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A new lease of life for ancient Indian treasures

Mandira Nayar



TIMELESS TREASURE: Scene from Ramayana, the epic saga of the triumph of good over evil.

NEW DELHI: These are perhaps the biggest Indian bestsellers of all time. Having survived the test of time in more ways than one, 44 landmark literary works — ranging from Arthashastra to the epic saga of good versus evil, Ramayana — will be recognised as Vijnananidhi: Manuscript Treasures of India by the Union Ministry of Culture and Tourism later this month to mark the fourth anniversary of the National Mission for Manuscripts.

The list, which has been compiled by the National Mission for Manuscripts along the lines of the UNESCO World Heritage List for monuments, is expected to make people realise the importance of this precious heritage.

"Through the recognition of texts that record attainments in disciplines such as the sciences, philosophy, scripture, history and the arts, the Mission hopes to highlight their value and unique contribution to India's life and history and encourage greater efforts to preserve the physical material of the manuscripts. The Mission plans to provide suitable financial assistance to the repositories of the Manuscript Treasures towards facilities for their proper storage and treatment, digitise each of them as well as consider applications towards research grants concerned with the study of these manuscripts," says the Director of the National Mission for Manuscripts, Sudha Gopalakrishan.

A step towards taking manuscripts out of their rather "restrictive" confines of the locked doors of repositories, declaring 44 manuscripts as the "treasures" of India will go a long way in making them popular.

While India has an estimated five million manuscripts, there is a need for people to be aware of their potential.

The "treasures" include Gilgit Manuscripts from Jammu and Kashmir, Baburnama from the National Museum in Delhi, Gyad-stongs-pa from Leh, and Al-quranal-majid dating back to the 8th Century from the Rampur Raza library.The East is represented by Gita Govinda from the Orissa State Museum and Kitab-ul-Tasrif from the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library in Patna among others.

"This is not an exhaustive list and we hope we will be able to make this an annual feature," says Ms. Gopalakrishnan.

The manuscripts on this list will be "protected" by the Mission and conserved if they need to be. They will also be digitised as well as transcribed so that more and more people are able to read them.

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