All great ideas begin with a commitment to the future. It is with a strong commitment to the quest for excellence in the field of education, that Shri Rai Kedarnath ji established the Ramjas Foundation. The history of the Ramjas Foundation is more than ninety years old.
To be big, one has to think big; and for that one needs to have a dream, the vision, and above all, the ability to transform that dream into a reality. Such a visionary was Rai Kedarnath ji - who, though born in a poor family, rose to become a session’s judge. During his struggle to educate himself, he realized the paucity of good educational institutions and their immense need in Delhi. This opportunity to be able to provide quality education as was his dream came to be fulfilled when he promised his father, Shri Ramjas Malji, to carry forward the legacy of his name to the future. It was his father’s earnest desire to see his name live in this world long after him. That pledge by Rai Kedarnath ji continues to blossom and bear fruit, in the form of 17 schools and one college. The Foundation caters to more than 15000students ably guided by nearly700 dedicated teachers.
This seeded commitment and his father’s longstanding wish blossomed and bore fruit when the first Ramjas School was established on January 17th, 1912. RaiKedarnathji planted the first seedling in Kucha Ghasi Ram, Fatehpuri in Delhi – namely Ramjas School No1. The school was later relocated in Darya Ganj where it stands till date. The second under this banner followed in 1916, Ramjas School No 2 at Anand Parvat. At that time only few schools existed in Delhi and could therefore, reach out only to a very few. The beginning of a new educational institution, thus, provided a much need edopportunity to many more. It is worth noting that Rai Kedarnathji’s commitment for the spread of education among the youth from villages and backward classes was so deep that this second school was primarily meant for them. Here, he arranged for the free boarding and lodging of a large number of poor students. The large and spacious building of this school is a heritage building today. An honest, selfless effort never goes waste- nor does it die with the passage of time.
He then bought 400 big has of land near what was then the village of Sarai Rohilla. Not satisfied, he went on to buy another 400 acre sat Anand Parvat. He dreamt of turning this barren tract into a large institutional complex.
It was with this objective that he laid the first foundation stone for this educational and cultural complex on Basant Panchami day of 1916.In December, the same year, Rai Kedarnath ji gave away all his material wealth for the fulfilment of his aspiration. Subsequently, in 1917, Ramjas College came into existence. The college was shifted to its present location in the University campus in 1954. Ramjas College is also special because it is one of the three colleges of the University that predate the formation of the University itself.
Adapted from The Ramjas Foundation brochure.
Delhi has always been the very bed of seething politics and astounding beauty. It has seen glory and doom, not once but so many times that it is hard to even consider it all. But for a really ripe age, this place of thrones had not seated any educational institute. The final phase of the last Timurid ruler, Aurangzeb saw a madrasa, the first educational institute of Delhi come up. This madrasa was to teach Persian to the royalty and the nobility of Delhi exclusively. But after the death of Aurangzeb, this educational institute practically became an orphan. Gradually, the madrasa passed beyond what even memories could hold.
When the British captured Delhi after the battle of Patparganj (the present day Akshardham temple area) in 1804, they were in dire need of an educational institute for the Indian mediator class to gain from. When they discovered the old building of the madrasa, the British knew exactly what to do with it. And so they established a college called The Delhi College. It is from this college that immense efflorescence comes. It is said that Mirza Ghalib, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan taught here. But then Delhi swathe Revolt of 1857 happen. This put the entire north of the Indian subcontinent into tumult, especially Delhi. The British in their anguish of seeing the entire mutiny march to Delhi ensured that no facility was provided to Delhi. The college ultimately went into oblivion, until it was founded again as the Zakir Hussain Delhi College post-independence.
Delhi was finally being taken into consideration in 1881. On 7th of June of that year, a special new train service ‘1 up /2 down’, now known as the ‘Kalka Mail’, was initiated. It was planned that this train would henceforth connect the then capital of the EIC, Calcutta, with the new summer capital Shimla via Delhi. Delhi was only to be a small stop where lunch would be provided. While the first journey was supposed to be completed within two days, it took three days just to reach Delhi. Tired and exhausted, many passengers decided to de-board at Delhi.
Three among these were professors invited from the Cambridge University to help establish college in Shimla. Exalted with Delhi’s heritage and potential academic scope, they decided to set up the college in Delhi without even considering the other places.
St. Stephen’s was thus established in Chitlikabar lane of the Urdu Bazaar near the Jama Masjid. However, over the course of time, admission into this college was reserved for only the elite. The traders and merchants on realising the necessity of education retaliated to the reserved Stephen’s with a college of their own. This new college founded by Lala Satnarayan Gudwale, is what we know to be the prestigious Hindu College. However, the same story had itself repeated as Hindu too came to be the college of the “Lalas”. There was no place for the remaining lot-the majority.
