Monday, 13 October 2008

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY - I

MAHARAJA'S COLLEGE FOR WOMEN

Rani Gouri Parvathy Bai who ruled Travancore from 1814 to 1829 gave permission to a Christian Missionary to start a school in Nagercoil. Later, Swathi Thirunal, the Rani's nephew who ruled from 1829 to 1847 patronized English education in Travancore. It was during the time of Uthram Thirunal 1847-1860 that English education became common and more importance was given to girl’s education in Travancore.

Rani Gouri Parvathy Bai
During the reign of Aayilyam Thirunal (r.1860-1880) the University College was set up. A school for girls was started in Palayam in front of the University College. Initially, it was a school for Christian girls; in 1864 it was opened for girls belonging to all religions. In 1890 the school was accredited by the Madras University and it became a second-grade college. In 1895 during the reign of Sree Moolam Thirunal, the name of the college was changed to Maharaja’s College for Women. In 1897 the college which started with just three Christian students had 400 students in 1909 when a high school secondary training school was also added. In 1920 it became a first-grade college, and a hostel was also established in 1921. During early 1920’s the college was shifted to Thycaud.

The building in which the college now works was actually the residence of the Civil Surgeon of Travancore, built probably during the reign of Aayilyam Thirunal. The surgeon's bungalow was built on top of a small hill known as Thycaud kunnu. According to Prof. Hridayakumari, the renowned writer and the former Principal of the college, the property in which the old building now stands once belonged to the family of Thycattil Kurups, who were the landlords of the area. This land was later taken over by the government of Travancore. In the 1920s, before the college started functioning in the present structure, Dr. Thaliyath, the government surgeon lived there.

In 1923 the Assembly Hall, the Music Department and the Mathematics Department were constructed by P.W.D, it was under the supervision of H.H. Sethu Lekshmi Bai and her Diwan D.H. Watts. Later, Watt’s sister became the Principal of the college. The semi-circular Mathematics Department had a facade which was influenced by the old Egyptian architectural style. The mastermind behind this was engineer Mallapalli Modayil Mani, the famed govt. engineer of Travancore. Mr. Watts, it is said, was particularly interested in having a separate Music Department and had it designed like a temple.

The masterminds - H.H. Sethu Lekshmi Bayi, Dewan Watts and Chief Engineer M.Mani.
Old pictures of the semicircular Mathematics Department.
ABOUT THE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE

A harmonious blend of European architectural features and the traditional can be spotted in the old structure. The structure responds to the local climatic needs, as generally found in the bungalow architecture. The comfort requirement in the hot humid climate prompted the European settlers to go in for buildings with large rooms, high ceiling and verandah all around. For upper floor rooms, balconies were adopted as a necessary feature, originating from the Portuguese construction. The portico, the shaded spot for passage from one building to another was added.

Corridor, Women's College, Thiruvananthapuram- Photo courtesy: Author.
The solid wooden shutter of doors and windows underwent change to ribbed elements –venetian blinds- permitting air circulation and privacy.

TIMELINE - HISTORY OF THE COLLEGE

1817 – Rani Gouri Parvathi Bai stated that education is necessary to ensure progress of the state as a whole.
1818 – The first English school in the state was established at Nagercoil.
1834 - Maharajah Uthradam Tirunal Marthanda Varma visited a school in Nagercoil and invited the headmaster, Mr. Roberts to start a similar school in Travancore.
1859 – A girl’s school started at Palayam.
1864 – Started as “Sircar Girls’ School”
1895 – Shifted to the building opposite to The University College and upgraded to second Grade College.
1897 – Named as “Maharaja’s Girls’ college”
1909 – Permission for starting Degree courses
1920 – Upgraded to first-degree college and affiliated to Madras University.
1923 – Shifted to the present building.
1927 – Central building which houses mathematics, psychology and philosophy was constructed.
1937 – University of Travancore was founded and Women’s college was one of the first seven colleges to be affiliated to it.
1957 – University of Kerala was founded and college was affiliated to it.

NOTED PRINCIPALS

1. First principal was Miss. Sarah Blunt Williams. (1895-1910)
2. Miss D.H.Watts B.A. (1910-1928)
3. Miss Louise Ouwerkerk (Established Economics Dept.)
4. First Indian principal: Miss Anna Nidhin.

Note: I thank Meenu, my classmate from B.Arch who helped in collecting and compiling the history of the College as part of our documentation project.

For more information about the Thycattil Kurups:

12 comments:

Sunita Mohan said...

The blogging world keeps surprising me! I found your blog via "Musings from Antique Origins" and settled down to read about the Rani (this may sound irreverent, but she truly looks gorgeous!). The last thing I expected to find was a bit of personal family history. I didnt know that my grandfather Dr. Taliat (he dropped both hs and the y from the name) had lived in what is now Women's College.
I think he made a habit of this. I've heard that the land on which the Medical College is now built, was the land he had original earmarked to build his own house.

Sharat Sunder Rajeev said...

i am very glad to see your comment.
actually the details about your grandfather were given by prof:Hridhaya kumari who was the principal of the college.
we documented the old college complex last semester as a part of our heritage documentation project.
i was the guy who did the history part.
i don't know much about your grandfather, i think you can help me. can you give me some details about him? i mean a short biography,with his pictures?

i have read your comment in murali sir's blog,it was your comment which inspired me to post the last blog 'my great ancestors'.

