YMCA History

Brief History of YMCA

 The YMCA Movement originally began in post-Industrial England of 19th century at 72, St. Paul’s Churchyard in London in the drapery establishment of M/s Hitchcock and Rodgers in which an young apprentice of 21, George Williams from his ancestral Ashway Farm in Dulverton on the border of Somerset with Devon in England, took the initiative in organizing Bible classes in his bedroom in the nature of a mutual edification society which brought in a cohesive group of 12 of his co-workers from equal number of denominations of the christian church to form the Young Men’s Christian Association on June 6, 1844. The first Indian YMCA took roots in 1857 in Calcutta.

The YMCA tradition is not new to India, way back in the year 1857 the first YMCA in Asia was started at Calcutta, the than Capital of India. The year 2007 is a very proud and significant year for the whole Indian YMCA movement, which is celebrating 150 years of YMCA’s presence in India along with the YMCA Calcutta. The National Council of YMCAs was started at Madras on Saturday, February 21st, 1891 through the initiative of David McConaughy. The headquarters shifted to Calcutta in May, 1902. At 5, Russell Street. Then in 1964 it was shifted to Massey Hall, New Delhi and Bharat Yuvak Bhavan since 1975 where it is still based.


The YMCA in India took roots in what is now Kolkata, way back in 1857, though a beginning was made in August 1854. On February 27, 1857, the Calcutta Christian Juvenile Society of 1822 formed by John Lawsan, a Baptist Missionary associated with William Carey change its name to Calcutta YMCA. This was the beginnings of the very first YMCA in Asia to be followed by Colombo, Trivandrum, Bombay, Madras and the rest. By the 1880s there were several YMCAs in South India. In 1890, David Mc Conaughy, an young American fraternal worker from the YMCA movement in USA arrived in Madras and founded the YMCA there. He was later instrumental in forming the Indian National Council of YMCAs, the forerunner of the National Council of YMCAs of India, following a conference in 1891.

The beginnings of the National Council of YMCAs

David Mc Conaughy convened an All-India Convention of the then 35 local associations along with a few smaller associations set up in the London Mission area of Travancore by lay Missionaries, Dr. E. Sargood Fry of Neyoor. The Convention, during February 20-21, 1891 at the Madras Association of the YMCA in Esplanade adopted a Resolution for constituting a National Council. The first Indian National Committee comprised 17 persons. The headquarters for the National Committee was in Madras for one year and the Convention unanimously elected Mr. S. Satthianadhan as Chairman, W.R. Arbuthnot as Hony. Treasurer and David Mc Conaughy as its first Secretary. The national headquarters was situated in Calcutta between 1891 and 1964 at 9, Russell Street and later at 5, Russell Street, finally shifting to New Delhi at the then Massey Hall where it was between 1964 and 1965. With the construction of the Bharat Yuvak Bhawan on 1, Jai Singh Road, the National Headquarters shifted to the first floor in 1975 till 2002 , when it shifted to the ground floor. The National Council celebrated its centenary in 1991 with the Posts and Telegraph Department of the Govt. of India issuing a commemorative stamp and a documentary on the movement aired over national TV channel. The first Indian Bishop V.S. Azariah was also the first Indian YMCA Secretary and Sir K.T. Paul an associate of Mahatma Gandhi the first Indian National General Secretary in 1916.

 Spread of the Indian Movement

The Indian YMCA Movement has 535 affiliated local associations across its nine Regions in the country with another 300 YMCAs in various stages of affiliation. The South-West India Region comprising the State of Kerala alone accounts for over 54% of the total YMCAs in India with 288 local associations. The Indian Movement boasts of a total fee-paying membership of 1,41,173 with males constituting 99,397, females 21,862 and 25,914 as Full members of various local associations. Most of the nine Regions are have implemented their Millennium Project Centres as a means of self-sustenance. There are 140 YMCA Professionals on the Cadre of YMCA Secretaries in India. The Indian YMCA is the second largest network in the world after the USA and is a part of the global YMCA fraternity and 125 countries while, being represented in the 23-member Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs as a biggest national movement.

For still more knowledge and information on the history and growth of the Indian YMCA Movement one can consult ‘YMCA and the Making of Modern India (A Centenary History)’ by Dr. M.D. David published by the National Council of YMCAs of India, pp 514, 1992.

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