Prof. Joseph Mundassery

Prof. Joseph Mundassery (July 17, 1903 - October 25, 1977) played a critical role in the Socio-Cultural, Literary, Educational and Political development of the state of Kerala and India. Mundassery was one of the best literary critic, administrator, educationist, parliamentarian, orator, politician, writer, thinker, leader, and planner Kerala and India has ever produced.


Personal Life

            Prof. Joseph Mundassery was born on 17th July, 1903 as son of Kunjuvareed and Elachar. He had his early schooling at Kandassankadavu. Kandassankadavu Primary School, started in 1906 and upgraded as High School in 1919 has since been renamed after its prodigious son, as Prof. Mundassery Smaraka Government Higher Secondary School. He studied at St. Thomas College, Trichur and St. Joseph College, Thrichinappilly. He did his graduation in Physics and Post-graduation in Sanskrit and Malayalam. He began his teaching career as Demonstrator in Physics and was Professor and Head of the Department of Oriental Languages at St. Thomas College, Trichur at the time of leaving teaching career in 1952.
           Mundassery entered politics through Cochin Prajamandalam and was elected as a member of the Legislative Council of the princely State of Cochin in 1948 from Aranattukara. Later he was elected as Member of Travancore-Cochin Legislative Assembly in 1954 from Cherpu.
           He was married to Katherene and they have four sons and three daughters. He died at the age of 74 on 25th November, 1977.

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Official Life

           Prof. Joseph Mundassery was the first Vice-Chancellor of the Cochin University of Science and Technology. He was a member of the Kerala State Planning Board. The progressive literary movement of Kerala owes a great deal to the seminal contributions he made to Malayalam literature and culture. Prof. Mundassery was the President of Kerala Sathithya Parishat during 1965-67. He was the founding member of Kerala Sahithya Academy and member, executive committee of the Sahithya Academy. He was instrumental in establishing Kerala Sahithya Academy and Kendra Sahithya Academy. He was the President of progressive literary forum. He received the titles of ‘Sahithya Kusala’ and ‘Sahithya Nipuna’ from the Maharaja of Cochin.

Literary Life

           Besides being a well-known literary critic, he was a good orator, a great thinker, and a renowned educationist. He was also editor of ‘Navajeevan’ and ‘Prajamithram’ dailies and various literary journals. He has written forty and odd books that included, literary criticism, autobiography, travelogues and novels besides several articles on varied topics. Some of his books are:

  • Naatakantham Kavithwam
  • Mattoli
  • Karinthiri
  • Rajarajante Mattoli
  • Maanadandam
  • Manushya Kadhanugayikal
  • Kalathinte Kannadi
  • Kavyapeetika
  • Otta Notathil
  • Budhimaanmar Jeevikkunnu
  • China Munnottu
  • Chinthamadhuri
  • Prayanam
  • Parapurathu Vithacha Vithu
  • Anthareeksham
  • Kristhwanukaranam
  • Kumaranasante Kavitha Oru Patanam
  • Matham Avideyum Ivideyum
  • Paschathya Sahithya Sameeksha
  • Vallathol Kavitha Oru Patanam
  • Roopabhadratha
  • Professor
  • Vayanasalayil
  • Illapolice
  • Kozhinja Elakal
  • Sammanam
  • Kadaaksham

Political Life

           Mundassery entered politics through the Kochi Prajamandalam and was elected as a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) of the princely state of Cochin in 1948 from the constituency of Aranattukara. Later he became an MLC in the Travancore-Cochin Assembly in 1954, from Cherpu.
           After the re-organisation of states on the basis of language,Prof. Joseph Mundassery was elected from Manalur constituency to the first Kerala Legislative Assembly as a candidate supported by the Communist Party of India. He took charge as The Minister for Education and Co-operation in the Ministry headed by Com. EMS. Namboothiripad. As Minister for Education (5.4.1957-31.7.1959), he initiated the much wanted reform in education by spearheading the well-known Kerala Education Bill. The Bill was introduced in the Kerala Legislative Assembly on 13th July, 1957.
           Though he was again elected to the IVth Kerala Legislative Assembly from Trichur Constituency as an independent candidate he resigned membership of the Assembly on 22nd September, 1971 to take over as the Vice-Chancellor of the Cochin University of Science and Technology.

The Kerala Education Act, 1958

           The system of education management in Kerala when Prof. Mundassery took over as Minister for education was in utter chaos, private managements enjoying unfettered freedom in appointing teachers, payment of salaries and administration of schools. The Kerala Education Act sought to bring in some degree of order and control in the management of schools. The Act did not provide for the take over of appointment of teachers by the government. It only provided for the selection of teachers by the Public Service Commission, but reserved the right of the management to appoint teachers in aided schools from the PSC list. But the minimum qualification of teachers, their conditions of service etc. were to be decided by the government and salary paid directly from the Treasury. The Act also provided for the take over of management of schools for a maximum period of five years if such schools fail to comply with the provisions of the Act. The rules and regulations of the Department were made applicable to private schools. The Bill also provided for establishment of Local educational councils.
           Even a modicum of external interference was enough to invite the wrath of the managements. They were till then unused to any kind of control over their functioning. There was absolutely no regulation worth the name in appointment of teachers, payment of salaries or provision of grants from government.
           What followed was an undemocratic, organized and unconstitutional attack on the legitimately established government of the State. The infamously called ‘Liberation Struggle’ or ‘Vimochana Samaram’ was meticulously and vigorously conducted under the leadership of the Catholic Church which was in control of most private schools, ably supported by the Nair Service Society, with the connivance of the opposition parties. Liberation Struggle unleashed violence in every nook and corner of the State. Violence was the watchword of ‘Vimochana Samaram’. It had the wholehearted support of the ruling government at the Centre. Finally the Centre intervened and dismissed the democratically elected government of Kerala under Rule 356 of the Constitution under pretext of failure of law and order.

Download The Kerala Education Act here. Download the speech of Prof. Mundassery introducing the act here.

“Education as the main building block of culture and social development, has to be progressive, democratic and value-based, the administration of which has to be transparent. It must be free from profit motive. It must ensure merit and social justice.”

Prof. Joseph Mundassery lighted the way and it is for the posterity to uphold and realize the vision and values that he bequeathed.

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