B. Lewis Rice

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Benjamin Lewis Rice
Born (1837-07-17)17 July 1837
Bangalore, Mysore State
Died 10 July 1927(1927-07-10) (aged 89)
Spouse Mary Sophia Garrett

Benjamin Lewis Rice (17 July 1837 - 10 July 1927), popularly known as B. L. Rice, was a British historian, archaeologist and educationist. He is known for his pioneering work in deciphering Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil inscription in the Kingdom of Mysore.[1][2] Rice's researches were published as the voluminous Epigraphia Carnatica which contains translations of about 9000 inscriptions he found in the Old Mysore area.[3][4]Rice also compiled the much acclaimed Mysore Gazetteer which still remains the primary source of information for most places in Mysore and enighbouring Coorg. Rice served with distinction in the Mysore civil service and as first Director of the Mysore State Archaeology Department.

Early life and education[edit]

Benjamin Lewis Rice was born in Bangalore on 17 July 1837 to Rev. Benjamin Holt Rice who was associated with the London Missionary Society (LMS). Rev. Rice was a Kannada scholar and wrote books in Kannada on arithmetic, geography and history. He even brought forth a Kannada translation of the Bible. Rice had his early education in Mysore State and graduated in the United Kingdom in 1860.


Upon graduating, Rice returned to India where he was appointed Principal of the Bangalore High School (later Central College). Five years later, he joined the Mysore Civil Service as Inspector of Schools for Mysore and Coorg. From 1881 to 1883, Rice served as Chief Census Officer for Mysore State and wa sin 1883, appointed Secretary of the Education Department of Mysore.

During his tours as inspector, he came across hundreds of ancient stone inscriptions, language and script of which was very different from the one in vogue. With the help of assistants, he edited, translated, and transliterated thousands of inscriptions. Rice alone is credited with finding nine-thousand inscriptions!

At his behest, the British Government started a Department of Archaeology in 1884. Rice was appointed as the head of the department. Between the years 1886 and 1904, Rice brought out twelve volumes of inscriptions in the former state of Mysore, each containing about thousand pages. These volumes are invaluable source to understand political and social history of the state through the ages. Rice also brought out to light more than three hundred poets who were not so well known. He'd personally collected over three thousand Sanskrit manuscripts and published many of them. He brought out The Mysore Gazetteer documenting aspects of geography, history, and economics of Mysore and Coorg, which was first of its kind in India.

During his tenure, Rice discovered Roman coins in parts of Karnataka, as also some Ashokan edicts. This was astonishing discovery, and led to reconstruction of much of India's glorious history. Rice established that an important dynasty which founded the kingdom of Nepal owed its origin to Nanyadeva, who came from the Ganga dynasty of Mysore.

Rice was very proud of Karnataka's heritage and religious tolerance, and used to point out that this was the land that sheltered the three great acharyas of Hinduism (Shankara, Ramanjua, and Madhwa). He fixed the date of arrival of Jainism in Karnataka. Modern Kannada owes a lot to this "White" Kannadiga. Rice passed away in 1927, one week short of his 90th birthday. He had laid a strong basis for the study of epigraphy and archaeology through the work "Epigraphica Carnatica", a name which has since become synonymous with his name.

For other uses, see B. Lewis Rice (disambiguation).



  1. ^ "`Epigraphia Carnatica' brought out in CD-ROM". The Hindu. 2005-11-07. 
  2. ^ "Rice, Benjamin Lewis". Who's Who, 59: p. 1478. 1907. 
  3. ^ "Rev. Benjamin Lewis Rice-Missionaries contributions to India". Christian Persecution Update India. Retrieved 22 Nov 2011. 
  4. ^ Iyer, Meera (December 13, 2010). "'My love for Mysore is unending'". Deccan Herald. 

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