A British Judicial servant, Lala Rai Sahab Kedarnath realised the lack of a college for the common. As a ‘one man’ initiative, he established a college in a rented house in the Kuchanathwa Lane in Chandni-Chowk. Naming the college after his father, Rai Sahab gave India Ramjas College. Ramjas was a college for the masses, by the masses.
However, not everything was rose laden for Ramjas. There was a dearth of funds; a problem that had to be acknowledged. Many teachers went without salary for months. However, Rai Sahab always found a way to make Ramjas survive. It wasn't just Rai Sahab though; there were several teachers who chose to their vocation of teaching over money. In fact, it is in a beautiful blend of dedication and perseverance on the part of many that the college survived.
The time when it seemed somewhat right again, stroked another crisis. Delhi had now become the capital of the English East India Company Empire. As population increased, so did the need for greater spaces to settle students in the colleges. And so were the colleges shifted from the small houses in the crowded lanes to different places. Whereas Stephens and Hindu were given allotments in the city, Ramjas was relocated to a plot of land on the outskirts. The reaction to this seemingly unfair decision was admirable; Rai Sahab accepted. In fact, he considered it rather fortuitous that he was receiving the land free of cost. Ramjas College was thus shifted to Kala pahad. Kala pahad strategically would have meant doom for the college but a sparkling future awaited Ramjas.
It was the year of 1921. As the entire country was burning in the angst of the Non-Cooperation Movement, the proposal by the education minister to name the university in Delhi after the Prince of Wales, George VI further fuelled the rage. The country was beginning to question foreign dominance, and this name for an upcoming Indian university was unacceptable. A huge protest rattled Delhi. However, upon meeting the education minister, Alexander Sharp, an alternate strategy was adopted. Rai Sahab explained to Sharp that naming the university so might have catastrophic effects. There was no guarantee of the university succeeding in the future, and failure would certainly antagonize the prince. What would have been a move just to please the royalty might easily have ricocheted back at him. By no means could the wrath of the prince be called upon himself for the same.
And thus, Rai Sahab’s trick worked. The University, established in 1922, was now officially called the University Of Delhi. Had it not been for the agitation and the endeavours of a great many people, the name of country’s most acclaimed university would have been a real conundrum for many today. After the success of the Non-Cooperation Movement, M.K. Gandhi had become a national hero. In 1924, he was invited to inaugurate Tibbia College. Rai Sahab, a very popular figure by now, was also invited. Hearing about Ramjas, Gandhiji asked to see the new site. Rai Sahab was in a fix. The question was how to take Gandhi to Kala pahad. Kala pahad was within a mile from Tibbia College, but there was no transportation to support. A tanga was however arranged. The tanga ride the pair had undertaken soon after their first meeting had borne fruit. The more auspicious name ‘Anand Parbat’ had superseded the original one, Kala pahad. It was Gandhi who had laid the foundation stone of Ramjas College.
Ramjas was a completely residential college, with all students putting up in the hostel. Since it was on the outskirts and somewhat cut off from the main city, communication was a pertinent issue. Be that as it may, obtaining electricity was another key challenge, as there was none accessible in the area at the time, there were two powerhouses in Delhi; the first was at Civil Lines, and the second was a private powerhouse at Lahori gate, owned by the Delhi Tram Service. With the campuses of St Stephens and Hindu College both being situated at Kashmere Gate, power wasn’t an issue for either of them.
Malcolm Hailey, chief commissioner of Delhi at the time, was reluctant to help the toilingRai Sahab. For it was well acknowledged that he was a close companion of Gandhi, this friendship got Rai Kedarnath the enmity of the British. Malcolm Hailey rejected the application for electricity without any further deliberation.
Rai Kedar Nath was gifted in that he was quite a capable fundraiser. This quality of his was to come in handy, as the man decided to seek the help of Lala Shri Ram of the Delhi Cotton Mills who also happened to be the chairman of Hindu College’s governing body. DCM had set up numerous gas turbines to generate electricity; Rai Sahab was cognizant of the fact that Shri Ram could solve this problem if he wanted.
While Ramjas and Hindu were rivals back in the day, just as they are today, the good-natured businessman decided he would give the Ramjas founder a helping hand. It wasn’t that simple though; there was a key stumbling block. As per the terms of the contract, electricity could neither be gifted, nor sold. Finding a way around this particular hurdle was Shri Ram’s accountant, who proposed that the electricity be given out to Rai Sahab on lease. The rate suggested was one anna per hour.
Now, Kedar Nath had to arrange for power not just for the main building, but even the student hostel. Receiving 24 hours of electricity in each of the aforementioned, the total due for each day would’ve amounted to 48 annas, but Rai sahib was a frugal man. He arranged for ten hours of electricity in the day, for the classrooms, and another ten hours of the same for the hostel. That way, he’d be liable to pay 20 annas, as opposed to 48, for a day.
