ORI project to digitise manuscripts regains traction

The palm leaf and paper manuscripts at the Oriental Research Institute; (inset) a close-up of a manuscript.

The palm leaf and paper manuscripts at the Oriental Research Institute; (inset) a close-up of a manuscript.  

National Mission for Manuscripts keen to fund the project

The Oriental Research Institute (ORI) in the city which is a treasure trove of ancient palm leaf manuscripts enshrining a slice of ancient India’s knowledge base, will seek the assistance of National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) for digitization and preservation of the priceless heritage.

The University of Mysore under which the ORI functions, consented to ORI collaborating with the NMM for the digitization and conservation project at a meeting on Saturday. Hemantha Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, UoM, told The Hindu that the project will not cost the varsity anything as the NMM was keen to fund it.

“We have sought a meeting with NMM officials and want the digitization work to be taken up at ORI itself. In case there are procedural delays, the university is prepared to fund the project and establish a dedicated centre at the ORI,” he added.

Shivarajappa, director, ORI said the institute had an agreement with the NMM and used to receive funds for conservation. But once the agreement period lapsed, it was not renewed for almost 5 years. It will now be revived, he added. An MoU will be signed with NMM but finer details as to the nature of NMM’s assistance or collaboration will be spelt out later, Prof. Shivarajappa said.

With this development, the ORI’s long-pending project of digitization of manuscripts will receive fresh traction. The digitization of manuscripts is expected to give a fillip to Indological studies as the e-version of the manuscripts will be available online for reference. At present, the ORI receives scores of requests every month from scholars all over India and abroad for specific texts but making them available online would help in furthering research and advanced studies, said Prof. Shivarajappa.

The NMM is under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India, and was established in 2003 to unearth and preserve the manuscript wealth of India. It is reckoned that India is home to nearly 5 million ancient manuscripts enshrining part of its intellectual heritage and thought that need to be unearthed, preserved and published for posterity.

ORI is a repository of over 70,000 palm leaf and paper manuscripts spanning subjects from philosophy, mathematics, art, architecture, to ayurveda, yoga, polity, etc. The institute shot to fame when Rudrapatanam Shama Shastry discovered the complete text of Kautilya’s Arthashastra in Grantha script and Sanskrit language in 1905 and published it in 1909.

The treatise on polity, diplomacy, war, trade, economy, etc., was known to have existed as there were passing references to other ancient and medieval Indian texts. But a copy of the entire text was discovered only in 1905 and turned out to be an epoch-making event in the understanding of ancient Indian history.

The NMM has already classified three of the manuscripts in ORI – the Arthashastra, Natyashastra and Sharadatilaka — as manuscript treasures of India. However, there are also criticisms on the maintenance of the manuscripts which will be addressed through the NMM collaboration.

To familiarise the general public about the contents of Arthashastra, the ORI will also publish an abridged version of the ancient Indian classic, said Prof. Shivarajappa. The ORI will also publish the complete volumes of Sritattvanidhi authored by Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, he added.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 9:53:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/ori-project-to-digitise-manuscripts-regains-traction/article30132093.ece

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