Manipal: How a barren hillock in Mangalore has transformed into a university town

Indulekha Aravind has a short piece on how Manipal mushroomed into a university town from nowhere:

ou know you are close to Manipal University when, after passing through small towns and villages along the Konkan coast, you find rows of coconut trees replaced with an array of branded apparel stores and fast-food outlets on a road uphill.

A top this hillock, 60 km from Mangalore, is the university and its various buildings where 21,000 students, from close to 60 countries, study, giving the small town a not inconsequential place on the country’s education map.


Kasturba Medical College is possibly the most sought-after of Manipal’s institutes. It’s also where the group’s educational journey began. Founder TMA Pai, an enterprising doctor and businessman hailing from a fishing village nearby, got permission from the Madras Presidency to set up the country’s second self-financing private medical college in 1953.

He was offered non-arable land on a barren hillock in Manipal, 600 acres of which the university now occupies. Former vice-chancellor Dr HS Ballal says Pai published an advertisement that said he proposed to set up a medical college and those interested in applying would have to pay a capitation fee of Rs 3,000.

This emergence of Manipal as a education hub clearly requires a much more detailed history. It is quite a story of enterprise and vision of Dr TMA Pai who just excelled in so many things.It was something about the time back then when people wanted to contribute towards building India post-independence. Amidst them, some managed to succeed and even within successful group, Dr TMA Pai’s achievement were second to none.

Infact, this region of Mangalore/Udupi has played a critical yet ignored role in India’s service economy. The region was earlier called as South Canara district and then later as Dakshina Kannada district till 1997 when Udupi was carved into a seperate district. The entrepreneurs from the region pioneered and excelled in three services – education (manipal), hotelling/restaurant (udupi hotels) and banking (home to four nationalised banks and one regional bank). All this without much government involvement and push. The region was never even a central point where these things would have emerged automatically on their own. How and  why is a fascinating story of enterprise, courage and experimentation which needs to be researched and told to the public…


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