Standing tall in all fronts
|Sourashtra School proves to be a pioneer in many ways|
— Photo: G. Moorthy
Archetype: A view of the Sourashtra Boys Higher Secondary School in Madurai.
MADURAI: Can you think of a school that plied bullock carts to fetch girl children to classrooms in 1886?
Can you name the school that introduced free mid-day meal and later breakfast for poor students in the country?
Are you aware of a school that has beautiful stone structures amalgamating Indian, British and Mughal architectural styles?
It is the Sourashtra Higher Secondary School on the Kamarajar Salai in Madurai that celebrated its centenary last week.
In 1886, Sourashtra Primary School began its educational service.
And soon, L.K. Thulasiram, founder of the school, took over the management and control of the school run by the Sourashtra community and reorganised it under the Sourashtra Sabha.
He also obtained recognition and grant-in-aid from the Government for the educational institutions run by the sabha. In 1904, the school was upgraded into a high school and in 1909 it had strength of about 370 students.
Today, the school provides education to 3500 students with the support 125 teachers.
It registers above 90 per cent results consistently by sending over 450 students for the board examinations for years together, says T.S. Soundarajan, Headmaster.
For the benefit of poor students, Thulasiram introduced mid-day meal scheme which was later emulated by the Tamil Nadu Government during the period of K. Kamaraj in the name of noon-meal scheme in Government schools.
Similarly, few years ago, some of the old students joined hands to introduce a ‘free breakfast scheme’ especially for the poor students who hail from villages around Madurai.
Now the mid-day meal scheme benefits around 1400 students and the breakfast scheme satiates 400 deserving students.
The school, which was functioning at various places such as Meikattum Pottal, was shifted to the present stone structure that was built for 12 years from 1917 to 1929 at a cost Rs.1.5 lakh collected as donations from the Sourashtra community.
The school building beckons students with its octagonal pillars decorated by lions and horses representing the British and Greece style of architecture, says B. R. Arangaraman, Headmaster, Sourashtra Co-education Higher Secondary School.
Anybody who makes a tour of the school building is sure to witness these architectural masterpieces, says G. Balaji lecturer, Department of Architecture, Thiagarajar College of Engineering.
A group of architects from Thiagarajar College of Engineering has taken special efforts to document the unique features of the building.
The school building is one of the few heritage buildings left in the city, along with the American College, Collectorate and Sri Meenakshi Government College for Women. It illustrates a perfect fusion of Indian, British and Mughal architecture.
“It was a real challenge for the British architects to use Muslim designs, Indian materials and architectural methods,” says Mr. Balaji.
The symmetrical construction was considered to be the grandest form of expression during the 19th century.
The Bulbous projection at the spring of arches clearly indicates the Indian inspiration, whereas the cusp arches along the double centred arch indicates Mughal inspiration, he points out.
Attributing the spacious ventilation, lancet arches and twin columns with handrails to the English design, Mr. Balaji says that overall the structure can be classified as a model of Indo-Saracenic architecture.