Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) -info profile
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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

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:


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.

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This file was first put up on 30 May 2004
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