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MEMORY OF THE WORLD REGISTER

Gilgit manuscripts
Ref N 2006-57
Part A ESSENTIAL INFORMATION
1.
SUMMARY
The Gilgit manuscripts are among the oldest manuscripts in the world, and the oldest manuscript
collection surviving in India, having unmatched significance in the area of Buddhist studies and can be
considered to be important milestones in the history of Buddhist writing in India. This manuscript
collection contains such Buddhist works, both canonical and non-canonical which helped in the
evolution of Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Tibetan religio-philosophical literature. Though
there are varied opinions on the date of these manuscripts, it can be safely believed on paleographical
grounds that they must have been written between the 5th and 6th Century A.D. This corpus of
manuscripts was discovered in three installments in the Gilgit region, now in modern day Pakistanoccupied Kashmir (History of Discovery below). This corpus of manuscripts contains, interalia, sutras
from the Buddhist canon, Samadhirajasutra and the Saddharmapundarikasutra (popularly known as
Lotus Sutra). The manuscripts were written on birch bark in Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit language in the
Gupta Brahmi and Post Gupta Brahmi script. The Gilgit manuscripts cover a wide range of subjects
such as religion, ritual, philosophy, iconometry, folk tales, medicine and several related areas of life
and knowledge. While the major portions of these manuscripts are in the National Archives of India in
New Delhi and the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir,
fragments of the manuscripts are also in the collection at the British Museum, and the Department of
Archaeology in Karachi.

2. DETAILS OF THE NOMINATORS


2.1.

Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan


National Mission for Manuscripts
Ministry of Tourism and Culture
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
No. 5, Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi 110 001
Tel: +91 11 23338 3994; Fax: + 91 11 2307 3340
Mr. K. Jayakumar
Director General
National Archives of India
Janpath
New Delhi 110 001
Tel: + 91 11 2338 3436; Fax: +-91 11 23384127
Mr. Syed Mohammad Fazalullah
Director
J&K State Government Libraries
and Research Department
Jammu and Kashmir
Tel: +91 194 2472361 (Srinagar ), +91 191 2578834 ( Jammu )

2.2. The Gilgit Manuscripts are in the possession of the National Archives of India and Department of
Archaeology, Archives and Museums, Jammu and Kashmir

The National Mission for Manuscripts is the national body under the Department of Culture,
Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India, with the mandate of locating, documenting,
preserving and disseminating the manuscript wealth of India.
The National Archives of India is the repository of the non-current records of the Government of
India and is holding them in trust for the use of administrators and scholars. It is an Attached Office of
the Department of Culture under Ministry of Tourism & Culture. It was set up in March 1891 in
Calcutta (Kolkata) as the Imperial Record Department and subsequent to the transfer of the National
Capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911 it was shifted to its present building in 1926.
The Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Government of
Jammu and Kashmir is the repository of valuable manuscripts numbering about 16,000, which
manuscripts are composed in different languages covering many aspects such as religion, history,
literature, geography, arithmetic, medical science and the arts. These scripts/inscriptions are preserved
in various materials such as birch bark, hand-made paper, wood, stone, cloth and terracotta.
2.3
Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, Mission Director, National Mission for Manuscripts is in charge of
the nomination process.
2.4.

Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan,


Mission Director,
National Mission for Manuscripts,
Ministry of Tourism and Culture,
No. 5, Rajendra Prasad Road,
New Delhi 110 001.
Tel: +91 11 23338 3994
Fax: + 91 11 2307 3340
Email: sgkrishnan@nic.in

3. IDENTITY AND DESCRIPTION OF THE DOCUMENTARY HERITAGE

Complete Name and Address: Gilgit Manuscripts

Name and Full address/location details of the owner and the custodian, whether an institution or
an individual: The major part of the Gilgit manuscripts are housed in the National Archives, which is
an Attached Office of the Department of Culture under Ministry of Tourism & Culture. The other part
is in J&K State Government, Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir. These two
institutions are the custodians of the manuscripts. The addresses of both these institutions are as given
above.
3.2

Description

Description and inventory, including cataloguing/ guide or similar access information

The Gilgit manuscripts are corpus of texts dealing with Buddhism belonging to the 5th or 6th Century
A.D. They are called Gilgit manuscripts because they were discovered in 1931 in the place called
Gilgit (now in Pakistan occupied Kashmir). A group of cattle grazers discovered a box containing
these precious manuscripts which they took to the erstwhile Maharaja (King) of Jammu and Kashmir.
The importance of these manuscripts is justified by the fact that the Gilgit manuscripts are perhaps the
only corpus of Buddhist manuscripts discovered in India. The language of the manuscripts is similar to
those of the early Mahayana texts and is really a mixed Sanskrit of peculiar type, using largely
Sanskrit words with Prakrit inflexions and Prakrit words with Sanskrit inflexion. From use of language
in these texts, it is surmised the texts were prevalent at a certain period in the extreme North West of
India.

