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Preserving the Oriental heritage 

Manuscripts preserve knowledge and make it available for succeeding generations. The manuscripts preserved at the Sri Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute, Jammu tell the story of such an effort. The manuscripts conserved here constitute an important aspect of our national heritage. The story begins with Maharaja Ranbir Singhji (1830-85) of Jammu and Kashmir. He was not only a great temple builder and administrator, but also a notable patron of scholarship. 

The wisdom and foresight of Maharaja Ranbir Singhji, whose father Maharaja Gulab Singhji founded the DharmarthTrust, led him to set up the Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya and Library of Manuscripts. During his reign, several distinguished western scholars of Indology and Indian scholars visited Jammu and Srinagar and interacted with the local scholars. 

The celebrated names in this interface include Rudolph von Roth, George Buhler, Gopalrama Damodar Vyasa, and Saligram. Soon after his accession to the throne in the year 1857, the Maharaja consecrated a shrine to the worship of Sri Raghunathji from whom, according to the Dogra tradition, the dynasty had descended.

The Maharaja provided rich endowment for the funding and maintenance of the holy centre which included the formation of a library under the Temple Foundation. Under his guidance, special efforts were made to collect valuable manuscripts from within the state and other parts of the country, and as a result, the library steadily enlarged during his reign. Consequently, a large collection of manuscripts was built up at the Sri Raghunathji Temple Library. By the time of his demise in 1885, the collection comprised more than 6,000 manuscripts. Since then the temple library has stood as a monument to his remarkable character as well as his regard for the Indian scholarship.


Descriptive catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts listing the collection maintained in this library is available now for interested scholars. The first catalogue of these manuscripts was prepared in 1894 by the famous orientalist and scholar Sir Aurel Stein, when he was the Principal of Lahore Oriental College. Three quarters of a century later, in 1970, Sadar-i-Riyasat of J & K, Dr. Karan Singh instructed the Dharmarth Trust to update this catalogue.

Eminent scholar Dr. M.M. Patkar of the Deccan College, Pune, undertook this work. He completed the first volume in 1970 followed by the second in 1973. Thereafter, the publication of the third volume was delayed due to his sad demise. However, by the efforts of the staff of the Sri Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute, the third volume came out in 1984. The Institute recently published the fourth and final volume of the series in 2004. Dr. Dhani Ram Shastri and Dr. Kamal K. Mishra have compiled the last volume.

These manuscripts constitute a very valuable resource for the Indological studies, and represent an important aspect of the rich cultural heritage of India, especially the classics in its thought stream.

The first volume of the catalogue deals with the following eight sections, viz.:

1. Veda
2. Sutrapaddhati
3. Upanishad
4. Vedanga5. Vyakarana
6. Kosa
7. Chandas and
8. Samhita

The second volume comprises the description of about 1626 manuscripts pertaining to ten sections, viz. :

1. Samhita
2. Kamasutra
3. Alankara
4. Kavya
5. Nataka
6. Dharmasastra
7. Mimansa
8. Vedanta
9. Samkhya and
10 Yoga

The reference work of the third volume of the catalogue comprises the following sections:
1. Nyaya
2. Vaisehika
3. Jyotisha
4. Shastra (medicines)
5. Ramayana
6. Mahabharata
7. Purana
8. Bhakti and
9. Tantra

The third volume describes 681 manuscripts from Tantra. The remaining manuscripts (from 682 to 1058) are included in the fourth volume, which also covers the Tantra and Jaina Shastra. These include rare and valuable manuscripts, most of them in Devanagri and some in Sharda script. They have stotras dedicated to the worship of various gods and deities including Lord Shiva, Parvati, Rudra, Ganapati and Chandi. The aspects of Jain Shastra are Acaranga Sutra, Angaculika and Kalpasutrapithika . It may also be mentioned that the manuscripts in this library contain works not only in Sanskrit but also in Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Ladakhi, Dogri, Telugu and Sharda, reflecting well the diversity of our cultural heritage.

This entire project owes its success to the enlightened leadership and guidance of the esteemed Chairman-Trustee of the Dharmarth Trust, Dr. Karan Singh, who is a renowned scholar. 

The manuscripts library in the Shri Ranbir Research Institute have recently been shifted to a new location within the temple premises, and facilities for research scholars have been considerably enhanced. 

 


 

Dr. Kamal Kishor Mishra

 

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