Dr. Mirle Srinivas Nagaraja Rao (Dr Rao as he was popularly known) passed away this morning at 3.45 am (IST) at the Basappa Memorial Hospital in Mysore. His death leaves a vacuum not only in SVYM and VIIS which he headed as the Director since its inception in 2008, but also in the field of Indian Archaeology. Dr Rao was nearing 80 and was ailing for some time now. Being the fighter that he always was, he braved dialysis three times a week for the last 3 years and continued to take VIIS to great heights. His contributions in the field of Archaeology, Numismatics and Epigraphy will be remembered by the hundreds of students, colleagues, Indologists and well wishers that he had around the world.
His life was full of very noteworthy achievements. Coming from a very simple background, Dr Rao specialized in the field of Archaeology when very few ventured into the same. Joining the Department of Archaeology of the Government of Karnataka, he rose to become its Director. Later on he was appointed as the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India. During his tenure, he was responsible for preparing a detailed project report for the restoration of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
I first met him nearly twenty years ago, when he drove all the way down to Kenchanahalli to invite me to deliver a lecture to international students on development issues that rural India faced. That was the first of my many interactions with him and I was deeply impressed with his scholastic achievements and his passion & commitment to the cause of Indian Studies. Our friendship over the years flowered and in 2007 he requested that we set up a dedicated Institute for Indian Studies within SVYM. That was how the Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies was born on January 12, 2008 on the auspicious day of Vivekananda Jayanthi. He took charge as the Director of the Institute and committed himself to building it into what it is today.
Dr Rao had friends and well wishers all over the world and there was hardly anyone that he did not know in Mysore. He was a very devoted Rotarian and there have been numerous projects that he associated himself with during his life. Dr Rao brought such energy into everything that he did. There was nothing that was difficult or impossible for him to do. I still fondly recollect how despite his diabetes and dialysis, he sat through the day with all of us in front of the Gandhi statue in Mysore, protesting against corruption in public life. He constantly egged me on to go to Harvard and but for his support and encouragement, I would have found it difficult to do so. Despite his age and failing health, he was always seen perpetually busy with activities related to VIIS.
He would always tell me that he would never really retire and death was the only way of separating him from his work. Dr Rao finally had his wish and all of us at SVYM will miss him terribly. His support, mentoring, obstinacy and ‘never say die’ attitude will be sorely missed and we know that no one can really step into his shoes. The only way that Dr Rao would have liked to be remembered is by taking VIIS to the lofty heights that he always wanted it to reach.
Dr Rao, with your death has ended an era; an era about which we can all only reminisce. We are sure you will always watch over us and inspire us to forge ahead in taking India to the world. May God rest your soul in peace.