The Gilgit collection contains a complete manuscript of the Samadhirajasutra, one of the important
Mahayana canonical texts which are collectively called Navadharma. As a Mahayana Vaipulyasutra,
the Samadhirajasutra had been well known throughout ancient Buddhist world, particularly where
Mahayana Buddhism was adhered to. The alternative name of this sutra is Arya Candrapradipasutra.
As regards the date of the text, it is presumed that the earlier form of the work must have been written
immediately after the reign of the Kushana King Kanishka, i.e. between 75 and 100 A.D, since the text
mentions three ganas (Prathama, Dvitiya and Tritiya) which are identical with three Buddhist Synods
(sangiti-s), the last of which was held during Kanishkas time according to the Sanskrit Buddhist
tradition. The Gilgit text of the Sutra has been edited by Nalinaksha Dutt (Gilgit Manuscripts, Vol. II
pts. i-iii, Calcutta, 19411954). It was translated into Tibetan by Sailendrabodhi and Dharmatasila as
early as the 9th Century A.D.
According to Prof. Lokesh Chandra, an eminent scholar on Buddhism and the cultures of the South
and South East Asia, who has published a facsimile edition of the Gilgit manuscripts in New Delhi,
the text has references of the three Buddhist Synods (meetings of religious heads). This suggests a date
sometime around or after the time of Emperor Kanishka (78-128 A.D.). According to the Sanskrit
texts, the third Synod was held during Kanishkas reign.
Prof. Nalinaksha Dutt, a scholar of Buddhist Studies having been commissioned by the then
government of J&K, brought out editions of some texts contained in the Gilgit manuscripts, in four
volumes (nine parts). In his introduction to this volume, Prof. Dutt presented some analytical studies
of the language of the Gilgit texts and brought out the linguistic peculiarities of these texts. He noticed
that the language is a form of Sanskrit highly laden with Prakrit vocabulary and inflexion. He also
pointed out that the idiom of the verses widely differed from that of the prose portions and the former
extensively flouts the rules of Sanskrit grammar and prosody.
The edition and publication of portions of the manuscript collection with the title Gilgit Manuscripts
in Devanagari script (with Tibetan parallels of the portions which could not be deciphered in the
original manuscript), was brought out in four volumes (nine parts) as under:
Vol. 1

Srinagar

1939

Calcutta
Calcutta
Calcutta

1941
1953
1954

Srinagar
Srinagar
Srinagar
Calcutta

1947
1942
1943
1950

Calcutta

1959

Vol. 2
Part I
Part 2
Part 3
Vol.3
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Vol. 4

Though the grammatical and literary aspects of the text are gradually becoming more of historical
interest in the contemporary world, what is of interest is the social relevance of some of the texts
mentioned in the manuscript.
Apart from the literary significance of these manuscripts, they also provide examples of fine decorated
books we have in Indian history. Two of these earliest Sanskrit manuscripts which form parts of the
Srinagar collection were discovered nestled between painted wooden book covers. Of these
manuscripts one is of palm leaf and other of birch bark. The manuscripts are written in northern
cursive script of a stylized and conventional form (a variety of late Gupta script), which was in wide

