A review of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute and Deccan College Scriptorium.
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (Deccan Gymkhana, Pune, India)
The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) is an excellent resource for scholars of South Asia. In addition to its extensive holdings of rare books and manuscripts, it also boasts a peaceful and well-organized reading room and, perhaps most importantly, a small group of knowledgeable and friendly staff who take the time to advise those seeking information.
The institute is located in the Deccan Gymkhana neighborhood of Pune and is very easy to find. All rickshaw drivers in the city (in my experience) knew Bhandarkar Road at the least, and most knew the Bhandarkar Institute. Many students and families live in this area, and very near to the institute is Kamala Nehru Park, a nice green space with a playground surrounded by flats and shops, bubbling with activity in the early evening. The lush grounds of the institute sit at the end of Bhandarkar Road where it dead-ends at Law College Road. At the opposite end of Bhandarkar Road lies Goodluck Chowk, so named after the Café Goodluck that has occupied the corner lot since the 1930s. Here Bhandarkar Road intersects Fergusson College Road (most often called FC Road), a street brimming with shops, pharmacies, delicious food, and a movie-theater. Try Vaishali or Roopali for good South Indian snack food. While this is not the cheapest place to live in Pune, it is more affordable than the Koregaon Park area, has loads more charm, and is within close walking distance to BORI and the old city of Pune (just across the river). If you are staying for a short period of time, the Hotel Raviraj on Bhandarkar Road is a nice budget option with a good restaurant.
If you are planning to work with one of the scholars at BORI on a continuing basis or if you are hoping to consult manuscripts, you will want to bring an official letter of introduction on your university letterhead, preferably from the chair of your department, briefly stating the research you are conducting and requesting that you be granted access to their holdings. This letter may not be required to gain access to the R.N. Dandekar Library, but I would still recommend that you bring it if possible, especially if you are a student. When I was there from Fall 2012 to Spring 2013, Mr. Arun Barve was the new Honorary Secretary and you will need his approval to “join” BORI in an official capacity. If you are in India on a research visa and need to register with the local FRRO, he would be the person to contact for an affiliation letter. When I visited there was an option to join as a lifetime member for Rs. 10000 (for non-Indians) or one could pay Rs. 500 to use the library for one year. There is an additional deposit fee of Rs. 500 if you wish to check out books.
The largest collection housed at BORI has over 17,000 manuscripts and is called the “Government Manuscript Library.” A descriptive catalog in 19 volumes, started in 1916, has been published by the Bhandarkar Institute under the title, Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Government Manuscripts Library. This catalogue, to the best of my knowledge, is not available online. Selected volumes are available at the University of Texas at Austin library, and may be accessible via Inter-Library Loan. These volumes are also available at the BORI and are open access.
In addition to this collection, the institute has over 11,000 other manuscripts on various subjects. Most of these may be searched via card-catalogue at the institute. Some of the important collections of the institute include the Kashmir Manuscript Collection, a group of texts in Sharada script written on birch bark related to Kashmir, a number of illuminated Persian manuscripts, thousands of manuscripts on Jaina literature and philosophy, as well as a collection of Rig Veda manuscripts. In order to view the manuscripts you need to make an initial appointment with the head of the manuscript department. I was not able to do this until I actually arrived in Pune, but it is possible that an email to the secretary could get this process started.
The Dr. R. N. Dandekar Library, located behind the main offices of the Bhandarkar Institute, is an excellent research library with a number of very early editions of Sanskrit texts. Unfortunately there is no electronic catalog of their holdings and the stacks are not open access. You must locate the book from one of two card catalogues in the entry room. There is a card catalogue alphabetized by author, and one by title. You cannot remove the cards, but are asked to write just the section and title from the card and give it to a staff member for retrieval. This is fairly efficient; however, you must give more information than is requested and explicitly specify the volume and edition. In my case, I was sometimes brought English translations of Sanskrit texts, even if I had requested a specific Sanskrit edition. Be very clear about what you are looking for before they leave to retrieve the book so you do not have the awkward experience of asking them to go back and forth to the stacks for you.
The small reading room at the Dandekar library is incredibly peaceful and is nicely laid out. Set back from the road and behind the main buildings, it is fairly quiet and looks out onto a garden area. Outlets are limited so if you are working from a laptop, make sure it is charged. Reference books, such as concordances to the Vedas, Puranas and the Mahabharata are available, and an extensive collection of dictionaries in Sanskrit, Pāli, Hindi, Marathi, and a variety of other languages, are kept in the cabinets of the reading room. These are open access. Backpacks are not permitted and must be left in cubbies in the entryway, though this is enforced with varying degrees of regularity. Photocopies can be ordered for Rs. 1 per page and can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two business days.
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (Deccan Gymkhana, Pune, India)
812, Shivajinagar, Law College Road,
Pune 411004, India.