Sunita Mohan said...

You're doing a great job by documenting all that is known about such great artists. You must be very proud of your lineage.
Incidentally, what are you studying? Architecture?
I'll definitely get the photos and biography of Dr. Taliat.
By the way, you're not the only one who doesnt know much about him. Every time someone blogs about him ( see http://parayilat.blogspot.com/2008/01/greatness-of-human-nature-true-story.html
and
http://parayilat.blogspot.com/2008/01/taliat-clarification.html ), I'm a bit stunned that I dont know anything about him. : D
But, dont worry, I'll make sure I get all the details from my mother for you.

Sharat Sunder Rajeev said...

thank you,
i am glad to know that you like my blog,fortunately my family is blessed with many craftsmen and artist's.
i am a 3rd yr architecture studentof C.E.T,now doing six months training in kumar group,tvm.
i will be a great help if you can get Dr.Taliat's details.

KURIAN.M.K. said...

I AM SURPRISED TO READ FROM YOUR BLOG THAT MY GRAND FATHER MODAYIL MANI MADE SOME PART OF THE WOMEN'S COLLEGE
THOUGH HE STAYED WITH US TILL HIS DEATH ABOUT 30 YEARS AGO HE NEVER TOLD ANYTHING ABOUT THIS PART OF HIS WORK AS TRAVANCORE STATE DEPUTY CHIEF ENGINEER
HE MADE MANY BRIDGES AND ROADS AND HE WAS GIVEN A SPECIAL GOLD RING BY SRI MOOLAM THIRUNAL MAHARAJA OF TRAVANCORE FOR MAKING ARRANGEMENTS FOR HEATING THE MORNING WATER; FOR BATH; BY A SPECIAL STEAM MECHANISM .REMEMBER THERE WAS NO ELECTRICITY IN TRAVANCORE TILL ABOUT 1930 IF I AM CORRECT.
BY THE WAY DR TALIATH AFTER LEAVING THE OLD GOVERNMENT BUNGALOW STAYED IN A BUNGALOW MADE BY ENGINEER MANI TILL ABOUT 1940,IN PALAYAM,TRIVANDRUM
I DONT WANT DISCUSS MY FAMILY HISTORY FURTHUR ON A PUBLIC BLOG

Sharat Sunder Rajeev said...

Dear Mr. Kurian, first of all thanks for going through the article. i got to know many details about your clan and illustrius ancsestors through the blog maintained by your family members, the incident about the ring i have read from the blog.....the data about women's college was collected from none other than Prof. Hridaya Kumari, the famous writer and a former pricipal of the college....

regards,
Sharat Sunder Rajeev

abhi said...

ithum oru asukamano?????

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prof prem raj pushpakaran said...

prof premraj pushpakaran writes -- 2017 marks the bicentennial year of beginning of modern education in Travancore with the issuance of the Royal Rescript by Rani Gouri Parvati Bai !!!

Calicut Heritage Forum said...

Stumbled into this blog, while looking for some details ( and possibly a photograph) of Louise Ouwerkerk for a fellow blogger. What a delightful piece of writing!
Do let us know if you have located a photo of the great lady who contributed so much to inculcate liberal values among Travancore leaders.

Sajani Gm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sajani Gm said...

Hi!
I was looking for some information about MP Mani's autobiography, when I came across this piece on the Women's College. It was a great read and reminded me of so many stories that he regaled us with.
I first met him when I was about four years old. Until I turned nine, he was someone I met more than four times a week. At the time he lived with his eldest son MM Philip, who was a strong, upstanding man with a genial nature. Their home in Coimbatore was a regular meeting place for likeminded people. There would always be two active bridge games going on and MP Mani was probably playing at one of them. He was well into his 90s then. I remember he also had a bridge board that helped him play bridge irrespective of being alone. It was a lot more tangible than online solitaire.
It was at this time that my mother became his scribe. She helped him with his correspondence, which was extensive and varied. He replied to every missive he received. He was also writing his biography. He would narrate and she would take dictation. With several breaks where he'd regale anyone willing to listen with his digressions. Each little one held some nugget of history or literature or physics that was valuable learning for me. After months and years of writing, typing and proofreading, the book was finally published at the end of the 70s. My mother received an autographed copy at the time. Over 35 years later, I cannot seem to find it and was looking for a copy online.
MP Mani was surprisingly fit for a 90+ yr old. He built an exercise device for himself, so he could lie upside down and "keep his brain adequately oxygenated". It was a wooden plank attached to a pivot and it had safety straps/harness that a body could be secured into for suspension! it was quite a head rush.
We moved from Coimbatore in May 1978, and I think in the same year MP Mani lost his eldest son. I can still remember the letter he wrote at the time to my parents. It was strange to see a letter from him in anything other than my mother's handwriting. But it was heart rending to read the words that he had lost his pride of 75 years.
It's rare today to find men of the calibre of MP Mani and MM Philip. So when we do meet people of that ilk, we must cherish them and learn as much as we can, so we can be all the better for it. Not to mention the lives of everything around us, being all the better for it.