Orthodox Seminary Digital Library – OSDL

Fr. C. C.Cherian
Senior Librarian
Orthodox Theological Seminary -2/2/14
The Indian Malankara Orthodox Church


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A Memorial of the Seminary Founder


In connection with the Bicentenary projects of the Old Seminary, the collection, preservation and retrieval of old records enter into the world of Digital Media. We have been striving to collect and preserve all available ancient records in any form for the use of future generation. We have documents on paper, palm leaves, copper plates, celluloid’s, microfilms, etc. in many languages like Syriac, Greek, Latin, English, Malayalam etc.

Relevance of the Digital Presentation

Many of us may not know properly the significance of e-books and electronic reading. I quote some portions from an article appeared in “The New Leader, January 16-31, 2014. “Have you heard of the Amazon kindle? It is probably the world’s most popular e-reader, with different versions. Most have the area of a small paperback book and the thickness of a piece of cardboard. It can contain more than two thousand books. To have that many printed books at hand, you would need several book shelves. To read while travelling, you don’t have to lug heavy books around. E-readers make all that much, much easier. Not only that. Their main value probably lies in this: Why cut down trees to print books and magazines, when you can read them electronically? In a number of the advanced nations, many newspapers have discontinued the printed edition, offering only an e-version, which readers can access on the computer or smart phone or an e-reader.

Not everyone like e-books or e-readers. Some, particularly among older persons, like the touch and feel of a real printed book or magazine, or look at photos in print rather than in a computer. With an e-reader, you are reading from a screen, not from a printed page. Younger readers seem to like this very much, because of the ease of use, the convenience of carrying it around, the practically of sending stuff by e-mail, or posting items on Facebook. You can also change the font size as you want. This is a different world from the traditional world of the printed page.

Whether younger or old, it is much easier to access an electronic encyclopedia, like Wikipedia (which is Internet-based and free) than the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica or other printed reference books. And much, much cheaper. (And we save thousands of trees!)

Because of the ease of use and lower costs, and ecological issues, more and more e-books are sold today. On some websites, like Amazon, the world’s largest retailer seller, they outsell printed ones.

Tablet computers, made popular by this spectacular success of Apple company’s iPad, goes beyond e-readers. It can store photos, access email, show moves, and do other tasks with great ease and elegance. Children and youth are very much at home with the iPad and other tablets.

Miniaturization can do wonders. The world’s first computers (built in the 1940s) were the size of a room. Today’s laptops can do more than they did, and do it faster and better. A computer clip, smaller than our thumb nail, can handle more information than a huge filing cabinet. This is what enables us to watch movies on a smart phone, or to store thousands of phone numbers, or take photos and email them.

As I wrote in an earlier article on e-mail, Church personnel need to become more familiar with electronic media, and much more competent in their use. Several centres in India offer courses in the use of computers and computer-related social media. Courses vary in length, content and cost. I am not proposing that every priest or religious should own the latest gadgets or go around flaunting the most expensive electronic tools. What I am saying is this: We live in a world where children are ahead of adults in the use of computers, where the mobile phone is the one gadget everyone around us seems to own, where the Internet is the cheapest and most versatile tool for accessing information. In that world, we need at least to know what these gadgets can and cannot do, and how to use them for doing good. What is known as the IT (information technology) revolution is about quicker and more efficient ways of accessing, storing, using, managing and disseminating knowledge. That revolution affects every area of life.

Those of us involved in planning and maintaining libraries, archives and official documents, would need to know more about how all this can be done cheaper, more effectively and in less space by using electronic media. Machines will not take the place of human beings in what is properly our human contribution-understanding each other, creating a more human world, learning to love, promoting a child’s creativity and emotional growth. Just as a truck or a crane or drill saves us the heavy and routine job of lifting, moving or digging, and help us do these jobs faster and more safely, today’s electronic tools can help us cut down on waste (e.g., of trees and other natural resources), provide information faster and in more reliable ways (e.g., thousands of pages of flight instructions a pilot needs can be stored and accessed faster and more easily on a tablet computer than in books). These are simply tools, the product of God’s biggest gift to us-intelligence. They are neither to be worshipped, nor avoided. If we know what they can and cannot do, they can be our efficient, fast and very helpful slaves”.

A Brief History

Stage I – MGDM Archives

It was in 1984 that we succeeded in organizing a small Archives in a small A/c room, attached to our old Library. It was named “Mar Geevarghese Dionysius Memorial (MGDM) Archives”. In the first stage, Fr. C. C. Cherian, the Librarian took some effort to collect and preserve old records. He was specially trained at the National Archives, New Delhi in addition to his librarianship with BLibSc.Degree from Kerala University.

It was in 2002, that the Library and Archives were shifted to the New “SMRITI” building. Naturally the space for Archives was specially designed. An assistant librarian was really needed and Rev. Fr. Mathews John, who holds good professional degrees (MA, BD, MLIS) was appointed in 2002. His special interest in developing the Archives was quite fruitful. He also had Archival training at the State Archives, Trivandrum. Since then, he spent his time in classifying and cataloging all documents in the Archives. The present catalogue of the MGDM Archives is a remarkable work done by Rev. Fr. Mathews John.

Stage II – MJDM-Micro-Electronic Library

A Micro-Electronic Library was established in the name of Pulikkottil Mar Joseph Dionysius, the Founder of the Seminary and was inaugurated on 25th Nov. 1992, at the 175th Death anniversary of the Founder. This programme was sanctioned by H.H.Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, the Catholicos of the East, and was promoted by the Seminary Faculty, headed by the Principal.

Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios. Fr. Dr. T. J. Joshua, the then Vice-Principal gave effective leadership for this programme. All other faculty members, especially Dr. Mathews Mar Severios gave full co-operation for the successful organization of this programme.

