Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Apr 19, 2004

About Us
Contact Us
Metro Plus
Published on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Property Plus | Quest | Folio |

Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Coimbatore    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Madurai    Thiruvananthapuram    Vijayawada    Visakhapatnam   

Printer Friendly Page Send this Article to a Friend

High school to university

S. MUTHIAH


CELEBRATING ITS Platinum Jubilee this year is a university that grew from a high school founded in 1913. The school, the Ramaswami Chettiar Town High School in Chidambaram, took its name from its founder, S. Rm. M. Ramaswami Chettiar, to whom the town and its famed temple owe much.

Ramaswami Chettiar was the second son of S. Rm. Muthiah Chettiar. His elder brother was Chidambaram Chettiar, from whom the M.Ct. family is descended. His young brother, Annamalai Chettiar, who was to settle in Madras and become close to the political leadership, was in time to become the Rajah of Chettinad.

When Ramaswami Chettiar died young, just five years after founding the school, his younger brother took over its management. Annamalai Chettiar had even before this demonstrated his interest in education. He had contributed handsomely to the building of the hostels of the American College, Madurai, and then, in 1915, offered to endow and fund the management of the Madura College if the founders would agree to a management by a committee of seven. As an earnest of his intention, he built the college a playground costing Rs. 30,000. He also gifted it the 51 acres that surrounded the ground. But when his offer to Madura College received no response, he decided to expand the high school in Chidambaram, whose management he took over in 1918. New buildings came up on its campus and on June 24, 1920, the high school's neighbour opened its doors as Sri Minakshi College, affiliated to the University of Madras. He was knighted in 1923 for his legislative as well as educational contributions.

Sir Annamalai Chettiar was, however, dreaming big. Minakshi College itself had to grow, but why not as a residential university? The Rev. J. X. Miller, with whom he toured Europe, had spoken to him often enough about America's several privately-funded residential universities. His friend and colleague in the Legislative Council, V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, spoke of the need to look at Oxford and Cambridge and not newer universities like the University of London whose exams anyone could take anywhere. That eminent educationist, P.A. Subramania Aiyar, Principal of Hindu High School, Triplicane, added the weight of his advice to these suggestions citing Benares Hindu University and Aligarh, and Sir Annamalai Chettiar took the first step of putting into practice their advice.

Away from Chidambaram town and by the banks of the Kaveri's tributary, the Covelong, he acquired 100 acres in the village of Tiruvetkalam, now Annamalai Nagar, and set about developing a campus for a first-rate college. Duraiswami Aiyar of Sengudi was the architect and supervisor of the first building, now the Arts Block of the university that was to be inaugurated a few years later. The college's first principal was that renowned historian K. A. Nilakanta Sastri. Over the next few years, Sir Annamalai Chettiar added to the campus the Sri Minakshi Sanskrit, Tamil and Oriental Pundits' Training Colleges, with adequate residential facilities.

It was now time to make his dream a reality. But when it was announced in the newspapers one day early in 1928 that Sir Annamalai Chettiar was endowing Rs. 2 million on a university to come up on the Sri Minakshi Colleges' campus, the staff were taken by as much surprise as the public. A Bill strongly supported by S. Satyamurti was introduced in the Madras Legislature in 1928 and unanimously passed. It became law on January 1, 1929 and on July 1, 1929, Annamalai University — absorbing the Sri Minakshi Colleges — opened its doors as an institution "unitary, teaching and residential in character, the first of its kind in South India." V. S. Srinivasa Sastri was to be its first Vice Chancellor but, when he was named India's Agent to South Africa, the honour of heading the new university fell on Samuel E. Runganadhan who steered it through its first six years.

The founding of the university as much as his munificence in Burma and elsewhere led to a rare distinction being conferred on Sir Annamalai Chettiar by the Raj; he was in 1929 given the title Rajah (of Chettinad) and it was uniquely made a title to be inherited by first sons descending from him.

Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail

Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Coimbatore    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Madurai    Thiruvananthapuram    Vijayawada    Visakhapatnam   

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Property Plus | Quest | Folio |


The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |

Comments to : thehindu@vsnl.com   Copyright 2004, The Hindu
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu