Modernization and the preservation of our heritage must go hand in hand. The Oriental Research Institute (also known as ORI) is a unique institution that focuses on the latter. The aim of this institute is to collect, research, exhibits and publish rare palm leaf and paper manuscripts in Malayalam, Sanskrit, Kannada etc. Till date, the institute has preserved over 70,000 works including manuscripts. A translation of Kautilya’s Arthashastra is the institute’s most famous work.
Quick Facts about the Oriental Research Institute
- Timing: Open 7 days of the week. 10.30 am to 5.30 pm.
- Founded: 1891
- Patron: Chamarajendra Wadiyar X
- Address: Ramavilas Road, K.G Koppal, Kajjihundi, Mysuru – 570005 (MAP)
- Phone: +91 82124 20331
History of the Oriental Research Institute
The institution was founded as the Oriental Library in 1891 by Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar X. The library is housed within the Jubilee Hall on Krishnaraja Boulevard. This hall was constructed in the year 1887 to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s rule.
Until the year 1916, this library was a part of the erstwhile Mysore State’s Department of Education. In 1916, it got affiliated to University of Mysore. In 1943, the institute was retitled as the Oriental Research Institute.
The Oriental Research Institute Library – The 1st Public Library in Mysore
The ORI has published about 200 titles since its inception. This was the 1st public library in Mysuru dedicated to the editing and research of manuscripts. This library houses over 38,000 books.
This includes critical editions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, James Hasting’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics and Maurice Bloomfield’s A Vedic Concordance. Each year a journal of the institute, entitled ‘Mysore Orientalist’ is published for people to learn about the activities and progress of the institute. 18 volumes have been published to date.
Preservation of Palm Leaf Manuscripts
There are currently over 485,000 manuscripts made of palm leaves in the ORI. These manuscripts can be described as wrings on dried palm leaves cut to a size of 3.5cm by 15cm. since the manuscripts are eco-friendly and organic in nature; they have a high chance of degeneration and silverfish destruction. In an effort to protect and preserve them a regular coating of lemongrass oil is applied on each manuscript.
The oil acts as a pesticide and keeps the manuscript from turning brittle. Its hydrophobic nature also protects the manuscripts from humidity. The manuscripts are also captured on microfilm or with an HDR scanner and digitized. With the help of software, disjointed pieces of the manuscript are then put together and missing text is filled in.
ORI and Kautilya’s Arthashastra
Kautilya’s Arthashastra is this institute’s most famous publication. The Arthashatra was originally written in 4th century BC. One day a manuscript of the Arthashastra was given to the librarian, Dr. Rudrapatnam Shamashastry by a man from Tanjore.
This manuscript was written on dried palm leaves in the 1500-year old Grantha script. Dr. Shamashastri edited and translated this manuscript and published it in 1909. With this publication, the ORI received international recognition and fame.
The institute was renovated in 2012. Lime mortar was used for its restoration. This is important because it was one of the original building materials. The renovated building of the iconic library was inaugurated on 31st March-2015.