The national Mission for Manuscripts was established in February 2003 by the Ministry of culture. Its purpose is to locate document preserve and disseminate the knowledge content of Indian manuscripts. While looking ahead to reconnect with the knowledge of the past the Mission is in the process of trying to re-contextualize the knowledge contained in manuscripts for the present and the future generations. The mission organizes seminars on various subjects related to Indian knowledge in different locations of India. The papers presented in the seminar are collected and brought out under the Samiksika series.
In 2006 the mission organized a seminar on the theme saving India’s Medical Manuscripts in collaboration with FRLHT Bangalore. The Seminar dealt with various perspectives of Indian Medical manuscripts. The scholars and experts in the related field put forth their view interact and formulate plans for future research in the field.
The National Mission for Manuscripts has tried to address the issue of access to manuscripts heritage of India through various plans and programmes over the past eight years. Preservation and conservation of manuscripts are an integral part of Mission’s mandate, however, it has to be acknowledged that mere preservation and conservation cannot be of much use unless access to manuscripts is made convenient and easy for scholars. Information on manuscripts is of prime importance in this matter. Without information manuscripts can neither be accessed nor used effectively and productively. In an effort to make this possible the Mission has been organizing seminars in different subject areas. Such seminars provide a platform for scholars working in a given discipline to interact, share information, discuss problems encountered by them and then look towards a solution of those problems.
In the year 2006 a seminar on medical manuscripts entitled Saving India’s Medical Manuscripts was organized in collaboration with Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), Bangalore. This seminar brought together scholars from different parts of the country working in this field and provided them an opportunity to share their experiences. Five years have passed since this seminar was held. This publication should have been brought out long ago. However, unavoidable circumstances got in the way and we could not publish the proceedings earlier. I feel that a work of this sort need not be on permanent hold because of some delay somewhere. The relevance of material published here is not time bound, therefore, it can still be of use for researchers and scholars alike.
This seminar looked at medical manuscripts from different perspectives which are obvious from the title of papers. The first paper by M.A. Aiwar and MA. Ananth deals with deciphering medical manuscripts while the second paper by ICC. Chunekar talks about arriving at a correct and precise text for the proper identification of drugs. C.B. Patel concentrates on Ayurveda as an alternative system of treatment of modem ills and Usha M. Brahmachari gives details of a text called Tambulamanjari. Karunesh Shukla in his brief presentation gives details of forty manuscripts preserved in the Nagarjun Buddhist Foundation at Gorakhpur. Following these papers is the one by M. Prabhakara Rao which puts up a case for a comprehensive descriptive catalogue of medical manuscripts in India. S.D. Kamat’s paper looks at the survey and cataloguing of Ayurvedic manuscripts in Gujarat State while Vidyanand Singh presents, the case of digital documentation of manuscripts in the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh. P.L. Shaji from Thiruvananthapuram talks about hands on technique for preservation of manuscripts, this paper is followed by M.N. Pushpa’s paper which outlines the indigenous practices in the preservation of manuscripts.
Hereafter, eight papers have been included that deal with different repositories of medical manuscripts. A. Periyasamy present information on Palani, an important centre of medical manuscripts. S. Prema gives an overview of Siddha literature from 200 BC to 2000 AD., while R.Jayalakshmi gives information on Siddha medical manuscripts in Tamil. S. Prema and R. Devanathan provide glimpses of epics from Tamil medical manuscripts and P. Visalakshy presents the Ayurveda tradition of Kerala. The paper by W. Premananda Singh on medical books of Manipur is of special interest because not much is known about this area. Lokesh Chandra’s paper gives us glimpses of the history of Indo Tibetan medicine and Dominik Wujastyk’s paper provides information on Ayurveda Manuscripts collection outside India.
As can be seen from the above this seminar looked at Indian medical manuscripts from several angles which was befitting the background and affiliation of scholars. Darshan Shankar was Director of FRLHT. G.G. Gangadharan, Jt. Director, FRLHT was convener of this seminar. M.A. Alwar and M.A. Ananth both were Research Fellows at FRLHT and had jointly published Ksemakutuhalam—a work on dietetics and wellbeing. ICC. Chunekar was Professor of Dravyaguna at Banaras Hindu University. He had the rare distinction of being the Indian Government expert on botanical identification. C.B. Patel was Superintendent of Orissa State Museum, Bhubaneshwar which is one of the very !arge and important repositories of palm leaf manuscripts. Usha Brahmachari was Research Officer at Gaekwad Oriental Institute, M.S. University, Baroda. Karunesh Shukla, formerly Professor of Sanskrit at Gorakhpur, is presently heading the Nagarjuna Buddhist Foundation. M. Prabhakara Rao was associated with the Oriental Research Institute), Tirupati as curator- cum-librarian. S.D. Kamath, besides being a renowned Ayurvedic doctor is also a researcher in this field at Mumbai. Vidyanand Singh was Director, Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh. P.L Shaji is associated with the Oriental Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala,’ which is one of the largest repositories of manuscripts in the country. M.N. Pushpa was Curator, Botany Section, Government Museum, Egmore, Chennai while A. Periyasamy was Curator, Government Museum, Palani. S. Prema was Professor and Head of Siddha manuscripts at Thanjavur. R. Jayalakshmi was research associate in the Department of Manuscript logy, Institute of Asian Studies, Chemmachery, Chennai while R. Devanathan, MD in Ayurveda hailed from SDM College Udupi. P. Visalakshy again belongs to the hallowed institute at Thiruvananthapuram. W. Premananda Singh besides being an advocate was deeply interested in the Ayurvedic system of medicine and had done research in this field. Lokesh Chandra is a well known name in the field of Tibetan Mongolian and Sino Japanese Buddhism. He is a respected authority in the field of Buddhist studies. Dominik Wujastyk had the privilege of working for the welcome foundation in London for a long time from where he joined the university of Vienna. He has worked on Sanskrit language and literature classical Indian studies and History of science in pre-modern India. The reason I have given details of the scholars over here instead of the general practice of providing it at the end of the publication is that some information provided here might be dated. The reference to designation and affiliation to institutions is given as it was in the year 2006. We have not been able to update the list but it is important for the reader to know about the contributions as it adds to the authenticity of the writings. I am sure some scholars must have moved on in time.
