The Mythic Society's Glorious Past
It was a age when India was striving at 'self-realisation'. Western and Indian scholars and Institutions were busy reconstructing India's past. In this age of Renaissance was founded the MYTHIC SOCIETY. The Society was also the creation of an age called 'The Golden Age of Princely Mysore'. Of the many fruitful outcomes of this glorious period, Mythic Society is one. Dr. R. Sharma Shastry from Mysore edited Kautilya's Arthashastra and published it. The Mythic Society published the Quarterly Journal. It was these two things which had made Mysore familiar with the academic men all round the globe.
The Mythic Society ranks amoung many pioneering institutions of its kind like the Royal Asiatic Society of Calcutta or the Bharath Itihasa Samshodhaka Mandal of Pune, which had strived to reconstruct India's past. When an account of Indian historiography has to be given, the Mythic Society's contribution has to be narrated, especially with reference to South India and Karnataka. Eminent historians and researchers on South India like Dr. J.F. Fleet, Dr. B.J. Rice, Dr. Jouveail Dubreuil, Sir John Marshall, Prof. S. Krishnaswamy Aiyangar, T.A. Gopinath Rao, Mahamahopadhyaya R. Narasimhachar, V. Venkayya, H. Krishna Shastry, Dr. A. Venkatasubbiah, Dr. R. Shama Shastry, Prof. K.N. Shastry, Prof. B.M. Srikantaiah, T.T. Sharman and Dr. M.V. Krishna Rao were closely associated with the Mythic Society and many of their publications saw the light of day in the Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society. In fact, the first article in the first issue of the QJMS was by S. Krishnaswamy Aiyangar on 'History of South India', which was also the first lecture delivered by him in the Society.
Mythic Society was Born in 1909
The Society was the creation of the Europeans and Indian residents who were eager to know India's life, society and history, in the hope that useful and interesting information might be gathered of the history, growth and source of the civilization in which people lived. In fact, it was the brainchild of F.J. Richards who was the Collector, Bangalore cantonment District under the Madras Presidency. A meeting was held at the residence of Richards himself on 5th May 1909, and the idea of the then contemplated Mythic Society was to be like an academic 'club' and the list of members likely to be interested in this 'club' was drawn. It is stated that the list included 17 names of both European and Indian residents of Bangalore. Thus was born the Society.
'The encouragement of study in History, Ethnology and Religions in Southern India, and the stimulation of research in these and allied subjects' was stated as the aim of the Society in its Rules and holding at least nine lectures in each session (year) and publishing 2 or 3 papers read at these lectures in the Quarterly Journal was the original idea. Conducting excursions of members to historical places was also one of its programmes. His Highness, the Maharaja, Krishnaraja Wadeyar was the first patron of the Society. Stuart Fraser, the Resident at Mysore was the Honorary President. The first President of the Society was Dr. Morris Travers, who soon rose to be the Director of Indian Institute of Science. But two active members of the Society described as the two pillars of the Society in those early days were Rev. Father A.M. Tabard, a Frenchman, connected with St. Patrick's Church and Prof. S. Krishnaswamy Aiyangar, Lecturer in English, Central College (who later became the Professor of History in the Madras University), the latter being the only Indian member inn the first Managing Committee.
The Service of Rev. Antoine Marie Tabard to the Mythic Society
Contrary to the expectation of the founders, in the first year the membership rose to 174. Within a year Rev. Fr. Tabard himself had to assume the office of President and he continued in this position till 1926. So indefatigable was his enthusiasm for the Society and so total was his identification with its work, that Justice Leslie Miller remarked: 'Father Tabard was the Mythic Society and the Mythic Society was Father Tabard.' F.J. Richards wrote from Sussex in 1960 during the Golden Jubilee, about Fr. Tabard as one 'who was responsible for building the Daly Memorial Hall, to whom the Mythic Society to a large extent owes its long life and usefulness.' The other gentleman who did a lot for the Society in those days was Sir Hugh Daly, the successor of Fraeser as the Resident in Mysore. It is by his efforts that the Society could get many facilities both from the State Government and also from the Centre, and the Hall that used to house the Society (today the fantastic Society Library is in a new building behind the Daly Memorial Hall) is appropriately named after him. He also served as the Honorary President of the Society.
