Jaya Was The Best Student, Super Performer!

Chennai:  Tamil Nadu’s most popular leader and Amma for all, J Jayalalitha, was born on 24 February 1948, at Melukote, in Pandavapura taluka, Mandya district, then in Mysore State (now Karnataka) to Jayaram and Vedavalli in a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin family.  Jayalalitha was given her grandmother’s name Koamalavalli at the time of birth. As per Brahmin custom, 2 names are given – one ancestral grandmother’s name and other being personal name.

Jayalalitha, the second name, was adopted at the time of admission to schools and colleges. It was derived from the names of two houses where she resided in Mysore. One was “Jaya Vilas” and the other “Lalitha Vilas”.  Her paternal grandfather, Narasimhan Rengachary, was in the service of the Mysore kingdom as a surgeon, and served as the court physician to Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV of Mysore.

Jaya’s maternal grandfather, Rangaswamy Iyengar, moved to Mysore from Srirangam to work with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. He had one son and three daughters – Ambujavalli, Vedavalli and Padmavalli. Vedavalli was given in marriage to Narasimhan Rengachary’s son, Jayaram.  Jayaram and Vedvalli had two children: a son Jayakumar and a daughter Jayalalitha. Her mother, her relatives and later co-stars and friends fondly called her ‘Ammu.’

Jayalalitha’s father, Jayaram, was a lawyer, but never worked and squandered most of the family money. He died when Jayalalitha was two years old. The widowed Vedavalli returned to her father’s home in Bangalore in 1950. Vedavalli learnt shorthand and typewriting to take up a clerical position to help support the family in 1950.  Vedavalli’s younger sister Ambujavalli had moved to Madras and was working as an air hostess since 1948 and was also acting in dramas and films using the screen name Vidyaavathy since 1951. After a while, on insistence of Ambujavalli, Jayalalithaa’s mother Vedavalli also relocated herself to Madras and stayed with her sister since 1952. Vedavalli worked in a commercial firm in Madras and began dabbling in acting since 1953 under screen name Sandhya.

Jayalalitha remained under care of her mother’s sister Padmavalli and with maternal grandparents from 1950 to 1958 in Mysore.   Vedavalli as Sandhya began to work as an actress, first in local drama companies and then in Tamil cinema. She took on the screen name of Sandhya for all purposes.

 Jayalalithaa attended Bishop Cotton Girls’ School in Bangalore.  In later interviews, Jayalalithaa spoke emotionally about how she missed her mother growing up in a different city, and she had the opportunity to visit her mother during summer vacations. After her aunt Padmavalli’s marriage in 1958, Jayalalitha moved to Chennai and began to live with her mother.

She completed her childhood education at Sacred Heart Matriculation School (popularly known as Church Park Presentation Convent or Presentation Church Park Convent) in Chennai. She excelled at school and was offered a government scholarship to pursue further education. She won Gold State Award for coming first in 10th standard in not just her school but also in Tamil Nadu.

She appears not to have accepted the admission offered to her at Stella Maris College, Chennai.

She is fluent in several languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam and English.

Her brother Jayakumar, his wife Vijayalakshmi and his daughter Deepa lived in T Nagar Chennai. Her brother died in 1995 in an accident.

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