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Safeguarding India's Manuscript Legacy: Insights into the Na



  Aug 14, 2023

Preserving India's Manuscript Heritage: The National Manuscripts Bill, 2023


Introduction to the Bakhshali Manuscript:

The Bakhshali manuscript, an ancient mathematical text inscribed on birch bark, stands as an early example of the use of zero. Dating back to the third or fourth century AD, this significant artifact is housed in the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford.
 

A National Endeavor: Introducing the National Manuscripts Bill, 2023:

In a move to safeguard India's cultural heritage, the government plans to introduce the National Manuscripts Bill, 2023, during the Winter Session of Parliament. The primary purpose of this legislation is to systematically document and catalogue heritage texts, both within India and abroad. The bill aims to establish the National Manuscripts Authority (NMA), a 10-member body responsible for policy-making regarding digitization, preservation, conservation, editing, and publication of manuscripts.
 

India's Rich Manuscript Tradition: A Wealth of Diversity:

India boasts around 10 million manuscripts written in 80 ancient scripts like Brahmi, Kushan, Gaudi, Lepcha, and Maithili. The National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), an autonomous entity under the Culture Ministry, safeguards this vast repository. These manuscripts encompass themes spanning history, religion, literature, astrology, agriculture, and more.
 

The NMA's Key Functions and Powers:

The NMA will possess the authority of a civil court, managing access to manuscripts and investigating thefts or damage. Collaboration with universities and educational institutions will facilitate fellowships and scholarships for manuscript studies. The NMA will establish a dedicated digital portal for indexing, cataloging, and sharing manuscript copies. Additionally, it will be empowered to acquire manuscripts from private owners, with compensation determined by an expert committee.
 

Reviving Cultural Significance:

Professor Anirban Dash, Director of NMM, emphasizes the importance of linking manuscript studies with livelihood to restore their cultural significance. He believes that the documentation of Indian manuscripts abroad will enhance global interest in this rich heritage. The NMM has already digitized 3.3 lakh manuscripts containing approximately 3.1 crore folios, with a portion accessible online for public engagement.
 
In conclusion, the National Manuscripts Bill, 2023, presents a comprehensive approach to preserving and promoting India's diverse and invaluable manuscript heritage. Through the establishment of the NMA and digital initiatives, India aims to ensure that its historical and cultural treasures are both safeguarded and accessible to a wider audience.


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