A BRIEF HISTORICAL & GEOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
William Carey, the Father of Modern Missionary Movement, arrived in Serampore on November 11, 1793. After spending about seven years in North Bengal, Carey, along with Joshua Marshman and William Ward established the Serampore Mission of the Baptist Missionary Society on January 10, 1800. They started the Serampore College in 1818.
The College coat of Arms contains:
- The CROSS, the important symbol of sacrifice and love, as witnessed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
- The BIBLE, which is the Word of God for all humanity.
- The Pelican of her Piety, feeding with drops of her own blood the three hungry young ones sitting on the edge of her nest symbolizing selfless service.
- The Motto on the crest which 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 hard work of the blessed founders.
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, Fredrick VI, a Royal Charter (1827) with university rights, empowering the College to confer degrees in all subjects. In other words, Serampore College was considered the third University of Denmark, the other two being at Copenhagen and 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, 1827.
The powers conferred by the Royal Charter were used by the College for the first time in 1915 when three students of the College were conferred 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 March 28, 1918 and subsequently received the assent of the Governor-General and was gazetted on May 1, 1918. The special status of Serampore College was thereby given statutory recognition in the Serampore College Act.
As part of the Centenary Development of the College under leadership of the Principal Dr. George Howell, known as the second founder of the college, in 1918, the Council of Serampore College was reconstituted representing various Christian traditions in India and a common accrediting body. The Senate of Serampore College was constituted to have uniform theological training for Christian Ministry for the Protestant and Orthodox Churches of the country and neighboring countries through the many Seminaries affiliated to the College (University) by the Bengal Act No. IV of 1918. Since then, the College began to affiliate other colleges and seminaries to offer theological degrees and became a University for theological education in South-East Asia. Many graduates, men and women, trained through these institutions were conferred various degrees during the College Convocation held annually at Serampore College since 1915. Now Serampore College has grown large and annual Convocations are held in different affiliated Colleges and Seminaries.
However, the Arts, Science and Commerce (ASC) Department of the College was affiliated with the University of Calcutta which was established in 1857 and this connection has been maintained barring two interruptions one during 1884 and 1909 when the College was confined to theological training and during 1960 and 1965 when the College was under the University of Burdwan. The ASC Department operates with the government grants employing more than 80 lecturers and professors with more than 2500 students.
The Theology Department draws teachers and students from all over the nation and neighboring countries. It is a residential college of ministerial formation. With a history of excellence, Serampore College provides a place of learning rooted in the pioneering spirit of its founders.
Subject to the control of the Council of Serampore College, the Senate of Serampore College, with 18 Senators, determines the qualifications for the B.Th., B.D., M.Th., D.Th and Dip.C.S, B.C.S. and D. Min. degrees and diplomas awarded to the graduates of the more than 45 affiliated colleges. The Senate through its various committees regulate uniform standard of theological education for the whole country and maintain church relationship throughout the nation.
Although legally empowered to confer degrees in all (theology and secular) subjects, the Council of Serampore College partly fulfills this privilege in conferring theological degrees only. It is hoped that the time will come when the Council will be in a position to also introduce secular degree courses of its own, thus fully implementing the power and privilege granted by the Charter and the Act.
Contribution to Education and Social Transformation
Besides educational enterprises, the founders of the College had multifarious activities of services to the society. They did the pioneering work of publishing the periodicals such as the “Dig Darshan”, the “Serampore Darpan” and the “Friend of India”, the ancestor of the present “The Statesman”. William Carey published a large 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 had translated the Bible into more than thirty six Asian languages (the whole Bible into six languages and the New Testament, or portion of the Bible into other languages) with the help of many scholars. His study of Indian flora was reflected in the establishment of the Agri Horticultural Society in Calcutta in 1820. Carey and his associates were pioneer for women education and studying modern science in vernacular. They not only promoted education in vernacular, but also published text books on Chemistry, Medical Science and also on Geography and Map on India in Bengali. Joshua and his wife Hanna Marshman were greatly involved in establishing several schools for both boys and girls in and around Serampore. William Ward, who was in charge of the Serampore Press, one of the largest presses in the world, was a learned scholar and a great publisher. The pioneers cut the types of many languages with the help of pundits and craftsmen and had manufactured paper and ink themselves.
Their missionary zeal and academic pursuits never deterred the founders from fulfilling social and humanitarian obligation. They stopped infanticide, promoted the idea of saving money 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.
The College continues to cherish the values in motivating our students and staff in serving the underprivileged and marginalized. Special seminars highlighting the contemporary issues faced by our society are held as part of the co-curricular activities of the College. Both theological and secular disciplines have been taught on the same campus for last two centuries, promoting understanding and respect for people of all traditions. Thus the College continues to uphold the broadest culture and the strongest character, transcending narrow sectarian beliefs envisioned and articulated by the founders.
Serampore is a small town on the westbank of the river Hooghly which is a part of the river Ganges. It is situated 20 kms North-west-north from Calcutta. It is an hour and a half drive from the Calcutta Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Airport and is the eighth railway station from Howrah on the Bandel Main line.