[INDOLOGY] Manuscripts in India

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Tue Jan 6 10:32:59 UTC 2015

Like Patrick, I started collecting MSS in India in the 1970s (but only
1978, so you beat me there, Patrick :-).  I echo everything that has been
said by Adheesh and others about tact, patience, and etiquette.  These,
more than money, more than authority, are key elements in successful MS

If you are able to take digital photos, always take a CD burner with you
and give the librarian a copy of the photos you have taken.  If you publish
a book or article using the MS, remember to send a copy to the library.

Where I think I would differ a little from Patrick and Adheesh is in saying
that there was an early golden age that has turned sour in the 2000s.  Even
back in the day, there were intransigent libraries and librarians.  I
remember in about 1980, a close colleague sitting in the library at
Thanjavur, day after day for over two weeks, until the librarian asked,
"when are you leaving?"  My colleague answered, "when I have read the
manuscript."  It was produced the next day.

A counter-example.  The largest MS library in the world is the Gyan Tirth
at Koba <http://kobatirth.org/jainlibrary.aspx>, just on the outskirts of
Ahmedabad. Yes, I mean it.  250k MSS, making it four times larger than the
Vatican library or the BN in Paris.  I was there in late 2011.  The faculty
and staff could not have been kinder or more helpful.  Everything
computerized and efficient.  I was given PDFs on my data plug within half
an hour of asking.  No money.  And I was told, "next time, no need to come
so far; just send email, we'll send PDF as attachment."   Utterly amazing.

So, it goes both ways.  Government institutions are commonly problematic:
slow, rule-bound, often expensive (Baroda!).  Private institutions can go
both ways - some are impossible (Bikaner) others are fabulous (Koba).  As
the recent filming in J&K by Chetan Pandey
<https://www.scribd.com/indicmanuscripts> demonstrates, local knowledge and
language skills can be hugely enabling.


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