This 106-year-old Dharamshala college has a glorious past and offers a promising future
Built to cater to the higher education needs in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, the Government Post Graduae College, Dharamshala, remains a big draw for students from Kangra, Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti districtsindia Updated: Jun 25, 2018 10:47 IST
Nestled in the scenic Kangra valley with the mighty Dhauladhars in the backdrop, the sleepy hill town of Dharamshala, the home of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, is also home to one of Himachal Pradesh’s oldest institutions of learning, Government Post Graduate College Dharamshala.
Here is a glimpse into the history of the times in which the college was set up. After the annexation of Punjab in 1849, the British set up army cantonments in the barren hills of Dharamshala and its surrounding areas. Kangra was the biggest district of Punjab province that was extended up to tribal Lahaul and Spiti and included Kullu, Hamirpur and Bilaspur.
- Bollywood actor Dev Anand studied at Government College, Dharamshala, for a year from 1938-39. He was in town, while his mother underwent treatment for tuberculosis at the sanatorium in Tanda. Later, Dev Anand left for Lahore.
- Former principal Lalit Mohan Sharma says that a group photo of Dev Anand with his classmates was hung in the staff room for decades but went missing a few years ago.
- The Old Student Association invited the actor to attend its first function in 1992. Dev Anand, who could not make it, but sent ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas to perform at the event.
However, for more than six decades there was no prominent educational institution in the region and students had to go to colleges in Punjab, mostly to Lahore, for higher studies.
Sir Louis W Dane, the British officer who served as lieutenant governor of Punjab from 1908-13 set up this institution in this region. Consequently, the Dharamshala Education Board Trust was formed and the foundation stone for the college was laid on May 4, 1912.
Heritage and upgrade
A single-storeyed building in colonial style architecture was raised in the subsequent years and the college became fully functional as an intermediate college in 1926. It was upgraded to the graduation level in 1947.
The heritage building of the college, which houses the principal’s office, is still intact, while other old buildings have been renovated or replaced by new structures.
College principal Sunil K Mehta says that the Dharamshala college was the first to start a graduation course in geology in the 1950s even before the department began functioning at Panjab University, Chandigarh, to which it was affiliated at that time.
After the reorganisation of Punjab, Kangra was merged in Himachal Pradesh and the college was affiliated to Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) in 1970. “It became the first college in Himachal Pradesh to start postgraduate courses in 1977,” says Mehta.
Since it was the only college in Kangra region, students from all sections of society studied here. The nominal fee made it possible for students from the economically weaker sections to study here.
“In my friend circle, most students were wards of administrative officers or doctors, while I was the son of a farmer,” says Vinod Kumar, a journalist and former president of the Students’ Central Association of the college.
Students from as far as Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti still come to this college to pursue higher studies.
Vikram Chaudhary, a record holder in the triple jump discipline in Himachal Pradesh University’s history, says that the environment in the college is conducive for both sports and academics.
A former student and Congress leader, Kewal Singh Pathania, who played hockey at the national level, says the college has an illustrious record in sports.
“Shooting, football, hockey, badminton and wrestling have been popular in the college. In state-level teams of each sport, half the players would be from Dharamshala college,” says Pathania.
Unfortunately, since the advent of internet and mobile phones that glory is fading.
Apart from sports, the college has been a centre of cultural activities. The annual cultural extravaganza called Galaxy, organised by a group of college students called Stage Gang in the ’70s and ’80s, was a popular event.
“Artistes such as Annu Kapoor and Jasvinder Bhalla have performed at this function,” says Ravinder Wasan, another former student who remained associated with the event till the curtains came down in 1985.
College students have kept up the tradition of winning top honours at the inter-university youth festivals.
Prominent among the college alumni are Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa, Hero of Skardu (1948), who was awarded the Indian Army’s second highest gallantry award, the Maha Vir Chakra. He was a student at the college in 1926.
Former chief secretary of Punjab KD Vasudeva, noted surgeon Dr Ashok Kumar Sharma, writer and poet Anoop Sethi and Bollywood singer Mohit Chauhan are former students of the college. Writer and poet PN Sharma, who is a close friend of the Dalai Lama, also studied at this college and later retired as its principal.
The college has produced leaders, three of who are ministers in the Jai Ram Thakur government. Agriculture minister Ram Lal Markanda, health minister Vipin Singh Parmar and civil supplies minister Kishan Kapoor have studied in the college.
The Old Students Association (OSA) of the college was formed in 1991 and is active in carrying out development activities on the campus. It was with the efforts of the OSA that the college auditorium was constructed two years ago.
Path to progress
The college offers 21 subjects at the undergraduate level besides professional courses such as bachelors in business administration, masters in business administration, masters in computer application, BSc biotechnology, tourism and travel and journalism and mass communication.
The college was accredited ‘B’ grade by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council in 2003 and acquired ‘A’ Grade in 2015.
It has three modern computer labs with 100 computers and one more is being established in the faculty of arts.
Principal Mehta says, “We are considering to start more post-graduate courses, particularly in science subjects.”
The college has one of the biggest libraries in the state. It is enlisted under the information and library network. It has more than 62,000 books and subscribes to 25 national and international magazines and 10 journals.
The college has two units of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and three units of the National Service Scheme (NSS), besides clubs and societies such as the drama club, trekking club, literary society and science society.
(This article is a part of HT’s Special series on ‘Region’s Oldest Schools of Learning’)