A Brief History

Introduction

The Serampore Mission of the Baptist Missionary Society was established on 10th January 1800, when William Carey had already spent about seven years in North Bengal since his arrival in Calcutta from Britain on 11th November 1793. He joined the team of other missionaries including Joshua Marshman and William Ward. In July 1818. Carey, Marshman and Ward published the prospectus of Serampore College “for the instruction of Asiatic Christians and other Youths in Eastern Literature and European Science.” While the founders laid great emphasis on the training of Christian leaders for the church in Asia, they had desired to have the College opening its doors to all students irrespective of their caste, colour and creed. It was made imperative to admit students with the understanding that the instruction would be secular in character. Consequently, the College has gained worldwide reputation as a unique educational institution imparting instruction in as diverse disciplines as Christian Theology and liberal Arts, Science and Commerce.

College Emblem

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The college coat of Arms contains (i) the CROSS, the important symbol of sacrifice and love, as witnessed in the life and death of Jesus Christ (ii) the BIBLE, which contains the word of God for all humanity and (iii) the pelican of Piety, feeding with drops of her own blood the three hungry young ones sitting on the edge of her nest. The motto on the crest reads in Latin Gloriam Sapientes Possidebunt which means “Glory to the Blessed”, inviting all those entering the portals of this Institution to live up to the ideals cherished by the blessed founders. The Purpose of the College The supreme task of this Historic institution is to impart to our students knowledge that shall culminate in true wisdom, the sure foundation both of well-being and well-doing. The College stands for education of the whole person enabling our students to people of sound learning and sterling character and motivating them to serve humanity with dedication. The College affirms from experience that the intermingling of students from different backgrounds is healthy and is of great help “in the interest of broad culture and strong character”. Further, the College stands for quality first, quantity second. University Character and The College Since Serampore was a Danish Colony from 1755 to 1845, the Baptist missionaries were given all encouragement to develop their educational enterprise by the Danish Governors, Colonel Bie and his successor Colonel Krefting. Joshua Marshman visited Copenhagen and secured from the King of Denmark, Frederick the Sixth, a Royal Charter, empowering the College to confer degrees in all faculties. In other words, Serampore College was considered the third University, the other two being at Copenhagen and at Kiel. In 1845, when the Danish settlement was purchased by the British, the treaty of purchase included provisions for maintaining the rights and immunities granted to the College by the Royal Charter of 1827.

The powers conferred by the Royal Charter was used by the College for the first time in 1915 when three students of the College were awarded the degree of Bachelor of Divinity. The Charter was modified taking into account all legal issues involved and submitted to the Bengal Legislative Council for necessary action. The College Bill was passed by the Legislature at its meeting on 28th March, 1918 and subsequently received the assent of the Governor-General and secular disciplines have been taught on the same campus for the last 188 years, promoting understanding and respect for people of all traditions. In other words, the College continues to uphold the broadest culture and the strongest character, transcending narrow sectarian beliefs.

The Purpose of the College

The supreme task of this Historic institution is to impart to our students knowledge that shall culminate in true wisdom, the sure foundation both of well-being and well-doing. The College stands for education of the whole person enabling our students to people of sound learning and sterling character and motivating them to serve humanity with dedication. The College affirms from experience that the intermingling of students from different backgrounds is healthy and is of great help ‘‘in the interest of broad culture and strong character’’. Further, the College stands for quality first, quantity second.

University Character and The College

Since Serampore was a Danish Colony from 1755 to 1845, the Baptist missionaries were given all encouragement to develop their educational enterprise by the Danish Governors, Colonel Bie and his successor Colonel Krefting. Joshua Marshman visited Copenhagen and secured from the King of Denmark, Frederick the Sixth, a Royal Charter, empowering the College to confer degrees in all faculties. In other words, Serampore College was considered the third University, the other two being at Copenhagen and at Kiel. In 1845, when the Danish settlement was purchased by the British, the treaty of purchase included provisions for maintaining the rights and immunities granted to the College by the Royal Charter of 1827.

The powers conferred by the Royal Charter was used by the College for the first time in 1915 when three students of the College were awarded the degree of Bachelor of Divinity. The Charter was modified taking into account all legal issues involved and submitted to the Bengal Legislative Council for necessary action. The College Bill was passed by the Legislature at its meeting on 28th March, 1918 and subsequently received the assent of the Governor-General and was gazetted on 1st May 1918. The special status of Serampore College is thereby given statutory recognition in the Serampore College Act.

