Operating out of the 19th-century Chandni Chowk haveli School, the Indraprastha Hindu Girls’ High School has played a pivotal role in the Indian women’s movement.

Founded in May 1904, the school was the fruit of the efforts of philosophical Dr. Annie Besant, one of its founding members, who urged nationalists to promote women’s education in the country.

More than a century later, the building is still going strong; Its three floors are built around two courtyards of red sandstone, stucco and brick providing girls with a safe and conducive environment to continue their education. Located a stone’s throw from Jama Masjid, the building is the epitome of old-world charm with its pointed doorways, stone gateways and arches, imposing columns, and an intricate chaga (balcony) above the windows.

The executive director of the Delhi Tram Company, Lala Gojal Kishore, founded the school with only seven girls who made up the first group of students. Its campus, Bhajan Bhawan in Chipewada – a haveli dating back to 1857 – was donated by banker Bal Krishan Das, a member of the Delhi Theosophical Society.

The school began as a response to Besant’s “girls’ education” rhetoric, which was considered extreme and aggressive in a period when many parents were reluctant to send their daughters to school.

“The first curriculum of the school consisted of hygiene and religion… The way they received the students in the first few groups was very interesting as people believed that women would not be able to marry after a certain age. Kavita Sharma, writer and former principal of Hindu College, said:” It is not just a feminist movement but a whole feminist movement around female education among Hindus in Delhi.”

The school was named Indraprastha Hindu Kanya Shikshalaya at the time, using the term ‘Hindu’ which appeals to the majority community to send their girls to a school where the purdah traditions and other values ​​are preserved.

By 1906, students from the Christian, Muslim, and Jain communities began to come as well.

There was no age bar at the school. In fact, Kishore convinced his daughter-in-law to come to the school to counter the idea that a married woman need not complete her education.

By 1915, many of the girls at the school had expressed an interest in studying English. As the administration did not want parents to think that the language was being forced upon their daughters, the Re 1 fee was set for those who wanted to study the language. In 1916, the school was upgraded to a secondary school with two mediums of learning: vernacular and English. English tuition fees, by the time it became an average college in 1924, had risen to 12 rupees.

The IP Women’s College began in 1924, in two rooms upstairs from the Bhajan Bhawan and eventually moved to accommodate the growing number of students.

Miss Leonara Guminer, Principal Founder of Indraprastha Girl’s High School and Intermediate College, was another prominent figure synonymous with the institute. G’meiner, a Besant follower and Theosophist, moved from Australia to India in 1905 to serve the cause of women’s education. In the same year, she began as headmaster of the school, and later, the school and college from 1924 to 1934.

The school has many firsts to its credit: it was the first girls’ hostel in Delhi in 1913; The first batch of science classes with laboratory facility in the capital also started here in 1924. A century later, the school is still a guiding light for female students in and around the walled city.


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