Great Newspapers of India
Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee*
It was in April 15, 1887 that Deepika, one of the earliest Malayalam newspaper still in circulation, was first published. It was the realization and fulfillment of a long-cherished dream of many, which its Founder Editor Fr. Emmanuel Nidhiry (Nidhirikal Mani Kathanar), a syrian catholic priest and perceptive, creative thinker of that time initiated and shaped. It was initially named Nazrani or Nasrani Deepika- (Nasrani in Malayalam means a Syrian Christian).
The newspaper was initially printed on a crude, hand-made wooden press built by the legendary and far-sighted visionary Carmelite Monk, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara (now Blessed Chavara) at Mannanam; a remote hamlet near the town of Kottayam in Central Kerela. It began as a weekly and then with time its periodicity increased. It was printed twice a week, then thrice a week and eventually on January3, 1927 it was converted into a daily, the first ever daily of Kerala.
As its first name denotes, Deepika began as a paper of Syro Malabar Nasranis or Catholics of Kerala’s Syrian tradition. From its very inception it was run by Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), a religious order within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. In 1989 its control was transferred to a Public Limited Company, “Rashtra Deepika Ltd”.
Deepika was published with twin objectives: a. to disseminate news and information and b. to spread literacy. It served both the purposes and achieved many more laurels. It gradually became the voice of the voiceless, representing the common man. It became a platform through which the needs of the common man could be reached to the rulers. It fought for the rights of common man. It fought for freedom and justice. It was also the first Malayalam newspaper to devote a full page for sports and agriculture news.
Under the dynamic leadership of Fr. Emmanuel Nidhiri, and his team of thinkers, Nazrani Deepika marched unflinchingly over the years into the 20th Century, growing in stature and spreading its wings further. It grew both horizontally and vertically. It also grew in credibility and respectability.
On August 1, 1939, the newspaper shifted to Kottayam, which has since become a nerve center for printing and publishing in Kerala. Its name was also then changed to Deepika.
In 1986, Deepika’s year-long centenary celebrations were inaugurated by Pope John Paul II and the newspaper commemorated its 100th year of publication in April 1987. Two years later it was turned into a public limited company to make it more professional in its functioning and management.
It faced ownership troubles from 2004 to 2007. It was a difficult time for Deepika and its sister publications. But by January 2008, the paper could manage to resolve the ownership issues.
By early 2016, it has now editions from Kochi, Kottayam, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur and Kozhikode in Kerala. It takes credit for being the first Malayalam newspaper to publish an online ePaper version. Deepika has several sister publications now including Rashtra Deepika, its sister-eveninger, Kuttikalude Deepika, Business Deepika, Children’s Digest, Rashtra Deepika Cinema, Streedhanam and Karshakan are several other publications.
Well over the past 130 years, Deepika has grown in strength and stature, standing out boldly for the people, fearing and favoring none. It has relentlessly fought for the well being of farmers, the weaker sections and the rights of the minorities. It has also maintained a mature and neutral political stand, earning the appreciation of politicians and leaders, both national and regional, which have helped it earn added credibility and respect. It has braved internal troubles and rediscovered itself over time. Deepika in Sanskrit (also in Malyalam) means lamp. The lamp lit in 1887, continues to ignite the minds of millions.