The Oriental Research Institute (ORI), Mysore is an establishment dedicated to collection, exhibition, edition and publishing of rare manuscripts in both Sanskrit and Kannada languages. Formerly known as Oriental Library, this institute was established in the year 1891 under the guidance of Chamaraja Wodeyar, the then King of the erstwhile Mysore State. It is located on the Krishnaraja Boulevard road of Mysore in the historic Jubilee Hall constructed in 1887 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s succession to the British monarchy.
History of Oriental Research Institute
The foundation for the Oriental Library was laid on 20th June 1887 by Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar. The construction for the building took about four years to complete and the building was formally inaugurated in 1891. The Oriental Library functioned was under the Department of Education of the former Mysore State till 1916. In the same year the University of Mysore started functioning and the Oriental Library became a part of the newly formed university. The Oriental Library was renamed in 1943 as the Oriental Research Institute.
The works of Oriental Research Institute
The Oriental Library was the first public library in Mysore dedicated to the cause of research and editing of manuscripts. Indology was the prime focus. The Oriental Research Institute has published nearly two hundred titles from 1893 till date. The well-stocked library of the institute has a rich collection of around 75000 books and documents, most of which are ancient, rare and highly valued materials.
Among the institute’s rich and rare collections are the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics by James Hastings, a Vedic Concordance by Maurice Bloomfield, and critical editions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The institute has a systematic order in place that allows easy access to the books and documents.
The annual journal of the institute, named Mysore Orientalist, is a highly valued publication. The most famous publication of the journal is the Kautilya’s Arthashastra, written in the 4th century B.C. and edited by Dr. R. Shamashastri. This significant work was discovered in the institute by R. Shamashastri in the year 1902. It was published in the year 1909 and had brought international fame to the institute. The publication is particularly valued as it throws light on the economic and political situation in ancient India.
Various other famous works of ancient India is being preserved and published by the institute. Among them are Sritattvanidhi, is a compilation of slokas by the former Mysore King, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. Three edited manuscripts Navaratnamani-Mahatmyam (a classic work on gemology), Tantrasara-Sangraha (a highly valued work on sculptures and architecture), and Vaidashastra-Dipika (an ayurvedic text), are in advanced stages of printing. All of these books are being printed with English and Kannada translation so that they can attain a wider readership.
There are some books that have already been edited and are waiting to be published. Two such important books are Rasa-kaumudi (on mercurial medicine) and Paryayapadamanjari (ayurvedic medicine).
Preservation of palm leaf manuscripts
The Oriental Research Institute is a treasure trove of documents having more than 33,000 palm leaf manuscripts. These extraordinary manuscripts open an unusual window to the literature, philosophy, astrology, language and religious practices prevalent during the ancient times. They are preserved with utmost care at the institute. These manuscripts are written on palm leaves and have a standard size of 15 cm by 3.5 cm.
As the palm leaves tend to be brittle, they had to be handled with exceptional care by the people of ancient ages in order to write on them. To soften the brittle leaves they were sometimes scrubbed with a paste of ragi and then utilized for the writing purpose.
The process is somewhat similar to the use of papyrus in Egypt during the ancient times. These tender palm leaf manuscripts are organic materials and they carry a high risk of decaying or being destroyed by silverfish, a small insect that is often found inside old books.
In order to preserve these rare and priceless manuscripts the institute applies lemon grass oil on the manuscripts. The lemon grass oil carries properties to act like a pesticide. This particular oil also adds natural fluidity to the brittle palm leaves. The best advantage of using the lemon grass oil is that it is hydrophobic in nature and hence keeps the manuscripts dry. This helps in preserving the text and not losing them to decay due to humidity.
The Oriental Research Institute follows the conventional method of preserving the manuscripts by capturing them in microfilm. The use of this technique requires a microfilm reader for viewing or studying the manuscripts. Once the task of digitizing a manuscript is completed by the Oriental Research Institute, the text can be viewed, manipulated and edited by a computer.
The technology of software is then utilized to bring together disjointed portions of the manuscript and to correct or fill in any missing text. This is the procedure followed by the institute to preserve, restore and enhance the ancient and priceless manuscripts.
The institute also stores the original palm leaf manuscripts for reference at the institute for those who are interested in using them.
Future plans of the Oriental Research Institute
The Oriental Research Institute carries out extensive surveys to locate ancient manuscripts. The institute is involved with cataloging a national electronic database for these manuscripts with the intention to preserve them. The institute not only preserves these manuscripts, it also undertakes efforts to encourage the use of these exceptional materials for research. Some of the manuscripts have been published on the internet to benefit a wider range of interested scholars and people.
The Oriental Research Institute remains open on all working days from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On all holidays the institute remains open from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Phone: +91 821 2420 331
How to reach
The Oriental Research Institute is located within the Mysore University Campus. Accessing the institute is quite easy. Local transportation services like taxis, buses and auto rickshaws are easily available for reaching the institute from any part of the Mysore city.