197-year-old school nurturing a little Armenia in Kolkata: paper

197-year-old school nurturing a little Armenia in Kolkata: paper

PanARMENIAN.Net - Everything about the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy (ACPA) seems typically Armenian, except for the fact that it is located in the heart of Kolkata, some 4500 km away from the landlocked Caucasus nation. The school, located in sprawling central Kolkata’s Mirza Ghalib Street is over 197 years old and while it may look like one of the many Christian Missionary schools which dot the city, it is unlike any other in India, The Logical Indian reports.

For nearly two centuries, Armenian children from all over the world have been visiting ACPA in pursuit of quality education and the school too, has been serving as a home to the scores of children who travel far East, away from everything that they know as their own. The residential school was established in 1821 by Armenian merchants Astvatsatur Muradghanian and Mnatsakan Vardanian and continues to serve as one of the largest centres for Armenian education outside Armenia.

Kolkata’s connection with the Armenians predates that with the British. However, as the British left India, so did the Armenians. From around 25,000 in the mid-18th century, the population of Armenians in Kolkata dwindled to just 2000 in the 1950s and only around 150 in the present decade. The residential school, which was once bustling with Armenian children also witnessed turbulent times as at one point in 1990, the student body had shrunk to only one.

With constant efforts from Armenian-Indians as well as those abroad, the school has seen a steady growth in their student body, with mostly children from Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Russia and Myanmar filling their dormitories. Armen Makarian, the coordinator of ACPA, was once a young student of the school. An Armenian from Iran, a 15-year-old Armen moved to Kolkata from Tehran, Iran only when he was 15 years old.

Having graduated from the school in 2008, Armen chose to stick around in the city of joy, like many of his other alumni members. He said, “The school is very popular among Armenians across the globe mostly because of the free scholarship that is given out to the students.” He said that India’s connection to the Armenians also has an Iranian link. “Armenians are bonafide businessmen and it was through Iran that the Armenians came to India,” he added.

According to the article, ACPA is truly nurturing a little Armenia inside its boundaries in Kolkata as everything that goes on inside is true to its culture. From celebrating Armenian Christmas on January 6 to going to the Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth every Sunday and even the food served inside the campus, every aspect has “Armenian” etched on it.

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