Institution in Focus
Common man's college
A profile of the Sree Kerala Varma College, Thirssur, which has become synonymous with free India.
The Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur
Four days before India woke up to freedom, a green flag was hoisted in front of a building, picturesquely situated on the edge of a wood, at Kanattukara in Thrissur.
Inscribed on the flag was the message, 'Astu Vrittam Shubham Sada' (Pure be my life forever).
A new educational institution was thus born. The first public meeting held at the Sree Kerala Varma College celebrated Independence. The joy of freedom was writ large on the faces of the teachers and students.
"Because the college was born in an era when we became free from foreign control, persecution and injustice, it has always stood for freedom of speech and thought. Students may explore this freedom, respecting college discipline,'' says R. Gopalakrishna Pillai, Principal-in-charge.
The Kerala Varma College has been the centre of student politics in Thrissur, and at times the hotbed of unrest. "We've never prevented students from being socially and politically conscious. Student politics, I agree, had affected classes sometime ago. Today, students are aware of the consequences of neglecting studies,'' says Mr. Pillai.
Kerala Varma is called the common man's college. "About 80 per cent of the students here come from families with a monthly income below Rs. 2,000,'' says Mr. Pillai.
He sees this as the greatest strength of the college. "There is an unusual simplicity about life here. The students know the realities of life, and this, I believe, is the most important aspect of education,'' he says.
The students are encouraged to do part-time jobs. "We have students who take evening jobs as carpenters and electricians to keep the wolf from the door. Having taken their responsibilities seriously, they do us proud,'' says Mr. Pillai.
The college building was earlier a palace (Merry Lodge) of one of the rulers of erstwhile Kochi, Ramavarma Maharaja. He had ruled Kochi from 1895 to 1914 and introduced a host of administrative reforms. The Thrissur Museum and Zoo were set up during his reign. Old-timers still remember Gandhiji's meeting with the Maharaja at the Merry Lodge in 1925.
The college was run by a Senate constituted by the Maharaja till it came under the Cochin Devaswom Board.
The institution has had illustrious teachers such as P. Sankaran Nambiar, E. K. Narayanan Potti, N. V. Krishna Warrier, D. Padmanabhanunni, K. P. Narayana Pisharody, N. D. Krishnanunni, Akhileswara Iyer, M. S. Menon, C. P. Menon, Akavoor Narayanan, K. P. Sankaran, Devidasa Menon, V. P. Kannan Nair, Ramavarma Thampuran, V. S. Sharma, V. Aravindakshan, C. S. Venkitaraman, N. R. Ramachandra Iyer, K. J. Mathew, T. N. Jayachandran, K. I. Vasu, K. A. Ponnunni Kartha, I. P. Balagopalan, S. Harihara Iyer, T. V. Hariharan, S. Padmanabhan and T. C. K. Menon.
The college has attracted brilliant minds from far and wide. Discussions on social and political issues have been a regular feature on the campus.
The alumni include the Speaker, Therambil Ramakrishnan, the Forest Minister, K. P. Viswanathan, K. P. Rajendran, T. V. Chandramohan, MLAs, CPI leader Meenakshi Thampan, lyricist Yusefali Kecheri, Madhavan Ayyapathu, Methil Radhakrishnan, Mathayil Aravind, Chovvallur Krishnankutty, K.P.C. Anujan Bhattathiripad, Akbar Kakkattil, Ashtamurthy, and M. R. Chandrasekharan, writers, M.G.S. Narayanan, historian, T. V. Gopalakrishnan, mridangam maestro, Urmila Unni, actress, `Shogun' R. Mohan, industrialist and film producer, Jose Chirammel, dramatist, Usha Nangiar, Koodiyattom exponent, and the late N.N. Kakkad, poet, and P. Sukumaran, actor.
A meeting held in the western block of the college in 1950 had discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the progressive literary movement. Organised at the initiative of C. J. Thomas, N. V. Krishna Warrier and M. Govindan, the meeting has been recorded in the history of Malayalam literature. Among the writers who participated in the discussions were Joseph Mundassery, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, Uroob, S. K. Pottekkatu, V. T. Bhattathiripad, P. Bhaskaran, Edassery, N. P. Mohammed, K. A. Kodungallur, Karoor and Ponkunnam Varkey.
The college boasts of a beautiful campus, with trees, lakes and birds. "There are more than 2,000 trees on the campus. Because of its greenery, a part of the compound is called Ooty,'' says Mr. Pillai.
He claims that the commerce and literature courses offered by the college are in great demand.
"We are not attracted to new-generation courses. We experimented with one such recently and got our fingers burnt. But we are all for value addition and plan to introduce subsidiary lessons to enhance the skills of students. Final-year degree students can avail themselves of the facilities at our computer lab and keep abreast of the developments in the information technology sector. A career guidance programme is on the anvil,'' Mr. Pillai says.
A master plan for improving academic standards is being drawn up.
Photo: K.K. Najeeb
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