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Matrusri Oriental College – A Temple of Oriental Learning

Dr Tangirala Simhadri Sastry
Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 15
Month : July
Issue Number : 3
Year : 2016

After providing shelter to threading crowds of her children, a kitchen, Annapurnalayam, to provide food to satiate their hunger and directing their minds towards meditation on the Lord in the Temple. Amma turned her attention to the equally essential aspect of human life, education, for awakening the mind through learning.

Much before what could be called as College took shape here, it had passed through nimble beginnings during 1964-65 with five or six students and a teacher in Sanskrit forming a nucleus of a school. Hyma, Vasundhara, Manga (Raju bava’s sister), Ramana, Savithri and Jhansi (the three daughters of Sri Pothukuchi Vidyasagar) being the first students and Sri Bhadradri Ramasastry being the teacher to whom Amma entrusted the six students.

The actual College named Matrusri Oriental College, came into existence much later with Dr. Pannala Radhakrishna Sarma (Dr. Pannala for short) as the first Principal. There is an interesting prelude to Dr. Pannala taking up the reins of Principalship, as heard from the ‘horse’s mouth’. During the early 1960s or, to be more precise, during 1962-63, Dr. Pannala was working as a teacher in the High school in the nearby village Appikatla. He used to accompany Sri Kondamudi Ramakrishna (Ramakrishna annayya) who was a Village Officer (Karanam) of Appikatla on his visits to Jillellamudi. Deeply influenced by the experiences he had with Amma, Dr. Pannala used to make frequent visits and even composed verses in Sanskrit and titled ‘Sringaralahari’ in obeisance to Amma. During one of such visits, it appears, Amma asked him if he would come as Principal of a Sanskrit College in Jillellamudi! Dr. Pannala could not believe his ears and for him it sounded like a joke. A Sanskrit College in this remote hamlet! And he, then working as a school teacher becoming a Principal! For him both looked so remotely possible during those years.

But soon the plans were afoot to start an Oriental College there with the support of the Government. The more interesting thing is that the responsibility of raising the funds for starting the College was entrusted to Dr. Pannala himself.

So, it all started with Dr. Pannala taking upon the responsibility in right earnest and went about his job by eliciting the support of some of the devotee brothers in different places in the state, particularly in Hyderabad.

In this context a Souvenir was also proposed to be published towards pooling up funds and to be released during the inauguration of the College in 1971. Brothers Sri U.M. Rao, a well established businessman of the twin cities and Sri G.K. Rao, a reputed Chartered Accountant played a prominent part towards the cause, in coordination with Sri J. Venkataratnam and Sri T.S. Sastry.

Sri Adharapurapu Seshagiri Rao an eminent Congressman from the nearby town Ponnuru and architect of the developments in Jillellamudi since late 1950s, devoted all his time and effort to obtain the sanction of the State Government to start a State-aided Oriental College in Jillellamudi. A State-aided College implies, funding by the State Government for the Salaries of the Staff, the infrastructure as also scholarships for the students admitted into the College, with a cap on the number of students that could be admitted. However, it enjoins on the Management to provide free boarding and lodging to the students.

The funds were raised mainly through the advertisements of the Companies and Business Establishments as also some well wishers through the good offices and contacts of Sri U.M. Rao and Sri G.K. Rao while the Souvenir was printed in Hyderabad. Sri Chandramouli Venkatakrishna an eminent lawyer and an ardent devotee of Amma played a very important part in coordination with Sri T.S. Sastry in collecting articles for the Souvenir from eminent scholars in Sanskrit and Telugu as well as looking after the printing of the Souvenir.

Having pooled up sufficient funds for running the College, the stage was set for its launch. Thus the Matrusri Oriental College (MOC) came into existence with Amma inaugurating it in 1971. Sri Pannala (now Dr. Pannala) was entrusted with the reins (appointed) as the first Principal of MOC, bringing into reality the statement akin to prophecy (the query put to Dr. Pannala) made by Amma nearly a decade ago.

Matrusri Vidya Parishat was formed to look after the management of the College and its affairs. Sri Kondamudi Ramakrishna, a close confidant and a personal assistant to Amma till the end of her earthly sojourn, was the Chairman of the Parishat. He was a loving personality and an efficient administrator of the affairs of the College. Permanent buildings have come up for the College during (1987-90) his tenure due entirely to his efforts.

Firm foundations in teaching standards were laid by Dr. Pannala from the very inception, by recruiting teachers of high scholarly teaching abilities in Sanskrit and Telugu. Sri Prasannanjaneya Sarma, Sri E.V. Satyanarayana Murty, Smt. U. Varalakshmi (now Dr. Varalakshmi) are a few of these who were recruited in 1974. Sri Prasannanjaneya Sarma, a scholar in Sanskrit moved to Pondicherry soon after Dr. Pannala went to be the Director of Bhagavatam Project launched by the TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam). Smt. Varalakshmi, a Bhasha Praveena (equivalent to M.A.) in Telugu continued on the staff. She earned her Ph.D., also.

The classes of the College were initially held in thatched sheds, verandas of the first floor of ‘House of All’ and wherever space was available. Thus the staff had to bear the brunt of hardships during initial years, they brought glory to the College with many of the students passing out in bright colors and even winning gold medals in the Inter-College competitions.

