My Mylapore

Mylapore Social History Project initiated by Mylapore Times - the neighbourhood newspaper.

May 15, 2009

History of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan - Golden jubilee in 2009

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Chennai Kendra launched in May 2009 the golden jubilee celebrations at its premises on East Mada Street, Mylapore. Founded in a small way in 1938, it is now a well-known and landmark institution of this city. This piece traces its history.

(Photos from top to bottom- Srinivasa Rao leading the group of devotional music students at BVB: statesman C. Subramaniam felicitating Semmangudi Srinivasaiyer in 1983: the Dhananjayans performing in 1985; Maharajapuram Santhanam in concert in 1983: the original facade of BVB when it was first built: prodigy Mandolin Srinivas performing with Umayalpuram Sivaraman and 'Vikku' Vinayakram at BVB in 1983)

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was founded in 1938 in India to promote an intellectual, cultural and educational movement.

Dr. K M Munshi, its founder was a lawyer, Constitution maker, social reformer, writer and promoter of the arts.

20 years later, a Kendra in Madras was started. It started in a small room made available by the late N. Nilakantan in his publishing firm, B G Paul & Co., on Francis Joseph Street.

Nilakantan was a follower of the Paramacharya of Kanchi.

The core team of the Kendra had met the Paramacharya when he was camping in Mylapore for his Chaturmasya and this is what he said : " We must make all people realize Indian culture particularly Sanskrit is the heritage of all Indians, of mankind. Many people think that this is the exclusive heritage of the Brahmin community only. I therefore suggest that the Chairman of the Madras Kendra should not be a Brahmin."

And the acharya suggested the name of educationist Dr. A. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar.

The Chennai Kendra was formally inaugurated in 1958 at Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Mylapore by Bishnuram Medhi, the then Governor of Madras.

The Executive Committee of the Kendra held its first meeting in June 1959 in the Syndicate Room of Madras University under the chairmanship of the distinguished educationist Dr. A. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar. He guided the growth of the Kendra for about 17 years.

The Kendra shifted to a spacious premises at 88, Gopathi Narayanaswami Road in T. Nagar on April 6, 1960. One of the first projects here was to host Sanskrit classes.

The Kendra then purchased land on Mylapore East Mada Street from the family of the noted criminal lawyer K. S. Jayarama Iyer through the offices of the well known industrialist Anantharamakrishnan.

The latter had almost finalised the purchase of this land to promote a kalyana mantap.

Now, K. M. Munshi, when in Madras, used to stay at 'Sudharma' on Edward Elliots Road (now called Dr. Radhakrishnan Road) as the guest of Anantharamakrishnan.

Munshi, on one such visit mentioned that the Bhavan wanted to purchase land for its local Kendra and that he had been told that Mylapore was a nice location because it would allow women and children to visit the Kendra at late hours.

The industrialist then mentioned that his deal for a kalyna mantap was in the final stage and that he would gladly offer it to the Kendra to buy the land. The sons of Jayarama Iyer were called and the deal signed. Thiswas in 1963.

A year later, it acquired some more land at the rear of the existing plot.

In Oct.1964, Dr. Radhakrishnan, President of India laid the foundation stone of the new building. The bhoomi puja was held in 1967 - M. S. Subbulakshmi sang the invocation song.

In 1971, P. V. Narasimha Rao who went on to become Prime Minister inaugurated the devotional music classes.

It was on Sept.2, 1972 that the then President of India, Dr. V. V. Giri opened the premises and named it ' Anantharamakrishnan Sadan'. The Venkata Auditorium was also opened on this occasion - M. L . Vasanthakumari sang the invocation song.

In 1990, C. Subramaniam took over as the Chairman of the Chennai Kendra.

In January 1983, the Madras Kendra's silver jubilee year was inaugurated by swami Satchidananda, founder of the Integral Yoga Centre, Virginia, USA. Tamil Nadu Governor S L Khurana presided.

In September that year, President Zail Singh laid the foundation stone for the Bhavan's Rajaji Vidyashram campus in Kilpauk.

In November that year, Vice President M. Hidayatullah was the chief guest for the finale event. Novel Laureate Norman Borlaug gave the jubilee address.

( Most information for this piece has been accessed from an article written by S. Ramakrishnan in the BVB's silver jubilee volume. Photos from BVB albums )