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Use technology to access the knowledge India possesses: Kalam

A MOMENT TO CHERISH: The former Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachalaiah presenting a `Mysore peta' to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the `Mahabharath Utsav' in Bangalore on Monday. — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.  

Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: One Bharat Ratna decorated President S. Radhakrishnan said of the eternal epic: "What is not in the Mahabharata is not to be found in the land of the Bharatas." Today, another Bharat Ratna decorated President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, gave his own version of the enduring epic: How Lord Krishna persuaded Arjuna to vacillate no more and descend on the battlefield with his analogy of the garden full of birds and flowers that gave beauty and joy during the day, knowing when night falls, the flowers will shrivel and the birds fall silent.

Participating in the valedictory function of the Mahabharata Utsav, organised by the Mahabharata Samshodhana Pratishthanam, Dr. Kalam, who dedicated to the nation the state-of-the-art Digital Mobile Van for Digitisation of Manuscripts, said the objective of the mobile laboratory is a noble one to preserve for posterity the heritage manuscripts that are with millions of people all over the country.

He enthusiastically demonstrated his penchant for inquiry into science, philosophy and religion, urging the people engaged in the task of digitising old and precious manuscripts before they are destroyed, to use every kind of technology to access the vast ocean of knowledge that India possessed for over 5,000 years.

Nanotechnology is something he recommended strongly, saying in Western countries, a "nano-powder" is used to spray on manuscripts and even faded images get retrieved.

Digitising project

He referred to the project, being coordinated by Professor in the Indian Institute of Science N. Balakrishnan, to digitise one million books as part of a global programme to make these books accessible and available on the Net, so that knowledge could be shared. "There are 20 centres in India and almost 50 per cent of the work is done digitising rare, precious books, and I will arrange everything to make the task easy and quick," he told the organisers.

The Mahabharata Ratna was given posthumously to Bhima Bhat, and Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune for excellence in Mahabharata. Governor T.N. Chaturvedi gave away the Jnanadoota award to noted Sanskrit scholar K.T. Pandurangi.

Ramachandra Budihal, the brain behind the initiative, said the nine-day festival had been intended to help people reconnect with the eternal epic, and its relevance. The event is a curtain-raiser for a massive project to create an Encyclopaedia of Mahabharata, which would be a national reference of Mahabharata. This is partly funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Another programme that Dr. Kalam launched is the five-day census in nine States to trace people owning manuscripts.

The utsav saw academic events seminars, quiz programmes, release of various publications, drama and theatre festival, dance and ballet, story-telling and folklore, puppetry, food festival and music celebrating the Mahabharata.

Retired Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachalaiah, who is chairman of the foundation; director and Sanskrit scholar Prahlad Acharya, Sri Sri Ravishankar of Art of Living Foundation and Sri Vishweshathirtha Swami of Pejawar Mutt were present.