By Swami Harshananda
This institute was first founded at the instance of Sayyāji Rao Gāyakvāḍ, the third. He was then dewan in A. D. 1893 with a small collection of manuscripts and printed texts. It formed a part of the Sanskrit section of the central library of Baroda.
The now famous Gaekwad’s Oriental Series was started in A. D. 1915. The Kāvyamimāmsā of Rājaśekhara was the first publication. Under the orders of the Baroda Government, ‘The Oriental Institute’ formally came into being in A.D. 1927. The translation branch of the Education Department of the State was amalgamated with the Institute in A. D. 1931. When the M. S. University of Baroda was established in A. D. 1949, the Oriental Institute became its constituent. The Institute got its own building in A. D. 1958.
The main objective of this Oriental Institute is to develop a well-equipped library of rare and unpublished manuscripts and reference material on Oriental and Indological subjects. After proper scrutiny and editing, some of them are being published. So far 789 volumes have been brought out not only in Sanskrit but also in some other Indian languages like Gujarātī and Hindi. Persian and Arabic publications also find a place in this series. These books have been well-received in scholarly circles. They have also won accolades from distinguished institutions and authorities not only of India but also from abroad.
Another important work of the Institute is the publication of catalogs of manuscripts. There is a permanent exhibition of several interesting items of ancient writing materials and calligraphy such as ink powders of various types like:
- Golden, silver, red and black lekhanīs or styluses
- Ink-pots of cowrie and brass
- Glazers made of agate that burnish the manuscript scrolls
- Painted cloth of 18th century
- Playing cards and painted wooden covers for manuscripts
- Home-made paper
The Institute published a critical edition of the Rāmāyaṇa which has been widely acclaimed. Work is now in progress on the critical editions of Viṣṇupurāṇa and the Mārkandeyapurāṇa. About fifty works are under preparation by different scholars to be published in due course. The Institute has the potentiality into being developed as a big center for South Asian studies.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore