Saturday, 8 April 2017

Ravenshaw - My Alma Mater

Ravenshaw College (now University) where i got my college-education, is completing 150 years of its service and an year-long Sesquicentennial Celebration is on. A special cover has been issued by Govt. of India to mark the occasion. 

I studied in this College (as it was then) from 1964 to 1968. I have briefly referred to some events, permanently embedded in my mind, about my days there, in my post ‘Those Hard Days, That One Rupeeand A Sweet Tail’ dated 20.03.2013 . 

After the infamous famine of 1866, the intellectuals of Odisha and a few liberal Britishers thought of starting a college at Cuttack. Stung by the criticism of the ineptitude of the Administration in tackling the famine and probably due to the compunction felt by him for not having done much for prevention and handling the famine, T E Ravenshaw, the then Commissioner of Odisha Division, wished to do something for the region. Keeping in mind to use the unspent amount of the Famine Relief Fund, he convinced the Government of Bengal (At that time, Odisha was a part of Bengal Presidency.) about the difficulties of Odia students in getting College education. As a result, collegiate classes were started in the Cuttack Zilla School. Thus the first College in Odisha was born in January 1868. It started with Intermediate classes and six students on roll.

In January 1875, Ravenshaw proposed to convert the Collegiate School into a full-fledged degree College. The Government of Bengal stipulated a condition that a public contribution of Rs.30 thousand be deposited for the proposed College. H. J. Reynolds, the then Secretary to the Government of Bengal, requested the Government of India to sanction the incidental charges and the post of the Principal with the additional condition that half of the monthly expenses should be met by public donation.

The Collegiate School was converted in 1876 to a full-fledged Degree College, with the name ‘Cuttack College’. The Maharaja of the Princely State of Mayurbhanj Sri Krushna Chandra Bhanjdeo donated Rs. 25 thousand as a permanent endowment for the college. This almost fulfilled the condition stipulated by the Government for public contribution. As suggested by him, the name of the college was changed to Ravenshaw College in 1878, to commemorate his services to the cause of education in Odisha.
The college was shifted to its present site, with an area of 87 acres, in1921. Maharaja of Mayurbhanj donated Rs. 1 lakh for the electrification of the new building and purchase of equipment for science laboratories. Perhaps the Physics and Chemistry blocks bear the names ‘Mayurbhanj Physics Laboratory’ and ‘Mayurbhanj Chemistry Laboratory. Maharaja of Kanika, Sri Rajendra Narayan Bhanjadeo donated Rs. 55 thousand for the construction a library building. It was opened in 1922. In his honour, the library was named as Kanika Library. 

Post-Graduate classes, M.A. in English, started in 1922 with a donation of Rs. 1.71 lakh by Maharani Smt. Parvati Devi of Sonepur.

Co-education began in 1929-30 with 4 girls taking admission.

The College was originally affiliated to Calcutta University. When the Province of Bihar & Orissa was separated from Bengal, the College was affiliated to Patna University. It continued as such, even after the separation of Odisha from Bihar in 1936. A separate University called Utkal University for Odisha was created in 1943 and Raveshaw College was affiliated to it.  The University started functioning in the Zoology Department of Ravenshaw College. The law department of Ravenshaw College was separated and became Madhusudan Law College. Utkal University functioned at Ravenshaw College for 20 years and was shifted to its new campus at Bhubaneswar only in January 1963.

When Odisha became a separate State on the 1st April 1936, its Legislative Assembly started functioning in the Examination Hall of Ravenshaw College. Because of this, it was called the Assembly Hall. It continued to be called so, long after the State Capital was shifted from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar in 1948 and the Assembly started functioning in the new building at Bhubaneswar. It was being called so during 1964-68, when i was a student of the College. This hall has since been re-christened as Heritage Hall. 

Ravenshaw College was the vortex of political, intellectual and literary movements in Odisha for a long period. It has produced many intellectuals, poets, politicians, judges and bureaucrats.

