The garden city of Mysore is a city known for its beauty, tradition, art, culture and architecture. It is also a seat of learning. It has within itself a number of institutions which have stood as the landmarks in the realm of Indian education through all time to come.
1833 is a memorable year, a year in which Maharaja’s High School came into being. It is interesting to note that this School was started two years prior to the submission of Macaualay’s report. It was founded by the farsighted and learned ruler Sri. Mummadi Krishna Raja Wadiyar. The School was known as Raja’s Free School. It was run in a small building near the then Residency (near the present Taluk office). Mr. South was the first Head Master of the School. In view of promoting efficient management, the Maharaja of Mysore handed over the institution to Rev. T. Hudson and Wesley Missionaries in 1839. The School made considerable progress under the Head Master Van-Ingen till 1849.
Maharaja’s Free School was offering free education to the boys of Mysore city in elementary branches of English Literature and Mathematics along with instruction in Kannada, Hindustani and Marathi, vernaculars of the state. English was taught by Englishmen and Anglo-Indians. Vernaculars were taught by Pandits and Munshis. Examinations were conducted periodically. Students faced Viva-Voce in November-December in the presence of the Maharaja of Mysore. By 1862, the student strength was 320.
There was a general desire for English education. Sections were opened in different months of the year. This practice had its own limitations. However, the students of the School were trained under able teachers and renowned scholars of the period.
In 1863, the school was upgraded into a high school. It was desired that the school should have its own building. “To be really worthy of Maharaja and to transmit his name with honour and respect to posterity, it should be at least equal to the provincial schools at Madras or the High School at Bangalore and should occupy a building suited in size, structure and appearance to convey an impression of the greatness of the founder.”
In 1865, a building with a measurement of 100’x70’ was built with a big hall accommodating 1000 people. In August 1866, the building was inaugurated by the Maharaja of Mysore. The student strength then was 458. In 1868, the school began to conduct Matriculation Examination after taking due permission from the Senate of Madras University. The services of the then Head Master Mr. Dunning were noteworthy. His devotion to this institution went a long way in bringing about an all round progress of the school. He served as the Head Master between the years 1862 and 1876.
In 1969, the school was brought under the control of the Department of Public Instruction. The Department of Public Instruction was started in 1857, following the submission of Wood’s Despatch in 1854. After 1868, i.e., after the death of the founder ruler Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the system of free education was considered unsound in principle, and a monthly fee began to be collected.
Emphasis was laid on the promotion of higher education. Five Scholarships of Rs. 10/- were instituted to encourage higher education. The staff teaching Hindustani and Kannada was increased. At this time the school was able to receive the services of the well known Kannada scholars and writers viz Mallappa, Siddalingappa, Subba Rao and Narayanappa.
After 1870, the status of the school was subject to fluctuation. In 1870, the school attained the status of a degree college. The headmaster of the school Mr. Dunning became the Principal of the college in 1872. In March 1873, N. Krishnarao had the honour of being the first student to pass B.A. Examination of Madras University. He secured the fourth rank.
In 1876, the B.A. Classes were abolished with the inception of the Central College in Bangalore. In 1879, the school was only a second grade college. It was called Maharaja’s College. In 1880, Kannada and Hindustani sections were separated and made into two independent schools.
In 1884, classes below IV Standard were abolished. By now, the institution had earned academically a good reputation. In 1893, the college was shifted to a new building. The high school sections were conducted down-stairs and the college classes were held upstairs. Moral and religious discourses were given daily to all the students of the institution for half an hour. The name of the Principal Mr. Weier was closely associated with the history of the school between 1890 and 1910. It is remarked that Mr. Weier who drew the figures of parallelogram with neatness and accuracy while teaching high school students could also eloquently lecture B.A. students on the beauty of Portia, the cruelty of Shylock, or on the optimism of Bassanio. In 1894, the college became the first grade college.
In 1916, the University of Mysore was established. As a consequence, intermediate and High School classes were bifurcated from Degree Classes and shifted temporarily to Jaganmohan Palace. Classes were held in a big hall partitioned by small brick walls. Sri. M. Krishna Iyengar (Father of Sri. Chinna Swamy, Ex-secretary, Board of Control for Cricket in India and President, Karnataka State Cricket Association, for many years and student of the school) was the Head Master who could observe all the classes standing upstairs and punish the undisciplined. The Head Master used to come in coach drawn by a horse. In those days, students were aged between 16 and 25 years as recalled by Sri. Agaram Rangaiah who was then a student of this school.
In 1921, the institution was shifted from Jagan Mohan Palace to its present building. Sri. R.V. Krishna Swamy Iyer (Father of Sri. R.K. Narayan) was the distinguished Head Master of the High School from 1922 to 1927.
In 1927, the entrance section was bifurcated and the status of the institution became that of a high school. Sri. Kasturiraja Chetty, who retired as the Director of Pubic Instruction was the Head Master of the Institution between 1927 and 1933. Then Sri. M. A. Narayan Iyengar, M.A., B.L., succeeded him and served the Institution with great devotion from 1933 to 1936. Mr. Jagannatha Rao, a great teacher who was serving in Maharaja’s High School became the Head Master of the Institution from 1938 to 1942. The students of his days remember him with nostalgia even to this day. The Scout got a fillip during his time. Mr. M. V. Sundareshan occupied that Chair with great distinction from 1942 to 1946. The students then were only 350 in number.
Sri. S. Halappa was the Head Master of the Institution from 1958 to 1962. At his initiative, the Gymnasium Hall was constructed. He encouraged for the first time students from Backward Communities to get admission to the Institution. He introduced Special Coaching Classes to improve the results. He encouraged Extra Curricular activities by arranging two programmes every month. He was generous in helping the poor students. He retired as Director of Public Instruction.
In 1964, the school was once again upgraded as Higher Secondary School by introducing One Year Pre-University Course. The students then were 440 in number.
Many students and specially teachers recall the good qualities of Sir-Mir Murthuza Hussain who served this Institution from 1962 to 1965 and again for one year during 1971-72. He was meticulous in dressing, punctual and highly disciplined in his work. A teacher recalls that one day the Head Master applied for casual leave and went home because he came late by 5 minutes due to vehicle trouble. Teachers do not remember any instance of the Head Master losing his temper during his tenure whatever be the circumstances. He had come to this Institution during my previous tenure here and he was telling me that he himself was preparing benches by fixing bolts and nuts thus setting an example to others.
By 1955-66, the student strength became unwieldy and in order to accommodate them, an additional building was constructed at the backyard of the building. There were 24 sections and 1176 students. Eventually, the school was bifurcated into two schools in 1967, reducing the strength to 750. The new one was started in Nazarbad Area under the name “Maharaja’s bifurcated High School” which has now become a Composite Junior College.
Sri. A.M. Ponnapppa, who is remembered throughout the State for his efficient management of Pre-University Education Board as its Deputy Director, was the Head Master of Maharaja’s High School between 1966 and 1969. He was not only a good administrator but also a brilliant academician.
In 1972, Two Year Pre-University Classes were started and the Institution became a composite Junior College.
The names of many of the distinguished Head Masters and Principals of the Institution are not included in this article for want of information about them. However, their contribution to the growth of the Institution is remembered with gratitude and respect.
I am happy that I was a student of this great Institution from 1955 to 1958. It is a rare honour for a student to become Principal of the same Institution. I became the Principal of this Institution from 1975 to 1981 and again since June 1985.
May the Maharaja’s Pre-University College, the immortal monument to the memory of its illustrious Founder Late Sri. Mummadi Krishna Raj Wadiyar, march on undiminished in its glory in spreading the light of knowledge to every nook and corner of the State.