prevalence in Gilgit and Central Asia. The wooden covers are painted on both the sides, and their
decorations on the outer side consist of lotus scroll.
While the influence of Kashmir or Indian art-style on Central Asian art cannot be denied, there was
also the possibility that at a certain time or period, the established Central Asian art traditions exerted
some influence on the art of peripheral India, including Gilgit and Kashmir and this possibility is
amply justified by the fact that the images on the painted cover resemble figures in Central Asian
murals as noted above. The figures on the second manuscript in particular seem to represent the
Kashmir style which shows a commingling of the Western Indian (Ajanta and Ellora) and Eastern
Indian (Pala) elements with the indigenous local idioms, largely based on Gandhara traditions.
Regarding the influence of Kashmir art on the development of art in Western Tibet, Professor
Giuseppe Tucci has dealt with the theme elaborately in his monumental work, Tibetan Painted Scrolls.
As stated by him, Rin c'enbzan po, born in the 10th century in one of the Western Tibet highlands,
visited Kashmir several times to study Buddhism and he took seventy-five Kashmiri craftsmen with
him to his country. Prof. Tucci states, In Tsaparang, Toling, Tabo, in every place of any importance
in Western Tibet, the temples founded on Rin c'en bzan po's advice and under the patronage of the
kings of Guge bear evident traces of Kashmiri craftsmen's work: bronzes, wooden portals, sculpted
with a soft suppleness and a plastic relief proclaim unmistakably the country of their origin.. On the
other hand the temple of Man nan has preserved the only frescoes known today which are certainly of
the Kashmiri School, the extreme northern projections of those classical traditions, which transmitted
by Ajanta to Ellora inspired India's pictorial currents in the middle ages. To the Man nan frescoes may
be added those of Alchi in Ladakh, although they are later. And this is all; nothing else has come down
to use of ancient Kashmiri painting." With regard to the above remarks it is clear that the paintings
on the covers of the Gilgit manuscripts fill in the gap of our knowledge of Kashmir art of this
period since they are the only authentic specimens of Kashmir paintingsthough the specimens
of style as derived from them as seen in Western Tibet attracted the notice of scholars much
earlier.

Bibliographic and registration details

The Gilgit manuscripts have not been catalogued in its entirety. There are several texts in the corpus
of Gilgit manuscripts housed in the National Archives of India. These have been put together, but a
complete catalogue is yet to be made and published.
This lot in the National Archives contains sixty-two manuscripts and the titles have been tentatively
identified, interalia, as per the list given below:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.

Pratimoksa-sutra
Karma-vacana
Ekottaragama
Pravrajya-vastu
Vinaya-vibhanga
Visvantaravadana
Astasahasrika
Bhaisajya-vastu
Mahapratisara
Mahasannipata Ratnaketusutra
Buddhia-baladhana-pratiharya
Mahasannipata Ratnaketusutra
Mandhatavadana and
Dharmauch-avadana
Kutagara-sutra
Tathagata-bimba-karapana-sutra
Anna-pana-vidhi

18.
19.
20.
21.

Sanghata-sutra
Saddharama-pundarika-sutra
Pranama-stava
Darika-gath

The corpus of texts in the Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department,
Jammu and Kashmir, is not in a good condition, because they have been kept in bundles,
undocumented and un-deciphered.
A full edition of this rich material has not yet been done. As said earlier, a nine-volume edition of
some of the manuscripts was done by Prof. Nalinaksha Dutt in between 1939 and 1959. Several
researchers and scholars have attempted to transcribe the texts but till date the manuscripts have not
been deciphered in its entirety.
Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the Director of International Academy of Indian Culture, has put in several
years of research on the Gilgit manuscripts. He has brought out facsimile editions of the manuscripts
of the National Archives. He observed he will probably take another 50 years to understand the corpus
completely. Scholars from Germany, Japan and Korea are currently trying to decipher the text as
partial translations in Tibetan and Chinese have helped them to get some ideas to missing links in the
original text.
History of the Discovery of the Gilgit Manuscripts and their Provenance
The Gilgit Manuscripts have been discovered in three stages:
First Stage
This major corpus of the Gilgit Manuscript was discovered in 1931, just by chance in a ruined stupa
near Gilgit, by cattle grazers. The Wazir of Gilgit took charge of the Manuscripts but before he could
bring them into his custody, a substantial portion of the Manuscripts and all the painted covers had
passed into the hands of adventurers. By the order of the Maharaja of Kashmir, the Wazir sent them to
Srinagar.
In the early days of its recovery, these manuscripts were examined by Sir Aurel Stein on his way back
from an archaeological mission in Central Asia. On his first examination he identified those to be
Buddhist Sanskrit texts dating back from 5th century A.D.
Sir Aurel Stein, in the newspaper The Statesman (on 24th July 1931) first announced the discovery of
the manuscripts. He reported that some boys watching flocks above Naupur village, about two miles
west of Gilgit Cantonment, are said to have cleared a piece of timber sticking out on the top of a small
stone-covered mound. Further digging laid bare a circular chamber within the ruins of a Buddhist
stupa filled with hundreds of small votive stupa-s and relief plaques common in Central Asia and
Tibet.
This lot of manuscripts was delivered to the Government of Kashmir for preservation. Some eleven
folios which had been retrieved from local inhabitants of that area by Sir Stein, were delivered to the
British Museum. Those folios were submitted to Prof. Sylvain Levi. After examining those folios Levi
reported on the contents of the folios in Mansucrits Sanscrits provenant de Bamiyan et de Gilgit, JA,
CCXX/1932, p.p. 1-45.
This lot of the Gilgit manuscripts are presently housed in the National Archives, New Delhi. It is
written on birch bark and covers several Buddhist texts. These have been shifted during the Indo-Pak
conflict to the National Archives with special instruction from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru the then Prime
Minister of India.
Second Stage

