Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam is a unique institution of higher education in several ways. Its hoary tradition and consistent achievements in various fields of human activity envelop it with a halo of an outstanding temple of knowledge. Spread over a 25 acre campus, the College stands in the heart of the metro city of Kochi, with easy accessibility by road, rail, air or waterways. The college campus is refreshingly green thanks to the shady trees and gardens, fresh water ponds, etc. that lend a sylvan ambience to the premises.
From its extremely modest beginning as an Elementary English School founded in 1845 with the express aim of imparting “such instruction to the students as would enable them to converse with Englishmen without the aid of interpreters,” Maharaja’s College grew in stature, slowly but steadily over the years, to its present status as an institution of higher learning designated as a “Centre of Excellence” by the Government of Kerala and a “College with Potential for Excellence” by the UGC.
The Elementary School metamorphosed into a High School in 1868 and then into a college in 1875 in answer to the rising demand for higher education. The Arts and Science College, christened the Ernakulam College, and affiliated to the University of Madras, offered FA courses. It soon became one of the leading educational institutions in the Madras Presidency. Like other colonial institutions elsewhere in the country, Maharaja’s too had the British at the helm as Principals. Without exception these were enlightened men who played a very important role in popularizing English education in the state of Cochin. Professor Sealy, the first Principal, who described himself and his compatriots in his farewell speech as a “labourers in educational work” engaged in “bringing light to one of the dark regions of Asia,” nevertheless acknowledged that their work was only “a just repayment of an old debt of gratitude which the West owes to the East.”
The Golden Jubilee Year (1925) proved memorable in more ways than one. The College rechristened itself the Maharaja’s College, started offering BA courses in a multiplicity of disciplines thereby raising itself to the status of a first grade college, turned residential by building hostels and acquired an Old Students’ Association which must surely be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) in the country. The next decade would witness a spurt in the number of courses offered, especially science and the addition of a 15- acre playground, on land donated by the Thottekat family.
By the time the Second World War broke out, the Science Block had been built and the departments of Physics and Chemistry had become beehives of research activity. Old timers recall with pride how a newscast in German about Hitler’s move on Soviet Russia was received on an admittedly crude wireless set devised by Prof. N.R. Ramachandra Aiyer after months of research and how it was deciphered by Dr. L.V. Ramaswamy Aiyer, polyglot and scholar par excellence in Dravidian Linguistics. They also recall with pride how the department of Chemistry contributed their mite to the war effort by producing tincture in their laboratories to meet the shortage in hospitals.If today the Maharaja’s fraternity takes pride in the fact that several prominent political leaders cut their political teeth in the campus of this college, it is also because it forms part of a tradition nurtured for long by this college. Even before Gandhiji’s visit on 11 October 1927 the resonance of nationalist thought had been felt in the campus but it received an added impetus with his visit. In fact, Maharaja’s campus kept up with the nationalist movement every step of the way. It would certainly be represented in the Hall of Fame of freedom fighters by a fair share of its alumni.
After independence, and especially after the formation of the state of Kerala, the college started offering more post-graduate courses. It also shed its elitist image and became more inclusive especially of the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of society. Through the 70s and 80s the college continued to grow in terms of enrolment. The year 1975 witnessed grand centenary celebrations. The growth in the number of women students and teachers has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the 90s the gender ratio became skewed in favour of the female. It was again in the 90s that the college started the so-called new generation courses like B.Sc. Instrumentation and B.Sc. Environment & Water Management.
Turn of the millennium witnessed greater emphasis on technology enhanced teaching and learning with the establishment of ICT facilities. There was a surge in research activity with the number of researchers increasing several folds. The College is a centre of excellence with 17 departments offering research facilities for Ph.D. Apart from this, 18 departments offer postgraduate courses in various disciplines. Among the undergraduate courses also there is diversity, ranging from music, commerce and computer applications. The College has three hostels for the students, a 15- acre playground with state of the art synthetic track, pavilion, etc. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has identified all the Science Department of the College for special assistance under the Programme - Fund for Improvement of S&T Infrastructure (FIST) in 2010. The UGC has capped it with the title –College with Potential for Excellence. The NAAC re-accredited the College with A in 2006 and again reaccredited (Third cycle) in 2013 with A grade.
The College has been doing well in the Mahatma Gandhi University youth festival, bagging the first place or runner up position consistently. Many of the winners have cut a niche for themselves in the fields of cinema, television or the media. In terms of achievements in academic evaluation, the College has managed to maintain the streak of success successively. The College got a shot in the arm with its inclusion in the Cluster of Colleges –a body exclusively formed to share the resources of a few select colleges in and around the city. Various activities were undertaken by the Cluster in the last few years. Now, from 2014, the college has been elevated to the status of an Autonomous College, under Government of Kerala.
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