Problem of City expansion: The answer lies elsewhere


Gujarat College, the premier Government college, is the first college to be started in Ahmedabad - as, indeed, in Gujarat. It began functioning in 1879 and remained the only college in the city for 57 years - till 1936 when the H. L. College of Commerce was started. (Meanwhile, three other. colleges had come up in the Gujarat region; the Shamaldas College at Bhavnagar in 1885, the Bahauddin College at Junagadh in 1903 and the first private college, the M. T. B. Arts College at Surat in 1918).

Though the desirability of having an institution imparting higher education in Ahmedabad was mooted as far back as 1856 by Mr. T. C. Hope (later Sir Theodore Hope), Education Inspector of the Northern Division, it took years of effort before the Gujarat Provincial College was started in 1860 attached to the local Government high school. But the college could secure affiliation with the Bombay University only in 1879 for teaching courses up to first year Arts and in 1884 for teaching courses leading up to the Bachelor of Arts degree examination. The college classes were withdrawn from the high school and located in a special building on Mirzapur road.


The college was under direct Government control from 1884 to 1887 after which it was handed over to the Society for Promotion of Higher Education in Gujarat and administered by a board of management composed of Government officials, representatives of the society and the municipality. The building on Mirzapur road soon proved inadequate and the college was shifted to its present grand building on the extensive grounds near Dhuliakot, across the river, in 1897.

From 1884 onwards, the college was lucky in having eminent educationists and administrators as principals. It was during the principalship of Rev. W. G. Robertson (1909-1924) that the M. R. Science Institute (teaching courses upto the B.Sc. degree level examination of the Bombay University) came into existence as a consequence of a munificent donation of Rs. 6 lakh from Sir Chinubhai Madhavlal Bart - the eminent industrialist and philanthropist of Ahmedabad. The institute was inaugurated in 1912 by Lord Sydenham. A separate library (Sydenham Library) and a college hall the King Emperor George V hail (now known as the Gandhi Hall) rose from further donations of Rs. 4 lakh from the same princely donor.

The society for the Promotion of Higher Education in Gujarat dissolved itself in 1912 and made over the management of the Gujarat College and M. R. Institute of Science to the Government which retains it upto the present day.

The various hostels and other suitable accommodation naturally kept pace with the constant and rapid increase in the number of students both in the Arts and the Science streams. Further buildings to house the developing science departments, an additional building for the growing library of the college, the tutorial building and an additional hail for the dramatics section were added in later years. The college campus has hostel accommodation for nearly 250 students. It provides for the teaching of the largest number of optional subjects at the Honours level for both the B.A. and the B.Sc. degree examinations.

In 1926, G. Findlay Shiras, an eminent economist, took over as the principal. He was the last British principal and was at the helm of the affairs of the college till 1939. Extension of educational and extra-curricular activities including sports took place during his regime which also had to face a long strike of the students from January 3, 1929 against the victimisation of the students for joining the demonstration against the Simon Commission.

Great impact

The strike had a great impact on the atmosphere in the country and won Gandhiji's compliments for "inaugurating a new era". The strike was supported by national leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Acharya J. B. Kripalani, Dadasaheb Mavlankar, Bhulabhai Desai and K. M. Munshi who came frequently to address the students. The Government ultimately relented and conceded most of the demands of the students. The Bombay University, by a special resolution, granted all the students their terms and the strike was called off on February 12, 1929. It is worthwhile noting that, though the students had lost nearly a month of studies, no concessions were sought by them at the university examinations.

This opposition to the foreign Government on a matter of self-respect, carried out with courage and the spirit of self-sacrifice became a beacon to guide the youth of Gujarat in participating in the non-violent fight, started a year later, after Gandhiji's famous Dandi March.

It was again the campus of Gujarat College which, in the Quit India movement of 1942, saw on August 9 the shooting at point blank range of Kinariwala-a student of the college: with a tricolour aloft in his hand he led a band of patriotic students against the heavily armed police force of the alien rulers. This heroic self-sacrifice electrified the spirit of resistance in the student community, not only in the local colleges but also in most of the colleges in western India for the rest of the academic year. A small but inspiring monument built in memory of Shaheed Kinariwala near the spot where he breathed his last bears silent testimony to the heights of glory to which the then student community had raised their alma mater.

Illustrious alumni

This first and the oldest college in Gujarat was the alma mater of a line of illustrious persons including Prof. Anand Shankar Dhruva, Ambalal Sarabhai, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, G. V. Mavlankar, Kavi Nanalal, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Umashankar Joshi.

In the first half of the 20th century, the contribution of the college to the academic, social and cultural life of Ahmedabad and Gujarat has -been very prominent. The first two women graduates from Gujarat-Lady Vidyagauri Neelkanth and Mrs. Shardabehn S. Mehta were students of this college. The college has had the good fortune of having a galaxy of teachers who, by their scholarship and dedication to their duty, contributed a lot in moulding the character and developing the talent of a generation of students who still remember their teachers and alma mater with affection, gratitude and reverence.