Mysuru: The century-old Oriental Research Institute (ORI) in the city that comes under University of Mysore, a treasure trove of ancient palm leaf and paper manuscripts, is all set to digitise its collection and preserve them for posterity.
To be taken up in a phase-wise manner, the digitisation entails scanning and copying some of the oldest extant texts in Sanskrit, including Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’ which was discovered in the ORI collection in 1905 by R. Shamashastry and first published in 1909.
There are about 30,000 palm leaf and paper manuscripts in the ORI collection apart from about 40,000 rare books of which 215 seminal works have been published so far to throw light on various facets of Indian history, literature and culture.
ORI Director Dr. S. Shiva-rajappa said that the project is expected to cost around Rs. 20 lakh and it may take up to two years for the digitisation work to be completed from the date of commencement. The Institute was in the process of appointing additional staff, those young post-graduates in Anthropology and Archaeology Departments of the Varsity, for the purpose.
Preserved for posterity
“Our objective is to not only ensure that the rare manuscripts in our collection are preserved for posterity but are easily made available to scholars across the world through download for a fee,” he added.
“Scholars and Indologists working on different facets of Indian history and culture may not have access to certain works that may be with us. At present the only way to access them is through a personal visit which is time consuming,” said Dr. Shivarajappa.
But once the manuscripts are digitised, it would be easier for scholars to access the classical texts. This would also help in dissemination of valuable information and bringing it to public domain, he added.
ORI was established during the reign of the then Maharaja Chamaraja Wadiyar in 1891 and was housed in the present building which was constructed in 1897 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s ascension to the British throne.
In addition to digitisation, the ORI has embarked upon publication of very rare works through private funding. It has identified nearly 20 classic works originally published by it and is in the process of printing about 500 copies of each work for benefit of public.
Of the nearly 70,000 works in Sanskrit there are repetitions or multiple copies of the same work and hence the ORI is taking up works of scholastic importance which have not been published anywhere else earlier or not currently available, said T.V. Satyanarayana and K.V. Ramapriya, scholars working on the project. The edifice housing the ORI was restored with funding by the US Consulate, Chennai, a few years ago.
The authorities are seeking additional funds for its digitisation and publication projects and plan to approach National Mission for Manuscripts, University Grants Commission, Infosys, TTD Board, Tirupati, and Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Trust among others.
Important manuscripts at ORI
Some important manuscripts in the ORI collection, include ‘Lilavathi’ by Bhaskaracharya (mathematical sums in verses); ‘Asvavaidyam’ by an anonymous author and is a work on treatment of diseases of horses; ‘Mayamata’ by Manya which is a treatise on architecture; ‘Hastyayurveda’ by Palakapya which deals with treatment of elephant diseases, apart from innumerable works on astronomy, astrology, architecture, philosophy and others.