Born in a middle class family in 1904, at Elathur near Shengottah, Rajah lost his father, a petty shop keeper, when he was only six years old. His mother who possessed indomitable courage against all adversities, managed to educate her sons with whatever meager resources were left.Diligent and hardworking, studious and disciplined in his habits, the young Rajah won several prizes and medals in his course of studies. After matriculation, he went to Bombay and got himself a job as a customs clerk.
Rajah was always greatly impressed with the lives of Indian revolutionaries in their struggle to win freedom for their motherland from the British rule. He soon resigned his job and joined the Quit India movement, becoming the leader of 'The Bombay youth league' and later even formed 'The peoples' battalion, in order to fight the British. He was such a fierce fighter that the British announced huge rewards for his capture.
A noteworthy event in 1931, at the Yerwada jail, was that subsequent to the GANDHI IRWIN ORDINANCE, when all other freedom fighters were freed, Shri H.D.Rajah, alone was not let out, for fear of danger posed by him. It was at this instance that Mahathma Gandhi himself appealed, to set him free as otherwise he would get back in jail again.
‘From Sholapur - Oppressor Hot - son's seal in the Bombay secretariat in 1930 to Bombay's Taj in 1948 is a far cry indeed! Rebel, leader in peoples battalion, in stormy petrel of 'The Bombay Youth League' with eight jail terms to his credit, and intense suffering inside prison walls, he was sent down to Madras only to be roped in a conspiracy case against the British.
The notorious jailers, of Yerwada jail, whether it was Col. Martin or Bhandari gave him hell and kept him lonely in cells, depriving him even of the proverbial Madrassis ounce of rice! More of such Rajas in our Raja ridden land!’, was the way in which the magazine FORUM carried an article on him.
Shri Srinivasa Iyengar, the famous lawyer and the then president of Congress mentioned thus, 'No jail can hold Rajah, and no jail warden can tame him'.
In 1951, he entered the parliament as a member of the RAJYA SABHA. A bold and fiery speaker often coming out with innovative suggestions to solve complex issues. He was listened to with a great deal of interest. He was able to deal with a variety of subjects, like excise on sugar, anomalies in the food industry, budget forecasts, protection to Indian industries and five year plan, with ease since he had delved deep into the factors governing economy, and had a thorough knowledge of the same. He would often quote from statistics on any given subject to prove a point. He was of the firm opinion that India being called an underdeveloped country was nonsensical while it actually was an overexploited one, as the common man bore the brunt of paying high prices even for bare necessities. Regarding the idea of ‘Common wealth nations’, he felt there was no meaning in it as there was nothing common nor wealth or wealth to be found in the same. He stated that 'We must build up our show, retain our money and see that the economy is effected where ever it is possible. He also stressed the need for the budding Indian entrepreneurs to be self reliant in both finance and administration.
In his parliamentary speeches, he conveyed the message interlaced with humor. Like for e.g. 'If Tenali Raman were alive today, he would take a lesson from the government of our country, because they have made donkeys into horses. By pasting a piece of paper on the second class compartments, they have made the second class compartment into a first class compartment'.
As a publisher he was involved in publishing periodicals and magazines like the 'NEW AGE', 'MODERN TIMES', and 'SWATANTRA'. From these one could understand that he was a highly versatile person and could run any kind of enterprise with success. He never gave up on his lofty ideals at any time and always accepted others’ point of view.
As an educationist, he started a school called the ‘LAKSHMI HARIHARA HIGH SCHOOL’ named after his parents, at Elathur, his native place. The same is being run even today under a charitable trust called 'The H.D.RAJAH EDUCATIONAL TRUST’. He started this school for the main reason that as a child he had to leg long distances to attend school. Today many who have studied in this school are located all over the world.
Possessing great entrepreneurial skills, he started an insurance company which was run professionally even in those early days. It was called 'THE VANGUARD INSURANCE Co', the first composite insurance company to be started in south India on a large scale. The progress of this company was rapid from the very inception, declaring profits from the very first year and beginning to pay dividends to share holders from the third year onwards. The enterprise even threatened vested interests in Bombay.
Dr. Radhakrishnan, the then Vice President spoke of him thus, 'Mr. H.D.Rajah was a friendly and a colorful personality and he was taking a great deal of interest in some special problems in a fearless manner. He is an institution in the Rajya Sabha and is listened to with interest whenever he speaks. He is always frank and sometimes brutally frank'.
Shri H.D.Rajah rose from humble beginnings, set for himself difficult goals and far surpassed them. A visionary and a thinker far ahead of his times. A man who believed in his country and who proclaimed that the millions of people are our assets and each can contribute towards the welfare of our country.
He was a jewel that shone brightly through the darkness and despair of captivity and yet achieved prosperity.