Akbar christened a city as Allahabad; it meant ‘Abode of God’. The mighty Mughal emperor was fascinated by this place. Whenever the name Allahabad is mentioned, the first thing that germinates in the head is ‘Sangam’, the place where the three rivers, namely, Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati, meet. But the city is not just defined by the confluence of three rivers; it’s much more than that, it’s a city embracing modernity while still holding hands with its heritage and culture. Recently Allahabad was rechristened as Prayagraj, but does renaming a place change the essence it contains? Well, that’s barely possible. The gossips while snacking at the favorite joints, those discussions about politics and daily happenings, the languorous pace of life, they are all the same.
Historically this city has held high importance and was very active during our struggle for independence. This city has witnessed stalwart supporters of our freedom struggle been born and dying on its turf. And in its folds, the city has nurtured eminent personalities; people who have left or are still leaving their footprints on the sands of time.
Watching the city change its hues over the years, there is a cradle of education that was once famous as the Oxford of the East. Established in the year 1887, this institution has molded people, polished them to such an extent that they shone like diamonds on the map of the country and the world. This University has produced one President of India, two Vice-President, three Indian and one foreign Prime Ministers, many Chief Ministers, at least four Chief Justices of India, and one army chief, several union and state ministers, moreover, a great number of senior bureaucrats; No other university across the whole country has such noteworthy merit to its name. People identify this university as the University of Allahabad.
Established on 23 September 1887, the University of Allahabad is the fourth oldest university in independent India. The foundation stone of the Muir Central College was laid on 9 December 1873 by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Northbrook. Mr. William Emerson, the British architect who is credited with the designing of Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial and Mumbai’s Crawford Market, was the designer of the Allahabad University. At the outset the institution functioned under the University of Calcutta and later when the University of Allahabad got its separate identity on 23 September 1887, it became the fifth university to be established in colonial India after Calcutta University, Bombay University, Madras University and Punjab University situated in Lahore.
By the year 1904, the university set up its teaching departments and began its doctoral research programs. The Muir Central College was merged with the university in 1921, after the circulation of the ‘Allahabad University Act of 1921’. It re-organized the institution as a unitary teaching and residential university. In 1951, certain local institutions were recognized by the university as Associated Colleges and they were authorized to teach undergraduate courses under the faculties of Arts, Commerce, Science, and Law.
During the university’s centenary celebrations in 1987, students, faculty, and employees of the university demanded to grant the institution with the status of Central University. The Government of India in the long run acceded to this and the university gained both Central status and acknowledgment as an “Institution of National Importance” in 2005.
In July 1992, the Uttar Pradesh government accorded the university with the formal recognition of Vishesh Agrani Sanstha meaning a ‘Premier Institution’. Two of its departments, namely the Department of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology, and the Department of Psychology — are recognized as UGC Centres of Advanced Study. The University of Allahabad has been awarded several major research projects under the National Research and Development schemes. A ‘Chair’ on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) has also been granted to the University by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR). The Centre for Cognitive and Behavioural Sciences of the university is rated as the best in South Asia, and has been upgraded into a center of excellence. In 2012, ‘India Today’ ranked the University of Allahabad 8th in the Indian University Rankings while been number 5 in the North Indian University Rankings.
The motto of the University of Allahabad says, Quot Rami Tot Arbores, which is Latin for “As many branches, so many trees”. The duty of the University was characterized in its initiation, paced by its motto, which has remained the foundation stone of its endeavors to the present day. The motto envisages the desired transformation of each BRANCH, represented by its students into the full-fledged TREES, implying that the university wishes to make its students as a self-realized, self-sustained entity, spreading the intellectual and social culture and the ethos of the institution, in accordance with the destiny of each branch to become a tree in its own right. The University was not limited by an abstract commitment to learning, but regarded service to the nation, and indeed, to humanity as a whole, to be the central concern of the institution. The University stands for humanism and tolerance, for reason, for a quest of ideas and the hunt for the truth.
Sprawled across four campuses with an aggregate land area of 259.5 acres distinguished by heritage buildings designed in the Indo-Saracen, Egyptian and Gothic styles and green lawns, the University of Allahabad has some distinguished departments and places worth mentioning.
Department of Mathematics
Established in 1872, the Department of Mathematics of the Allahabad University is one of the most well-known centers of learning in India. The department is housed in a double-storied Gothic building with a domed roof and is lined with beautiful arches which are the silhouettes of the past. The high vaulted classrooms are lined with textbooks from the wall to the roof. Many world-renowned scholars having knowledge of algebra, fluid mechanics, geometry and mathematical, and ecology have emerged from here. The department joined forces with the University of Leningrad under the Indo-USSR program and persisted under the special assistance program of the UGC for two terms in the recent past.
Department of English and Modern European Languages
The Department of English and Modern European Languages, University of Allahabad, has the unique merit of being one of the oldest English Departments in the country. Having its foundation in the year 1922, the department was envisioned by the British with the plan of westernizing the natives of this country. A grand Edwardian-Mughal structure houses the department, and the historical significance along with the inherited style makes the department the truest representative of the Oxford of East. Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan, the famous Hindi poet, took his doctorate from Cambridge, the topic of his research being the poetry of W.B. Yeats. He served as one of the faculty members of the Department for nearly two decades.
Department of Philosophy
Finding its establishment in the year 1922, the Department of Philosophy, University of Allahabad, is not only one of the oldest philosophy departments in the country, but also arguably one of the biggest departments with more than 3000 students on its roll. Over the nine decades, the department has set some very noteworthy philosophical trends by publishing nearly 70 books and 600 research papers. Furthermore, the department has been instrumental in producing numbers of teachers, bureaucrats, and intellectuals, spreading all over the country and abroad.
The Central Library came into being out of the library of the Muir Central College. The foundation stone of the university library building was laid by Sir John Hewett on 17th Jan 1910. In the year 1946-47, Dr.S.R. Ranganathan, father of library science in India, suggested ways and means of improving the library. A special committee reviewed the library development plan submitted by Dr. Ranganathan and pointed out that the central library building constructed in 1913-16 was inadequate. The present structure was built in 1973. In front of the library building stands a statue of Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, one of the distinguished personalities of Hindi Literature. The old library building now houses the office of the Registrar, as well as Accounts and General section of the University.
This lofty structure was constructed by Sir Swinton Jacob. In 1912, the University Senate hall was opened by the then Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Hewett. The Senate Hall is decked with exquisitely designed canopies; the upper level of the hall comprises of balconies which are lined with deep crimson, and the walls are penetrated with distinctive arches.
The University puts in constant efforts to transform the lives of students by inculcating values of self-reliance, efficiency, judiciousness, and creativity, which is the basic principle of its teaching-learning system. Through these features, it educates the students with knowledge and lights a sense of honesty, responsibility, and commitment to the human values for the upliftment of the society. Marcus Garvey said, “People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and cultures are like a tree without roots.” The city of Prayagraj is blessed to have such a marvelous gem of history bestowed on them and it’s up to the people to uphold its name and reputation. We learn from our past as we progress towards our future. The past of the University of Allahabad has been glorious, and as we move ahead, taking a leaf out of the pages of the past wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.
By: Mobani Biswas, Prayagraj