One hundred years and more have passed since the founding of Jaffna Hindu college and yet the College stands aloft as the Premier Hindu Institution in the Island, generations of students who had passed through its portals are spread all over the world, distinguishing themselves in whatever vocation they are engaged in. Where – ever they are, that reflects the discipline, dedication and character that have been inculcated in them during their student days.

The College has had a proud record of service in the history of our Country. Many of its distinguished Alumni have held and are holding high positions of responsibility in Sri Lanka. They have all contributed to the national and cultural life of the People of his country. The College has also been the citadel of Tamil and Hindu Culture.Such attainments of the College are due to the very strong foundation laid by the Founding fathers. The pioneers bounded themselves together and acted in unison with a spirit of self – sacrifice. They did not seek name or fame for themselves but drew plans with such foresight the school could grow as it has done today. It is not the product of an individual but that of a body of men who worked in laying the strong foundations.

In the wake of a religious re-awakening brought by the valiant efforts of a dynamic reformer Srila Siri Arumuga Navalar an association called the Saiva Samaya Paripalana Sabhai was founded in 1898 and one of the avowed aims of the Association was to create and English Medium School in a Hindu environment in Jaffna. All the English medium schools that were in existence at that time were Christian Missionary Schools.

To start a new English School was a very difficult task those days, specially because of Christian opposition. The Great Navalar himself failed in his efforts to start one.But to the Sabhai the opportunity came in a strange way. In 1898. Mr Williams Nevins Muttucumaru Sithambarapillai, a Christian himself started a School called the native Town school on his own without any connection with the Missionaries at the Main Street, Jaffna Town, Due to the financial problems involved in running such a school he sought the help of Advocate Nagalingam, a man of means, to be Patron of the school.

Mr. Nagalingam took an abiding interest in its affairs as its Patron. After sometime, the founder Mr. Sithambarapillai decided to hand over the School to Mr. Nagalimgam who became the proprietor.

He also shifted the school to Vannarponnai. The School then came to be known Nagalingam Town High School. It is this school that evolved into the present Jaffna Hindu College.

It was Mr. Nagalingam who was also the motive power behind the establishment of the Saiva (Samaya) Paripalana Sabhai. Mr. Nagalimgam decided to hand over the School to the Sabhai. At the Committee meeting of the Sabhai held on 19.07.1890 the Sabhai unanimously resolved to take the management of Mr. Nagalingam’s Town High School and at the committee meeting held on 15.11.1890 Mr. Nagalingam formally handed over the Management of the town High School to the Sabhai. The Sabhai named and Institute the Hindu High School and entrusted the management to a sub-committee of six members consisting of President – Justice Mr. Chellappapillai, Vice-President Mr. S. Nagalimgam Secretary Mr. V. Casipillai, Treasurer Mr. Pasupathy Chettiar, Committee members Mr. A. Sabapathy and Mr. S. Kailasapillai. Mr. Casipillai proposed that Mr. Nagalimgam be appointed the Manager and the proposal was unanimously carried. Thus Mr. Nagalimgam came to be the founder manager. Mr. Nagalingam held this prerogative position till his death on 04.08.1897 when the Management devolved on Mr. Casipillai.

The Treasurer Mr. Pasupathy Chettiar persuaded one Marimuthu Upathiyayar to sell the land, where the permanent building now stands, to the sabhai at a nominal price. A pandal was erected at this site to receive Sir Ponnampalam Ramanathan on his visit to Jaffna. It was at this pandal erected to receive Sir Ponnampalam Ramanathan; the Hindu English School had its first session on Vajayadasami Day. Along with the students of Nagalimgam School, students of Colt school were invited to be students here.

Immediately afterwards they felt the necessity for Permanent Buildings. Here again they acted together and all members of the Sub. Committee participated in a collection campaign. They appealed for public funds. They approached every household and asked for one coconut tree’s produce. At certain houses they asked to put by one handful of rice a day and give them at the end of the month. They went to every Hindu business establishment. Mr. Nagalingam galvanised them into feverish activity and funds came pouring in.

It is to the eternal credit of Pasupathy Chettiar the Treasurer that the personally supervised the construction of the Building and made it strong enough to stand yet another century.

It took five years for the building to be completed and Mudaliyar Ponnampalam Cumarasamy formally opened it in 1895.

The founders also introduced a Scheme of Education that befitted the times and was of everlasting benefit to its students. Stress was made on the study of Religion and thevaram was to be sung at the beginning and at the end of the session. Students were exhorted to be Vegetarians. But the Core-Curriculum was designed on the Public School Model so that the School could stand on its own with the other leading schools of the Missionaries, like Jaffna College or Jaffna Central College. They had even a Prize-giving at the end of the first year to keep the Public school image. The Enthusiasm of September 22nd 1891 reports thus.

“The Hindu High School had a Prize-giving last Wednesday. Prizes were awarded on the results of the Examination held a few days ago. The Chief Guest was Justice T. Chellapapillai B.A.B.L. There was an audience of 800 people. The number on roll risen to 248 and the school had ten classes”.

They had even gone far ahead of the times and tried to introduce the residential system with a warden for counseling and disciplining the students. With such an idea a Boarding Hostel was started in 1891. But it had to be closed after four years. The Principal Mr. Nevins Selvadurai was himself warden and implemented the scheme.

The scheme was formulated by the Founder-Manager Mr. Nagalingam who himself was a product of Royal College and the University of Calcutta. When in India he was a camp follower of Suredranath Bannerjee the then leader of the Indian National congress and was imbued with his ideals. He wanted to model his College on the Public Schools of England but at the same time give the children a grounding of the Saiva Religion. We cannot get better evidence of this attempt of his to evolve a system of Education which was suitable for the times than from the Principal Mr. Nevins Selvadurai himself with whom he worked hand in hand to achieve this.

Mr. Nevins Selvadurai the Principal in his Prize Day Report of the College in 1897 says “He (Nagalingam) it was who conceived the idea of a National College, developing a system of Education adapted to the requirements and needs of the Tamil Community of Jaffna”.

Source :
By : K. Arunasalam
Retired Principal Victoria College, Jaffna.

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