The National Mission for Manuscripts was launched in February 2003 by the Government of India, under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, with the mandate of documenting, conserving and disseminating the knowledge preserved in the manuscripts.
The National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) is a national level comprehensive initiative which caters to the need of conserving manuscripts and disseminating knowledge contained therein. NMM is working towards fulfilling its motto, ‘conserving the past for the future’. It has emerged as a movement, undoubtedly the most popular and effective among all the heritage conservation initiatives in the country. A unique project in its programme and mandate, the Mission seeks to unearth and preserve the vast manuscript wealth of India. India possesses an estimate of ten million manuscripts, probably the largest collection in the world. These cover a variety of themes, textures and aesthetics, scripts, languages, calligraphies, illuminations and illustrations. The Mission has the mandate of identifying, documenting, conserving and making accessible the manuscript heritage of India.
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.
India’s manuscripts are scattered in known and unknown collections across the country. One of the main programmes of the National Mission for Manuscripts is the first concerted effort to create and compile a National Database of Indian Manuscripts. As the most significant contribution of the Mission, it is being compiled with information on Indian manuscripts in public and private collections that is gathered through different information collection processes.
NMM is engaged in detailed documentation of manuscripts in India, by creating a National Catalogue of Manuscripts. This electronic catalogue provides information of manuscripts from institutions, religious, cultural and educational, as well as private collections across the country.
The National Mission for Manuscripts has identified some repositories across India which has a huge collection of manuscripts. These repositories were established many years ago and they have worked diligently towards the collection and preservation of the manuscripts. The manuscript collection at these institutes are vast corpus of literature, spread across different languages and scripts and is available on different kinds of materials like birch bark, palm leaf, cloth, wood, stone. Several rare and ancient manuscript are also part of the collection.
The repositories are listed below:
The National Mission for Manuscripts has taken the initiative of publishing critical editions of rare and previously unpublished texts under the title Krtibodha.
Tattvabodha, the monthly lecture series launched by the National Mission for Manuscripts in January 2005, has established itself as a forum for intellectual debate and discussion. Eminent scholars representing different aspects of Indian knowledge systems have addressed and interacted with audiences both in Delhi and other centres across the country. The Mission publishes a compilation of these lectures by the same name, Tattvabodha.
Samrakshika and Samikshika
The National Mission for Manuscripts organises national level seminars as part of its outreach programme. The papers presented in these seminars are published under the title, Samrakshika and Samikshika.
The Mission not only encourages the documentation of manuscript collections all over the country but also plans to publish them. It has a programme of publishing descriptive catalogues of all the collections of the Manuscript Resource Centres working with the Mission.
At present, the Mission has published a catalogue of the exhibition of Indian manuscripts at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany. The catalogue covers several aspects of Indian manuscripts. It is divided into 6 sections:
Recently National Mission for Manuscripts has taken up a project for publishing rare and unpublished Manuscripts in the following three formats and the series has been named as Prakashika.
The Kriti Rakshana is the bi-monthly publication of National Mission for Manuscripts. Started in August 2005, it is published once every two months and is distributed free of cost, to all universities and public libraries in the country. It is also sent to select scholars and foreign institutes that have an interest in Indian manuscripts. Working with the belief that the public would be more interested in maintaining and preserving their heritage if they understood it better, Kriti Rakshana attempts to provide access to information on Indian manuscripts and their traditions to as many people as possible.
First set of five volumes of Mongolian Kanjur published by the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) was presented to the Hon’ble President of India on the occasion of Guru Purnima, also known as Dharma Chakra Day on 4th July 2020. Mongolian Kanjur, the Buddhist canonical text in 108 volumes is considered to be the most important religious text in Mongolia.
The National Mission for Manuscripts has taken the initiative to nominate Indian manuscripts for inclusion in UNESCO's Memory of the World register. Under this programme, UNESCO provides recognition to the most valuable documentary heritage of the world and facilitates its preservation and universal access to it. Moreover, efforts are made to increase awareness of the significance of these records. The Shaiva manuscripts in Pondicherry were awarded the status of UNESCO's Memory of the World in 2005 in an application jointly submitted by the French Institute of Pondicherry, Centre for Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Oriente (EFEO) and the National Mission for Manuscripts. For further information click here.