It was the period of the freedom struggle and the country had put up a valiant fight against the colonisers. Ramjas College’s role in the freedom struggle is an oft-understated one. St. Stephen’s and Hindu College were home to amore privileged class of students, and were both directly dependent on the British government. By contrast, Ramjas was something of a common man’s college at the time. For that very reason, Ramjas had a more direct role to play. The students of this institution were at the very forefront of the movement. Two students from Anand Parbat, Ram BihariMathur and Saxena, were sentenced to life imprisonment and shipped off to Andaman.Chaudhary Brahm Prakash, who went onto become the first Chief Minister of Delhi, was a student of Ramjas back then. He was a participant in the Quit India movement of1942 as a leader of ‘underground’ activities in Delhi at the time. Brahm Prakash even got imprisoned a fair few times during the struggle.
It was also around this time that Chandra Shekhar Azad was absconding from the British government. The students of the Ramjas hostel sheltered him, with Azad kept in disguise as a Sikh student from Pakistan. He was in hiding for months, and to the credit of the hostellers, they assisted him eluding the CID and the ISI.
In spite of its rising popularity and immense activity, the University of Delhi had no proper or organized infrastructure to its credit then. The office of the Vice Chancellor was at the old Secretariat, a space he had to share with the Viceroy and the secretaries as well. The main DU office had been established in the old transport authorities building in Civil Lines. Professors used to reside in rented houses.
There was one individual who was determined to change this sorry state of affairs. Sir Maurice Gwyer was a remarkable man. He had a 12-year long stint as Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, with his appointment coming in 1938. Part of Gwyer’s time in DU overlapped with his spell as chief justice of India. His tenure there lasted from 1937 till 1943. His time at the Federal Court, now called the Supreme Court, came to an end when some Indian students unfurled the national flag as a rebellion and he was asked to pass an order against them. Seeing his responsibility as the Vice Chancellor to be greater and also seeing right in the act of the students, Sir Gwyer chose to resign from the Federal Court.
Tasked with reforming the university, Gwyer couldn’t help but notice that the constituent colleges were scattered, all far apart. The university had to its name not one permanent professor. All staff was borrowed from external educational institutions. Sir Maurice was ever so keen to act upon this, and promptly decided to seek the help of the government. This was, however, around the time of onset of the Second World War, and his plans had to be set-aside for some time. Some problems live through the ages, the continued paucity of funds for DU being a prime case in point. This time, it was Sir Maurice who landed at the doorstep of the 81-year-old RaiKedar Nath. The founder of Ramjas was at it again, exploring ways of generating capital. He got in touch with old adversary Shri Ram, who was mildly amused to hear from Rai sahab. He remarked, “We both retired long back, Rai sahab. What can I do for you now?”
While he was reluctant to supply money for the buildings, the generous Shri Ram agreed to help the university out, albeit in a different way. He agreed to fully sponsor four professorships, in the subject fields of History, English, Physics and Economics. He had just one condition-which the University should earmark and hire the best brains in the country for these professorships. For teaching English literature, Dr Sukumar Duttwas selected, having been lone winner of an all-country competition. His main rival for the post had been E. M. Foster, esteemed author of A Passage to India, but Dutt ultimately triumphed.
For History, DU proceeded to employ chief record keeper of the Government of India, and author of the book 1857, S.N. Sen.B.N. Ganguli, a future VC of the university, was deemed suitable for professorship in Economics. The only impediment in this particular process of decision-making arose when it was time to agree upon an individual to teach Physics. Gwyer had Daulat Ram Kothari in his sights, while Viceroy Lord Lillithgo had thought of someone else. With Kothari handed the job, the viceroy felt undermined. A letter was sent to the VC, in which the viceroy stated that if he couldn’t even have his way here, his reputation would be hurt.
It was at this juncture that Sir Maurice realized that there was a place where the viceroy’s choice, Homi Jehangir Bhabha, could be accommodated. It was Ramjas College that he had in mind. Over there, Bhabha would have the status and salary of a professor. The viceroy was happy with the outcome, but it just wasn’t to be. Right after this was agreed upon, a war broke out in England. Bhabha, whose area of expertise was nuclear and military physics, was summoned.
Even in the post-independence era, during the cross-border influx of people, Ramjas had a crucial role to play in the evolution of the city. The college provided accommodation for roughly 4000 refugees from Pakistan. Soon after, the institute was running double shifts in a day, with evening classes for these refugees. Eventually, this lot started occupying surrounding areas. The recurring communication problem in Delhi had yet to be resolved. Ramjas, at that moment, decided to provide all its students with bicycles for commuting. It was ultimately these refugees who started amini-revolution. They needed part-time jobs to make both ends meet, so these boys would ride their bicycles and distribute newspapers from house to house all across the city. It is believed that this is how the concept of newspaper delivery boys first emerged in Delhi.
