History of Manipal : Of Myths and Memoirs

Manipal – a term that binds about 28,000 millennials together in an intensively humid cocoon, a term that causes us all to swell with pride at its very mention, even years from now when it’s nothing more than a town located in Udupi district in Karnataka, India.

 A supremely beautiful town, eternally rain-drenched, with the musty smell of dewed leaves, full of greens and bustling with a wide variety of students. Home to MU, the town attracts over twenty five thousand students every year. Manipal is bounded by the Arabian Sea in the west and the Western Ghats in the east. It attracts students from across all prominent factions of India, and abroad. It is one of the most cosmopolitan towns of India, regarded as the ‘Campus Town’ by the locals. Aptly so, for when the Convocation season arises, the town assumes the visage of a breathtakingly decked-up, almost fairy-like bride, ready to bid farewell to those who called her family for their brief tenure here.

Unknown to many, Manipal was a part of the Shivalli village panchayat. The name is derived from “mann” and “palla” from where the term Manipal originates. Mann means “mud” and palla means “lake” in Tulu language. This lake measures around 400m diameter circle, after which Manipal is named. This lake is located in the middle of the town. Manipal, once no more than a wide mass of dense forest, pickled with ferns, shrubs, and tree seedlings. Home to a myriad exotic birds: from Kingfishers and Songbirds to Red-Crested Pochards and Spot-on Ducks, that can be spotted even today on the occasional Sunday nature trail.

It’s been a while since Manipal was transformed into a university town by Dr. T.M.A Pai, the founder of Kasturba  Medical College . Manipal was a home to a lot of undisputed bandits and dacoits during 1920’s and 1930’s. During those times, Manipal was known for its dark, rugged forests and deadly dacoits. Back then there were no buildings constructed in the entire town so nobody visited Manipal. Henceforth, this created a lot of problems to the people who had to cross Manipal and go to the other side of the hill to Udupi or Malpe.

Therewas always a lot of people like the fishermen and women who had to carry the fresh fish from the sea to the hinterland and come back again for the catch. Crossing the dense forest in Manipal alone or in small groups was a huge concern as it was really scary and risky for the people so all the people used to gather in small structures known as “gates” to take rest or relax and waited for a good number of people to gather so that they could cross together. Torches and light weapons were the only armaments that could be used to cross the dense Manipal  jungle.

Manipal has changed a lot, a place which constituted only of dense jungles is now home to a thousands of students. It is now known as the most cosmopolitan, student-friendly campus town. There is a massive difference in the appearance of End Point, Manipal now to the End Point back in the 90’s when it was nothing but a dense jungle, home to a spread of dangerous forest animals: tigers, leopards, elephants, the slender loris, you name it.

Over the next decade, there appeared a cricket ground,two football grounds and a park. Next to present day Dollops was the only cinema in town – ‘Video Cinema’, more commonly known then as VC. I suppose our love for abbreviations for our favoured hangout spots culminated there, from ‘SP’ and ‘TC’ to, sigh, ‘KC’.


The ideal student retreat back in the day, the Video Cinerama was located next to the present-day Dollops.

Interestingly enough, KC is one of the few buildings to have suffered any considerable transition, while it was still with us. Without a doubt, the upcoming Student Plaza is much-awaited and expected to evolve into the new student-hub for students all across MU.

To find out more about the legacy of KC, take a look at our own ode to the celebrated historical landmark: https://www.manipalthetalk.org/colleges/mit/eulogy-to-kamath-circle/

A sunrise view of Kamath Circle after the demolition.

There were not many hostels back then, because the student intake was quite low. There were huge open spaces in and around campus, and even elsewhere in the town. MIT Quadrangle has witnessed a host of events and still stands tall experiencing them all.

“It was the most beautiful town I had ever come across .There were only two big campuses –KMC and MIT. There were no university buildings or food courts .Apart from Tiger Circle ,other areas used to get really dark at night, but it was still the safest place I have ever come across. Auto drivers ,shopkeepers, all the localities were so courteous  and even protective of the students,” says Usha Mukherjee. (Ex MU student, Batch of 2002)

Manipal has an abundance of myths attached to it. Most of which constitute Manipal being famous for the easy access of drugs and being called ‘The Drug Den’, which most definitely isn’t true. Every education town has its minus points, and it is completely upon us to decide where to draw a line, because as outstation colleges we are not guarded by our parents, so it’s completely upon the individual to decide how to use the freedom- whether in a positive manner or negative. I believe a person who wants to do something will do irrespective of the place.

The other myth attached to it is the ‘Sikkim Factor’ where people think Manipal is in Sikkim. There is a Sikkim Manipal University too, but the main university is in Karnataka.

Manipal is known as the rich spoilt brat’s town as well, where students are irrational, really rich and spoilt, but that’s not the case. Not everyone can be categorised into that group. Students come from well to do families but that doesn’t mean they are spoilt, ill-mannered and have a habit of driving drunk and causing trouble to people. Not everyone studying in Manipal is rich, spoilt and irrational.

Manipal is also known for its eerie collection of horror stories.

Kasturba Medical College, Manipal- The stairways to the eight floor of KMC is said to be haunted, but surprisingly that building doesn’t have a eight floor.

There has been much conjecture that Hostel Blocks 1 and 2 are haunted by student spirits. Back when it was a boys hostel, a student of MIT committed suicide in Block 1, after which supernatural things started occurring on that floor, according to an ex student of MU. Since then, these blocks have been transformed to girls block. It was reported by many students that a particular room in Block 1 had its light convulsing between turning on and off throughout the night. Therefore,  the entire floor was sealed and was under observation for a while. Nothing much was found, so the case was abandoned. Much like the peace of mind and undisturbed sleep of those residents.

Presently, Block 1 is home to many girls from across the country, but the basement is still shut owing to the prevalent rumours. These stories are essentially spread through word of mouth and the spirit of chatter, so there is no guarantee of their authenticity. However, what would Manipal be without its mesmerizing bundle of hilarious and heartwarming anecdotes?

– Radhika Chatterjee for MTTN

Photo courtesy: Manan Dhuri, the Manipal Blog

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