A Brief History of Ancient Indian Manuscripts

India Nov 12, 2020

Ancient India is often called the Indus Valley Civilization/Harappan Civilization and one of the ancient city was called Harappa. Harappa was just one of 1500 cities in the Indus River Valley. Another well-known city is called Mohen-jo-Daro. Historians estimate Ancient India to be the biggest of all four early civilizations. And starting from the vedic period, ancient Indian society has made all kinds of efforts to excel as a knowledge society which we can analyse from the ancient manuscripts. The manuscripts in India has tremendous amount of knowledge about Science, Art, Vedic mathematics,etc.

But First of all, let's get to know what is manuscripts ?

A manuscript is a handwritten composition on paper, bark, cloth, metal, palm leaf or any other material 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. Script is a particular system or style of writing. It can be comprehended as symbolic representation of sounds of a particular language. 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, Nepal Bhasa, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Chakma etc.

The Source Code of Manuscripts:-

Ancient Indian universities were once the most influential seats of learning. Universities like Takshashila University, Nalanda University, Vikramshila University, Vallabhi University and many other, Students from all over Asia used to flock to these places to gain knowledge and acquire skills as well as these were mines of scripts. It is believed that Chanakya wrote Arthashastra (an ancient Indian treatise on economic policy and military strategy) during his teaching period at Takshashila University. Maharishi Charak also composed his medical treatise Charak Samhita there.It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections.And the library of Nalanda, known as Dharma Gunj, was the most renowned repository of Buddhist and Vedic knowledge in the world at the time. It is reported to have housed over 9 million scrolls and manuscripts in various languages.

Many traditional Tibetan sources explain that the great library burnt for 3 months after the Turkic invaders set it ablaze at the end of 12th century. With the destruction of ancient manuscripts, the progress of the Indian scientific reason in areas such as mathematics, astronomy and anatomy also stalled.

They still Survived from the attack:-

Do you know how many manuscripts survived till now? Let's see an example to get the contrast of the situation, The Greek civilization which was called the mother civilization of Europe has 17,000 manuscripts survived till today. And still After the destruction of Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramshila and other universities by invaders nearly 43 lac of handwritten manuscripts are founded.

In the year 2003, our late prime minister Sri. Atal Bihari Vajapeyi, understood the immediate need of digitising the ancient scriptures and documenting them from private and public collections, established the National Mission for Manuscripts. Till date, the Mission is able to digitise 43 lakhs of Manuscripts. And still the work is going on and it shows the strength of Indian knowledge sources and the picture of education in India.

Manuscripts Teachings :-

These writings deal with wide range of subjects like Veda, Vedanta, Darshan, Ayurveda, Aesthetic, Astronomy, Astrology, cosmology, cosmoginy, Yoga, Vastu, Mathematics, Linguistics and many such other subjects written in different ancient scripts and in different Indian languages.

This article has been written by Atharva Budrukkar for The Paradigm

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