuse

  • Robin, Byndoor

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    Saheb is one gem of undivided Dakshina Kannada who helped many needy and poor. No doubt.

    People of the past are more god feared, disciplined and ardent followers of their respective faith and epics.

    In this scenario I have a doubt. Muslims say it is improper to get Interest for the loans and if at all Interest is earned that money from interest should not be used for good work or self use. I have heard about that Muslim philosophy and generous gesture of Islmaic bank which does not collect interest.

    May some Muslim or other Pandits enlighten about this and how Corporation Bank Founder started this bank which is against the principles of Islamic Bank ?

    Healthy information please....

    DisAgree [4] Agree [28] Reply Report Abuse

  • Nawaz, Udupi/ Kuwait

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    It is unlawful in Islam for a lender to give loan to the borrower with an understanding that the borrower would return the basic amount along with some extra money.

    The lender can give the loan to the borrower with an agreement that they (or borrower) would do some business and mutually share the risk (either the profit or loss )

    A faithful Muslim cannot do business involving interest as taking Interest is one of the biggest sins in Islam.

    DisAgree [7] Agree [29] Reply Report Abuse

  • Bhakta, Mysore

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    We are in 21st century.
    Service rendered by Haji Abdullah is remembered with reverance by thousands of families even today.

    Let's us not mix social service with human touch , with religion in this modern world.
    Come on let's cheer Sir Abdullah .

    DisAgree [1] Agree [26] Reply Report Abuse


    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    He is one of a few people who lost every thing for their generosity and large heart in serving the poor and needy. Such life stories inspire us.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [76] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dayananda Bangera, Katapady / Abu Dhabi UAE

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    I don't know how much it is true....I heard close aides of him are cheated him badly......otherwise such a rich person died in debt ?.........shocking......very sad...

    DisAgree [1] Agree [27] Reply Report Abuse

  • Aubb, Kuwait

    Mon, Oct 30 2017

    I heard the same(sad) story too.
    People stabbed him in his back.

    DisAgree Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

Leave a Comment

Title: Mangaluru: Corporation Bank founder Haji Abdullah, though died in debt, evokes nostalgia

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.

Security Validation

Enter the characters in the image