Saravana Bhavan murder: The rise and fall of dosa king Rajagopal

first_imgAt every Saravana Bhavan restaurant that you visit you will see a copy of Vetri Meedhu Aasai Veithen (I set my heart on victory) the autobiography of P Rajagopal, the promoter of the restaurant chain.Rajagopal, 72, the famous founder-owner of Saravana Bhavan set his heart on victory and astrology that he so believed in made him the king of dosas as well as a murderer.On Tuesday, Rajagopal surrendered at the Madras High Court after the Supreme Court refused his plea of more time to surrender on medical grounds.Son of an onion farmer in Tuticorin, Rajagopal came to Chennai to fulfil his dream of becoming successful. Having started off as a grocery store owner, Rajagopal entered the restaurant business knowing how few eateries were active.He was also following his astrologer’s advice in 1981 to start a business associated with fire.Even despite business advisers telling him to compromise on the quality or increase in the prices, Rajagopal stuck to his policy of providing wholesome food at Re 1. Though the initial few months saw Rajagopal incurring loses very soon his restaurant became famous.Soon after he opened other outlets and his chain spread across the country. In 2000, he opened his first international outlet in Dubai which was followed by other restaurants in various countries.Big Brother is watchingRajagopal who started his eatery business at a loss was sure about two things — one, no compromise on the quality of the food and two that his workers will be well taken care of.advertisementSaravana Bhavan employees are paid well and they enjoy benefits like pension, free health care, housing loans, a marriage fund for their daughters and magazine subscription among others.For most employees of Saravana Bhavan, the 72-year-old man is their “annachi” — elder brother. As the restaurant chain grew, the perks for these employees grew too. And through the highs and lows that Rajagopal has witnessed these employees have stuck with him as loyal as ever.Star-crossed religious manRajagopal is an ardent devotee of Lord Muruga (Shanmuga). It is no surprise then that traditional lamps and huge portraits of Lord Muruga were part of the decor in the Saravana Bhavan restaurants.He contributed generously to temples, especially to Muruga temples.As he says in his autobiography, Vetri Meedhu Aasai Veithen, he started his restaurants based on the advice of his astrologer. His downfall and the current conviction also can be attributed to the advice of an astrologer who told him to marry one Jeevajothi to become one of the richest in the country. Rajagopal then was already married with two wives.Kidnap and murder Jeevajothi was the daughter of an assistant manager at one of Saravana Bhavan’s Chennai branches. Despite Rajagopal’s advances and threats, Jeevajothi went on to marry one Prince Santhakumar, a man she loved.In October 2001, the couple was kidnapped and Santhakumar was murdered. His body was found by the forest department officials from inside the Tiger Chola forests in Kodaikanal on October 31.His post-mortem report had said the cause of death was asphyxia due to throttling. Soon after, police found the cloth used for the murder.In 2004, a sessions court in Chennai convicted Rajagopal and eight others for culpable homicide with 10 years rigours imprisonment. Rajagopal appealed to the Madras High Court. The high court convicted him for a life in prison in 2009.Rajagopal then appealed to the Supreme Court, and in March this year, the SC upheld the high court’s order. Though Rajagopal had pleaded for more time to surrender stating his poor health, the Supreme Court rejected his plea.On July 9, Rajagopal made a dramatic entry in the high court arriving in an ambulance with oxygen mask attached to his face. Rajagopal is now admitted to the prison ward of the Stanley Hospital in Chennai. He has been officially handed over to the Puzhal prison officials.Saravana Bhavan has over 39 restaurants in India and over 43 restaurants abroad. According to report, in 2017, Saravana Bhavan had a revenue of over Rs 29 billion.READ | Saravana Bhavan founder Rajagopal sports oxygen mask to surrender in murder caseWATCH | Blast from the past: When dosa king P Rajagopal was convicted of murderlast_img read more