The Yuvaraja, Narasimharaja Wadeyar took a keen interest inn the affairs of the Society. He presided over the annual general body meeting of the Society in 1915 and promised to secure a site for housing the Society. In its early days the Society's lectures were arranged inn the Central College or the Public Library and even at the residence of the office bearers. The Society was granted the present day site by the State by its order dated 25th. January 1916, and also a donation of Rs. 10,000 for the building. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadeyar, the Yuvaraja, Dewan Sri M. Visveswaraya and rulers of Baroda, Bhopal, Travancore and Burdwan, Sir Dorabji Tata and Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee were some of the major donors of the building fund. The Maharaja laid the foundation of the Daly Memorial Hall on 30th August 1916, and the Hall was inaugurated on 25th July 1917 by the Yuvaraja. In the meanwhile the Society was registered on the 12th December 1916.
By 1922, the Society's membership rose to 552. Rev. Fr. Tabard wanted the membership to be raised to 1000. He had declared in 1923 that the Society was not meant only for the elite or the 'intellectual aristocracy' but also 'open to all who are interested, were it only ion a remote way' in the subjects which the Society is eager to promote.
Eminent men who were connected with the Mythic Society
The active interest of the scholars both European and Indian, the generous patronage of the princely state and the general enthusiasm for knowing India's heritage in those decades when the nation was trying to assert its individuality and was engaged in the freedom movement, helped the Society to grow year after year. In fact the Society helped Indians gain knowledge about their birthplace. Rao Bahadur M. Shama Rao succeeded Rev. Tabard as the President (1926) and continued in that capacity till 1939; A.V. Ramanathan ( who later became Law Minister) became Secretary in 1916 and continued in that capacity till 1939; and S. Srikantiya who was the Secretary for a long period 1922 - 1956 and also the Editor of the QJMS; these are some of the memorable figures to be remembered inn this context. Other eminent men who have served the Society during the pre-Independence period in various capacities were noted educationist N.S. Subba Rao (President 1939 - 42), J.M. Imam (President 1942 - 45), Justice Miller (Vice President 1914 - 22), Dr. Brajendranath Seal (Vice President 1922 - 31), Rao Bahadur R. Narasimhachar (Vice President 1931 - 37), Prof. Metcalfe (Vice President 1935 - 43), Prof. Radha Kumud Mukherjee (Secretary 1920 - 22), C. Hayavadana Rao, Sir M. Visvesvaraya, Sardar Kantharaja Urs, Sir Albion Banerjee, and Sir Mirza M. Ismail were also closely associated with the Society.
The Society having its own building enabled the Society to run a reading room and also build up its own library to help research scholars. In fact, the library is the most valuable assert the Society has. It was started with the generous donation of a huge collection of books by Rev. A.M. Tabard himself. Sir Hugh Daly took lot of interest in the building up of the library and it was at his instance that the Government of India and the various Presidency Governments put the Mythic Society in the mailing list of their publications.
A collection at the Mysore Secretariat Library was also transferred to this library. Purna Raghavendra Rao, Hugh Daly, T. Ananda Rao, Resident H.V. Cobb, K.V. Ramaswamy Iyengar etc., contributed their personal collections. Financial contributions too came from many quarters to the library. A good number of books were added by the review copies received by the QJMS. The library's collection stood at about 10,000 volumes in 1960, containing valuable original source material for research in history, literature, religion, philosophy, fine arts, political science and a host of other subjects. It has a whole series of back numbers of several scholarly journals, both national and international. Some of the books that it contains being available only in a few libraries all over the globe. Scholars from far and near came to consult the Library as they do even today.
The Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society (QJMS)
The Quarterly Journal brought international reputation to the Society. Its first oditor was F.W. Wetherall who was also the first General Secretary. He was an employee of the Geology Department in Mysore. He had successors in Prof. F.R. Sell and Prof. S. Krishnaswamy Aiengar as editors. S. Srikantayya was its editor for 25 years, beginning from 1931. The Journal published scholarly and researched articles on a variety of subjects covering history, ethnology, folk lore and folk arts, religion, literature, geography, fine arts, etc. It also reviewed books. The fact that even today, requisitions for its back issues are received from India and abroad, testify to their high standard of its contents. Eminent scholars like John Marshall, Father Heras, Dr. D.C. Sircar, Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy, O.C. Ganguli, Dr. J.H. Cousins and a host of others were amoung its contributors from outside Karnataka. Amoung the scholars who visited the Society and addressed the members Sir C.V. Raman (who for long was the Society's Honary President), Ravindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Otto Stein and a host of eminent men can be mentioned. At times the audience at the meetings were very poor. The strength at these meetings depended upon the reputation of the speaker and the conditions of weather on the day of the lecture (as it is even now). When Dr. F.W. Thomas of the Royal Asiatic Society of London visited the Society, Father Tabard regretted over the poor attendance at the talk of the esteemed visitor. The visitor consoled the Rev. Father by telling him that even at the meetings of the Royal Asiatic Society attendance continued to be poor.
