Aug 14, 2005

85,000 Manuscripts Recovered in Canvassing Effort

I just find this to be so interesting. I've always been shocked at how ancient ruins, sites, and artifacts are often treated with limited reverence in India, whereas in the United States, such things become ossified almost immediately after their historic moment (think of all the gowns of the first ladies, the creation of Presidential libraries with millions of dollars to preserve the paper trails of average bureaucrats, and the list goes on). I'll be really interested to see what it is that they actually find in all these documents, and if anything is of historical/cultural value besides what they've already managed to document.

Mission Manuscripts yields 85,000 documents

New Delhi: Surveyors have stumbled upon an astounding 85,000 manuscripts from various parts of the national capital region (NCR), among them a 400-year-old Quran written on deer skin.

The Quran written on deer skin written about 400 years ago was found in the Jama Masjid. Another manuscript found from the mosque was probably written by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the surveyors believe.

Walking more than five km everyday for ten days, the young students of archaeology and conservation catalogued several thousands of manuscripts previously unknown.

Part of the National Manuscripts Mission, the NCR survey was conducted from government offices to monastries and havelis of Chandni Chowk to private residences and libraries.

Working on a pittance of Rs 300 a day, 125 surveyors drawn from the Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia Hamdard and Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, went door-to-door cajoling people to part with information on uncared-for-manuscripts lying in their possession.

The Delhi Mission, which came after similar surveys in Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, began on July 23 and ended on August 2, looking for moth-eaten, attacked by fungus and brittle manuscripts lying undiscovered.

"We were shocked by the sheer number of manuscripts. We could not even count them," says Aarti Rawat, an archaeology student who was part of the group surveying Nizamuddin and Chandni Chowk.

Palam village near the airport turned out to be a treasure trove of manuscripts. The surveyors found manuscripts in nearly every home, most of them relating to Jainism.

"Palam was a scribes' village. The main profession of the villagers was to write records," says Dr V S Shukla, a conservationist with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), who led the survey in West Delhi.

It will take six months to collate information and verify the authenticity of the mansucripts, says Dr Shukla.

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