|Owner(s)||Rashtra Deepika Ltd.|
|Editor||Fr. Boby Alex Mannamplackal|
|Founded||15 April 1887|
Deepika, a Malayalam language newspaper, is one of the oldest newspapers published in India. Started in 1887, it is the oldest Malayalam newspaper now in circulation. Deepika publishes editions from Kottayam, Kochi, Kannur, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. It was controlled by the Syro Malabar Church of Kerala from its inception till 1989. In August 1989, the Deepika and its sister publications came under the ownership of Rashtra Deepika Ltd., a public limited company. The readership of the newspaper is drawn mainly from the Syro Malabar Catholic laity. Msgr.Mathew M.Chalil is the Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) and Fr. Boby Alex Mannamplackal is the Chief Editor of the newspaper.
Deepika has an illustrious history of over 125 years. It was first published by a Syrian Catholic priest, Nidhirikkal Manikkathanar, or Father Emmanuel Nidhiri, or Nidhiry Mani Kathanar, under the title Nasrani Deepika. (Nasrani in Malayalam means a Syrian Christian). The first issue came out on 1887 April 15, which coincided with Vishu (the spring equinox festival according to Kerala tradition). The word "Deepika" in Malayalam means "lamp." Printing was on a crude handmade wooden press.
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 has a long tradition of going for bold innovations. It introduced many changes in Malayalam journalism. The following is but a sample of its impressive achievements:-
- First newspaper in Malayalam to be published on a daily basis.
- First among Malayalam newspapers to go online. It is still the largest Indian vernacular online newspaper.
- First Malayalam newspaper to devote a full page for sports and agriculture news.
- Rashtra Deepika, its sister-eveninger, is the largest circulated of its kind in India according to ABC.
- Online edition-Deepika.com, Deepika global, Deepika global Radio are also popular among Malayalees the world over.
- Altogether, Rashtra Deepika group has more than 15 million readers all over the world.
Kuttikalude Deepika, Business Deepika, Children's Digest, Rashtra Deepika Cinema, Streedhanam and Karshakan are other publications of the Rashtra Deepika Ltd.
Ownership Troubles (2004-2007)
Pharis Aboobacker|M. A. Pharis, a real estate entrepreneur came into the financially ailing Rashtra Deepika Pvt Ltd in 2004 with a loan of Rs. 20 million following its decision to sell shares through private placement. The loan was welcomed as a relief to the company which was going through a resource crunch mainly due to misappropriation of funds by the then Deepika chairman, Bishop Mathew Arackal.
The funds of the paper and the loans taken were then diverted by the bishop to support his lavish lifestyle. He then sent out a note to the share-holders dated 20th of July 2006 in which he made the following statement: "I made sincere attempts to mobilize funds from within the community, but the responses were very disappointing. In these circumstances, I contacted Mr. M A Pharis, a Muslim NRI entrepreneur of considerable resources and a criminal background. He agreed to advance a small interest free loan of Rs. 20 million to RDL for two years. He said if we were unable to repay the loan, it would be considered as zakat."
Pharis was allowed a seat on the board of directors and later was made a vice chairman of the company. In stages, he had advanced around 100 million to the company and was practically calling the shots in its editorial policy.Church could do nothing as Pharis's connections seem to be too far reaching.
It was then the Church leadership came to its senses and found that their traditional newspaper was now taking up a totally different role and was acting more like the voice of a group in the CPI(M). In the group war between senior Kerala CPM leaders Pinarayi Vijayan and VS Achuthanandan, Deepika was acting as the unofficial mouthpiece for Pinarayi. It was a curious turn of events for the newspaper which led the Liberation Struggle in 1958 against the Communists.
Church was also concerned about the track record of Pharis who had emerged as the real power centre within the paper. He had lot of opposition from various church groups also.He was able to manage Deepika single Handedly without even stepping into its office.Worried, the Church decided to raise money to repay Pharis. At one point there was an agreement between the Church and Pharis that the Church would retain its properties at the headquarters at Kottayam while all other offices and other properties of Deepika elsewhere would go to Pharis as part of the settlement. According to conservative estimates, the assets the Church was willing to part with were worth more than Rs. 200 million, that is more than double his actual investment.
It showed how desperate the Church was to salvage its public image. The church was later pressurised to put advertisement in Malayala Manorama newspaper claiming that Pharis is innocent and that Pharis will handover the newspaper whenever the Church wanted which he did. Sathyadeepam, the official weekly publication of the Ernakulam Arch Diocese of the Syro Malabar Church, wrote a strong article condemning the affairs at Deepika and its loss to the Church because of mismanagement. Many other catholic periodicals also raised their voice for the restoration of Deepika to the church.
On 28th of January 2008, the Church managed to relieve ownership from Pharis after a long series of hefty negotiations between Pharis and the Church.
125th Anniversary Celebrations
The Deepika completed its 125 years of service in 2012. Earmarking this golden lettered milestone, Deepika started various kinds of celebrations. One of the major attractions was the special Cartoon exhibition   by Raju Nair was held at Thiruvananthapuram in February. Renowned artist Kanhayi Kunhiraman inaugurated the exhibition. People from all walks of life visited the exhibition hall. Bishop of Neyyattinkara, Rt. Rev. Dr. Vincent Samuel was among many others who visited the exhibition.
Rashtra Deepika Publications
Rashtra Deepika Ltd publishes the following:
- The Deepika - daily newspaper (morning)
- The Rashtra Deepika - daily newspaper (evening)
- Business Deepika - Complete Business Fortnightly
- Karshakan - Agricultural monthly
- Sthree Dhanam - Women's monthly
- Rashtra Deepika Cinema - Film Magazine
- Kuttikalude Deepika - Children's Fortnightly
- Children's Digest - Children's Monthly (English)
- Chocolate - Educational Supplement
- www.deepika.com - Deepika morning daily web edition
- www.rashtradeepika.com - Rashtra Deepika evening daily web edition
- www.deepikaglobal.com - Deepika morning daily web edition in English
- www.visitorkerala.com - a complete health and tourism portal
- www.deepikamatrimonial.com - matrimonial portal
- www.deepikaclassifieds.com - Classifieds portal
- www.careerdeepika.com - Career online portal
The current major shareholders include Deepthi Media Trust (Kakkanadu), Chavara Media Trust (Kakkanad), Deepika Printers Society, Srothas India Trust (Syro-Malankara Major Archeparchy of Trivandrum), St. Joseph's Trust (Thalassery), Syro-Malabar Archepharchial Trust (Changanachery), Mr. Joseph Kunju (Syrian Catholic NRI), Dr. Francis Cleetus (Syrian Catholic NRI), George Jacob Mannamplackal (Syrian Catholic NRI), C P Paul Chungath (Syrian Catholic Jeweller), Johny Kuruvila Padickamyalil (Syrian Catholic NRI) and several other Syro-Malabar dioceses and archdioceses.