After the great famine of 1866, the people of Odisha and few liberal Britons wanted to start a college at Cuttack. Thomas Edward Ravenshaw, Officiating Commissioner of Odisha Division finally made the Government of Bengal realise the difficulties of Oriya students in getting College education and succeeded in obtaining permission to start collegiate classes in the Cuttack Zilla School. Thus the first College in Odisha was born in January 1868 with only intermediate classes and having six students on roll.
In January 1875 Commissioner Ravenshaw proposed to convert the Ravenshaw Collegiate School into a full-fledged degree College. The Government of Bengal accepted the demand with the condition that a public contribution of Rs.30,000/- be deposited for the proposed College. Ravenshaw took up the matter as an object of personal interest and guaranteed the collection of the required amount. Mr. H. Woodrew, DPI of Bengal supported Ravenshaw. Mr. H. J. Reynolds, Secretary to the Government of Bengal requested the Government of India to sanction the incidental charges and the post of the Principal on the additional condition of meeting half the monthly expenses by public donation.
Due to Mr. Ravenshaw's efforts and the support of the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj, HH Shree Krushna Chandra Bhanjdeo by means of financial help, the College department of the Collegiate School was finally converted in 1876 to a full-fledged Government Degree College, bearing the name ‘Cuttack College’ affiliated to the University of Calcutta. Mr. Samuel Ager was appointed as the first Principal. The college then had only 19 students on roll. Maharaja of Mayurbhanj H.H. Sri Krushna Chandra Bhanjdeo donated Rs. 20,000/- as a permanent endowment for the college which almost fulfilled the condition imposed by the Government for public contribution. On his insistence the name of the college was changed to Ravenshaw College in 1878 after Thomas Edward Ravenshaw to commemorate his services to the cause of education in Odisha. The College was granted permanent status by 1881.
Growth of the college in the initial days was slow. Altogether 94 graduates were produced by the closing year of the 19th century and the student strength had increased to 97. Science stream remained confined only to Intermediate level until 1912 when Bihar and Odisha were separated from Bengal.
The college entered a new phase of development after 1912. School and survey classes were removed. Teachers of Indian Education Service were appointed as professors in different departments. New subjects such as Political Economy, Political Philosophy and honours in History and Persian were introduced. Infrastructure facilities for teaching of science at B.Sc. level were augmented. The student strength rose to 280 in 1912 and 375 in 1915. A new site (the present site) for the college at "Chakkar Padia" was located by the Government to construct a complete set of new buildings at an approximate cost of Rs.10,00,000/-.
In 1916 the University Bill proposed the transfer of Ravenshaw College from Calcutta University to Patna University to be created newly. Although there was some public resistance for the change of affiliation, the then commissioner rightly supported the transfer by writing " Divorced from the Calcutta University, its progress would be rapid and in course of time it should be able to supply every educational need of the people of Odisha". Accordingly, the affiliation of the college was transferred to newly created Patna University on 1 October 1917.
The college was shifted to its present site in the erstwhile "Chakkar Padia" in 1921. While laying the foundation stone of the present building in the November 1919 Sir Edward Gait, the then Governor of Bihar and Odisha wished that this mighty monument would one day grow into a University. Maharaja of Mayurbhanj donated Rs. 1,00,000/- for the electrification of the new building and purchase of equipment for science laboratories. A library building having an area of 9,000 sq ft (840 m2). was opened in 1922 by Lt. Governor of Bihar and Odisha. Maharaja of Kanika Sri Rajendra Narayan Bhanjadeo generously donated Rs. 55,000/- for its construction which stands today as a beautiful piece of architecture. In his honour the library is named as "Kanika Library" which is very close to the hearts of educated Oriyas. In recognition of the public generosity, the Government sanctioned Rs. 25,000/- towards purchase of books for the newly created "Kanika Library". After the shifting of the main library to the centenary building, the old premise houses the journal section.
Legislators from Odisha such as Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das and Sri Krishna Mohapatra demanded time and again for further growth of the college in Bihar Odisha Legislative Council and Viceroy’s Council. In the words of Krishna Mohapatra "Odisha had a pet child and that child was the Ravenshaw College". In response to public pressure Mathematics honours got recognition by 1920. A year later affiliation was granted to B.Sc. in Botany and the College became a postgraduate institution with M.A. classes in English started in 1922 through munificence of Maharani Smt. Parvati Devi, the queen of Sonepur, in granting Rs. 1,71,500/- for its opening.
