Heroic and bold leader Sir Seth Hukam Chand was the jewel and pride of the Jain community.His ancestor Seth Pusaji had settled at Indore in 1787. Seth Sarup Chand, father of Shri Hukam Chand, was married to Jabri Bai. He was religious minded and an intelligent and respectable businessman.
Born at Indore on 14th July, 1874, Shri Hukam Chand received his early school and religious education there. He had four marriages, the first being held in 1886. Daughter Ratan Bai from the first wife was married to R.B. Lai Chand Sethi of Ujjain. From the third wife, Smt. Kanchan Bai, to whom he was married at the age of 32 years, he had 3 daughters and 1 son.
Eldest daughter Taramati Bai married to Sir Seth Bhag Chand Soni of Ajmer had later died. The son R.B. Rajkumar Singh was born on 29th May, 1913. Considered as a very fortunate child in the family, the name of Seth Hukam Chand was associated with the firm Trilok Chand Hukam Chand, set up by his father and two uncles, while he was only 6 years old. By the age of 16 he had become a very successful businessman.
Seth Hukam Chand was a leading business magnate of the country doing speculative and ready trade in opium, gold, silver, cotton, oil seeds, salt and grain on a very large scale. He controlled the markets in the country. He was known as ‘Cotton Prince of India’ and had much credit even in some foreign countries.
His business offices were located in important cities of the country. He had given up speculative trade finally in 1933. He established cotton mills-Malwa Mill, Hukam Chand Mill and Raj Kumar Mill at Indore and Hira Mill at Ujjain, and a big Jute Mill and Iron Mill at Calcutta. He was known as ‘Merchant King’ and ‘Pioneer in Swadeshi Industry’.
He took business steps of great courage and earned crores of rupees-He had good personal contacts with Gandhiji and other leaders. He was champion of countrywide Khadi Movement (initiated by Gandhiji in 1920) and a leader of Swadeshi Movement of 1931 in Bombay.
He was a great lover of Hindi, financially supported Hindi Sahitya Sammelan and was President of Madhya Bharat Hindi Sahitya Samiti. He had a glorious record of religious and social service. He protected Jain Tirthakshetras and constructed and repaired several Jain temples and guest houses including construction of famous glasswork temple at Indore.
He was President of Dig. Jain Maha Sabha, Dig. Jain Tirthakshetra Committee, Bombay Prantic Dig. Jain Sabha, Malwa Prantiya Dig. Jain Sabha and presided over hundreds of religious, social and political congregations. With his influence, he resolved big religious and social differences. He was a great devotee of Jain saints and took out several religious tours.
For his unique and devoted services to the Jain religion and society he was honoured with the titles of Danvir, Tirthabhakta Shromani, Jain Dharma Bhushan, Jain Diwakar and Jain Samrat. Other communities had also honoured him with various titles.
He was Hony. Magistrate, Member of Indore Legislative Assembly, President of Indore State Chamber of Commerce, Millowners’ Association and Indore Bank. For his virtues, he received personal regard from the then rulers of big Indian States, the Viceroy of India and the English Govt.
He was made Rai Bahadur in 1915 and honoured with the coveted title of ‘Sir Knighthood’ in 1919. Maharaja of Gwalior had presented him Khilat and rulers of Indore had honoured him with the titles of Rajya Bhushan, Rao Raja and Rajya Ratna.
He established Sir Hukam Chand Eye Hospital, Kalyanmal Nursing Home, Raj Kumar Singh Aurvedic College, Kanchan Bai Maternity Home, Kanchan Bai Shravikashram, Tukoji Rao Cloth Market, Gaushala, Jain temple and boarding house in Banaras University, schools, libraries and various other institutions.
On a personal appeal from the Viceroy of India he donated Rs. 4 lakhs for construction of Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital at New Delhi. He donated Rs. 2 lakhs for the welfare of agriculturists. His personal sympathy and huge financial assistance in the severe famine of 1899 and plague epidemic of 1903 and 1908 can never be forgotten.
Total donations made by Sir Seth Hukam Chand amounted to over Rs. 80 lakhs. He had also made a War Loan of Rs. 1 crore, the biggest in the country during the First World War. In his later life, Seth Hukam Chand devoted all his time to religious duties.