History of Raveshaw College is the history of Odisha. All the significant cultural, intellectual and political movements of the state have started in its campus.  It produced great people like Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das, Utkalmani Gopabandhu Dash. Acharya Harihar Das, Pandit Nilakanth Das, Pandit Godabarish Mishra, Bhubananda Das and many others. So much so that the Intelligence Department of the British Government of India used to keep a close watch on its students during the Indian freedom movement. Bibhudendu Mishra was the leader of the students who removed the British Flag Union Jack from top of the College building and hoisted the tri-colour flag which later gave birth to the Indian National Flag.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, born in Cuttack, was a student of the College. Before him, his father Janakinath Bose also had studied here. 

It had on its staff such great scholars as Artaballav Mohanty, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Sir Ross Masood, Prana Krushna Parija and Balabhadra Prasad. The first Odia Principal and later Director of Public Instruction, Shyama Charan Tripathy, who later was appointed as a member of the Federal Public Service Commission (renamed as Union Public Service Commission), was a product of this college. 

Most of the prominent political leaders of the state such as Biswanath Das, H.K.Mahatab, Nityananda Kanungo, S.N.Dwibedi, Biju Patnaik, Janaki Ballav Patnaik and former Speaker of Lok Sabha Rabi Ray were Ravenshavians. 

The College produced great creative writers like Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, Ananda Shankar Ray, Gopinath Mohanty, Sachidananda Routray, Surendranath Mohanty and Mayadhar Mansingh. Jnanapith Award winners Gopinath Mohanty, Sitakant Mohapatra and Prativa Roy, the well-known poet Jayanta Mohapatra and the feminist writer Sarojini Sahu were students of this College. The famous historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar studied here. So did former Chief Justice of India Ranganath Mishra and Lalitendu Mansingh,  former Foreign Secretary and Indian Ambassador to U S A.

The Odisha State Museum at Bhubaneswar first started functioning from Ravenshaw College.  

Guruji Chandrabhanu Satapathy, known for his spirituality all over India and outside, was my classmate at Ravenshaw College for 4 years. 

Till the end of the 20th Century, the answer to the question about who a famous person of Odisha was, “He/she was a Ravenshavian.” During my student-days at this College, i used to hear that anybody who is somebody in Odisha, was a Ravenshavian.
When the College completed 100 years in 1978, a commemorative postage stamp was issued by Government of India. I was lucky to have attended the Centenary Celebrations of the College that year.

At the centre of the spacious college-quadrangle, surrounded by class rooms, there is a sundial. Below the top, there is a circle with lines. The shadow of dial moves on these lines as the sun moves overhead and with this, one can tell the time of the day.


The Sun Dial

Postage Stamp on Ravenshaw College issued in 1978
The College was accorded Autonomous status in 1989 and became a unitary university in 2006.

It is housed in a magnificent red brick building of Gothic architecture which is landmark of Cuttack. The other red brick building which stands out in Cuttack is the seat of Orissa High Court established in 1948.

Ravenshaw has acquired a distinctive, cosmopolitan culture of its own. The College motto is ‘Gyanameba Shakti or 'Knowledge is Strength'.


       The Emblem

The emblem of Ravenshaw has three segments, separated by a river and its tributaries. The microscope on left symbolizes the insatiable human spirit of inquiry and scientific research fostered by this institution. The palm leaf manuscripts on a stand with writing instrument on the right, represent the great storehouse of accumulated wisdom of past generations and the pursuit of creativity which are the hallmarks of this institution. The open book at the bottom epitomizes dissemination of knowledge and wisdom which the college inculcates. The river and its tributaries suggest the endless flow of knowledge through great stretches of time and the perennial flow of life, its unity and diversity.

I have preserved, as a memorabilia, the College Identity Card issued to me.