As time elapsed, as new timelines forged, new pages were added to the history of Ramjas. Many successful names came to be associated with one of the oldest colleges of the University. There are many from the legal sphere-the notable ones being Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice A.P. Shah. In media, actors Manoj Bajpayee and ShekharSuman are noteworthy. Reputed director Prakash Jha was briefly associated with Ramjas. The name of India TV founder and anchor Rajat Sharma would ring a bell; he too is an alumnus of this institution. The same is true for bureaucrat V.P. Sawhney and the late Ashok Saikia, the additional Secretary of the Prime Minister. Few would be aware of the fact that Padmashree Mushirul Hasan, an internationally known historian, author and ex-Vice Chancellor of the Jamia Milia Islamia, is a product of Ramjas.
So many names have made Ramjas. Ramjas is a conglomeration of will, effort and devotion. A glorious past tells a story of its own. We hope the future has a plethora of success stories in store for us.
— Edited version of article published in Anand Parvat 2014 by Sukanya Sharma and Hemant Dua, in conversation with Mr. P.K. Sachdeva, Associate Professor (Retd.), Department of History, Ramjas College
Ramjas College today is ranked amongst the top educational institutions in India. Its spacious campus caters to over 5000 student, faculty, administration and other members at any point of time. The College has separate women’s and men’s hostels that provide residential facilities to over 200 students.
The college is the top institution in the University in terms of its adoption of technology and innovative teaching methods, as well as infrastructure. From LCD projectors in the classroom to wifi access everywhere, the college takes its goals of advancing education through new pedagogical tools seriously. Seminars, conferences and talks are held regularly at the ultra-modern conference centre and a state of the art seminar room, and the college invites leading faculty from other parts of India and abroad for inspiring students. The college conducts a variety of research projects under various Government and University schemes such as the DBT-Star College Project and DU-Innovation Project. The college has established a Research Centre and a Knowledge Centre for research purposes. Other centres at the college host national and international events. The Centre for International Education has MOUs with seven institutions for faculty and student exchange programmes, including the International Education of Students (IES), USA, the State University of New Jersey, USA, International Study Program (DIS), Copenhagen, Faculty and Student Exchange Programme with the University of Antwerp, Belgium, Exchange Programme with Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), The Washington Center, Washington D.C., USA, and the School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University, Denmark. Students and faculty are both integral to the research goals of the college. Ramjas faculty, who have received numerous awards, are considered amongst the best in India and the University. Trained at leading universities in India and abroad, the college faculty conducts research in a range of areas and has a very strong research and publications profile. In 2014-15, Ramjas College, the college will open a new Academic Annexe Block.
The college library has over 100,000 books, while individual department libraries often have hundreds of additional course specific research material. The computer terminals at the college allow access to the University network as well as all major journal archives and a host of minor ones. Students can also access these from their own devices using the free wifi. In 2014, Ramjas unveiled an upgraded student information system (SIS), which will give students access to a variety of features, including assignment submissions, peer tutoring, clubs and society’s memberships, forums, and many other features, in addition to timetable schedules, attendance records and college notifications. Faculty can manage their personal data through the integrated package as well, including payroll records, extra-curricular activity (ECA) management, locker functions and many more.
Ramjas has advanced facilities for sports and ECA. Facilities for football, volleyball, tennis, basketball, archery, track and field, are supported by a state of the art gym (CLICK HERE – LINK TO PHY EDU PAGE). The College participated in almost 45 different international, national, inter-college, state and invitational open championships, in the 2013-14, and won 16 gold, 32 silver and 45 bronze medals in all. To promote health awareness, department organizes yoga camps for students and staff as well as competitions and activities for visually challenged and specially-abled students. The Department also makes it a point to hold talks and seminars by eminent sports personalities who guide our students on various issues like doping, diet, training, journalism etc. In 2013-14, NBA, the internationally recognized Basketball league, chose Ramjas College sports venue to organize their NBA jam for both men and women’s championships. The event was a massive success, and the Ramjas college team finished runners-up in women’s competition. Retired NBA player Horace Grant visited the college during the same tournament and gave important tips to students on basketball. To interact with international players, the department hosted students from a university team from the U.S. and they played friendly matches and interacted with our men’s and women’s basketball teams. Our college is proud of nurturing the talents of many international and national level athletes.
A dedicated ECA complex is used by students for a variety of club and society events (CLICK HERE FOR MORE– LINK TO CLUBS AND SOCIETIES).Our dramatics society, debating society, literary society, fine arts society and the newly established photography society have won prizes at national and international levels. In 2014, Ramjas debaters bested all other colleges of the university in The Great Debate, organized by the University of Delhi and the British High Commission.