The staff position of Ravenshaw College was strengthened with the appointment in 1918, of scholars such as Sir Jaudunath Sarkar and R. P. Khosla as professor of History and Economics respectively. By 1922 the sanctioned strength of teaching staff had reached 31, out of which 13 came from Indian Education Service, two were Europeans and the rest were from provincial Education Service. Honours classes in Physics, Chemistry and Botany were opened with effect from July 1930 and steps were initiated to start postgraduate teaching in all subjects which was fulfilled after Odisha became a separate province.
Co-education began in 1929-30 with 4 girl students taking admission in the college. Their number gradually rose over the years. Medical facilities opened in the college with the appointment of a Sub-assistant surgeon and medical examination became compulsory for all students from October, 1929.
The College remained affiliated to Patna University even after the separation of Odisha from Bihar in 1936. The affiliation was finally transferred to newly created Utkal University in 1943. In fact during these times Urdu as a separate department for the first time in a college in Odisha was inaugurated at Ravenshaw College & headed by renowned Urdu scholar Mr Syed Manzar Hasan. In fact, it was Ravenshaw College that gave birth to the new University, nursed and sustained it. If walls could speak, the present zoology department building could say how the university started functioning on its premises more than half a century ago. The law department of Ravenshaw College was finally separated and gave birth to the Madhusudan Law College.
A Brief Time line of Illustrious History of Ravenshaw
1903 - Modern Oriya consciousness began in the formation of the Utkal Sammilani by Odisha’s first graduate, first post-graduate, and first practicing lawyer, Madhusudan Das. When that Utkal Sammilani had its first session here on the Idga Ground in Cuttack, history tells us, it was attended by 335 delegates from the outlying areas; zamindars, representatives of the Gadjats, the Commissioner himself, two Christian missionaries, local intellectuals like Radhanath Roy, Madhusudan Rao, Bishwanath Kar and the Principal and students of Ravenshaw College assembled to engage in the deliberations.
1920 - Students of Ravenshaw, like Harekrushna Mahatab, N.K. Chaudhury and their fellow alumni, opposed the idea of the same Madhusudan Das accepting ministership of the British created government and distributed leaflets in protest; they disturbed a progovernment felicitation meeting. Their activities were reported to Mr. Lambart, Principal of Ravenshaw College, and their parents were asked to withdraw the two from college just a week before their BA examinations. In the years that succeeded, parallel to the uprising of Oriya consciousness, was the beginning of the national freedom movement. When India made her shift from self-rule to demand for full freedom, the chants for freedom first reverberated within the four walls of this great Institution before they spread far and wide.
1930 - When the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee gave a call observing 26 January as "Independence day", history tells us that the hostelers of Ravenshaw College took the lead in organizing the celebrations and many students gave up a meal to contribute to the funds of Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das towards the national freedom movement. Then came the Salt Satyagraha and the post graduate students of Ravenshaw College actually dropped their examination in support of the struggle when a batch of protesters marched from Khurda to the sea to defy the Salt Act of the British Empire.
1937 - Even as Odisha acquired statehood under the British Empire on 1 April 1936, there was no legislative assembly for people’s representatives to represent their will and legislate on their behalf. It is no small coincidence that the grounds of Ravenshaw College were chosen for the very first meeting of the Legislative Assembly of Odisha on 28 July 1937.The new Legislative Assembly of Odisha started functioning from the Examination Hall of Ravenshaw College and upper balcony and verandah acted as balcony for visitors.
1942 - At the forefront of the Quit India movement were the students of Ravenshaw College. On 15 August that year, 200 of them protested. They actually set the office room on fire. Among the arsonists were Banamali Patnaik, Ashok Das, Biren Mitra, Suraj Mal Saha and Bibhudendra Mishra. The last two were detained under the Defence of India Act and sent away to the Berhampur Jail. The movement spread to all other educational institutions in the state. Born of famine, child of a foreigner’s vision, Ravenshaw College was the vortex of political, intellectual and literary movements in Odisha for the first seven decades of its existence. That is probably why it has produced countless heads of state, poets, politicians, judges and bureaucrats who spread their impact far and wide.