The second lot of manuscripts was discovered by Pandit Madhusudan Kaul in the course of his brief
excavation in Gilgit in 1938. Pandit Kaul published a short report on these manuscripts in the
Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society, Bangalore (vol. Xxx, pp. 1-12). The number of works and
their titles has not yet been ascertained. But it is almost certain that they contain some Buddhist
writings. One important feature of this collection is that there are two manuscripts which have painted
covers. These painted covers have been studied, in great detail, by Dr. P. Banerji (formerly Director
General of the National Museum) in his article Painted wooden covers of two Gilgit Manuscripts.
in his New Light on Central Asian Art and Iconography, New Delhi: Abha Prakashan 1992, pp.
141.147.
This manuscript collection is now housed in the Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and
Research Department, Jammu & Kashmir.
Third Stage
In 1956, Prof. Giuseppe Tucci was able to procure a bunch of old manuscripts of the same class
containing three vinaya texts of the Mulasarvastivadins, viz. the Sayanasanavastu, the
Adhikaranavastu and the Sanghabhedavastu and a portion of the Astadasasahasrika-prajnaparamita.
One photocopy of these manuscripts are with Instituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente,
Rome. Professor Tuccis student and eminent scholar Prof. Raniero Gnoli, has worked on the text
Sanghabhedavastu, a Buddhist vinaya text (vide Bibliography, item no. 1)
The Prajnaparamita portion was edited and translated by Edward Conze (vide Bibliography, item no.
5).
The original manuscript of the photocopy by Prof. Tucci would be located through extensive survey,
and collated to complete the entire corpus of the Gilgit manuscripts.

Summary of its provenance

The Gilgit Manuscripts are in the possession of the National Archives of India and the Library in the
J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir.
The major part of the Gilgit manuscripts are presently housed in the National Archives, New Delhi. It
is written in birch bark and covers several Buddhist texts. These have been shifted during the Indo-Pak
conflict to the National Archive with special instruction from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime
Minister of India. The rest of them are housed in the Library in the J&K State Government Libraries
and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir.

Analysis or assessment of physical state and condition

The manuscripts kept in the National Archives have been kept in a rather good condition. A
preliminary conservation treatment has been given to the corpus of manuscripts, with information that
3,366 pages or fragments have been laminated. The brittle and damaged pages have been given
curative treatment, encased in covers, and kept safely inside cupboards. The access is highly restricted,
and it requires permission from the authorities. The manuscripts in the Library in the J&K State
Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, are kept in bundles,
and the state of preservation is not satisfactory.

Visual documentation where appropriate

Gilgit Manuscript, Jammu & Kashmir

Gilgit Manuscript, National Archives of India, New Del

1.

Bibliography

Gnoli, Raniero.
The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sanghabhedavastu: being the 17th and last section of the Vinaya
of the Mulasarvastivadin/Edited by Raniero Gnoli; with the assistance of T. Venkaacharya;
Rome: Instituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente 1977-1978
2 (xxviii, 234p, 26 ill; xi, 310p.)- (Serie Orientale Roma; Vol. xlix, 1-2) Sanskrit in Roman

2.

Levi, Sylvan.

Manuscrits Sanscrits provenant de Barmiyan e de Gilgit


in Journal Asiatique, CC1XX(1932; p. 1-45)
3.

Mulasarvastivada - Vinayavastu /edited by S. Bagchi Darbhanga: Mithila Institute, 1967-70


2 v.( Buddhist Sansrkit texts; no. 16)

4.

Frauwallner, E.
The Earliest Vinaya and the Beginnings of Buddhist Literature/E. Frauwallner. Rome:
Instituto Italians per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1956.
Serie Orientale Roma; vol. viii)

5.

Conze, Edward.
The Gilgit Manuscript of the Astadasasahasrikaprajnaparamita: ch: 55-70 corresponding of
the 5th Ahisamaya/text (edited) and English translation (by Edward Conze) Rome: Instituto
Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1962
(Serie Orientale Roma; vol. xxvi) (literary and historical documents from Pakistan-1)

6.

Hinueber, Oskar von


New identifications of the texts proposed by Oskar von Hinueber; Vol. ZDMG 119
(1969):103

7.

