Government Arts College, Kumbakonam

The Government Arts College, previously known as the Government Arts College for Men, is an arts college based in the town of Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious educational institutions in the Madras Presidency of British India.[1]

Government Arts College (Autonomous)
Kumbakonam Govt College
TypeGovernment college
Established19 October 1854
PrincipalC.Seetharaman M.Sc M.Phil PGDCA B.Ed (Ph.D)
Location, ,
10.970819°N 79.381515°E / 10.970819; 79.381515


Templerich simple city is Kumbakonam on the River Cauveri. She has been and is, for centuries, down the annals of history, "the cultural cradle of South India". Sanctity, devotion, heritage, reverence and awareness to acquire and cherish the best mark her spirit till date. Caught in her native charm and greatness as though, the Britishers founded a provincial school in the year 1854 on her banks of Cauveri and aptly nicknamed the pro-college-school as 'the Cambridge of South India'. As on Cambridge, so on Kumbakonam Cauveri grew the school to fullness and matured into a mini-varsity of learning and research as is witnessed today. Though easy as it might seem, to draw a time-line of the college-history would be very exacting and voluminous a task if undertaken seriously. As one among the first four Indian Educational Institutions started by the British, since 19th century, the pro-form of that college school was a true precursor to University Education in South India. Government Arts College (Autonomous) Kumbakonam of today with an ancestry dating back to 1854 is far senior and her sesquicentennial is at hand! She is the proud Alma Mater of her Alumni with merit and genius deserving world-renown: Not a few are the names that are on the lips of the learned as and when the college is recalled. Mathematical wizard Srinivasa Ramanujan, Silver-Tongue Srinivasa Sastri, Tamil Savant Thyagaraja Chettiar, Thamizh-thaathaa Grand Sire Dr.U. V. Swaminatha Iyer, eminent Principals like BilderBeck, Gopal Rao, Dr. A. V. Gopalachariyar, R.V. Krishnamachariyar, and a long line of them are fast in the College's memory-album.

It was in the year 1918, Mahakavi Rabindranath Tagore visited this college and blessed her services. At the dawn of Freedom to India, in the Central Hall of this ancient college-building, the then Principal Dr. Karamchand Wade, FRCS celebrated the freedom function. Dr. Wade was a close associate of the new Prime Minister of India, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. From 1947 to 1957 great luminaries gave lectures in the college-precincts. Of them, Dr. A. Ramasamy Mudaliyar, Sri R. K. Shanmugam Chettiyar, Sri R. M. Alagappa Chettiyar, Sir P. T. Rajan, Dr. Karan singh of Botany-fame, Dr. C. Chandrasekar (who later became Central Minister in Nehru's Cabinet), Dr. Sequrra of St. Joseph, Dr. Chidambaranathan Chettiyar do deserve mention, gratefully acknowledged. Unforgettable scholars like Dr. V. Gopalan Nair of English, Sri R. Govindarajan of Tamil, Dr. M.S.Udayamurthy of Chemistry, Sri Ramakrishnan of Physics, Dr. P.Sankaranarayanan of Philosophy adorned their chairs in the 1950s.

Unique to this college is canoe facility. Even as late as 1970s, the canoe-club was active with six boats and two dhoes and the canoe-men did ply to Grand Anaicut in the then Cauveri when often she was in spate. Not mere recollection or anamnesis, the College at present sincerely believes in the restoration of the exquisite settings she had had in the recent past alongside the 12 modern addition and innovation. The name of the institution from time to time, the setting and profile of the campus, and the building at the hoary start are integral to this college; for the spiritof-the-place as such, outlives the nascent moment and continues to guide the implicit growth from within endogenously, the fortune of this college is always destined for.

Important Milestones

This college was started as a Provincial School in October 1854 even before the establishment of the Madras University. Thus it claims to be a hoary precursor of university education in Tamil Nadu. In 1864 it was raised to the status of second Grade College with the affiliated subjects Mathematics, History and Philosophy. At that time, there were only four colleges in South India. In 1867 the B.A. classes were started. In 1885 instruction was offered in all new arts curriculum (except biology) and B.A. courses in Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Logic, History and Sanskrit. In 1871 construction of new buildings were started. In 1875, the existing building with bell tower was completed. In 1954 college celebrated its centenary year and the UGC sanctioned Rs 1 lakh to this college. In 1966 it was upgraded into a postgraduate institution with M.Sc. Mathematics and M.A. Economics. In 1972 B.Com course was started and subsequently the following post graduate courses came into being: M.A. Tamil Literature (1972), M.A. English Literature (1979), M.Sc. Chemistry (1982), M.Sc. Physics (1984), M.Sc. Zoology (1987), M.Sc. Geography (1994), M.C.A. (1998) and the department of Tamil, English, physics and Chemistry were elevated to the status of Research Departments started offering M.Phil. and Ph.D. programs. In the year 2000-2001 the departments of Zoology, Geography and Mathematics were elevated as research Departments offering M.Phil and Ph.D. programs. It was soon followed by the department of Economics in the year 2002-03 and Commerce in the year 2012-13 to offer research programs. In 2003, M.Sc., Bio-chemistry, M.Sc., Operational Research, M.Sc., Computer Science, M.A., History and M.Com., Courses were started along with B.B.A. and Pulavar Pattayam. It is important to mention here that in 2004 the Department of Geography is the first of its kind in south India to receive an Innovative Programme on Spatial Information Technology for Disaster Management from the UGC, New Delhi and first of its kind to get recognition from the Department of Science and Technology under FIST Programme to upgrade the GIS Lab.

The location significance of this college is singularly felt as it is drawing learners from the adjacent constituencies, where rural, semi-rural and suburban feeder institutions of higher secondary learning abound. Its presence is so academic that it transmits the academic compulsions over to the feeder schools giving them the ideal scope to aim at.


Some of the distinguished alumni of the Government Arts College include V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, P. S. Sivaswami Iyer and Srinivasa Ramanujan.

U.V.Swaminatha Iyer was the Head of the Tamil Department and taught Tamil in this College.


  1. AlexD. D. Craik (2008). Mr Hopkins' Men: Cambridge Reform and British Mathematics in the 19th Century. Springer. p. 260. ISBN 1-84800-132-0. ISBN 978-1-84800-132-9.
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