The Declining years of the Mythic Society
As in the life of individuals and nations, there have been ups and downs in the life of the Mythic Society too. The post-Independence period saw a decline in the fortunes of the Society. Lack of interest evinced in humanities (as modern science Ann technology attracted the people of the new generation) and the sense of fulfillment experienced by the people over the achievement of Independence can be caused for such a decline. The Government too became less generous towards the Society in course of time. In fact, even at the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1934, the then Secretary bemoans that 'the financial position for various causes has not been latterly what it should have been.' The Mysore Government's grants in that year were only Rs. 1,500. Later, after 1962, the annual grant (of Rs.2,000 paid in that last year), was completely stopped. The members too ceased to show sustained interest in the activities (which they used to take soon after their enrollment). The membership of the Society which was around 600 during its heydays, fell to less than 150 in 1956. Eminent Presidents like Justice T. Singaravelu Mudaliar, K. Guru Dutt, Prof. M.V. Krishna Rao and Professor M.P.L. Sastry strove to put the Society on gear by their sincere efforts. But the lack of interest on the part of public as well as the State was a major hurdle. The membership which was less than 150 in 1956 could not go beyond 200 in 1960 when the Golden Jubilee was celebrated.
An eminent scholar closely associated with the Society. Dr. K.N.V. Sastry pined in 1960 on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee: 'If the Society had its birth and being in a more wealthy State or a more congenial environment this library would have certainly attained the greatness of the British Museum on its own scale.' This statement held good not only with regard to the Society's library but to the Society too. He goes on the say that 'the handicaps of the Society today are many but remediable further, the Society must cease to depend upon Government for its existence and turn to its own resources for funds.' The problems of the Society during these two decades were many. Lack of interest on the part of the Government, public and even amoung members was one thing. Misuse of the Society by some individuals was another. Hundreds of books in the library came to be pilfered. The valuable collection of coins and antiquities vanished. As the managing committee was changing in quick succession it was difficult for the newly elected to have a clear idea of the degree of misuse of the Society's properties. Financial difficulty was so acute that the Society could not even pay the salaries of its employees regularly. It was Prof. M.P.L. Sastry (President 1968 -69) who could take a bold decision to lease out the Society's land to meet the financial difficulties. It was his esteemed colleagues like T.S. Subramanyam and D.N. Sheshadri who plugged some of the loopholes to put an end to the pilferage of books from the Library. Later, in 1971 it was decided not to lend books outside the library and keep the library open from 9 AM.
The Mythic Society Active Again
It was T.T. Sharman (President 1971 - 73), who further tried to put the Society on right lines. It was by his efforts that three endowment lectures were instituted one in the name of Rao Bahadur R. Narasimhachar, the two others by Canara Finance Corporation and Bangalore City Corporation. Definite steps were taken to make some permanent arrangements to meet the day-to-day financial needs of the Society. Two pieces of land belonging to the Society were leased out. When the Diamond Jubilee of the Society was celebrated (1973), over Rs.12, 000 were collected form the Public. In 1979, the Society organised three all-India seminars on the Chalukyas of Badami, on the Chalukyas of Kakyana and on the Rashtrakutas. It hosted in the same year the fifth annual congress of the Epigraphical Society of India which was attended by nearly 100 scholars. An index of the 70 volumes of the QJMS was to be published in 1980. The Society planned to hold the 67th annual conference of the Numismatics Society of India the same year, and also come out with a giant publication project of a twelve volume Encyclopedia of India History and Culture under the Chairmanship of Dr. V.K. Gokak. Some of the publications of the Mythic Society are Archaeology in Mysore, The Chalukyas of Badami, The Exile and Kingdom and the Mahabharatadalli Mahila Patragalu to name a few.
The Library of the Society has been reorganised. Over 2000 books have been added in the course of the last decade and library equipment worth over Rs.25,000 had been purchased. A qualified Librarian and assistant. An Author card index was compiled and also a Title Card index. Some of the missing volumes in the Journal series and Epigraphical series had been acquired. Rare books on the history of Mysore had also been acquired. Many young students have now become members oaf the Society adding new life to the good Library.
This is an extract from Dr. Suryanath V. Kamath's article in the special Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society on its completion of seventy years (1909 - 1979) when he was the Editor of the Journal. This write up is only an attempt to help the younger members remember the traditions of the Society's good old days and also seek inspiration from the memory of the selfless noble souls who had toiled to create this nucleus of academic activity. It is a homage to the memory of them all.
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Thought for the Day:" Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, Fon in the manner their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did they fathers to the false prophets." Holy Bible: Luke 6:20-26
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