Pratimoksasutra [incomplete manuscript of 8 folios] edited by Lokesh Chandra.


WZKSO 4 (1960) 1-11.

8.

(i) Pratimoksa-sutra. 1-38 folios (incomplete)


1-8, 12-23, 36-38 survive
Edited by A. Banerjee, IHQ 19(1953)
162-174, 266-275, 363-377
Published separately as a booklet.
(ii) Karmavacana 16 folios - 39-54
39-42 f. edited by Oskar
Hinueber . ZDMG 119 (1969) 102-132
43-54 edited by A. Banerjee
IHQ 25 (1949) 19.30

9.

Gilgit Buddhist Manuscript:


Facsimile edition/ by Raghuvira and Lokesh Chandra - New Delhi
International Academy of Indian Culture, 1959 - 1974
10 Vols. ( Satapitakam - Indo=Asian Litrature;10(1-10)

By a comparison between the facsimile edition and the texts edited by


Prof. Dutt it is found that the entire material has not yet been edited and published.

Referees

1.
Prof. Lokesh Chandra, Ex-Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and Director, International
Academy of Indian Culture, J-22, Hauz Khas Enclave, New Delhi 110016; Tel: +91 11 2651 5800
2.
Pandit Satkari Mukhopadyaya, Scholar of Sanskrit and Buddhism,
K- 2071, Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi 1100019; Tel: +91 11 2627 7397

3.
Prof. Ratna Basu, Professor and Head of the Department of Sanskrit and In-charge,
Manuscripts Library, University of Calcutta, Hardinge Building, 1st Floor, Senate House, 87/1,
College Street, Kolkata 700072; Tel: +91 33 2241 3763

4. JUSTIFICATION FOR INCLUSION/ASSESSMENT AGAINST CRITERIA


4.1

Authenticity :

The corpus of Gilgit manuscripts, originally written in Sanskrit, was probably about sixteen centuries
back. The authenticity of the texts is established beyond doubt, by

the antiquity of the texts, as established by experts on manuscriptology across the world
and by the specialized Buddhist scholar community, by examining the language and script
contained in the text
multiplicity of the subjects dealt in the texts (most of which are yet undeciphered) ranging
from monastic discipline to medicine, culinary art and folk tales
examination of the antiquity of the material, i.e., birch bark, in which these manuscripts
were found
references to the text from other sources, for example, experts say that a Buddhist monk,
Narendrayasa of the Northern Tshi Dynasty translated it to Chinese in 557 A.D.
Subsequently, there are references to other translations as well.

4.2
World significance, uniqueness and irreplaceability:
Needless to say, the consequence of the loss of one of the oldest testimonies of written text is an
irreparable loss to the culture, faith, countries of its influence and to humanity as well. The
significance of these priceless manuscripts is self-evident, for experts feel that when the full text is
deciphered a common thread will be found in the language and people of countries like India,
China, Japan, Thailand, Tibet and Korea which would have the potential of altering the very
geo-political map of the region.
Though the grammatical and literary aspects of the text are gradually becoming more of historical
interest in the contemporary world, what is of interest is the social relevance of some of the sutras
mentioned in the manuscripts.
The interest of international scholarship in Gilgit manuscripts is evident from the fact that many
researchers from across the world have shown interest in these texts, and that illustrious scholars like
Prof. Guisseppe Tucci and Prof. Raniero Gnoli have worked on them.
Apart from the literary significance of these manuscripts, they also provide examples of fine art work
in the painted wooden covers in the manuscripts found in Kashmir. They mark an important phase in
the art of the book in India, for they were seen not merely as records of information but also things of
beauty in themselves.
4.3

The criteria of (a) time (b) place (c) people (d) subject and theme (e) form and style

Time: From scholarly analysis and interpretation, it is surmised that the time of composition of these
texts may be from the 5th to the 6th centuries A.D.
Place: The larger portion of the manuscripts was discovered in Gilgit (now in Pakistan occupied
Kashmir) by cattle grazers, which was then taken to the erstwhile Maharaja (King) of Jammu and
Kashmir and later transferred to the National Archives of India. The second lot was also found in
Gilgit and the third portion was procured by Prof. Guiseppe Tucci.

