What is Manuscript ?

By editor - 23.1 2018

A manuscript is a handwritten composition on paper, bark, cloth, metal, palm leaf or any other material dating back at least seventy-five years that has significant scientific, historical or aesthetic value. Lithographs and printed volumes are not manuscripts. Manuscripts are found in hundreds of different languages and scripts. Often, one language is written in a number of different scripts. For example, Sanskrit is written in Oriya script, Grantha script, Devanagari script and many other scripts.

Manuscripts are distinct from historical records such as epigraphs on rocks, firmans, revenue records which provide direct information on events or processes in history. Manuscripts have knowledge content.

Starting from the Vedic period, ancient Indian society has made all kinds of efforts to excel as a knowledge society. Inquire into an ultimate objective of human life steered the society throughout the ages and this inquisitiveness subsequently turned out to be the focal point of the intellectual discourse. The true nature of multiplicity in the society facilitated the discourse and became more intensive and substantive in course of time. This uninterrupted flow of discourse helped to shape up the Indian intellectual tradition in the multidimensional phenomenon and vice versa. Several theories were propounded by different schools of thoughts in different times suggesting ways of achieving that ultimate aim or objective.

These theories were made immune to criticism further by creative explanations and significant interpretations by great succeeding scholars of these schools of thoughts. The tradition left no issue untouched for intellection, which eventually gave rise to prolific writings the country fortunately inherits today. These writings deal with wide range of subjects like Veda, Vedanta, Darshan, Ayurveda, Aesthetic, Astronomy, Astrology, Yoga, Vastu, Mathematics, Linguistics and many such other subjects written in different ancient scripts and in different Indian languages.

Material is basically manuscripts which are found in various forms such as birch bark, palm leaf, handmade paper, cloth, leather etc. They are found in various shapes and sizes.

Script is a particular system or style of writing. It can be comprehended as symbolic representation of sounds of a particular language. Since the time immemorial India is one of the countries multifaceted in terms of language, scripts, and culture. There are hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken in different parts of the country even today. This perhaps has prompted Indian manuscripts to cover a wide range of themes.

The Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India lists only 22 official languages of the Republic of India. As far as National Mission for Manuscripts is concerned, it primarily deals with ancient scripts of manuscripts. There are some ancient scripts which are taught in the Manuscriptology & Palaeography workshops i.e. Brahmi, Gupta, Kutila, Nagari, Nandinagari, Sharada, Grantha , Kharosthi, vattelutu, Kaithi, Karani ,Odia, Modi, Siddham, Lepcha, Naskh, Nasta'liq, Kufic, Reqa’i, Sulsi etc.

Most of the Indian scripts have been used for writing 70% of manuscripts are in the Sanskrit language. Other 30% of manuscripts are in languages like Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Meithei /Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Newari/ Nepal Bhasa, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Chakma etc.

The National Mission for Manuscripts has identified manuscripts with unique heritage value and designated them as Manuscript Treasures of India. Manuscripts are selected for their outstanding value to humanity and also for their contribution to Indian life, development of Indian thought and culture or simply for the history they may represent (local history of a region, perhaps).

The recognition seeks to sensitize archivists and collectors on the value of these resources and the need to preserve them.

Selection of Manuscripts as Vijñānanidhi: Treasures of India

The selection of manuscripts as treasures is by no means an exhaustive, but only an indicative exercise. While it does not aim to create a hierarchical status between those selected as treasures and others, the selection committee adopted the following criteria:

Excellence as heritage
Contribution to India’s intellectual history
Belonging to ancient or medieval past

Measures for Safeguarding

The most important consequence of such a declaration would be that these manuscripts would be given special protective measures including :

Providing adequate space and infrastructure for their storage
Taking up preventive and curative conservation
Protecting the knowledge content through digitization
BelTranscribing for more copies in the case of rare manuscripts
Taking up critical editions, research and publication based on these manuscripts