Ravenshaw College is an alma mater of different colleges. Its Assembly hall was the venue of the Legislative Assembly of the newly carved state of Odisha. It witnessed the debates of the legislators framing laws to govern the state. It remained so until the capital was shifted to Bhubaneswar. All the significant cultural, intellectual and political movements of the state have sprung from its portals. It has nourished such great and kindered souls as Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das, Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das, Acharya Harihar Das, Pandit Nilakanth Das, Pandit Godabarish Mishra, Bhubaneswar Behera and Bhubanananda Das. It had on its staff such great scholars as Artaballav Mohanty, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Sir Ross Masood, Prana Krushna Parija, Balabhadra Prasad, Acharya Jogeschandra Vidyanidhi, Mahendra Kumar Rout, Baba Kartar Singh, Parasuram Mishra, P.A.Sunderam and A.K.Dasgupata etc., to name a few. Most of the prominent political leaders of the state such as Biswanath Das, H.K.Mahatab, Nityananda Kanungo, S.N.Dwibedi, Biju Patnaik, Nilamani Routray, Smt. Nandini Satpathy, Janaki Ballav Patnaik and Rabi Ray etc., were Ravenshavians. The College produced such creative writers of yester years as Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, Ananda Shankar Ray, Gopinath Mohanty, Sachidananda Routray and Surendranath Mohanty. In short, the College has been the major source of preparing manpower to lead every sphere of the society. In the Dimond Jubilee celebration address the then Principal Mr. H.R.Batheja righly observed:“we have at last a temple of learning, fair to look on, stately in proportions which compares not unfavorably with the only other tempale – The temple of Jaganath for which Odisha is known all over India. The twin monuments represent Odisha to the outside world and are source of justice and pride to every Oriya”
Indian Science Congress Association meet of 1962 was held in Ravenshaw College Quadrangle. The College achieved the unique distinction of being one of the three colleges of the country to have been awarded national honour by Government of India through the issue of commemorative stamp in 1978.
The College has seen 55 Principals. It has been accorded autonomous status since 1989. It stands today on a sprawling campus of 87.4 acres (354,000 m2). The magnificent red brick building of Gothic architecture has several blocks added to it in course of time. The main library is located in the new centenary library building. Teaching is now imparted to more than 5000 students in Arts, Science and Commerce faculties. Altogether there are 22 departments out of which 17 have postgraduate teaching facility and M.Phil course is available in 12 subjects. In addition, several new courses have been added under autonomous functioning besides the regular courses. There are 11 hostels, 9 of which are on the campus, accommodating about 2,500 boarders. The College also houses, besides Ravenshaw Junior College having student strength of 1536, the Cuttack Study Centre of Indira Gandhi National Open University having student strength of 1133, IAS Coaching Class and Pre-Examination Training Centre for SC/ST students. The campus also has a Post Office, an Extension Counter of State Bank of India, a Dispensary, a Power House, GED, PWD and PHS sections, a canteen, Guest House, a Gymnasium, and spacious play grounds. Ravenshaw has acquired a distinctive, secular, cosmopolitan culture of its own helping all Ravenshawvians to live in the College motto "Gyanameba Shakti" or 'Knowledge is Strength'.
The emblem is designed in three segments, separated by a river and its tributaries. The Microscope on left symbolizes the insatiable human spirit of enquiry and scientific research fostered by this institution. The palm leaf manuscripts on a stand with writing instrument on the right represent the great storehouse of accumulated wisdom of past generations and the pursuit of creativity which are the hallmarks of this institution. The open book at the bottom epitomizes dissemination of knowledge and wisdom which the college inculcates in its countless scholars. The river and its tributaries suggest the endless flow of knowledge through great stretches of time and the perennial flow of life, its unity and diversity.
Sahadeva Sahoo, Chief Secretary, Government of Orissa 1999, notable for bringing Fiscal Discipline in the state –*Sahadeva Sahoo, IAS, Author, Former Chief Secretary, Odisha, ushered in Fiscal Discipline in administration