People: The Gilgit manuscripts would be of immense significance to the scholarly community and to
practicing Buddhists, as a complete access would unravel many areas of such interest. It would also
benefit historians and linguists who could throw light on aspects concerning the history of that period.
Subject and Theme: The manuscripts deal with a variety of Buddhist canonical literature chiefly of
the Mulasarvastivada canonical text and a few of Mahayana and other schools of Hinayana. These
texts deal with monastic disciplines, discourses of the Buddha for lay people, and some narratives.
Form and Style: The language of the manuscripts is similar to those of the early Mahayana texts,
which use a special style of Prakrit, using largely Prakrit words with Sanskrit inflexion and Sanskrit
words with Prakrit inflexion. From the style of language in these texts, it is surmised these texts were
prevalent in a certain period in the extreme North West of India.
Originally written in Buddhist Sanskrit with some traces of Prakrit, the Gilgit manuscripts contain four
sutra-s. The Lotus Sutra which even today is an important scripture in Buddhism, pervading most of
the regions in South and South East Asia, forms a part of this corpus.
4.4

The issues of rarity, integrity, threat and management

Rarity: The Gilgit manuscripts are unique because they are single texts available to the world today,
and are the only manuscripts of their kind. Therefore the damage or loss of these manuscripts would
mean the loss of memory and knowledge contained in these particular texts.
Integrity: The veracity and integrity of the Gilgit documents have been proven in a time-tested
manner. After their discovery more than sixty years ago, they have been housed in the two repositories
mentioned above, with possibly small portions in the British Museum and the Government Museum in
Karachi, Pakistan though we do not have firsthand evidence. About the latter two, there is not enough
information available with the nominators presently, but it could be pursued subsequently, for making
a comprehensive catalogue. These manuscripts have been subjected to scholarly analysis and
interpretation, and have been found to be of immense value to the world.
Threat: The threat to the Gilgit documents is in the nature of their storage, lack of proper
conservation, lack of digital/microfilm copies (which makes the physical material being referred to
from time to time) and most importantly, the fact that the knowledge content has not been made
known in its entirety.
Management: So far, the management plans for re-integrating the corpus of Gilgit manuscripts have
not been very effective. The first task being envisaged is to search for the entire corpus of the text
from other places (such as the British Museum and the Karachi Museum, if some leaves or some
portions of the text are available there), compile and catalogue them, give preventive and curative
conservation treatment, take up digitization of the text and enhance study through research and
publication.
5.
5.1 and 5.2

LEGAL INFORMATION

. Owner and Custodian of the Documentary Heritage.

The custodians and owners in this case are categorically the same repositories. The Director till his
period of appointment is the owner of the heritage, to be succeeded by the next person who takes
charge after he leaves/ retires from the job.
5.3

It is also essential to establish the full legal status of the documentary heritage as follows:

(a)

Category of ownership:

10

Owned by Institutions in the Government Sector.


The National Archives of India is the repository of the non-current records of the Government of
India and is holding them in trust for the use of administrators and scholars. It is an Attached Office of
the Department of Culture under Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India.
The Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and
Kashmir, is the Attached Office of the State (provincial) Government of Jammu and Kashmir in India
(b)

Accessibility

Presently, access is given to the manuscripts only with the permission of the concerned authority
(Director General, National Archives of India and the Director, The State Government Libraries and
Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir. This practice is adopted because of the antiquity, rarity
and vulnerability of the material, i.e. these are the only manuscripts available, these need to be
conserved scientifically and digital copies should be made available for wider dissemination.
(c)

Copyright status
Copyright in this case rests with the Central and State governmentsthe National Archives in
New Delhi and the Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department,
Jammu and Kashmir.

(d)

Responsible administration
The Director-General, National Archives, New Delhi and Director, J&K State Government
Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir, are legally responsible for
safekeeping of the material. Legally, both these manuscripts collections are in safe custody.

(e) Other factors: are there other matters that should be noted? For example, is any institution
required by law to preserve the documentary heritage in this nomination?
Not applicable.
6.

MANAGEMENT PLAN

6.1 Summary details of the management plan for the documentary heritage
a statement of the significance of the documentary heritage
The corpus of Gilgit manuscripts are a unique collection of texts dealing with different aspects
of knowledge pertaining to Buddhism that has been handed down from the 5th and 6th
Centuries A.D. These are the oldest documents available in India. It is significant that these
manuscripts have not been copied elsewhere, and so these are the only documents that have
recorded the knowledge contained in them. The variety of subjects dealt with in these
manuscripts is a testimony to the knowledge, life and times of the era.
policy and procedures for access and preservation
The corpus of manuscripts in the National Archives of India has limited access. For viewing
or referring to the manuscripts, a special permission has to be taken from the Director General
of National Archives and the manuscripts will be available for reference only in presence of
the Librarian from the Institution. All the pages of the birch bark documents have been
laminated by the National Archives. They have been covered in cloth and have been preserved
in iron cupboards. However, there is no air-conditioning in the room. The manuscripts in the
Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and
Kashmir, are not that well-preserved. They have been put in bundles and kept in a corner in

11

the Library. The access is again limited as there has never been any proper preservation policy
except the fact that outsiders are not given free use of the material. The corpus needs to be
catalogued, conserved and stored properly before a policy for access can be worked out.