Manuscript Treasures of India

Kubjikamata(The Asiatic Society, Kolkata)
Maiteryavyakaranam (The Asiatic Society, Kolkata)
Samputatika(The Asiatic Society, Kolkata)
Kalachakravatara (The Asiatic Society, Kolkata)
Rigvedasamhita (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune)
Chikitsasarasangraha (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune)
Upmitibhavaprapanchakatha (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune)
Bhagavatpurana (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune)
Mahabhashya (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune)
Shaivagamatantra (Calcutta University, Kolkata)
Astasahasrikaprajnaparamita (Calcutta University, Kolkata)
Krittivasaramayana (Calcutta University, Kolkata)
Shaivagama (Institut Francais de Pondichéry, Pondicherry)
Shunya Sampadane (Kannada University, Hampi)
Kurbararattamala (Kannada University, Hampi)
Basavapurana (Kannada University, Hampi)
Dhul wa (Kargon Gompa, Igoo, Ladakh)
Gyad Stongpa (Kargon Gompa, Igoo, Ladakh)
Diwan-i-Hafiz (Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna)
Tarikh-i-Khandan-i-Timuria (Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna)
Kitab al-Hashaish (Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna)
Kitab al-Tasrif (Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna)
Chitra Bhagavat (Krishna Kanta Handiqui Library, Guwahati)
Ratnamalavyakarana (Krishna Kanta Handiqui Library, Guwahati)
Uttaradhayanasutra (Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad)
Shantinatha Charita (Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad)
Aryabhadra-kalapika-nama-mahayana-sutra (Library of Tibetan Works, Dharamsala)
Yumbanlol (Manipur State Archives)
Subika (Manipur State Archives)
Gilgit Manuscripts (The National Archives of India, New Delhi and Sri Pratap Singh Museum, Jammu and Kashmir State Government Department of State Archaeology, Archives and Museums, Srinagar)
Baburnama (National Museum, New Delhi)
Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri (National Museum, New Delhi)
Arthashastra (Oriental Research Institute, Mysore)
Natyashastra (Oriental Research Institute, Mysore)
Sharadatilaka(Oriental Research Institute, Mysore)
Saubhagyaratnakara (Oriental Research Institute, Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati)
Aryamanjushreemulakalpam (Oriental Research Institute and Manuscripts Library, Thiruvananthapuram)
Gitagovinda (Orissa State Museum, Bhubaneswar)
Chikitsa Manjiri, (Orissa State Museum, Bhubaneswar)
Arsharamayana (Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute, Jodhpur)
Dhvanyalokalochana (Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute, Jodhpur)
Al-Quran-al-Majid (Rampur Raza Library, Rampur)
Ramayana (Rampur Raza Library, Rampur)
Kalila-wa-Dimna (Rampur Raza Library, Rampur)
Sarvarogaharanagunagambhirata or Ashvaphala Prakash (Visweshvarananda Biswabandhu Institute of Sanskrit and Indological Studies, Hoshiarpur)

Vrindavan Research Institute

Objectives of Vrindavan Research Institute


To collect conserve and study manuscripts in Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali and any other Languages and Scripts particularly related to the arts culture, literature and the History of the Braj region.


To salvage the decaying and vanishing culture heritage, including manuscripts, archival, material, objects of art and culture, particularly of the Braj region.


To promote and carry out research in Indology art culture and history, particularly Relating to the.


To establish an advance conservation Laboratory for preservation and conservation of manuscript and archival material and other objects of social religion, literary, cultural, artistic and historical value and to carry out research in the scientific methods, techniques, material and equipment used for preservation and conservation of such objects, and are to undertake such conservation work for persons or organizations of repute on request and receive appropriate fee for such services.


To establish centers to disseminate knowledge of conservation of archival material and cultural objects by instituting teaching and training courses and bringing out publications.


To publish catalogaes critical editions translations of important texts, and the result of research work, and to bring out other useful publication.


To promote and conduct studies and research in Sanskrit, Hindi, Art, History, Sociology, Culture and other allied Indological subjects, particularly related to the Braj region.


To collaborate with universities, museums, libraries and other academic institution of India and for achieving and furthering the above objects.


To organise lectures exhibitions, conferences and other cultural activities to award scholarship, stipends and prizes to the scholars and writers engaged in the field conservation and propagation of Braj art, culture and literature.


Proposal to bring out a dictionary on Braj-Bhasha in English.


Internship programmes to offer services among common masses of the region so as to invoke cultural awareness.

The Vrindavan Research Institute was founded in November, 1968 by public spirited philanthropist scholar, Dr. R. D. Gupta of the school of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Institue was formally inaugurated by Dr.Karan Singh, the then Union Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Realising the significance of the aims and mission of the Institute and appreciating its achievements, the Govt. of U.P. and the Central Govt. provided recurring and ad-hoc grants for its activities. In addition, the Institute welcomes donations from individuals and Institutions.The Institute is recognized by the University of Agra as a research centre for Ph.D. Degree in Hindi and Sanskrit, and accorded the status of a museum of manuscripts and archival material by the Museums Association of India government. Through the generous support of the Department of Culture, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh and the Department of Culture, Govt. of India, the Institute is now housed in its own new building on a piece of land of about 4 acres ideally situated at Raman Reti (Near the ISKCON Temple) and with sufficient scope for future developments. The foundation stone of the Institute's new building was laid on 6, January 1983 by Smt.Sheela Kaul, the then Minister of Education and Culture, Government of India. Hon'ble Central Minister for H.R.D. Shri Arjun Singh inaugurated the newly established Braj Culture Museum at the auspicious occasion of Silver Jubilee function on 18th of December, 1993 It has thus grown into a centre devoted to the cause of conservation and publication of Indian culture.

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