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Dr. T.S. Avinashilingam

Dr. T.S. Avinashilingam was the living proof of the ideal 'Life is to give but not to take'. The recipient of prestigious awards like Padma Bhushan and the Jamnalal Bajaj Award and the first Education Minister of the Madras province, our beloved 'Ayya' devoted his entire life in founding educational institutions empowering the underprivileged and the economically vulnerable.  Sri Ramakrishna Vidyalaya and Avinashilignam Home Science College are trendsetters that broke the barriers when women and the socially disadvantaged were not allowed to enter the portals of education.  Dr.T.S. Avinashilingam is such a visionary and a stalwart who planted the seeds for women's education under the auspices of Avinashilingam Education Trust in 1957 and now the institution has grown into a renowned knowledge powerhouse.  Our pranams to our founder! We seek your continued blessings Ayya!


Ayya was drawn into politics quite early in life. In 1926, he commenced practice as an Assistant to his uncle Ramalingam Chettiar before entering the Indian Independence Movement. He participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement. He joined the Indian National Congress and adopted Mahatma Gandhiji’s philosophy. The story of his contact with Mahatma Gandhi is brought out in his Tamil book 'Nankanda Mahatma' (The Gandhi I knew). This book gives his transformation from an ordinary youth into a dynamic person dedicated to the service of our country and people, inspired by the ideals of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhiji.

When Mahatma Gandhi visited South India in 1934 to collect money for the Harijan Welfare Fund, Ayya assisted him by collecting and donating rupees two and half lakhs to the fund. The expenses for the entire tour was borne by Ayya Avargal. He was one of the leading figures in Tamil Nadu during the freedom struggle and in the political life for over quarter of a century in independent India. He also served as the President of the Coimbatore District Congress Committee.

Dr. T. S. Avinashilingam was arrested four times, in 1930, 1932, 1941 and 1942. When his final prison term came to an end in 1944, he entered provincial politics and was elected to the Madras Legislative Council in 1946. He was also a member of the Imperial Legislative Council from 1935 to 1945. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Tiruppur and served as a Member of Parliament from 1952 to 1957. He also served as the Member of the Rajya Sabha from 1958 to 1964. His unwavering patriotic fervor is seen in all his societal activities.

Avinashilingam Ayya is a great institution builder. The most important of the two educational institutions for which he is a Founder are, Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya exclusively for boys, for which Mahatma Gandhiji laid the foundation stone in 1934 and the other being Sri Avinashilingam Institute of Home Science, exclusively for girls. Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya now consists of about a dozen institutions including the College of Education, an Arts and Science College, both leading to Doctorate, a Physical Education College, a Polytechnic, an Institute of Agriculture and other institutions providing education for boys from nursery to the highest level.

The Vidyalaya is an educational complex in a 300 acre campus at Periyanayakkanpalayam. Avinashilingam Home Science College at North Coimbatore, Mettupalayam Road, is the biggest for Home Science education in the country providing education for girls from preschool to Ph. D on the same campus. The foresight and vision of our Ayya saw the blossoming of Sri Avinashilingam Girls High School in 1955. It later grew to Home Science College in 1957 when it was inaugurated by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the then Vice President of India. College of Education was started in 1968. The Home Science College obtained the autonomous status in 1978 and further upgraded to Deemed-to-be University in 1988. The Faculty of Engineering was introduced in 1996. In addition to these, an integrated Rural Development Centre has come into existence in Vivekanandapuram under his guidance. The lives of thousands of boys and girls who have had and who continue to have education in these institutions are obliged to this great visionary.

Ayya became the first Minister of Education in the Composite State of Madras from 1946-49 under premiers Tanguturi Prakasam and O. P. Ramaswamy Reddiyar. He introduced Basic Education and reorganized secondary education; introduced the Madras Libraries Act which ushered in the Library movement in the State and improved the status of teachers especially Tamil teachers. Ayya also worked for the upliftment of untouchables and campaigned for widow remarriage.

One of his most remembered acts as minister was the introduction of Tamil as the medium of instruction in secondary schools. One of Ayya’s greatest wishes was to bring out an encyclopedia in Tamil on the lines of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, which will be the basis for the growth of Tamil as a scientific language . To accomplish his desire, he started the Tamil Valarchi Kalagam in 1946 which created a 10-part encyclopedia. The first volume was released in 1954 and the final and tenth volume containing the supplement and the index was published in 1968. Another long cherished dream of Ayya was to introduce Children’s Encyclopaedia in Tamil under the name “Kulandaigal Kalai Kalanchiyam”. While the first volume was published in 1968, its 10th volume was published in 1975. At the request of the Ministry of Education, Ayya also wrote three books titled Understanding Basic Education, Education by Gandhiji in his Own Words and Gandhiji’s Experiments in Education.

Ayya was also a proponent of the empowerment of women and introduced education for senior citizens. Ayya nationalized the poems of freedom-fighter Subrahmanya Bharathi and created the professorship for Tamil and other Indian languages at the University of Madras.

Ayya’s imprisonment during the freedom struggle gave him time to read Thirukkural, particularly during his imprisonment in Vellore Central Jail, where he took classes on it. He was much impressed by its great thoughts that he made selections from Thirukkural a regular study in all schools in Tamil Nadu. He revitalised moral and spiritual education in schools by introducing graded study of Thirukkural in High Schools. It was introduced as a part of the curriculum from the 6th grade onwards. He introduced the Public Library Bill in the Madras Legislature and got it approved in 1948. Thus Library profession in Tamil Nadu is indebted to him.

Ayya has also written a notable works in Tamil, Avinashilingam also wrote books on economics, Gandhi’s education policy and the Wardha scheme. He has also served in many National Policy making bodies such as Central Advisory Board of Education, All India Council of Technical Education, National Committee on Agricultural Education of the ICAR, National Council of Community Development etc. He is also credited with introducing reforms in Indian society.

Ayya’s long tiring endless efforts towards the society and the country came to an end on 21st November 1991, but his legacy lives on.

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