The College has seen enormous growth in terms of its performance during the very first decade of its existence owing to the stewardship of Dr. Pannala and the hard-work put in by the dedicated teaching staff of the College. The students also brought many laurels through their creditable performance during the competitions at the national level. Many of the students who graduated from this College in Sanskrit and Telugu, followed it up continuing their studies further to Post-graduate level and even pursuing Ph.D., program in the Andhra & S. V. University at Visakhapatnam and Tirupati respectively

It is worthwhile to note that many of the students admitted into the College belong to backward classes and poorer sections from the backward areas of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram districts and other parts of Andhra Pradesh. Thus the College is also paying a role towards fulfilling one of the objectives of socio-economic uplift. It is equally worthwhile to note that the students who passed out of this College are making a comfortable living, earning decent salaries either in teaching or other respectable occupations. It is particularly worthy of mention that one of the students (a girl student) hailing from a poor family of Muslim community in Jillellamudi, passing out from the College with a degree, that too, with a gold medal in Sanskrit went on further to pursue Ph.D., program.

Continuing from where Dr. Pannala left after his superannuation, successive Principals. Sri Vittala Ramachandra Murty, Sri Subrahmanyeswara Sarma and presently Dr. B.L. Suguna led the College to glorious heights through their sheer dedication.

A happy aspect to note in this context is that some of the girls who have grown up in the ‘House of All’, studying there have risen from the school-level to graduation in Sanskrit/Telugu and then on to achieve Ph.D. degrees in the respective subjects. This has enabled them to be appointed as Lecturers in the same College. A couple of them have risen later to occupy the position of Readership. Dr. Jhansi holds a Ph.D., degree in Sanskrit first and later Dr. B.L. Suguna with a Ph.D., in Telugu are examples to be cited here. It may also noted that Dr. Jhansi happens to be one of the first group of six students of Sanskrit along with Hyma, the daughter of Divine Mother Amma.

While Dr. Jhansi rose to the position of Reader in this College and continued till her Retirement, Dr. U. Varalakshmi, after having continued as Reader in this College, moved over to Bapatla Arts & Science College where she worked till she retired. Dr. Suguna’s elevation to the post of Principal occurred soon after the retirement of. Sri Subrahmanyeswara Sarma.

Dr. Suguna’s Ph.D., work is singularly praise worthy in the sense that this is the first one based on the life of a living Divine personality, according to Prof. M. Sivaramkrishna, former Head of the English Dept., of Osmania University and an erudite scholar in matters spiritual and related literature. Dr. U. Varalakshmi, who happened to be Dr. Suguna’s Lecturer during graduation, helped her in shaping up the thesis.

Sri Mallapragada Srimannrayana Murty (I would refer to him as MSM for short hereafter) was a Lecturer of acclaim in Telugu and on the staff of the MOC. Inheriting the scholarly attributes of his father, Sri Mallapragada Sriranga Rao, Sri MSM also has risen to be a scholar of repute not only for his teaching skills, but also in the exposition of Epics in the off-campus events. He retired from the service two years ago; but continues his close association with the College as well as the SVJP through his participation in all the activities and Literary events in the College and on the premises of the Parishat.

The College acquired some equipment for the Gym, thanks to the sanction by the UGC couple of years ago and through the efforts of Sri B. Ramachandra who was the Correspondent of the College, for the benefit of the students. The College now has a Computer Lab with six or seven computers donated through the munificence of one of the devotee brothers who had long association with the ‘House of All’.

A recent development which takes the College to new heights is a TV Program launched by the TTD for the youth, titled ‘Yuvatha’ through the initiative of Sri V.S.R. Moorty. Spiritual Scientist and wherein it provided the students and the staff of MOC an opportunity to participate in this program. Thus they not only had an exposure to this kind of program, but also to the outside world. The TTD also took a lot of interest in allotting 5 Episodes for Live Telecast of this program from this College with Sri V.S.R. Moorty as the main architect and mentor.

The College can also boast of holding a National Level Telugu Literary Seminar, thanks to the initiative taken by its present Correspondent Sri P.S.R. Anjaneya Prasad, a scholar in Telugu in his own right, wrote it during January, 2016 with the theme “Society & Spiritual (Bhakti) Literature. It has seen active participation of many scholars in Telugu from different Universities.

Having said all this about the College and its achievements, it is ironic to note that the College is at present going through a difficult phase with the State Government discontinuing the aid. Thus the College is forced to fend for itself towards raising funds to pay the salaries of Lecturers employed by the Management in place of those who retire from service. Thus the Matrusri Vidya Parishat which manages the College has to look for help and support from outside to continue running the College maintaining the same standards. The serious and sincere efforts of Sri Boppudi Ramabrahmam the present President of the SVJP in this direction to raise Corpus fund for this purpose deserve great appreciation, but calls for support from well meaning individuals and philanthropic organizations to strengthen his hands so that this Temple of learning grows strong and shines ever brighter.

Let us pray to Amma, the Goddess of learning to extend her protective hand to this temple that bestows higher learning to her children!

YaaDevi Sarva Bhuteshu! Vidyaroopena Samsthita!! Namastasyai, Namasthasyei, Namasthasyei Namo Namaha!

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