Friday Review

A historic journey

Professor Ernest Wood  

One hundred years of service of an institution for the cause of higher education in a perennially drought-prone region is in itself a great feat, but to serve with such commitment to live up to the aspirations of the founder, braving every hurdle in its way, as was done by the Besant Theosophical College in Madanapalle, is no small an achievement. This historic college was founded by Annie Besant who as a fearless stormy petrel led a crusade against the colonial government and enriched India’s struggle for independence. The Madanapalle College was the first ever degree College for the entire Rayalaseema area.

A visit by Annie Besant to Madanapalle in 1910, the birth place of Jiddu Krishnamurthy, whom she had adopted, led to the establishment of the College. At her instance, well known Theosophists like F.T. Brooks, C.S. Trilokikar, Earnest Wood and others visited Madanapalle to carry out educational activities. In 1913 Mrs. Besant formed the Theosophical Educational Trust (TET) in Madanapalle and applied for the necessary affiliation to start a College. On March 7,1915, the Senate of the University approved for the establishment of the College in Madanapalle.

At the invitation of Annie Besant, Lord Pentland the then Governor of Madras visited Madanapalle along with Lady Pentland and formally opened the Theosophical College on June 19, 1915. Annie Besant, in her presidential address at the inaugural function desired that the college “would be developed into a University in the future.” But sadly her dream remained unfulfilled even after nearly a century of its existence.

C.S. Trilokikar, who earlier worked at the Hindu College at Benares founded by Annie Besant, became the first Principal of the Madanapalle College. B. Rajagopalan, D. Guruswamy, a student of Sarvepalle Radhakrishnan, M.V. Venkateswaran, who later was in-charge of the Indian Branch of the League of Nations, were few among the early members of the Faculty appointed by Annie Besant.

In 1916 Annie Besant started the Home Rule Movement and naturally Madanapalle Theosophical College became a great centre of nationalist activity. The students and staff of the College exhibited intense patriotic fervour when the news reached about the internment of Annie Besant in Ooty in June 1916 . A huge procession was taken out in the town by the students of the College. This however was the first instance in the country of an organized student participation during the National movement. Though Annie Besant was released in September, the College was disaffiliated by the University of Madras. Undaunted by such an act of the government, Annie Besant named the College as Wood National College and got it affiliated to the National University which she formed in Madras with Rabindranath Tagore as its Chancellor.

The visit of Rabindranath Tagore to Madanapalle College, in 1919 as the Chancellor, became memorable when the present tunes to his song, Janaganamana were composed by Margaret Cousins, the wife of the Principal, James H. Cousins. From Madanapalle, the present way of singing the National Anthem spread to other parts of the country. The song was also translated into English by the poet himself as the Morning Song of India.

In 1927, when Andhra University was established, the affiliation of Madanapalle College was shifted to the new University. But in 1929, due to the delimitation of the jurisdiction of the Universities, it went back to the University of Madras. From 1956, it is under the newly established Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati.

Several important personalities visited Madanapalle College over these years. Harindranath Chattopadhyay, the brother of Sarojini Naidu visited the College with his wife, Kamaldevi Chattopadhyay in 1927. Next year, Sarojini Naidu herself visited and gave a lecture in the Besant Hall, an imposing large ornate hall, the construction of which was personally supervised by Annie Besant herself. In 1929, when Mahatma Gandhi visited Madanapalle, he addressed a huge gathering on the College grounds.

In 1934, S. Radhakrishnan the then Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University visited the College and addressed the students and staff. Babu Rajendra Prasad, V.V. Giri, C.V. Raman, C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, Mirza Ismail, Tanguturi Prakasam, and a host of other prominent leaders also visited the College in subsequent years. The college is located in .picturesque surroundings. Several blocks of buildings have been added in recent decades making an amalgam of century-old structures with modern edifices.

As the college enters its centenary year, for the generations of its students, staff and faculty, it is no less a celebration time.


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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 5:50:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/a-historic-journey/article6245726.ece

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