Sri Lanka’s Premier Tamil Daily “Virakesari” Celebrates 80 Years of Publication

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By: Siva Sivapragasam

When Mahatma Gandhi visited Sri Lanka, one of his requests was for the Tamils to start a Tamil Newspaper in Sri Lanka.

His request was answered by a Tamil resident in Sri Lanka, namely Peri, Subramaniam Chettiyar of Avanipatti in the Ramnad District, with the publication of the Tamil newspaper “Virakesari” in August 1930.

Today Sri Lanka’s premier and largest circulated Tamil newspaper “Virakesari” celebrates it’s eightieth year of publication this month.

The ” Virakesari” which initially began as a voice of the Indian Tamils gradually found favour with the Tamils in other areas of Sri Lanka and came to be portrayed as the voice of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Tamils all over Sri Lanka consider the “Virakesari” as an independent, non-biased national publication reflecting the thoughts and aspirations of the entire Tamil community in Sri Lanka.

It was therefore no surprise that the newspaper still has the highest circulation in Colombo, Jaffna, Batticaloa and the upcountry areas where most of the Tamils reside Although the newspaper had it’s ups and downs throughout it’s long-history, “Virakesari” never succumbed to pressure or intimidation from those in power. The writer vividly recalls an incident when Government advertisements were suspended for the “Virakesari” due to the puerile thinking of a Cabinet Minister during the Srimavo Bandaranaike regime. The then Managing Director Late Rajabather Krishnamurthi and the Advertising Manager T. Sivapragasam withstood the challenge for months and eventually the Government came back to the “Virakesari” requesting them to continue with the Government advertisements, obviously because Advertisements in other publications did not give them the desired results.

The success of the “Virakesari” can be attributed to the voicing of the opinions of the Tamil community fearlessly and reporting news without twists and turns. The independence and veracity of the editorial content went deep into the minds of the readers and thereby created a sense of feeling among it’s thousands of readers that the paper can always be depended for credibility and it was the national newspaper of the Tamil community. Much of the credit, especially after 1960 when Sri Lanka was going through a period of political turmoil, should go to the Editor of the newspaper Mr. K. Sivapragasam who edited the newspaper for nearly 25 years maintaining throughout the independence of the media.

The period after 1960 can be best described as one of “Virakesari”’s golden era when the company was ably run by a team of talented and experienced senior executives who had moved over from Lake House, the largest newspaper group in Sri Lanka. This team consisting of Mr.K.Sivapragasam (Chief Editor), Mr. T. Sivapragasam (Sales & Advertising Manager) and Mr.S.Balachandran (General Manager) ran the company with much success when the circulation of the newspaper almost doubled and the Advertising revenue trebled. During this period, the company also started a Book project and published nearly 100 books introducing several new writers to the Tamil community. Some of these books won the prestigious national Sahithya Mandalaya Awards. The two Managing Directors during this period were Mr..R. Krishnamoorthi and Mr.M.G.Wenceslaus.

Today ”Virakesari” has spread it’s wings with about 12 publications to it’s credit and has made use of the modern information technology to the maximum to go online with an epaper, video-content, music juke-box and updated news as events take place. They have also opened many Branches in important towns and even an overseas branch in Chennai. Recently, the Company also published a special souvenir included in their Magazine “Kalaikesari” in connection with the Chemmoli International Conference in Tamilnadu. The souvenir was circulated among the VIPs including the Chief Minister Karunanithi.

Much of the credit for the success and innovations in the “Virakesari” during the very recent years should go to the vibrancy of the present Managing Director Mr. Kumar Nadesan who with the help of the staff is utilizing the modern techniques of information technology to the maximum and taking “Virakesari” to higher heights. He has expanded the activities of the company and pioneered modern technology developments to improve the quality, layout etc. of the newspaper. He has developed a well-designed website for the paper which is linking Tamils all over the world. Mr. Nadesan is also the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

There is no doubt that the “Virakesari” will always occupy a prestigious and memorable position in the pages of Media history in Sri Lanka.

"Monsoon Journal' wishes "Virakesari" many more years of publication and looks forward for it's Centenary Celebrations.

 By Siva Sivapragasam
Added on :10 Aug 2010
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