Heritage spaces

Heritage spaces

In a vivid narrative, Jagadish Angadi traces the establishment and growth of Karnatak College in Dharwad, one the oldest colleges in the State

The college has produced two Jnanpith awardees, V K Gokak and Girish Karnad. Nandan Nilekani, Justice P B Gajendragadakar, Dr D C Pavate, K M Koliwad are some of the prominent alumni.

Situated on an imposing hillock and set against fine gardens and bougainvillaea, with long corridors, a clock tower, and sentinel lions, Karnatak College of Arts and Science, Dharwad (KCD) is celebrating its centennial this year. This institution is said to have paved way for the establishment of three universities after the colonial rule ended in the country. It is housed in a building that was built 129 years ago. 

Centre for learning

The college building was built by the Madras and Southern Maratha (MSM) Railway in 1889 to house its offices. Its plinth area is 23,070 square feet. It is made of burnt brick, limestone, Glasgow steel and Burma teak. The flooring is paved with Italian tiles and Yaraguntla slabs. Its portico has stone arches leading to the verandas. The site measures six acres.

The idea of starting a college in Dharwad dates back to 1869, as the Bombay-Karnataka-Goa region did not have an institution then. Srinivas Rao Rodda, a teacher, an acquaintance of Chaplin C, the then district collector of Ananthpur district, came with the collector when he was transferred to Dharwad in early 1900. 

That was when he thought of setting up a college there and naming it Karnatak College. After his retirement, Srinivas Rao was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council from South India in 1908. Sir Richard Temple, a British officer, had also thought of commissioning a college in Dharwad. He mooted the idea during his visit to Dharwad in 1877.

E Gills, the then Public Instruction Officer of Bombay, supported the idea in his annual report in 1877. In 1909, Karnatak College Association was founded, with Sir Narayan Rao Chandavakar as its president and Srinivas Rao as its chairman. A report was submitted to the Bombay government in 1911, stressing the need for a college in Dharwad. In 1912, Dattatreya Venkatesh Belavi introduced a resolution in the council, seeking the establishment of the college.

The impact of Srinivas Rao’s speech here was such that Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, an influential member, immediately seconded it. A proposal was submitted on March 31, 1917, to the council, seeking Rs two lakh for the establishment of the college. Srinivas Rao and Aratal Rudragouda collected donations from the public and offered them to the Bombay government. Srinivas Rao initially deposited Rs 40,000 in the treasury. He also collected money from local theatre groups such as, Gandharva Natak Mandali, Kirloskar Drama Company, Bharat Natak Company and Shirahatti Natak Company. Apart from this, students from Karnataka residing in Pune also donated some amount. And, Srinivas Rao deposited Rs 55,000 more in the treasury.

Over 100 teachers of Dharwad, Belagavi, Bijapur also contributed money for the college. The likes of Chanabasappa Panchappa Kurubgond of Devihosur, Mallappa Shintri and Ontamuri Sardesai contributed a significant amount and Srinivas Rao was able collect around Rs 1,00,000 from Belgavi district and deposit it to the government by March 1916.

A resolution to start Arts College in Dharwad, proposed by Venkatesh Belavi and Srinivas Rao, was passed at a Bombay Council meeting on September 26, 1921. Around the same time, a college in Pune was planning to procure new furniture. Sir Siddappa Kambali, a member of Bombay Legislative Council, struck a deal with it to get its old furniture for Karnatak College.

Karnatak College, Dharwad came into being on June 20, 1917, and functioned from the Training College. It was inaugurated by Sir M B Chowbal, Justice of the Bombay High Court. The administrative responsibility of the college was vested with the director of public instruction of the Bombay presidency.

Branching out

George Llyod, then Bombay governor, came to lay the foundation stone for the new building in 1919. He saw the unoccupied structure of the railway, whose headquarters had shifted to Madras. He decided to house the college in the building, he negotiated with the Madras government and got it approved.

The government bought the T-shaped building in 1920 for Rs 3.26 lakh. The college moved to that building on June 15, 1920. BSc courses were introduced in 1934, and the college was affiliated to Karnatak University in 1958. Later, it was bifurcated into arts and science colleges. Realising that change is the key to sustenance, the college has launched many courses since the mid-1990s. 

The first principal of this college was H G Ravlinson. A C Farron was the longest-serving principal, between 1930-1945, and Rajeshwari Maheshwaraiah, the present principal, is its 23rd. The college library has a wide range of titles, especially in literature, philosophy and humanities.

The college has produced two Jnanpith awardees, V K Gokak and Girish Karnad. Nandan Nilekani, Justice P B Gajendragadakar, Dr D C Pavate, K M Koliwad are some of the prominent alumni. The college faced a threat of losing its heritage structure during early 2000. Teachers and alumni protested the decision of a committee to take over the structure to house the High Court (HC) bench in North Karnataka. “We clarified that we didn’t want the HC bench if it was housed in the KCD building. The committee was convinced of our stand and decided not to pursue the same,” recalls Dr Veena Shanteshwar, a former principal.

Nandan Nilekani built a state-of-the-art auditorium and named it after his philanthropic grandfather Annaji Rao Sirur. It was dedicated during college’s platinum jubilee in February 2002. “It is now reckoned as one of the best auditoria in the country. KCD’s centennial is worthy of veneration, commemoration, and celebration. Anniversaries of true magnitude and stature occur infrequently within institutions and merit dedicated institutional attention and resources,” she asserts.