My College Identity Card

Soon after i joined the College, there was a strike by the students over an incident. Soon, it spread all over the State and there was police-firing. Due to this, classes could not be conducted for a long period. The strike ended after Guljari Lal Nanda, the then Union Home Minister, came to the College and addressed the students. A tragic offshoot of the strike was the suicide of a brilliant student Loknath Acharya, who was probably the General Secretary of the Students’ Union. There is a stipulation that to be eligible for appearing at the University Examination, a student has to attend not less than 75% of the total number of classes conducted. Due to the strike, most of the students failed to fulfill this condition. So, when the College started functioning normally, there was a series of classes for a few minutes each, where only attendance was taken. This was to ensure that the students would be able to satisfy the condition about the percentage of attendance. Most probably, Loknath Acharya could not meet this condition even after the extra classes. As a brilliant student, he had planned an outstanding career. Since he could not appear at the University Examination, his high hopes were dashed and in a fit of depression, he jumped before an approaching train near the Cuttack Railway Station.  

For a long time, the most renowned and senior-most Professor of the State was being appointed as the Principal of Ravenshaw College. He used to go on to become the Director of Public Instructions, Odisha and then the Vice-Chancellor of Utkal University to which all the Colleges of the State were affiliated. In 1967, when two more Universities were formed in the State, this practice of selecting Vice Chancellors started being diluted.

At the time of my starting college-education, the first year was called ‘Pre-University’; this was followed by what was being called ‘First Year Degree Course’. Students were required to appear at an Examination conducted by the University at the end of each of these 2 years. This was followed by a 2-year Course leading to Graduation. The school-education was up to Class XI ending with High School Certificate Examination. This system has since been modified to 10+2+3 course and school-education is up to Class X, ending with Secondary Examination. This is followed by Higher Secondary education at Junior Colleges, popularly but mistakenly called +2 Course. Graduation is a 3-year Course at a College. Again, this is mistakenly called +3 Course! (What plus 3?)

The magazine of Ravenshaw College (University) is named Ravenshavian. When i was a student there, two articles written by me were published in it. I had received the 3rd prize in Odia Short Story Competition at the College-level. I had also received the first prizes in Odia Short Story and English Essay Competitions in my hostel.

My elder brother, my wife and our daughter were all students of this precious College of mine. To top it all, after completing my post-graduation, i taught at this College for about 20 months as a Lecturer in Political Science. Then i joined a bank.

One intermittent demand heard in Odisha is that the name of Ravenshaw University should be changed and that ‘Ravenshaw’ should be replaced by the name of some eminent person of the State or of the rest of India. The ineptitude and callousness of the Administration headed by Ravenshaw had resulted in the death of over 10 lakh persons in the famine of 1866. For this, he had faced criticism even by the British Government. After independence, the name of Victoria School, Cuttack, was changed to Bhaktamadhu Vidyapith after the name of Bhaktakabi Madhusudan Rao. However, many oppose this saying that any change in its name will result in loss of the reputation and familiarity built over a long period. Those opposing the change also affirm that around the time Ravenshaw College was established, a few other reputed educational institutions
like Elphinsten College of Mumbai (then Bombay), St. Stephens College of Delhi and Bethun College of Kolkata (then Calcutta) also came into being. Over the years, all these have built up high reputation for excellence. No one has ever thought of changing their names, to preserve their antiquity and intellectual reputation. 

I have a sentimental link with this great institution due to another reason. (I feel the Tail Piece of my post ‘Those Hard Days…..’ is worth repeating here.)
My future wife was a student of this College and was 3 years my junior. She got admitted to the College when i was in the Final Year of my Degree Course. After our marriage, once, when she was in an expansive mood, the wife confided to me that during her first year in the College, a thought passed her mind that her future husband must be studying in this famous College! What a self-fulfilling thought! We did not know each other then but might have had seen each other (not met!) without having an inkling about what God and fate were brewing for us!!! 


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