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India seeks to save its treasure of manuscripts

New Delhi: With over 50 lakh manuscripts present in several parts of the country, the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) has launched a massive survey programme across the country to find out, document and preserve manuscripts within five years' time period.

Looking at the fact that only 20 percent of the manuscripts have been found and documented so far, the Mission has set up 48 Manuscript Resource Centres across the country for the purpose.

It might be recalled that after participating in costal districts manuscripts surveyors
meeting in Rajahmundry, earlier this year, the National Co-ordinator of the NMM, New Delhi, N.C. Kar had said that they have located 50 lakh manuscripts in the country and five lakh in Andhra Pradesh alone.

The Mission has collected one million databases in its Delhi headquarters and expects to collect one more million by the end of this year.

According to the NMM officials, they have preserved rare manuscripts, including palm leaves on ancient
medical practices which have contemporary values, ship breaking know how, construction of monuments and other ancient method of practices in different fields.

Interestingly, the manuscripts would be collected only for digitalising and preserving the data, after which it would be returned.

The biggest difficulty NMM officials find while
searching for manuscripts is that they are quite simply everywhere-- in a local temple or mosque, in a big library or state archives, in the private collection of a Nawab or in the small home of a villager.

Nevertheless, these surveys have given way to a rich haul of manuscripts from the various States in the country. In Delhi, nearly 85,000 manuscripts have been unearthed, in Gujarat eight lakh, in Karnataka about 1.5 lakh, two lakh in Kerala, and 42,000 manuscripts in Assam have been found so far. While many more manuscripts have been identified in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Bihar and other states of the country also.

Ranging from texts on medicine, literature, music,
science, spirituality and religion, the manuscripts have been found on palm leaf, birch-park, copper plates or handmade paper.

For a document to be classified as manuscript, it has to be over 75 years old and handwritten

 

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