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International Workshop on Manuscriptology

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Joined: 07 Aug 2008
Posts: 630

Location: Delta, British Columbia, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:07 pm    Post subject: International Workshop on Manuscriptology  Reply with quote

A two week international workshop has just been concluded in West Bengal, India, on Manuscriptology and Sanskritic text editing, organised by:

Jadavpur University, Kolkata, in collarobation with
  • Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford, UK
  • Indira Gandhi National Centre for the arts, Delhi
  • National Mission for Manuscripts, Delhi
  • Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata
  • Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan

I am not the right person to make this post, but as Piyali has been busy, I have been requested by her to jot down a report based on material sent by her to me, as well as hours of talk involving Piyali and a number of people, from Santiniketan and elsewhere, taking their input and first hand information. More material and opinion remains to be gathered, for example from Mr. Suniti Pathad, Nilanjan Bannerji, as well as some research scholars from Austria, now assisting for a few days in the Indo-Tibetan study center in Visva Bharati University etc.

The workshop itself is perhaps an effort, initiated by Jadaavpur University under personal initiative of Piyali Palit, in order to pool in resources on one side, and same time raise awareness where such is needed, in order to kick start or speed up, efforts at both identification and cataloguing of old manuscripts, their conservation, as well as initiating post graduate and research level study of the contents of the manuscripts, the content of many of which remain mostly unknown till date.

Of particular interest has been the discovery that the Visva Bharati University has perhaps as many as 40,000 manuscripts. The bad news is that a great many of them are in a state of decay, and face institutional apathy and neglect. Time is at hand, to initiate efforts at their preservation on a war footing, and then to also open them up for research and identification by the current and future research scholars.

Rabindranath Tagore himself had prepared a team during his days in Santiniketan, to try and collect manuscripts from surrounding towns and villages, where these are falling into neglect. Manuscripts thus collected were recorded with date of collection, location as well as who collected them on behalf of Visva Bharati. My grand father, Kalimohan Ghosh's name was reportedly mentioned in many of these records, according to Piyali. This was news to me.

The workshop in Santiniketan generated mixed reports. One one side, there seem to be a raising of awareness and interest in the minds of some locals that attended these workshops. On the other hand, there has been complaints that Visva Bharati did not plan this workshop properly, in spite of being notified and invited to join a long time before the workshop was actually held. Many of the professors and scholars were given only a day's notice to present a speech or a paper on their respective subjects. Further, due to lack of notice some of them could not spend much time in the workshop as they had classes and other engagements from which people had not sufficient time to make alternative arrangements.

One of the star finds of the trip to Santiniketan was an inscription on stone, recovered from Surul, which has texts written in Sudhhi Matrika script, which is perhaps from a post Brahmi and pre-Nagari time frame, possibly 1500 years or so old. Although the script itself is known by now to Indian scholars, the inscription has not been subjected to any research, the content is unknown, and Visva Bharati might not even have experts that either know the script or have much idea about how old and rare this material is.

Above picture was created based on a powerpoint presentation received from Piyali.

OK... that was my first and quick update. More later.
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Joined: 07 Aug 2008
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Location: Delta, British Columbia, Canada

PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:45 am    Post subject: A letter to the National Mission for Manuscripts Reply with quote

To: Prof. G. C. Tripathi, Mission Director, National Mission for Manuscripts, 5, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi - 110001

Dear sir,

I am an ex-student of Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, and now reside in Canada. I write this letter due to concern regarding Manuscripts in collection of the University, and to highlight the need to get a program on fast track to better preserve some of the rare manuscripts there, and to also help kickstart the process of researching and deciphering the contents of many of the scriptures.

I am a friend of Ms Piyali Palit, of Japadavpur University, and both of us studied in school in Santiniketan concurrently. From her, I came to know about the International Workshop on Manuscriptology and Sankritic text editing, Organized by Jadavpur University Kolkata, in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, National Mission for Manuscripts, New Delhi, Oxford center for Hindu Studies, Oxford University, and Vivsa Bharati University, conducted in August 2009.

From her I came to learn that there are perhaps upwards of 40,000 manuscripts there, while the actual number is not yet known since some of the bundles have not been opened to check how many manuscripts are in each. A proper catalogue of all the manuscripts, with basic details of each, remains to be done. We have learned that there are several groups of rare and valuable manuscripts in that lot.

