It was in 1961 that Kerala Government, led by the then Chief Minister Pattom Thanupillai, decided to publish an Encyclopaedia in Malayalam. Professor N. Gopalapillai, an eminent scholar, was appointed as the Chief Editor of the forthcoming Encyclopaedia. The newly appointed editorial board (in September 1961) consisted of M/s. N. Shekharapillai, M.P. Appan, Abraham Joseph and A. Muhammed. Later in 1967, M/s. N.K. Damodaran, V.K. Nayayanam and M.N. Narayana Marar were also appointed on the editorial board. The plan was to publish a Malayalam Encyclopaedia in 10 Volumes. Unfortunately , before they could proceed much in this line, Professor Gopalapillai passed away. From June 1968 to June 1969, K.C. Shankara Narayanan, Secretary of Education, held the charge of the Chief Editor. In July 1969 Dr. K.M. George was appointed as the Chief Editor. Then the institute drew up an action plan. A great number of information-related books and a few Encyclopaedias has already appeared in Malayalam. In the circumstance, the original plan of publishing an Encyclopaedia in 10 volumes was changed, as it was found that greater was the need. So the Malayalam Encyclopaedia Committee found it better to publish a lengthier and more comprehensive Encyclopaedia. This decision was taken in July 1969. And on the basis of this, the present publication of the 20 volumes Encyclopaedia began to take shape.
In 1976, the Encyclopaedia Office which had been functioning as a Government Department was changed to an autonomous institute. Dr. Vellayani Arjunan who joined the office as an Asst. Editor, Grade I, in the year 1975, was made the Chief Editor when Dr. K.M. George left the office. When the Malayalam Encyclopaedia Office was made an autonomous institute, Dr. Vellayani Arjunan’s designation as Chief Editor was changed to that of the Director. In 1987, the Institute was brought under the Cultural Affiars Department. After Dr. Vellayani Arjunan, Dr. C.G. Ramachandran Nair, Prof. M. Achuthan, Dr. George Onakkoor, Prof. V. Aravindakshan, Prof. Vellayani Arjunan (second tenure), Dr. M.R. Thampan, Prof. K. Pappootty, Prof. Thumpaman Thomas and Dr. M.T. Sulekha were appointed as Directors. The present Director (2018) is Dr. A.R. Rajan.
The administrative aspect of the Institute is controlled by a Governing Body. The Chief Minister and the Cultural Minister are holding the offices of chairman, and vice chairman, respectively. This Governing Body consists of the Director as its member Secretary, Secretary of Cultural Affairs, Finance Secretary, and 12 unofficial members.
For convenience, in Sarvavijnanakosham all the branches of learning are divided into 40 branches which are grouped under 15 main branches. And on this basis the articles are written and presented.
For those who have a burning desire to get knowledge, the books published by the Institute are immensely valuable as reference book. Our books are of much use to school pupils, college students, research scholars, and teachers. Items of knowledge are very simply presented in our Encyclopaedias and related publications.