RICE, BENJAMIN, LOUIE, 1836-1927

 

B.L.Rice (ಬೆಂಜಮಿನ್ ಲೂಯಿ ರೈಸ್) is one of the foremost, among the Christian scholars who have rendered yeoman service to the cause Kannada in the nineteenth century. He was born in Bangalore and spent his early childhood in that city, before moving to the United Kingdom for pursuing higher studies. He returned to Bangalore in 1860 after obtaining a degree at Harrow. He served in various capacities as the Head Master of the Central School in Bangalore, school Inspector, education officer and an officer in charge of census He worked diligently in the areas of education, administration and epigraphy. Of course his academic pursuits included editing of ancient Kannada texts and collecting manuscripts. He was given the additional responsibility of being the first director of the department of archeology in 1885.

            The first academic task taken up by B.L.Rice was the writing of the history of educational activities in Coorg between 1832 and 1882 and to draw a blue print for further progress (1884). The census report pertaining to the year 1881 was prepared by him. However it was the preparation and publication of the Gazetteer of Mysore state (Including Coorg) which gained him national recognition.

            He conceived the idea of bringing out a series of volumes called Epigraphia Carnatica with the explicit intention of collecting and publishing the inscriptions in the districts under his control. The first volume containing the inscriptions of Coorg was released in 1886. He continued this activity with the help of able assistants such as R.Narasimhachar and did not rest till all the twelve volumes were published. He collected approximately nine thousand inscriptions of which only a paltry number of one hundred were known earlier. This is a monumental effort. He provided an English translation of the inscriptions as also a detailed introduction delineating the relevant historical details, cultural significance and some information about the royal dynasties that were concerned. The inscriptions unearthed by him and the commentaries that go with them have given us very valuable insights about the history of Karnataka.

            Editing and publishing ancient Kannada texts were abiding passions of B.L. Rice. He was well versed in Sanskrit also. He has edited classics such as Pampa Ramayana of Nagachandra, (1868) and Amara Kosha with English and Kannada translations of the texts and appropriate introduction and indicies of relevant sources. (1873)

            Bibliotheca Carnataka is another series of important texts started by B.L.Rice. The more important among these publications are ‘Kavirajamarga’ (1898), ‘Karnataka Bhashabhushana’, (1884) ‘Karnataka Shabdanushasana’ (1890) ,  ‘Pampa Ramayana’ (1874) and Pampa Bharatha’ (1898)

            B.L.Rice has published a number of scholarly articles in journals such as the Indian Antiquary, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society et al. He has authored a couple of books on Biblical themes.

            Thus B.L.Rice is among the most important European scholars who have rendered invaluable service to the cause of Kannada land and culture in the ninteenth century.

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