Ramanathan Academy of Fine Arts (RAFA) was established in 1960 to foster the ideals of “National Hero” Sir.Ponnambalam Ramanathan on Fine Arts by his son-in-law, an oriental studies scholar, Senator S.Nadesapillai. He was a former Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Member of the Parliament, Senator, Council member of the erstwhile University of Ceylon and Principal of Parameswara College.
Mr.Nadesapillai had taken a keen interest and dedication to develop the RAFA and to popularize and improve the quality of local performance in Carnatic music, Bharathanatiyam and other folklores of Srilankan Tamils. To improve the knowledge and performance of the RAFA students, he had brought many leading Carnatic music teachers from India to RAFA. The RAFA had conducted Diploma courses in Carnatic Music and Bharathanatiyam. The students were admitted based on the qualifications obtained from North Ceylon Oriental Musical Society (NCOMS) to the courses. The diploma holders who were passed out were able to get teaching positions in schools.
The Jaffna campus of the University of Sri Lanka was established in 6th October 1974. The Parameswara College, which was established by Sir Pon. Ramanathan in August 1921, was taken over by the Government for the establishment of the Jaffna campus. In this background, the Jaffna public, mainly the cultural enthusiasts had requested the government to take over the RAFA and incorporate with the Jaffna Campus. The University of Sri Lanka had accepted this proposal.
RAFA under University of Jaffna
RAFA was taken over by the Jaffna Campus of the University of Srilanka on 01.12.1975. RAFA was functioning in the traditional home of Sir Pon. Ramanathan, which is located within the premises of Ramanathan Ladies College, Maruthanarmadam. This college too was built by Sir Pon.Ramanathan. In connection to RAFA take over by the Jaffna campus, ten acres of Ramanathan Ladies College land was given to Jaffna campus to put up necessary buildings. It was also agreed that the RAFA could continue to function at Sir Pon.Ramanathan’s house until the construction of new buildings in the given land.
The Jaffna campus Board had entrusted the academic and administrative responsibilities of RAFA to the Faculty of Humanities. The Faculty had managed the academic and administrative functions through an academic coordinator. At the initial stage, there were very few students who followed diploma courses in music and dance.
The Jaffna campus became the University of Jaffna on 01.01.1979 and the Faculty of Humanities was renamed as Faculty of Arts. In 1980s the student numbers in the RAFA had steadily increased. The students were admitted based on G.C.E. (A/L) qualification plus NCOMS qualification for diploma courses and there was no degree programme. In the 1980s with the increase of students at RAFA, the Faculty of Arts had to face several problems concerning teaching and student welfare. Further RAFA is located six kilometer away from the Faculty of Arts. Considering the nature of courses and logistic problems in managing from distance, the University of Jaffna had requested the UGC in the early 1990s to upgrade the RAFA as a separate institute in the name of Sir Pon. Ramanathan Academy of Fine Arts.
After several requests, submission of project proposals and dialogues the UGC at its 351st meeting held on 28th April 1990 disapproved the University request for Institute, but it requested the University to take some actions for future consideration.
In 1992 a Department of Performing Arts was established within the Faculty of Arts, Degree programmes in Carnatic Music and Dance were commenced and demonstrators in the RAFA were upgraded as confirmed Assistant Lecturers. The Faculty had commenced Degree Programmes in Carnatic Music and Bharathanatiyam in 1993. Further the Faculty of Arts had continued to conduct Diploma courses to satisfy G.C.E.(A/L) plus NCOMS qualified students upto 2001 and then discontinued Diploma courses.
With the establishment of the Department of Performing Arts in 1992, the RAFA had become a relict. Though RAFA is a relict now, the UGC, University, and people continue to use of RAFA terminology. But it has no official or legal status from 1992.
In 1996, the Department of Performing Arts was bifurcated as the Department of Dance and Department of Music. Though the University had requested for Department of Instrumental Music and Department of Folklore, the UGC did not approve them. In the year 2000, a degree course in Art and Design was commenced under the purview of the Department of Dance. The first batch of Bachelor of Fine Arts students from the Faculty of Arts had started passed out in 1997/98 academic year. Now the University is conducting degree courses in Bachelor of Fine Arts in Carnatic music, Veena, Violin, Miruthangam, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Bharathanatiyam, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design.
From the inception up to 2004, the University had handled the admission of students to the above courses. From 2004 academic year UGC has been handling the students’ admission. For the admission of these courses in addition to the G.C.E. (A/L) examination performances, students are expected to sit for an aptitude test conducted by the University