Panambakkam Ananda Charlu was born of orthodox Brahmin parents in August 1843 in the village of Kadamanchi, Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh. He became apprentice to Kayali Venkatapathi, a leading advocate in Madras, and was formally enrolled in the High Court in 1869. He built a lucrative practice and became the leader of the Bar on the Original Side. It was in his Chambers that the Madras Advocates' Association was born in 1899.
Like most of the intelligentsia of those days, Ananda Charlu took considerable interest in public affairs, which meant mostly political affairs, and this found expression through a variety of channels. He contributed articles regularly to leading journals like the Native Public Opinion and the Madrasi In 1878 he helped G. Subrahmanya Aiyar and C. Viraraghavachariar in starting the Hindu and became a frequent contributor to it.
He was especially good as an organiser. He started the Triplicane Literary Society in 1884, of which he was elected President, and this did much for the political awakening of the people. In 1884 he joined several public workers in Madras and founded the Madras Mahajana Sabha which became the leading public forum for years. These Associations were the counterparts in Madras of organisations like the British Indian Association in Calcutta and Bombay. He started branches of the Sabha in districts and got them affiliated to it.
In 1885 he was one of the seventy-two delegates to the first session of the Indian National Congress held in Bombay. From that time on he attended almost every one of its sessions and took an active part in its proceedings. The impression which he produced on the delegates resulted naturally in his being elected President of the Nagpur Session in 1891. In the course of his address he criticised the views of those who claimed that India was not a nation. He pleaded for Legislative Councils becoming more representative in character and for the removal of racial discrimination in enlisting Indians as recruits to the Volunteer Corps. He was chosen to the Working Committee of the Congress in 1891, and elected as Secretary in 1892. He was also selected as a member of several deputations which made representations to the Government.
He was always in favour of agitation on. strictly constitutional lines. He ranged naturally on the side of the moderates in the Congress in 1907-8, but he passed away before he could do anything to avert the split between the moderates and the extremists.
Both the public and the Government came to recognise him in due course as a respected all-India leader, and the Government conferred on him the distinction of Rai Bahadur and C.I.E