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College with a history

Front elevation of Mrs. A. V. N. College.

Situated on a hillock, with an excellent view of the sea from the first floor, the Mrs.A.V.N College is an architectural marvel.

Founded in 1860 as a middle school and called the Anglo Vernacular School, there is a little known fact about this institution: it was initially located in a modest way in a big building known as Kasimkotavari Haveli. Archival material has it that this was situated to the south of the G.N. Gajapatirao Reading Room.

The institution took shape essentially because of the efforts of four persons, the then Inspector of Schools, Alexander Grant, the

then Collector of Vizagapatam, E. Fane, Maharaja Gajapati Rao and Chendiga Venkata-swami Naidu. The leading zamindars of the district, especially the Maharaja of Vizianagaram and the Raja of Bobbili contributed liberally towards the support of the institution for nearly 40 years after its establishment. The school worked well and susequently developed into a high school.

The year 1878 marks the beginning of the next important epoch of this premier institution. This was when its stability was first assured and its sphere of usefulness and activities enlarged. There was a ready response to the appeal for public subscriptions made by the then members of the management committee and the status of the school was raised to a second grade college and the name changed to Hindu College in July 1978. It was affiliated to Madras University.

However, the financial position of the college was far from satisfactory. The salaries of the teachers were not regularly paid and the college was almost in a tottering condition. There was a virtual struggle for existance till 1899.

Seven years earlier, the then deputy collector, Ankitham Venkata Narasinga Rao, had bequeathed Rs.1 lakh, besides a building fund of Rs.15,000 to the care of the Government to be paid within a month of his demise for the charitable purpose of establishing a college in the town after his wife. The Mrs.A.V.N. College thus came to be established. The committee took over the Hindu College on April 1, 1899, as a prelude to the establishment of the Mrs.A.V.N. College.

During the years of the Anglo Vernacular School and the Hindu College, the institution was run chiefly with liberal support from, among others, monthly subscriptions from the zamindars of Kasimkota, Kurupam and Siripuram, the propreitors of Merangi and several other estates, the District Board, the Municipal Council of Visakhapatnam and many local residents. Sometimes, when the institution was in dire need of financial help, loans were even granted by the landed aristocracy of the district on condition of their repayment in small annual instalments.

The college has, over the years, produced a rich and variegated alumni. Among them are the Nobel laureate C.V. Raman whose bronze bust was installed in the college in April 1991 and the legendary anti-British rebel Alluri Seetarama Raju. Other distinguished students include B.N. Sarma, Member of the Viceroy's Executive Council in the 1920s, Sonti Ramamurthi, a highly respected civil servant, Vepa Ramesam, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, violin virtuoso Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu, war-horse of the freedom struggle Tenneti Viswanadham, former UGC Vice-Chairman B. Ramachandra Rao, actor S.V. Ranga Rao and Bar Council of India Chairman D.V. Subba Rao.

Architecturally, there is an interesting element in the style with the minaret more like that preferred by the Nizams and also elements of the Gothic in the arches. The plinth of the structure varies in height because the college is situated on an undulated site and the building contains open courtyards and continuous verandahs. The building has a huge buttressed porch on the first floor decorated with beautiful stone parapets, which is in turn used throughout the structure. These parapets comprise small lancet arches run over the terrace with a stone slab resting on them. Floral patterns in stone are carved on either side of the central porch.

Steps are now being taken to form a `Heritage Cell' in the college so as to create awareness among the students.


Photo: C. V. Subrahmanyam.

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