Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) -info profile
Webpages of Tamil Electronic Library
Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL)
Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
Roja Muthiah Research Library
Founded in 1994, Roja Muthiah Research Library exists to
provide research material and facilities for the students of
South Indian studies in a variety of fields spanning humanities,
social sciences and popular culture. The libraryís main
objectives are to preserve, catalogue and expand the collection
of Roja Muthiah, who during his lifetime built one of the
worldís finest private libraries of Tamil publications. For
researchers working in the social, political and cultural history
of South India, RMRL with its modern facilities can provide
access to valuable source material.
Roja Muthiah Chettiar (1926-1992) from Kottaiyur, after
whom the library has been named, started his life as a
signboard artist. He began his collection in 1950 at his village
Kottaiyur in Tamilnadu and it consisted of 100,000 rare books,
journals and newspapers and thousands of clippings at the time
of his death. The University of Chicago mounted a global
effort and bought the collection in 1994 and set up the library
in Mogappair East, Chennai under the auspices of MOZHI, a
Trust for developing resources in language and culture,
functioning in Chennai since 1989.
The collection covers the entire gamut of Tamil heritage and
culture, spanning a period of over 150 years, the earliest
title being a book, Kandar Andhathi, published in 1804.
The holdings can be classified into three broad categories such
as Literature, both classical and contemporary - Indigenous
medicine- Ayurveda and Siddha, Popular culture such as
ballads, folksongs and material related to drama and cinema,
magazines, journals and special issues.
Commenting on this collection, a scholar records, ìwithin his
libraryís eclectic range of subject matter, Muthiah attempted to
capture the essence of his peopleî. Indeed, considering over
sixty million people worldwide speak Tamil, the vastness of
this collection and the range of subjects it comprises are
phenomenal, and therefore gains significance.
In the past few years, this collection has been enhanced by
additions from other private collections of A. K. Ramanujam,
Milton Singer, Indra Parthasarathy, Gift Siromoney, T. P.
Meenakshisundaram, T. T. Krishnamachari, Llyod Rudolph
and Indian Express. Since 1997, 22000 items have been added
to this collection.
With software developed by UNESCO and technology
developed by the Center for Development of Advanced
Computing, Pune, a machine-readable catalogue was created.
The cataloguing is done in Tamil for Tamil imprints. This can
be viewed by transliterating into any of the desired Indian
scripts and in Roman script with diacritical marks. The
imprints of Roja Muthiahís collection are being microfilmed
for preservation. So far, 68,000 titles have been catalogued
and over 15,000 microfilmed. RMRLís catalogue (Romanised
without diacritical marks) can be accessed on the web at
The facilities at RMRL include:
a reading room
extensive reference material including encyclopedias and
other general reference publications
networked computers linked to a database of RMRL
Microfilm reading equipment
Fully equipped reprographics facility for microfilming,
including equipment for assessing the quality of microfilm
Equipment for digitizing both paper material and
RMRL collaborates with other institutions like Tamilnadu
Archives, Maraimalai Adigal Library and Indian Medical
Practitioners Cooperative Society (all in Chennai) to microfilm
some of the items in their collections. A large number of
periodicals have been microfilmed and this program benefits
scholars world wide. RMRL runs on grant and support from
various philanthropic organizations.