Fax : +91-20-25656932
Hours: Monday-Friday 11:00 AM to 5:30 PM, Saturday 7:30 to 10:30 AM
Deccan College (Yerwada, Pune, India)
The Scriptorium at Deccan College is a priceless gem for the study of Sanskrit language and literatures. This is where the massive Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles is being edited, a project that has been ongoing since the late 1940s. Thus far, nine volumes in multiple parts have been published by the Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune. While the contribution of these initial volumes is significant indeed, the vast majority of the references collected still need to be edited and published before the project is complete. Theses volumes have yet to cover all the vocables beginning with the letter a. The good news is that the references for the entire project have already been collected from 1500 Sanskrit texts, hand written on small slips of paper, and alphabetized. The Scriptorium, the focus of this review, is a large room with rows of file cabinets with tiny drawers where these alphabetized slips of paper, 10 million in total according to the Deccan College website, are stored. There are plans to digitize the reference slips, though I am unaware of how much progress has been made in this endeavor.
To find the list of the 1500 volumes used for this project, one can consult the initial published volume of the series, An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles, vol. 1, part 1, gen ed. A. M. Ghatage, Pune: Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, 1976. This volume, available at many major research libraries, though not online, describes the methods used in creating the dictionary and lists all the texts consulted and their abbreviations. The volumes can also be purchased directly from the Secretary at Deccan College.
To give a sense of how this incredible resource can be used, let me briefly describe the data I collected there. My current research project focuses on the development/construction of concepts of mental illness in Sanskrit literature. Before arriving and then in consultation with a few of the very knowledgeable Sanskrit professors at Deccan College I collected a list of Sanskrit terms that might speak to this topic. One of the terms, unmāda, had over 2000 references in the Scriptorium, not including variants like unmatta, unmāditā, etc. Though each reference slip varies, most are stamped with the name of the text from which it was taken, the verse number, the genre, an approximate date, the exact reference (sometimes with the complete passage), a translation, and the name of the scholar who collected the reference. I was able to get a sense of the breadth of the term (and others) very quickly and even began to identify possible shifts in usage over time and across genres.
In order to consult the slips at the Scriptorium you need to get permission from the head of the department, Prof. J.D. Sathe. When I initially met with her it was extremely helpful to have a letter of introduction from my department chair at my home university, on university letterhead, that briefly described my project and requested my access to their holdings. To use the library at Deccan College, such a letter is mandatory.
Once you get permission, you are escorted to the Scriptorium by a staff member who will pull the reference slips. You have to sign yourself in, write how many slips you are consulting that day and what term they cover. You cannot leave the premises with the slips. The editing staff of the dictionary works in a large library room upstairs, which conveniently has a copy of each of the 1500 texts used for the project. There you can consult the slips if you can find an empty desk. You cannot take any pictures, nor can the slips be photocopied. You are also not allowed to take pictures of any of the volumes in that library. The best way to go, if you are considering collecting a large number of references, is to bring a charged laptop and enter the data manually into an excel file. Also, this library closes from 1:00 to 2:00 PM for the lunch hour, and you are not permitted to work there during this time. Another note about hours: though technically the Scriptorium is “open” from 10:00AM to 6:00PM, the staff member who checks you in and retrieves the slips works from 10:30AM to 5:00PM. So that she can leave on time, I had to return all slips to her by 4:45PM.
Overall my experience researching at Deccan College was a good one. Many members of the staff working on the dictionary project are professors in the Sanskrit department at the college. As such they were able to offer diverse and invaluable insights on my project, as they work very closely with Sanskrit on a daily basis. You can expect the usual delays, such as many closings for holidays and power outages, but you can also expect to be pleasantly surprised by how much data collection can be done here in a relatively short time.
The library at Deccan College is an excellent resource, most notably because they have a number of very early editions and out-of-print volumes of Sanskrit primary and secondary literature. In order to use the library, you must complete some paperwork. You will need an official letter of introduction from your university on letterhead and you will need to collect signatures from a number of staff members across the college. You also will need to pay a joining fee (Rs. 1005 for 6 months). The stacks are open at this library, which makes it considerably more user-friendly than the library at the Bhandarkar Institute, and there is also a large reading room with lots of natural light.
The American Institute of Indian Studies also hosts their Sanskrit and Marathi programs on this campus. The people currently running these programs are very friendly and amazingly helpful with getting you access to various resources on the campus. For example, The French Institute of Pondicherry has a small, independent library at Deccan College, but it is locked because there is no longer anyone to run it. The director of the AIIS Sanskrit program was able to track down the key and grant me access. I personally did not find anything in the library that I needed, but it is worth a look if you are there. Unfortunately, the list of volumes available is also locked in the library, so you cannot plan ahead. On another note, if you are staying long, you might be able to pay the folks at AIIS a small amount every week to join there students at lunch. I was able to do this for a couple of weeks. The food is delicious and, aside from the campus canteen, there is nowhere else to eat in the area within a short walking distance.
Getting to Deccan College was surprisingly difficult the first time. Few rickshaw drivers outside that general area know of the campus. However, if you travel there from Deccan Gymkhana, first mention the neighborhood Yerwada and ask them to take either FC Road or JM Road to Sangamwadi bridge. Sangamwadi bridge becomes Sangamwadi road, and you will travel on this for a couple of miles. The river will be on your right. As the road begins to turn away from the river you hit a stoplight. This is Deccan College Road, but few rickshaw drivers recognize it as such. Turn left and the college will then be down the road on your right.
Deccan College (Yerwada, Pune, India)
Deccan College Road
Pune 411006, India
Hours: Monday-Friday 10:30 to 4:30 PM (Some Saturdays)
University of Texas at Austin
Image: Main entrance to the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Photograph by Amy Hyne.