Mar 17, 2015 CANADA (SUN) By Dr. Sangeeta Sharma, from Kriti Rakshana, National Mission for Manuscripts.
Jammu is known as the City of Temples on account of the scores of shrines with soaring golden shikhars. It is located on a Shivalik hillock with river Tawi flowing at the foot-hill, all with the back-drop of the imposing peaks of the Himalayas. Many peregrinators have spoken highly of the beautiful location of the city commanding an excellent view. The sun-rise and sun-set on the Tawi valley offer views of outstanding charms.
The great Dogra ruler Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1830 – 1885) was not only a great Temple builder and administrator but also a notable patron of scholars. He was a great researcher of classical Persian and was also well versed in Pashtu, Sanskrit and English. During his reign several distinguished western scholars visited Jammu and Srinagar and interacted with local scholars. The Maharaja provided rich endowments for the funding and maintenance of Sanskrit library (i.e. Shri Ranbir Sanskrit Library) within the temple area.
Under his guidance a special effort was made to collect valuable manuscripts from the State and other parts of India, and as a result, the library was steadily enlarged during his reign. These manuscripts represent a very valuable resource for Indological studies, and constitute an important part of the cultural heritage of India. The library contains rare and valuable manuscripts which are on Vedas, Upanishad, Kosha, Kavya, Nataka, Dharmashastra, Ayurveda, Jyotisha, Ramayana, Mahabarata and Tantra. Most of them are in Devanagri and some in Sharada script.
Like Shri Ranbir Sanskrit Research Library, Dogra Art Museum has become successful in saving this property to a great extent. This Museum was established on 18th April 1954 and was inaugurated by the President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. There is heap of Devanagri and Sharada manuscripts in this museum. Some manuscripts have been donated by their possessors and some have been purchased. Rare manuscripts of Shahanama and Sikandarnama, written in Persian do exist in Dogra Art Museum…
There is a manuscript on Mahabharata weighing 22 Kg, having 370 leaves. This bulky manuscript is good and complete in all respects. The volume of Lalvakh is written in Sharada on birch- bark. This is another rare manuscript.
A complete Skanda Purana written in Devanagari in the 16th Century on tar leaves is also lying in the Dogra Art Museum. Many account book manuscripts written in Takri are also in the pile. Gurmahima and several other volumes, written in Gurmukhi are present in this Museum. These manuscripts have been preserved in a very good manner so that littérateurs and scholars may derive full benefit.
The valley of Kashmir is a blessed valley because of its indescribable beauty. Its other blessing is its rich and perfect climate. All the seasons are well marked. The blessing of the valley is that, its people appear to be the product of the environment prevailing over here. Its lakes, rivers, lush green landscape, verdant hills, against the backdrop of lofty snow covered Himalayan ranges. The old silk route to central Asia passed through this valley; this helped in the introduction of new ideas and fresh cultural element from central Asia. Kalhana's Rajatarangini and Neelmata Purana can safely be depended upon as the most authentic sources of the history of ancient Kashmir.
Many ancient scholars appeared on the literary firmament of Kashmir to make lasting contributions to knowledge and culture. Kashmir has been the home of Sanskrit learning and master pieces of history, poetry, fable and philosophy were originated from this small valley. The knowledge of Sanskrit seems to have reached its zenith here in Kashmir. The scholars developed their own alphabets called the Sharada, which is entirely different from the Devanagari script. Before the introduction of paper in Kashmir, people used birch bark as writing material. Scholars and students from other parts of India visited Kashmir to complete their studies in Sanskrit.
The valley of Kashmir has been a famous seat of learning which is also known as Sharadapeeth. In ancient times, Kashmir had at least, two big Universities: one at Sarada, another at Chakdar (Bijbehara). Thousands of manuscripts were written in these Universities at that time. Kashmir is the homeland of rare manuscripts and has contributed a lot to the Paratyabhijna system of Kashmir Shaivism.
The Kashmir research department was founded in the reign of the late Maharaja Pratap Singh (1848-1925). Its aim was to carry out research into ancient history and literature of the country. It contains a collection of rare and ancient manuscripts. In 1875 Dr. Vuhler was deputed by government of India to collect manuscripts in Kashmir. He discovered a manuscript named Shaiva Shastra.
There are many magnificent and rare manuscripts in Shri Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar on many subjects. In order to make research on Sharada manuscripts many scholars from other parts of the country as well as from abroad visit here. Besides, there are some private collectors who possess good and rare manuscripts, which they have preserved in a very good way.
The manuscripts available in Jammu & Kashmir are a storehouse of knowledge on art, culture, science, ayurveda, tantra, mantra, religion and philosophy. In a nutshell, it can be summerised that Jammu & Kashmir was a literary hub since time immemorial and it continues to rule the roost in this sphere even in modern times. But now-a-days this heritage is neglected by the modern society due to the information of machine-made paper and printing machines. The manuscripts, which are the sources of knowledge are hidden treasures for the modern human society. Steps on war footing should be taken to trace and preserve them scientifically and to initiate research and publication activities related to manuscripts. Moreover in order to preserve these manuscripts for posterity, we need to take recourse to modern technology so that the common people get more interested to know the things contained in these manuscripts and get benefitted in return.
Dr. Sangeeta Sharma is Editor, Dogra Art Museum, Jammu (J & K)