Though Ooty which was once a quaint hill station is now more like a city-swarming with people and dotted with thousands of indiscriminate constructions-a visitor coming for the first time here can easily find his or her way around with the help of a number of historical landmarks.
One such landmark is the Lawley Institute located close to the famed Government Botanical Garden.
The circumstances under which the institution came into being make interesting reading. By the early 1900s, the British, who had discovered Ooty and developed it, started residing in it in increasing numbers and with them came several Indian rajahs and zamindars especially during the summer when the mercury steadily rose.
The British had their own exclusive clubs like the Ooty Club (which is still very tradition bound), the ABC Club and the Ooty Gymkhana etc.
However, there was no such meeting place for the upper class Indians.
It was the lack of such a facility for the Indians and the manner in which they were treated by institutions like the Ooty Club that brought into existence the Lawley Institute.
The beginning was made through a magnanimous contribution of Rs. 30,000 by Sir V.S. Ranga Rao Bahadur Varu, son of the Maharajah of Bobbili to perpetuate the memory of Sir Arthur Lawley, the then Governor of Madras and the Lawley Institute was formed on September 15,1911 by the execution of a trust deed. The trust was constituted in a manner to ensure that the management would remain with the Indians.
As a matter of convention, the Collector of the Nilgiris was appointed as one of the trustees and he or she presided over the regular meetings of the Board of Trustees.
Though located in a prominent part of the hill station, the Institution has managed to retain a distinct identity. Its members are from various parts of the country including Hyderabad, Bangalore and Coimbatore. Its centenary celebrations were set in motion last week with a veena and musical recital by Bangalore- based duo Geeta and Gopal Navale. Among those present was the Nilgiris Collector, Archana Patnaik, and Advisor T. Gundan.
Speaking to The Hindu, Secretary of the Lawley Institute K. Krishnakumar said that beginning September the celebrations would go on for a year. More infrastructural facilities would be provided.
Trustee Geetha Srinivasan said that there would be a series of programmes. The institution would also focus on the cosmopolitan outlook of the town and preservation of its unique culture.
Keywords: Lawley Institute