Year

preservation budget

Activity

Amount

Cataloging and Documentation (Expert Consultancy)


Research on typology and nature of manuscript
material
preparation of research based Conservation status
report

500,000

Preparation of Conservation Strategy on the basis of


conservation status report by eminent paper
conservators of India and abroad

100,000

2006

400,000

Implementation of Conservation Strategies


Preventive Conservation
2007 Maintenance of Macro/Micro Climate
Installation of humidifiers, de-humidifiers, thermo
hygrographs.
Curative Conservation

1,000,000

Preparation of detailed curative conservation plan


Documentation and analysis of previous conservation
Status
2008 Curative Conservation Treatment

100,000
300,000

1,000,000

2,500,000

Storage
Preparation of a detailed storage plan and maintenance
report

100,000

Establishment of proper storage area

1,000,000

Establishment of proper storage facilities which


includes special racks and air-conditioning facilities

2,000,000

Preparation of disaster management plan

1,500,000

Installation of fire fighting equipments


Installation of fire detecting equipments
Installation of disaster management kit.
Preparation of a disaster management team
Installation of security equipments

Total

9,500,000

12

Total Budget = Rs 9,500,000


$ 213,747.33 USD

Available conservation expertise and facilities and explain how these are maintained

Presently, the National Archives has a team of conservators, but the Library in the J&K State
Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir, is not fully equipped
with this expertise. Once the recognition is granted, it will give a boost to the activities
pertaining to the conservation of these invaluable documents. The National Mission for
Manuscripts has a team of senior conservation experts who will guide the process of
preservation assisted by junior conservators.

Physical environment of the material (e.g. air quality, temperature and humidity,
shelving, security)

It is expected that the following treatment would be given:


Relative humidity between 45-60%
Temperature between 20-24 C
Air Conditioning 24 hours a day to maintain constant temperature
If not local humidification can be given.
Maximum light for paper manuscripts is 50 Lux.
Use of UV filters
Insect proof storage area

and RH.

Disaster preparedness strategy

As discussed above
Proposed Management Plan
The facsimile edition of the Gilgit Buddhist Manuscripts, by the International Academy of
Indian Culture furnishes a list (part 1) of more than fifty Buddhist texts, believed to comprise the
collection of the Gilgit Manuscripts, now in the custody of National Archives of India, New Delhi.
The list is not an analytical and descriptive catalogue of the texts contained therein.
However, more work is needed to compile a complete and easily accessible text.
It is, therefore, proposed:
1.

i.
That the leaves of the original manuscripts may be
digitized with care
being taken to maintain the integrity of the text.
ii.
That a descriptive and analytical catalogue of the individual texts contained in
the collection may be prepared.
iii.
That a paleographic chart may be prepared of the late Gupta Brahmi script
(along with its variations) and proto-Sarada script which have been employed to write
those manuscripts under consideration. The Mission has under its command such
specialists who can read and decipher several dozens of ancient, mediaeval and
modern scripts of India and Southeast Asia. Besides, necessary aid may be derived
from:
Sander, Lore. Palaeographisches zu den Sanskrithandschriften der Berliner
Turfansammlung. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1968.
iv.
That a team of five/six young Sanskrit scholars, who are acquainted with
Buddhist Sanskrit texts are trained to read the Gilgit Manuscripts for documentation
and also for editing of the texts.

13

2.
Another set of Gilgit manuscript is lying in the library of the J&K State Government
Research Department at Srinagar. The bundles have not yet been surveyed though they
deserve full and effective attention. It is proposed:
i.
ii.
iii.
iv.

That a preliminary survey of the collection by a competent team may be


made.
That steps are taken to identify the exact texts contained in the collection.
That the manuscripts are given conservation treatment, with a view to
preserving them from decay and mutilation.
That the manuscripts be digitized and made accessible.

3.
With the recognition that the Gilgit manuscripts contain an important Memory of the
World, projects regarding publication and creation of critical editions may be undertaken
(particularly of texts like Mahapratisara and Mudrasadhana related to Tantric Buddhism,
Saddharmapundarikasutra and Ashtadasasahasrika Prajnaparamita using the Gilgit versions
etc.). A comprehensive linguistic study of languages and dialects contained in the Gilgit
manuscripts may also be undertaken.

