Malayala Manorama is a daily newspaper in Malayalam language which is published in the state of Kerala, India. According to World Association of Newspapers, it holds a position as top 26th most circulating newspaper in the world (third largest circulating newspapers in India behind The Times of India and Dainik Jagran and most widely read daily and number one in Kerala. It was first published as a weekly on 14 March 1890, and currently has a readership of over 20 million (with a circulation base of over 1.9 million copies). The Malayalam word "manorama" roughly translates to "entertainer". The Week (India), an Indian weekly, is also brought out by the Manorama Group. Manorama Yearbook is another yearly publication by the Kottayam–Kozhikode-based Manorama Group. It has 32 publications all over India in five languages (English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Bengali).
One bright morning, more than a century ago, the first joint stock publishing company of India came into being. It was founded by Kandathil Varghese Mappillai at Kottayam, a small town in the princely state of Travancore, on March 14, 1888. The name Malayala Manorama came out of an elite brainstorming. The great poets Kerala Varma, Valiakoyhithampuran and Vilvattathu Raghavan Nambiar coined it, almost. It turned out to be an enchanting, enduring name. The company started with one hundred shares of Rs Imo each. The investors paid in four equal instalments. The first instalment was good enough to buy a press. It was a small treadle press, a Hopkinson & Cope, made in London. The pedal-powered press was installed in a vacant building, which would later become a cathedral. A local craftsman, Konthi Achari, was hired to make quality Malayalam types for the imported press. It was a herculean task. Being phonetic, the Malayalam script had 800 characters. Kandathil Varghese Mappillai was only 31 when he founded Malayala Manorama. He was an accomplished writer, a high thinker and a very enterprising. At 21, he had worked for a year as editor of Kerala Mitram, a Malayalam newspaper run by a Gujarati businessman called Devji Bhimji, in Kochi. His mother despaired over his perilous journey by canoe to Kochi from his home in Tiruvalla which took one full week to complete. He quit the paper out of love for her, and became a shroff [treasury officer] like his father. Unlike his father, he had no head for figures. His head was full of dreams of starting a newspaper and publishing poems. He quit as shroff and found a teaching job. He taught Malayalam at C.M.S. College high school, Kottayam, an early cradle of English education in India. Kandathil Varghese Mappillai launched Malayala Manorama white he was a teacher. Even the Maharajah of Travancore, Sree Moolam Tirunal, held him in high esteem. The maharajah gave Manorama the Royal Coat of Arms. With a slight modification, it adorns the newspaper's logo, to this day. It was a precious gift from a ruler who established the first legislative council in India in 1888. It was a year of enlightenment. It was in 1888 that the reformer Sree Narayana Guru consecrated a Shiva at Aruvippuram. The daring act wrested for non-caste Hindus the right to worship Hindu gods. Kandathil Varghese Mappillai campaigned, through editorials, for human rights and greater powers for the legislature. He sparked many a political debate. And he spent reams on literature, throwing the pages of Manorama open to the finest poets and writers. Soon after its birth, Manorama triggered a war over alliteration. It was the fiercest literary debate in the history of Malayalam. The rival phalanxes were led by the great poet Kerala Varma and his renowned nephew Rajaraja Varma. Literature was intoxicating stuff those days. In 1891 Kandathil Varghese Mappillai formed a literary club, Bhashaposhini Sabha. It brought together the tallest poets and writers from Travancore and Cochin states and the British-ruled Malabar. Locking creative horns,...
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