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PRIME MINISTER LAUNCHES
NATIONAL MANUSCRIPTS MISSION
Prime Minister lighting the lamp at the Mission launch function
Prime minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, launched the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) on February 7, 2003, in New Delhi. This Mission with an initial outlay of Rs.35 crore aims at surveying, identifying, collecting, copying, cataloguing and publishing of manuscripts that are lying scattered all over the country in the custody of various sources.
Launching the Mission, the Prime Minister said, "the NMM is different from the other missions undertaken till now. In this the benefits are neither direct nor visible....I believe that the NMM will bring to light many more Mohenjodaros and Dwarakas. Referring to the technological aspect of the Mission, the Prime Minister noted that modern science asks proof for claims and this very science (modern technology) is providing tools for resurrecting these proofs of our glorious past. Shri Vajpayee highlighted three aspects of the mission: since 70 per cent of the manuscripts are in Sanskrit, the teaching and learning of the language will have to be further promoted, several institution that are already working in the field will have to be associated with the Mission and finally, a huge awareness campaign has to be undertaken to encourage individual custodians of manuscripts to come forward and give them to the Mission. The Mission was announced by the Prime Minister in his August 15 speech from the ramparts of the Red For last year. The Department of Culture is the implementing Ministry and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts has been declared the nodal agency for the Mssion.
Former President Shri R. Venkataraman, Trustee of the IGNCA Trust said, of all the ancient civilizations, the Indian civilization alone is live. India has a huge wealth of knowledge on all subjects in these manuscripts as yet undiscovered. He emphasized on the need to approach individuals as a vast number of muscripts are lying in personal custody. He cited the valorous attempts by U. Ve. Swaminatha Iyer in collecting and publishing Tamil manuscripts. He said that it was then discovered that people had tied them in gunny bags and stored them in lofts. These will have to acquired, he said.
(LtoR) IGNCA Trust President Dr. L. M. Singhvi, Former President of India, Shri R. Venkataraman,
Prime Minister Shri A.B. Vajpeyee, Culture Minister Shri Jagmohan and Culture Secretary Shri Dhanendra Kumar
Dr. L.M. Singhvi, President, IGNCA Trust, hailed
the "will" of thePrime Minister in launching the Mission,
Describing the moment as historic, he said it had not come a moment too
soon. "Much has been lost and more is in danger of being
lost," he added. The neglect of our manuscripts had been going on
for long, even before the British came to India, Dr. Singhvi said. He
pointed out that foreign travelers who came to India did not take away
precious gems and gold but carried back manuscripts.
Union Minister for Cultural and Tourism, Shri Jagmohan in his welcome address said the manuscripts that have come to light, and archaeological evidences such as the Rock Art that has been unearthed have changed the perspective about India. The task of the Mission is complicated he said and added that it was a challenge to the young scholars. He also mentioned that manuscripts that have gone out of the country would also have to be recovered. Secretary Culture, Shri Dhanendra Kumar presented the Vote of Thanks.
The Mission Document released on the occasion by
the Prime Minister, along with a CD on the Mission details various aspects
of the Mission. It says: "The voluminous nature of this task can
be judged form the fact that at the present pace, it may take another five
years to complete the new Catalogue Catalogorum and this itself may still
not be a comprehensive listing, since a large number of collections (of
manuscripts) with temples, mutts and individuals are still not listed or
indexed." Following are some excerpts:
Number of manuscripts - An Estimation
- Sanskrit 67%
- Other Indian Languages 25%
- Arabic/Persian/Tibetan 8%
There are over 77 libraries outside India where major collections of manuscripts of Indian origin exist. Some of the major foreign libraries are:
Denmark: Royal Library, Copenhagen
France: Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
Germany: Preussiche States Bibliothek Berlin, Universitas Bibliothek, Leipzig, Staats Bibliothek, Marburg, Bayerishe Staats Bibliothek, Muenchen
United Kingdom: British Library, London, Royal Asiatic Society, London, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Indian Institute, Oxford, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge
Nepal: Darbar Library, Kathmandu
Pakistan: Punjab University Library, Lahore
Sri Lanka: Museum Library, Colombo
Technology to be adopted
There has been considerable debate on the technology to be adopted for the preservation of manuscripts in electronic form. The Mission Document has decided that after taking several factors into consideration, microfilming is the most long lasting of all available technology while digitization has to be done to enhance access. "Digitization offers important new possibilities, both as a surrogate and, in a more limited context, as a preservation technique for archives in the traditional medium of paper and parchment. Digtization, however, does not remove the need for interpretative skills to understand a document and its context, and the digitized image, if it is to serve a wide public, will often have to be accompanied by explanatory material. Preserving manuscripts in the form of microfilms has been advocated on the ground that it has a longer life span and is not subject to the uncertainties associated like obsolescence of software and hardware, unlike digital technology" the Document says.
Objectives of the mission
Anyone who possesses manuscripts or has knowledge of their existence may please share their information with the Mission Directorate. They can approach Member Secretary, IGNCA in this regard.
Copyright IGNCAŠ 2001