7.
7.1

CONSULTATION

Consultation has been done with the heads of the repositories, i.e., Mr. K. Jayakumar, Director
General, the National Archives, New Delhi and Mr. Syed Mohammad Fazalullah, Director,
the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir,
Srinagar, and their permission to put up the candidature file has been procured. Consultation
has also been done with the National Commission, UNESCO, New Delhi, which authorizes
nominations for the Memory of the World
PART B SUBSIDIARY INFORMATION

8.
8.1

ASSESSMENT OF RISK

Political situation inside and outside the country

The manuscripts in the National Archives are in safe custody, but the vulnerable political situation in
Jammu and Kashmir makes the corpus in the Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and
Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir, susceptible to possibilities of danger.

Environmental conditions inside and outside the storage building


Not applicable

Physical conditions of the material

The method of storage in the Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research
Department needs improvement, while the physical condition is satisfactory in the New Delhi
collection. However, expert opinions will be sought for improving the physical condition of both

Insufficient preservation budget

There is no constraint in budget, but there has been a lack of attention to this heritage. If the
nomination is included in the Register, it will be helpful in correcting this lapse.

Extent and nature of access provided.

14

Already explained

9. ASSESSMENT OF PRESERVATION
9.1

Detail the preservation context of the nominated documentary heritage.

Its present physical state

The present physical state of the Gilgit manuscripts is fairly satisfactory in New Delhi, since some
conservation has already been done. The physical material of birch bark is durable, and so there is no
immediate risk of damage. In Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research
Department, Jammu and Kashmir, though the material is not kept in the most satisfactory manner, the
climate being temperate and cold during most of the year, is not likely to be damaged in the immediate
future, though there is a need for taking up preventive and curative conservation.

Its preservation history

The National Archives does regular dusting and cleaning of the manuscripts. It has also laminated
(reversible process) the pages, and therefore the manuscripts are in good condition. However, those at
the Library in the J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir,
have not been preserved properly, and are kept in bundles. These need to be given conservation
treatment.

Current preservation policy (including facilities and trained staff available)

Both the institutions have good buildings, cupboards and dust-free atmosphere. There is no provision
for air-conditioning. There is enough staff strength for conservation, including Conservator and junior
conservation workforce, but they need to be well-trained in current methods and strategies of
conservation.

The person/organization responsible for preservation, if appropriate

The Director General, National Archives and the Director, J&K State Government Libraries and
Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir, are the persons responsible for preservation, supported by
Conservation specialists.
The National Mission for Manuscripts which has the mandate of the documentation, preservation and
dissemination of the manuscript wealth of India, has trained hundreds of persons on both preventive
and curative conservation across the country, is also responsible for the preservation of these
manuscripts.

Part C - LODGEMENT
This nomination is lodged by Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, Mission Director, National Mission for
Manuscripts, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India.

Signature

Date

15

16

Acknowledgements
Mrs. Neena Ranjan, Secretary, Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government
of India
Advisors
Mr. K. Jayakumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and Culture,
Government of India, New Delhi
Dr. M.C. Joshi, Ex Member Secretary, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi.
Prof. T.N. Ganjoo, University of Kashmir, Srinagar
Prof. V. Kutumba Shastri, Vice Chancellor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi.
Prof. Kapil Kapoor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Prof. A.D. Safavi, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Dr. Gayas Maqdoomi, Jamia Milia University, New Delhi.
Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, Mission Director, National Mission for Manuscripts
Dr. D.K. Rana, Assistant Mission Director, National Mission for Manuscripts
Ms. Gitanjali Surendran, Coordinator, National Mission for Manuscripts
Resource Persons
Pandit Satkari Mukhopadhyaya, Scholar of Sanskrit and Buddhism and Ex-Coordinator, Indira Gandhi
National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
Mr. K. Jayakumar, Director General, National Archives of India, New Delhi
Mr. Syed Mohammad Fazalullah, Director, J&K State Government Libraries
Report Prepared By
Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, Mission Director, National Mission for Manuscripts
Supported By
Ms. Gitanjali Surendran, Coordinator, National Mission for Manuscripts
Mr. Anurag Arora, Coordinator, National Mission for Manuscripts
Ms. Neeraja Gopi, Central Training Team, National Mission for Manuscripts
Photo Acknowledgements
National Archives of India, New Delhi
J&K State Government Libraries and Research Department, Jammu and Kashmir