A museum to honour Mahatma

A museum to honour Mahatma

A treasure of rare exhibits at Mahatma Gandhi Museum, has been enlightening the people of Canara for over seven decades, writes Sandhya C D’Souza

A partial view of the Mahatma Gandhi Museum located at Canara High School, Dongerkery. DH photo/authorThe Canara High School at Dongerkery hosts one of the oldest museums in Mangalore. Having some of the rarest collections, which is not to be found elsewhere, the museum has been enlightening students for over seven decades.

Located in an artistic balcony of A Subbarao Pai Memorial Hall in the school premises, this museum is named after Mahatma Gandhi after the great leader himself granted permission to the school authorities for this.

Speaking to City Herald, Canara High School Principal Umesh Mallya says, that the former School Headmaster Padmanabhaiya’s contribution was responsible for the existence of the museum.

Looking through school records, Mallya says that the existence of the museum was first mentioned in 1916, which simply says “The Museum is being built up”. In the year 1917, a district exhibition which had half-cured skins of animals and forest produce from the Canara region was put up. The school records mention that, this entire collection was donated to the school by the exhibition authorities. The records further state, that the school alumni have also been responsible for contributing several exhibits, of which a collection of African exhibits, was considered as the key attraction.

The entire collection is said to be built up by M Madhava Rao. The school records also mention the great efforts put up by Curator P N Manicka Pai who was also a Natural Science Graduate. However, his early demise was a great loss to the school.

The foundation stone for the museum building was laid by one of the Senior Directors of Canara Bank, Nagar Narasimaiah. The building was constructed in 1934.

The museum was inaugurated by the Governor of Fort St George (Madras) Lord Erskine in 1935.

Lord Erskine inaugurates

A letter written to Lord Erskine by the school authorities dated October 15, 1935 inviting him to inaugurate the Library and Museum building gives several details. An excerpt of the letter says, “The ground floor of the building accommodates the library of the school and the upper floor houses the school museum, in which owing to the generosity of Old Boys and sympathisers, we have been able to assemble non-Indian specimens not available in any other Museum in Presidency. We hope that the Museum will be a fertile stimulus to the intellectual curiosity of 1,400 pupils that yearly seek instruction in this High School and the Girls’ Higher Elementary School lying just across the road and working under the same management.”

The letter also reveals that the hall on the ground floor is 2,400 square feet, while the balcony on the upper floor is 1520 square feet. The building has been built at the cost of Rs 10,000.

Gandhi’s letter

On June 11, 1939, the School Management requested Mahatma Gandhi’s permission to name the Museum after him and the permission was promptly given. Gandhiji’s Secretary Mahadev Desai replies in a letter dated June 20, 1939 saying, “Gandhiji has your letter of 11th instant. He has no objection to your naming the Canara High School Museum after him, though he does not know its value or usefulness.”

Mallya reveals that the exhibits in the Museum were re-arranged and labeled during 1971 with the assistance of School alumni M Mukunda Prabhu, who is an expert in setting museums.


The museum has a wide collection of antlers of different kinds of deer, an elephant foot, stuffed animals, skeletons of animals, a whale skeleton, turtle shells, ostrich eggs, a huge collection of shells, corals, animal teeth, claws, fetus of a baby and animals stored in formalin solution. Two huge coconuts which are three times the size of the coconuts available today can surprise anyone. One of the walls of the museum is adorned with glass paintings, which have been presented by alumni M N Prabhu.

Collection of rocks, currency, statues, utensils, antique gadgets, a old radio, typewriter, Vedic inscriptions written on palm leaves, dolls, books are some among the several exhibits of the museum.

Today, this treasure trove at Canara High School is not open for public viewing. Many of the artifacts have not been maintained. However, Principal Mallya reveals that the Canara High School Association has plans to renovate the museum and re-open it for public viewing soon.