McKENZIE, COLIN, 1753-1821
Colonel Colin McKenzie
(ಕಾಲಿನ್ ಮೆಕೆಂಜಿ) is a revered name in the fields of manuscriptology,
folklore and epigraphy in
McKenzie was born in the Louie
He toured extensively in Karnataka after the acquisition
of the erstwhile
McKenzie was primarily interested in collecting information and artifacts from the places that he visited during the course of his duty. He sought the assistance of local scholars who were proficient in the regional languages and would act as a contact between the officer and the common people. He did not mind spending from his personal resources for the expenses incurred in appointing these scholars. Among the Kannada scholars harnessed for this work, he makes a particular mention of one Kavelly Venkataborayya.
The entire body of manuscripts and other material collected
by McKenzie are called ‘Mackenzie Collection’ and they are distributed among
The total collection of McKenzie is truly monumental. They include 6218 coins, 106 statues made of copper, silver, bronze and gold, many copper inscriptions, 2630 drawings, 69 maps and many curios such as weights, beads, rings et al. However the major constituents of the collection are copies of about 8000 inscriptions and manuscripts collected from thirteen languages.
A large percentage of the items collected by McKenzie are of particular interest to Karnataka.
‘Kaifiyaths’ which are also known as ‘bakhairs’ and
‘naamas’ are local tracts, collected in small towns and villages. Sometimes they
were collected from local sources and in other cases McKenzie went in search of
knowledgeable persons and got the ‘Kaifiyaths’ written. These writings are invaluable
sources of information, which do not constitute official history. G.Varadaraja Rao
lists ninety nine kaifiyaths dealing with places such as Ajjampura, Arikuthara,
Kampli, Kollur, Gokarna, Gerusoppe, daroji, Nagara, Banavasi, Nagamangala, Shirasi
etc. These tracts are very helpful in tracing the local history. There are about
nineteen kaifiyaths dealing with the history and customs of various castes and tribes.
They include communities like Konkani, Korama, Banjara, Banajiga, Mannu Vadda and
Halepaika. There are a few tracts relating to the history of temples and religious
institutions. These tracts are quite often repositories of local systems of knowledge.
Kaifiyaths are veritable mines of information about
historical events, local customs and description of every day events. They are of
immense help in reconstructing the life styles of a bygone era.
A study of these manuscripts from a linguistic point of view yield information about the changing patterns in morphology, syntax and vocabulary.
McKenzie collection includes manuscripts of literary texts as well. He has classified them according to the religion of the authors.
Of course McKenzie had neither the time nor inclination
to study and evaluate the material collected by him. He devoted a huge chunk of
his personal time, energy and money for work which was not mandatory. Kannada speaking
communities should be thankful to him for his singular service.