Rabindranath Tagore, himself very concious of preserving our cultural heritage, had realized the need for preservation of old manuscripts, and had built up a team during his lifetime, to this end. The team was lead by Sri Kalimohan Ghosh, my grandfather, with a task to collect manuscripts from nearby areas that were in a state of decay and which the original owners were no more able to take care of. In the team were scholars such as Acharya Kshitimohan Sen that would then work on the manuscripts. These include one manuscript that Rabindranath himself possessed and often read from - Manu Samhita. Other than that, Tagore had collected, through help from state leaders and scholars of the time, rare manuscripts from China, Tibet, Persia, Saudi Arabia, Palestine etc.

Among the rare collection is also a chiselled inscirption on stone, in the eastern variant of the Siddha-Matrika (or Gaudi) script, recovered decades ago from the nearby village of Surul, which is probably an edict of a ruler. This rarest of the inscriptions, is perhaps the oldest such material from the area, and should be valuable not only as an archaeological or academic interest, but also of historical significance. Even this inscription has not yet been deciphered, nor dated.

The excellent tradition set by Rabindranath Tagore in his lifetime, has been lost, in Visva-Bharati University. A few different departments are doing their own work, such as the department for Tibetan Studies, under Ms Andrea Losaris. But in general, study of manuscripts as a whole has been in the backbench for decades, and the discipline is lost.

This needs to be revived, and the faculty of manuscriptology given a shot in the arm. In this, we would request you to consider putting Visva-Bharati University on your to-do list requiring urgent attention.

During the recent workshop held there, conducted by Ms Piyali Palit, we came to know that interest has been re-ignited in Visva-Bharati to the task of preservation and study of the huge collection of manuscripts in their care. Therefore, time might be right to bring this issue under focus of your institution.

Further, we notice that the National Mission for Manuscripts has only one partner in West Bengal. It might be worthwhile to consider promoting Visva-Bharati University, as another partner, given the sheer volume of Manuscripts in its possession, and the historical precedence started by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore nearly a century ago.

I would much appreciate if these issues are considered by your Mission.
With thanks and best regards
Santanu Mitra
10891 Cherry Lane, Delta, BC, V4E3L7, Canada
Res: +1-604-597 8361. Cell: +1-604-649 7535.
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Joined: 07 Aug 2008
Posts: 630

Location: Delta, British Columbia, Canada

PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To: Sri Rajat Kanta Ray, Vice Chancellor, VBU
      Sri Udaya Narayan Singh
      Sri Prajnalankar Bhikkhu
cc  : Smt Piyali Palit - Berlin, Sri Tapas Basu - UK, Sri Tamojit Ray - Bangalore, Smt Chandana Sarkar - Cleveland, Ohio

Dear sir

Upon learning about the huge collection of rare manuscripts and inscriptions in possession of Visva-Bharati, many of them yet to be studied, I had discussed these issues with some of the people in Santiniketan as well as Ms Piyali Palit of Jadavpur University, who is an ex-student of Visva-Bharati like myself, and who recently conducted a workshop in Santiniketan on Manuscriptology.

Out of feeling not only as a well wisher of the University, but with an eagerness to see that the tradition initiated by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore about studying and learning of our own cultural and historical past, is continued, the following letter has been sent as an email to the National Mission of Manuscriptology, under Ministry of Culture, New Delhi, today.

A copy will be placed for record on the Uttarayan Bulletin Board (http://uttarayan.myfreeforum.org/about256.html) today, on a thread started on the subject in August 2009 (http://uttarayan.myfreeforum.org/about256.html).

This is to keep you abreast of our feelings and efforts, and to record our wish to see Visva Bharati take up this very serious work on a solid and continuous process, not only to continue on the good work started by Gurudev Rabindranath, but also because it is our collective national and cultural duty as well as obligation to do so.

I also noted that West Bengal is very poorly represented as partner institutions for the National Mission for Manuscripts, and believe it may be a good idea for Visva-Bharati to also be included as one more partner, next to Kolkata University.

Your comments or views appreciated.
With best regards
Santanu Mitra (tonu)
10891 Cherry Lane, Delta, BC, V4E3L7, Canada , Res: +1-604-597 8361. Cell: +1-604-649 7535.

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