Travancore has gone viral the past fortnight. The extent and valuation of the offerings stored in the vaults of the family temple is almost inestimable. The erstwhile royal family of erstwhile Travancore is treated like a long forgotten, not much liked relative who has hit the jackpot. Praise is heaped upon them for their astuteness for not squandering the wealth. Shots of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple is on the TV, the papers and on any other media.
Is this the only inestimable contribution of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore to the present age? Are there other inestimable treasures hidden in plain sight?
The biggest endowment for Trivandrum from its former rules has to be the institutions of higher education. University College, Womens College, Sanskrit College, Law College, Ayurveda College, Fine Arts College, and the College for Engineering were all started pre-independence. All these colleges were among the first in their category With the addition of the Medical College and a Agricultural college, the latter in an Travancore palace, Trivandrum had by 1953, a collection of educational institutions that could rival any in India. These colleges produced luminaries in varied fields, from IAS officers to Ministers, and from artists and poets to engineers and doctors. University College and College of Engineering, Trivandrum would have been made Deemed University if the State Government had a policy.
The current thinking that Universities in India have too many colleges attached to them caused the creation of the University of Travancore in 1937. 10 Colleges were attached to this University, 6 of which were the government colleges in Trivandrum. Travancore University later morphed into University of Kerala. The number of colleges attached to this University may be known, but is not readily available on the web.
Once again, the Government knows that Universities have grown unwieldy. But rather than look at global best practices on how to form Universities, Government of Kerala wants to reduce Universities to Exam boards – One for each subject. Kerala already has a Health University, and plans are afoot to add a Technical University.
An University should be a place where different disciplines are taught and discussed. If we have a University for Health and one for Technology, where would we research Health Technology? If we have a Science University and one for Technology, where would Science teachers in the Technology University research?
The cluster of quality higher educational institutions in Trivandrum is a set of jewels that should not be split from each other. They form a natural collection that needs to be enhanced and exhibited together. With grants for new universities available, shouldnt we have a Travancore University? The Trivandrum colleges of Engineering, Medicine, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Agriculture, Fine Arts, Sanskrit, and Unviersity and Womens colleges, combined with the research facilities of the Kerala University campus at Kariyavattom would make a Travancore University that would be on par with any in India. A smaller university can interact better with Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology, Tropical Botanical Gardens and Research center, ISRO, VSSC, Sree Chitra Institute, IIST, NISH, IIScER, et al in Trivandrum. A smaller, more flexible university can better serve the needs of the knowledge industry in Trivandrum making Technopark, Technocity, Life Sciences Park, Brahmos, Hindustan Life Care and the rest. Schools of Management, Design and Governance would make the University even better.
If we are genuinely concerned about the treasures in Trivandrum, lets collect and polish them in a University of Travancore.