Even though delayed I feel this publication will be worthwhile and useful to scholars working in the area of medical manuscripts and we at NMM would gratefully acknowledge any feedback from discerning readers.
The Indian medical heritage has been extremely productive India has one of the largest collections of medical manuscripts of nay civilization in the world. while there is no precise enumeration of the number of manuscripts that we have estimates vary widely putting it in the region of 20000 to 100,000. Several of these manuscripts are now in institutions such as Oriental manuscripts libraries Indological research institutions universities mutts and archives and many are still in private collections. Manuscripts are also available in foreign libraries in U.K. France, Germany and USA. Unfortunately there is no detailed and accurate date about the number extent and distribution of the medical manuscripts of India.
The presently available published medical texts which are in contemporary use represent less than two per cent of the medical literature that is available in the form of manuscripts.
Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a large number of manuscripts began to get accumulated in public collections so also the catalogues with varying degrees of completeness and reliability. The first attempt to compile a master list of manuscripts in any area was the one made by Theoder Aufrecht in the 1890s. After an exercise lasting nearly thirty years Aufrecht produced a master list of all Sanskrit manuscripts in public collection which he called catalogus, Catalogrum, Subsequently during a twelve year period two supplementary volumes were produced.
However, with a large number of new catalogues accumulating, Aufrecht’s work soon became outdated. In 1935, AL. Woolner, Vice Chancellor of Punjab University, mooted the idea of preparing a fresh edition of Catalogonim. In 1937 the University of Madras decided to take the work of producing a New Catalogues Catalogorum of all Sanskrit manuscripts in public collections all over the world. Initially when the work was undertaken a list of 394 catalogues were collected. A master alphabetical author/title list was compiled. Each entry gave the description of manuscripts giving the name, specified the location of the manuscript (in terms of the name of the collection and the serial number) as well as the broad subject classification wherever known. The entire corpus was divided into forty-eight broad subject headings for this purpose. The first volume was published in 1949 covering all manuscripts under the alphabet ‘A’ During the period 1949—1991 thirteen volumes of the New Catalogues Catalogorum have been published covering the manuscripts under the letter ‘A’ to ‘BA’. As per the original estimate twenty volumes are required to completely list this corpus.
The only attempt to catalogue Indian medical literature was by the Department of History of Medicine that was started in Osmania University in 1958. The work commenced with the identification of twenty-four catalogues of manuscripts including two catalogues of collections from Nepal and one from Germany. When only about one thousand entries had been compiled, the department was suddenly closed down in 1966. Later, the department was transferred to the Indian Council of Medical Research in 1969 and then to the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha. In 1970, the material was transferred to the Institute for History of Medicine in Hyderabad. The Institute published an incomplete work in 1972, which gives a list of 1082 entries along with the titles. This was perhaps the first and only attempt to compile a partial list of manuscripts in the area of medicine.
Similarly no reliable estimates are available on the corpus of regional medical manuscripts in Indian languages. Some time ago the Tamil University at Tanjore had compiled a list of all Tamil manuscripts in public collections. Out of the 24,000 manuscripts listed, about 4,000 are in the area of medicine.
Manuscripts in general and the medical manuscripts in particular form a precious part of India’s cultural heritage. The urgency for initiating a progarmme for conservation of medical manuscripts is because there exists a real danger of losing a large number of manuscripts due to negligence.
On the other hand, access to manuscripts will provide theoreticians and practitioners of the Indian Systems of Medicine valuable knowledge that can be put to contemporary use.
The National Mission for Manuscripts was kind enough to co-sponsor the seminar on ‘Saving India’s Medical Manuscripts’ and the same was held at the campus of FRLHT. The seminar was a huge success and also an eye- opener for the organizers as well as the participants regarding the wealth and extent of medical manuscripts that existed throughout India and abroad also. It was also a precursor for FRLHT to take up a project on “Documenting India’s Medical Manuscripts” and prepare a Master Descriptive Catalogue of these manuscripts, which would facilitate researchers, students and scholars of Ayurveda to delve deep into the ancient medical texts and retrieve the invaluable knowledge housed in these texts and utilize them for the betterment of humanity.
The seminar saw many scholarly and informative presentations. Many outstanding scholars from different parts of India gave invaluable suggestions to take this noble task ahead.
It is a matter of great pleasure that the National Mission for Manuscripts is bringing out the proceedings of this seminar in a very attractive manner. I am sure readers of this book will appreciate the quality and quantity of information housed in the articles. We look forward to suggestion and active participation of all the readers and scholars to take forward the noble task of preserving and propagating the knowledge of Indian medical heritage that out organization had taken up.
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