Oriental Institute, Thane

Aklujkar aklujkar at UNIXG.UBC.CA
Mon Feb 9 21:43:43 UTC 1998

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Many of you may not know that for the last several years an institution run
with much dedication and systematic planning is functioning at Thane,
Mumbai/Bombay.  It is Oriental Institute, M. Karve Path, Naupada, Thane 400
602. The institute holds regular discussion sessions and seminars (with
seminar dates publicised almost a year in advance and attracting scholars
from as many parts of the world). It arranges tours of historically
important sites for its members (with one site chosen per year and studied
through lectures and research literature by members prior to visiting, as I
understand) and  publishes a periodical (newsletter and journal
combination, as far as the issues I have seen go) titled_ Itihas Patrika_.
It has also created a library consisting of about 15,000 vols. related to
Indian culture and Sanskrit language and collected about 3,000 Sanskrit
manuscripts(paper), mostly related to rituals.

On 26 December 1997, I participated in the second session of the Brihan
Maharashtra Prachya Vidya Parishad (= Greater Maharashtra Oriental
Conference) organized by the Oriental Institute. At least 200 delegates
must have been in attendance. The conference was a model of careful
planning. As one would expect in such a gathering, the papers presented --
most of them in Marathi and Sanskrit -- were of uneven quality, but every
effort was made to ensure that truly informative abstracts were distributed
beforehand and that the papers were read at the announced time at the
specified place. The speakers chosen for the plenary sessions presented
very useful surveys of research and recent developments in their respective
fields. I was rather sorry for having to miss the next two days of the
conference on account of a promised seminar participation in Calcutta.

As far as my information goes, the credit for the success of the Oriental
Institute largely belongs to Dr.  Vijay V. Bedekar, a busy medical doctor
running a family hospital who pursues the study of Indian culture as a side
activity, and to the group of dedicated volunteers that has gathered around
Dr. Bedekar over the years. (The Bedekar family is also responsible for an
arts, commerce and engineering college, on the campus of which the BMPVP
meeting was held and which was the cleanest campus I have seen in my recent
visits to India.)

In my exchanges with him, Dr. Bedekar mentioned one acute need of the
Oriental Institute -- access to scholarly journals in  Oriental Studies,
particularly in Indology, published outside India. Because the cost of
subscription to such journals is high and because the Indian rupee has
undergone so much devaluation in the last few decades, the Institute cannot
carry out its goal of informing its members about recent Indological
research in as comprehensive a manner as possible.

.Thaa.ne (Skt Sthaana, Sthaanaka) is a very old town in Indian history.
Some important archaelogical discoveries are being made around it, but I am
sure there is much scope for further work. Most of Thane city itself at
present is unattractive. Chemical industries have brought much pollution to
it. The Oriental Institute reminded me of the Dhamma-pada verse yathaa
sa.mkaara-dhaanasmi.m ujjhitasmi.m mahaa-pathe / paduma.m tattha jaayeta
suci-gandha.m manoramam //. Whatever the Indologists and Orientalists (the
latter term has no negative connotation in my usage) can do to help the
Thane citizens in becoming historically better informed would be a good
investment in my view. The declining standard,  in India, of research on
pre-modern India makes it all the more necessary that the libraries of
institutions such as the Thane Oriental Institute be helped to build good
collections. Periodical exchange arrangements, donations of old issues of
non-Indian journals,and subscribing to one or two non-Indian Indological
journals on behalf of the Institute are some of the ways in which the goal
of a good library can be realised. I would appeal to you to help along
these lines. If applicable, consider it a repayment for the hospitality you
received from ordinary Indians on your last visit to India. Maybe, you
could take a suitcase full of publications you no longer need in your
library when you visit India next time and donate it to the Oriental

If you have publications to contribute, please use the address given above.

Dr. Bedekar can also be contacted by e-mail on <vbedekar at bom3.vsnl.net.in>.

Thanks. -- ashok aklujkar

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