THE ‘VOICE’ OF
KERALA TURNS 125 YEARS
On March 16, 2013 the erudite
town of Kottayam woke up to a momentous event in the history
of the state and the nation. Malayala Manorama, Kerala’s No.
1 newspaper that brands itself as ‘the harbinger of
sunshine’ in Malayalee homes every morning, was celebrating
its 125th anniversary.
After its establishment on
March 14th, 1888, the newspaper started printing in Kottayam
on March 22nd, 1890 – a few hundred copies, to start with.
Today, 125 eventful years later that showcases an almost
unparalleled story of courage and conviction, Malayala
Manorama has earned the distinction of being the largest
regional language newspaper in India. Indeed, celebrations
were in order. Yet it was done with understated elegance
that’s typically Manorama’s style. Gracing the occasion was
India’s most important person himself – the President of
India Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who declared the
quasquicentennial year celebrations open. He unveiled the
plaque at Malayala Manorama’s Kodimatha printing press
premises in Kottayam before an august audience comprising
VVIPs and VIPs from all walks of life, celebrities, readers
of the newspaper, agents and the Manorama family.
mood was celebratory at the venue. After the President and
the other dignitaries reached the dais, the Southern Naval
Command’s 20-member Symphony Orchestra, among the top naval
bands in India, played the National Anthem.
followed was a feast for the eyes and musical splendour for
the ears. The invocation was a song, the lyrics for which
were penned by O.N.V. Kurup, Kerala’s very own celebrated
poet and writer. The audience remained enthralled as the
musical couple L.Subramaniam and Kavitha Krishnamurthy sang
the prayer – Kavitha singing in her soft, lilting voice, “Sadhyamanugrahamaruluka
bhuvanam sakalam nirayum prakashame...” (Kindly bless
us O Light encompassing the whole earth...) accompanied
skillfully by her husband L.Subramaniam, a Malayalee
himself, on the violin.
The Chief Editor of Malayala
Manorama, Mr Mammen Mathew, welcomed the gathering in a
voice booming with pride and charged with emotion. “We have
crossed another milestone in the eventful history of
Malayala Manorama. Journalism with a human touch is our
beacon and we pledge there will be no dilution in our
In his inaugural address the President
said, “Malayala Manorama practised responsible journalism
and has always stood for the people and with them in the
battle against injustice. During India’s freedom struggle,
the enterprise was forced to shut down publication of the
newspaper for nine long years. But the management and the
loyal workforce refused to be cowed into submission by the
foreign yoke despite huge losses for the company.”
He spoke about Manorama’s astute corporate social
responsibility and the leadership the enterprise has taken
in Kerala’s education, health and development sectors, by
not just reporting events in the newspaper, but by
contributing magnanimously for the state’s uplift as well.
And its social responsibility remains pan-Indian, he said.
In the Visitors’ Diary he wrote: “Let Malayala
Manorama be the strong central pillar that upholds the
nation and leads society on the right track.”
Governor H.R.Bharadwaj in his address recalled Mahatma
Gandhi’s words that a newspaper is the heartbeat of the
nation and extolled Manorama for giving expression to the
voice of the downtrodden. Sharing the same sentiments Union
Minister Kapil Sibal applauded regional language dailies for
being significant factors of social change.
Minister Oommen Chandy struck a chord with the audience when
he got personal on his bond with the institution. “Manorama
is like my tharavadu (ancestral home) and Mathukuttychayan
(as the late K.M. Mathew was fondly called) was the
father-figure in my life who admonished and encouraged me as
I took baby steps into the political domain.” It is amazing
how Manorama still retains its youthful vigour in every page
of the newspaper, he added.
Kerala’s Home Minister
Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan put it succinctly: “The history
of Kerala and Malayala Manorama are intertwined. One does
not exist without the other.” Mr Jose K. Mani, Member of
Parliament, remembered the founding fathers of the
institution who by the lofty values they upheld and their
acts of sacrifice have given the newspaper character and an
identity that are its greatest assets even today. “In an
atmosphere vitiated by communal differences and religious
intolerance, Malayala Manorama has always practised freedom
of expression and tolerance,” he pointed out.
Indian Postal Service released a commemorative stamp valued
at Rs. 5 on the occasion which was displayed before the
gathering by the President.
Without a doubt the
highlight of the evening was the musical extravaganza by
India’s most noteworthy choir, the Shillong Chamber Choir
(SCC). They held the audience in their thrall with their
foot-tapping music. They sang single numbers and medleys
covering a broad spectrum of all-time favourites. It
culminated with the incredible ‘Indian Train Journey’ –
their take on the sights and sounds in a railway station set
As the dignitaries and guests departed
mesmerised by the evening, they took back with them a slice
of life called Malayala Manorama.