Epigraphia Carnatica is a set of books on epigraphy of the Old Mysore region of India, compiled by Benjamin Lewis Rice, the Director of the Mysore Archaeological Department. Over a period of about ten years between 1894 and 1905, Rice published the books in a set of twelve volumes. The books contain the study of about 9000 inscriptions from lithic surfaces and copper plates, which were found in the region. Apart from the original inscription, an English translation and a Roman transliteration are also provided.
Benjamin Lewis Rice was born in Bangalore in 1837. His father was a Christian missionary and head of the Bangalore parish. After completing his education in England, Rice returned to serve as the principal of Central School in Bangalore. He was also appointed as a secretary of the education commission. When he toured the countryside as an education inspector, he came across various inscriptions. He was interested in epigraphy and he took the help of his assistants to edit, translate and transliterate about 9000 inscriptions. When in 1886, the British made him the head of the Department of Archaeology, he started work towards publishing his epigraphical study and brought out a series of twelve volumes entitled Epigraphia Carnatica. Rice also wrote a book called The History of Mysore and Coorg from Inscriptions which is based on Epigraphia Carnatica.
Epigraphia Carnatica contains a study of inscriptions from 3rd century AD until the 19th century. These inscriptions belonged to different dynasties that ruled this region such as Cholas, Kadambas, Western Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar kings, Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan and the Mysore Wodeyars. The inscriptions found were mainly written in Kannada language but some have been found to be written in languages like Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Urdu and even Persian.
After the set of twelve volumes had been published by Rice, R. Narsimhacharya, who succeeded Rice as the head of the archaeological department, found another 4000 inscriptions. H. M. Krishna, after his excavations at Chandravalli and Brahmagiri, discovered 2000 inscriptions and published these discoveries as the volumes 13, 14 and 15 of Epigraphia Carnatica. However, by 1950, the volumes were out of print. In 1972, the Department of Kannada at Mysore University undertook the task of reprinting the volumes, but could bring out only six volumes. The Southern Regional Centre of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) under the chairmanship of Professor S. Settar wanted to create a digitized version of the volumes. Settar donated his personal copies of Epigraphia Carnatica, which were scanned and released as a CD-ROM in 2005.
The twelve original volumes of "Epigraphia Carnatica" were:
- Coorg inscriptions
- Inscriptions at Sravanabelagola
- Inscriptions in the Mysore district, Part I
- Inscriptions in the Mysore district, Part II
- Inscriptions in the Hassan district
- Inscriptions in the Kadur district
- Inscriptions in the Shimoga district, Part I
- Inscriptions in the Shimoga district, Part II
- Inscriptions in the Bangalore district
- Inscriptions in the Kolar district
- Inscriptions in the Chitaldroog district
- Inscriptions in the Tumkur district
The subsequent volumes were:
- Part 1 General index
- Mysore and Mandya districts / M. H. Krishna (1943)
- Supplementary Inscriptions in the Hassan District / M. H. Krishna (1943)
- Supplementary Inscriptions in the Tumkur District / N. K. Nilakanta Sastri (1955)
- Supplementary Inscriptions in the Kolar District / M. Seshadri (1965)
- Parvathi Menon. "Preserving inscriptions digitally". The Frontline, Volume 22 - Issue 23, Nov. 05 - 18, 2005. Archived from the original on 20 February 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
- "B.L. Rice - Father of Kannada Epigraphy". Kamat.com. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
- "Introduction". Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Karnataka. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
- B. L. Rice (1897), p. 583
- B. L. Rice (1897). Mysore: A Gazetteer Compiled for Government.
- Scanned Epigraphia Carnatica volumes available at the Internet Archive. Full scans from Canadian libraries of volumes 1-13.1, 14-16.
- Epigraphia Carnatica, online copy of the 1898 edition, volume II. (archive.org)
- Epigrāphiya Karnāṭaka (University of Tuebingen) Full scans of volumes 1-12, 15-17.