Malayala Manorama : Kerala's favourite daily

June 6, 2009 12:32 am1 commentViews: 91

Malayala Manorama is a popular Malayalam daily with a very strong readership in Kerala, India. Malayala Manorama, which first appeared on 14 March 1890, as a weekly, currently has a readership of over 16 million, with a circulation base of over 16 lakh copies. Malayala Manorama is very popular among Christians and the supporters of the Indian National Congress party in Kerala. Manorama is acclaimed of its highly attractive page layouts. The Malayalam word “manorama” roughly translates to “entertainer”.

Malayala Manorama was founded by Kandathil Varghese Mappillai at Kottayam, a small town in the princely state of Travancore . The great poet Kerala Varma named it Malayala Manorama. It turned out to be an enchanting, enduring name. The company started with one hundred shares of Rs.100 each. The investors paid in four equal instalments. The first instalment was good enough to buy a press. It was a small hand press, a Hopkinson & Cope, made inLondon. The press was installed in a vacant building, which would later become a school chapel.

A local craftsman, Konthi Achari, made the types for the imported press. It was a Herculean task. Being phonetic, the Malayalam script had a few hundred letters for the 53 vowels and consonants and their different combinations. The first issue of Malayala Manorama appeared onMarch 22, 1890, while Kottayam was hosting a highly popular cattle fair. It was a four-page weekly newspaper, published every Saturday. There were a few other newspapers around, mostly organs of Christian churches. But most people in Travancore did not have basic human rights.

As Varghese Mappillai was a man of letters, there was a profusion of poetic outpourings and literary debates in Manorama. But its heart was with the underdogs. Its very first editorial was a fervent plea for education of Pulayas, untouchables who could not even walk on public roads. It was the voice of human dignity. Thus began Manorama’s unflagging fight against injustice and iniquity, and people grew close to it. Manorama grew with them, too. From a weekly it grew into a bi-weekly in 1901, a tri-weekly in 1918 and a daily in 1928. Today, the daily is published from eight centres in Kerala: Kottayam,Kozhikode, Kochi,Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad, Kannur, Kollam and Thrissur. The new unit at Malappuram was inaugurated in February, 2001. Manorama Online, the Internet portal was inaugurated in20 June, 2003. The march goes on, winning hearts every step of the way. successors. The long list of best-selling products.

For more than a century Malayala Manorama has had a stimulating effect on the mind of the Malayali. It spurred social progress, defined cultural sensibilities, and even set political agenda. It has been an overwhelming presence while reflecting and exploring the life and times ofKerala. Manorama has had good times and hard times; it has known tyrant’s thunder and human tenderness.

Encounters with extinction were part of its exciting evolution. It has been a saga of courage and endurance, of triumph and excellence, of dedication and commitment to the people and their aspirations.

“Long ago, our destiny became interlinked with theirs. This link is thicker than the printing ink. It transcends language.Banegaon, in earth-quaked Latur, was a heap of crushed sunflowers. Fifteen months later, we sang the story of its rebirth. We rebuilt the village and saw sunflower smiles on rustic faces. Hearts beat for us inKerala. Hundreds of hearts for whom we ensured free surgery. For the good earth, we honour the unsung farmer with the’Karshakashree’ Award. Our field of vision has expanded, our horizons have widened. We have publications in five languages, and from print we have stepped into television and cyberspace. The years have not blunted our mission; we breathe the ideals of our illustrious founder and his visionary successors. The following pages tell the story of MalayalaManorama-and how it has gone beyond journalism,” says a company spokesperson.

As Malayala Manorama was struggling to break out of its nine-year-long banishment, a 50 Years-old former professor came forward to strengthen K.C. Mammen Mappillai’s aged elbows. It was his eldest son, K.M. Cherian. He teamed up with his father as Managing Editor. It was Cherian who paved the way for Manorama’s magnificent comeback. On Mammen Mappillai’s death, Cherian took over as Chief Editor in 1954. His immediate goal was the emotional integration of the people ofTravancore, Cochin and Malabar, which were uniting to formKerala State. He won great acclaim for the excellent effort.

Cherian kept his father’s last dictum close to his heart. And he cherished lofty ideals. Under his inspiring leadership Manorama went from strength to strength and launched an edition fromKozhikode in 1966. Cherian also started a few other successful publications. The circulation of the newspaper soared from 30,000 to 300,000. And that of Manorama Weekly, which he had revived, rose to 329,000. Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, while visiting an allied concern, remarked: “I shall confess that part of the reason which made me agree (to the visit) was also the fine record of Mr. K.M. Cherian and his family in every business they have undertaken.” Cherian was Chairman of Press Trust of India and President of the Indian & Eastern Newspaper Society (now Indian Newspaper Society). He won several national honours, including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan. He died onMarch 14, 1973. If Kandathil Varghese Mappillai conceived Manorama and K.C. Mammen Mappillai moulded its character, K.M. Cherian gave it the Midas touch. And he won it national glory.

The Manorama group, which manages the newspaper, also runs the Manorama Yearbook, largest circulated yearbook in the region.

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