This Microfilm programme was introduced and enhanced by Mr. C. Mathen, Commercial Mini Photos, Bombay, a devout member of our Church at Mavelikkara. He rendered his Microfilm Unit including Camera, and developing equipments for this purpose. A technician Mr. Jacob Thomas was also arranged by M. C. Mathen to train our microfilm staff.

Mr. Tinesh Kalra from Delhi (The Area Manager of South East Asia, The Geneological Society of Utah, USA) came forward to help us with free supply of necessary microfilm (234 rolls of film worth Rs. 2,25000/-).

The Seminary, as well as the Church is really indebted to this generous assistance rendered by Mr. C. Mathen, Bombay, and Mr. Tinesh Kalra, New Delhi.

The Library Staff, headed by the librarian Fr. C. C. Cherian, put their maximum effort to make this project a success. Mr. Biju Cherian was our microfilmer. Mr. Joyce Thottakkad, Mr. Sajan Prasad and Mr. V. I. Abraham were those who assisted for this programme.

We are also indebted to the following persons and institutions for their co-operation and assistance by making necessary arrangements and granting sanctions to microfilm documents under their custody:

They are: 1.H.G. Joseph Mar Koorilos, Malabar Independent Church, Anjoor (Thozhiyoor) Kunnamkulam, 2. H. G. Dr. Mar Aprem, The Chaldeon Church, Trichur, 3. Vicar and Committee, St. Mary’s Church, Arthat, Kunnamkulamm, 4. Vicar & Committee, St. Mary’s Church, Pazhanji (Kunnamkulam), 5. H. G. Mar Anthonios, Sion Seminary, Koratty, 6.Rev. Fr. Johns Abraham Konat, Pampakuda, 7. Revd. Fr. Jacob, Thekkeparambil, SEERI, Kottayam, 8. Sri. M. C. Jacob, Principal CMS College, Kottayam, 9. Mr. Kuruvilla George, Librarian CMS College, Kottayam, 10. Revd. Fr. Paul Maroky, Librarian, St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Kottayam, 11. Dr. Patmuri, Librarian UTC Bangalore, 12. Edavazhikal Family, Kottayam, 13 H. G. Geevarghese Mar Ivanios of Kottayam Diocese, 14. H. G. Dr. Mathews Mar Severios, Meempara, 15. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, Personal Collection.

Stage III – Digitization

In October 2011 these Microfilm rolls were digitized with the generous help of Mathenson Record Management Pvt, Ltd, Mumbai. Mr. M. C. Mathen and his Son Binny took much pain to take these Microfilm rolls to Mumbai and convert them in to Digital format so that the documents could be read and printed out through computer. They charged only a nominal amount for this very heavy and important work. Our special thanks to them.

Now our Seminary Archives holds almost all rare documents in digital form (both manuscripts & printed), from almost all ancient sources in Kerala. We have 9,00,000 pages in digital format.

In addition to these documents, our Syriac books in manuscript from, have been digitized by our student Rev. Dn. Arun Varghese of American Diocese. We record special thanks to Dn. Arun for this important task.

All these documents are kept as backup in external hard disc in our Archives. They shall be kept in DVD/CD as well as in master server connected to a set of computers for regular access.

Stage IV orthodox seminary digi

Now, the digitization process leads to a new stage of launching a Digital Library of all available documents, from the OTS Archives as well as from all other available sources. This project is named as the OSDL (Old (Orthodox) Seminary Digital Library), a project approved by the OTS Faculty as one of the programmes of the Bicentenary of the Old Seminary.

Chief Librarian Fr. C. C. Cherian and Librarian Fr. Mathews John Manayil took the initiative for the OSDL. Principal Fr. Dr. Jacob Kurian agreed to proceed with the project, and Rev. Dn. Iyoob of Bethany Asram was appointed by the Principal as the project co-ordinator.

H. H. The Catholicos Baselios Paulose II gave all blessings to this project and gave an authorizing Kalpana to Dn. Iyoob, to collect old records from all available sources and preserve them in the Old Seminary Archives.

By this time, Dn. Iyoob could collect digital documents from Rev. Fr. Dr. Joseph Cheeran, Rev. Fr. Sleeba Panakkal. We have also contacted other sources like Bethany Asram, Pampady Dayara, Sasthamcotta, Pampakuda.

This OSDL Project is going to be launched on 2nd February 2014 along with the Inauguration of Bicentenary Programmes of the Old Seminary.


Manuscripts: Syriac: East, West, Estrangala, Karsuni, Malayalam

Printed Books : Syriac, Malayalam (MOC, Sophia, MJD etc.), Greek, Hebrew, Latin, English

Books: on Orthodoxy, WCC Documents, Ecumenical Documents, Dictionaries, Encyclopedia, Patristics, ANF & PNF
Books Series: Divyabodhanam, Hagios, MOC Publications, MGF, etc.

Articles: Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios, Fr. Dr. V. C. Samuel, Fr. Dr. K. M. George, Fr. Dr. Jacob Kurian, Fr. Dr. Baby Varghese and others.

Journals: Ancient , Theological, Diocese/Parish, Denominational, Malankara Orthodox, Other Oriental Churches & Eastern Orthodox Churches, Other Denominations.

Report Books, Souvenirs (Diocese Parish and Organizations), Directories, OTS Reports, OTS Students Records, News Paper Clippings, etc.

Photographs: Icons, Rare Photos

Audio: Speeches, Music: Ekkara, Liturgy, Devotional,
Video: Documentaries, Theological Lecture Classes, Historical Moments, Consecrations, Associations & Church Celebrations.


We are grateful to Almighty God who enabled us to organize these materials to be inaugurated as the OSDL in the “fullness of time” of 200 years of the Old Seminary.