As part of the Centenary Celebration of the College under the leadership of the Principal Dr. George Howells, a common accrediting body, the Senate of Serampore College, was established in order to have uniform theological training for Christian Ministry for the Protestant and Orthodox churches of the whole Country and neighbouring countries through the many seminaries affiliated to the College (University). Several graduates, men and women trained through these institutions, are awarded one degree or the other in Theology at the convocation of Serampore College held annually since 1915.

However, the Arts and Science department was affiliated to Calcutta University when it was established in 1857 and this connection has been maintained barring two interruptions, one during 1884 to 1909 when the College was confined to denominational theological training and again during 1960 to 1965 when the College was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Burdwan University.

We should never forget Principal George Howells’s statement in his report at the Centenary celebration of the College in 1918, ‘‘Apart from the academic recognition we are now giving to the scientific study of theology, we still retain under the Charter and the (new) Serampore College Act, the right of developing on independent University lines in other Faculties as soon as we satisfy the Government that we possess equipment and adequate funds for the purpose.’’

The other interesting point is that the founders underscored the importance of vernacular as the medium of instruction in the primary, secondary and advanced levels of study though English was always offered as an additional subject in the College. They not only promoted education in the vernacular, but also published text books on Geography, Chemistry, Medical Science & the Map of India in Bengali.

Education for Social Transformation

Besides educational enterprises the founders to the College served the society in many other ways. They did the pioneering work of publishing periodicals such as the Dig Darshan, the Samachar Darpan and the Friend of lndia, the ancestor of the present Statesman. William Carey published an amazing number of grammatical and lexicographical works in Sanskrit and Bengali and in other Asian languages. He is rightly given a place among the founders of modern Bengali prose. He translated the Bible into several Asian languages with the help of other scholars. His interest in Indian flora was realised in the establishment of Agri Horticultural Society in Calcutta in 1820. Joshua and his wife Hannah Marshman were greatly involved in establishing several schools, both for boys and girls in and around Serampore. William Ward, who was in charge of the Serampore Press, one of the largest of its kind in the world, was an erudite scholar and a great publisher. The pioneers made the fonts in many Indian languages with the help of pundits and craftsmen and manufactured paper and ink themselves.

Their academic pursuits never deterred the founders from involving themselves in rendering humanitarian and social services to the people. They stopped infanticide, promoted the idea of saving in banks for the poor and helped in bringing proper legislation to stop the cruel practice of sati or burning the widow on the funeral pyre of her husband.

It can be derived from our history that education is for social transformation. Along with quality education service-oriented programmes with a broad vision for national integration and human solidarity in our country is the cry of our time. The College continues to cherish the values in motivating our students and staff in serving the underprivileged and the marignalised. Special seminars highlighting the contemporary issues faced by our society are held as part of the co-curricular programmes of the College. Both theological and secular disciplines have been taught on the same campus for the last 188 years, promoting understanding and respect for people of all traditions. In other words, the College continues to uphold the broadest culture and the strongest character, transcending narrow sectarian beliefs.

Public Recognition

Along with the College the people of Serampore town have recognized the significant contribution made by Dr. William Carey to the society as a missionary, scholar and Social transformer by installing a plaque and by portraying prominently the famous statement of his in the Serampore Railway Station.

“Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God”

List of Principals

1. William Carey 1818 – 1832
2. Joshua Marshman 1832 – 1837
3. John Mack 1837 – 1845
4. W.H. Denham 1845 – 1858
5. John Trafford 1858 – 1879
6. Albert Williams 1879 – 1882
7. E.S. Summers 1883 – 1906
8. George Howells 1906 – 1929
9. G.H.C. Angus 1929 – 1949
10. C.E. Abraham 1949 – 1959
11. William Stewart 1959 – 1966
12. S.J. Samartha 1966 – 1968
13. A.K. Mundle 1968 – 1969
14. M.N. Biswas 1969 – 1972
15. S.K. Chatterjee 1972 – 1976
16. R.L. Rodrigues 1976 – 1977
17. S. Mukhopadhyay 1977 – 1987
18. T.K. Swarnakar 1988 – 1989
19. J.T.K. Daniel 1990 – 1998
20. Lalchungnunga 1999 -2011
21. Laltluangliana Khiangte 2012-2015
22. Vansanglura 2015 –