Sunday, March 3, 2013

Oldest Project on Sanskrit manuscripts withering away!


New Catalogus Catalogorum Project: short of funds, idle 
Short of funds, Sanskrit project stays idle
CHENNAI, February 12, 2013


The Hindu The project, started in 1933 by the British government, is a 40-volume encyclopaedic work. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

At University of Madras, one of country's oldest projects still awaits part of sanctioned amount

One of the oldest projects in the country, assigned to the Sanskrit department of the University of Madras, is in danger of being stalled, mainly due to lack of funds.

The project, New Catalogus Catalogorum, a huge 40-volume project started back in 1933 by the British government, is an encyclopaedic work on unpublished manuscripts, an alphabetical register of Sanskrit manuscripts and allied works and authors found anywhere in the world.

The manuscripts cover a variety of subjects ranging from religion, philosophy and literature to sciences like astronomy, mathematics, medicine, architecture, metallurgy, yoga, management, governance, polity and town planning.

"Millions of manuscripts are available all over the country, preserved in libraries, mutts, museums, and many other public and private collections, and many have travelled to different parts of world. The purpose of the project is to take stock of manuscripts, available anywhere in the world, cataloguing and documenting them to assist researchers and student enthusiasts of Indology," said Siniruddha Dash, head, Sanskrit department, University of Madras.

Department teachers say only fourteen volumes were completed by 2000 but the momentum of the work picked up since 2000. Eleven volumes were completed and published in four years (2003-2007) with a grant of Rs. 75 lakh from the National Mission for Manuscripts, IGNCA, department of Culture Government of India. 

"We had 25 volumes of the catalogue ready by then, after which we submitted our budget for funds in 2007. But the proposal was accepted only in 2010. We received only Rs. 50 lakh of the sanctioned Rs. 2 crore. We managed to bring out seven more volumes but there is not much we can do with the limited amount," says a senior official of the department.

With assistance from the State government being minimal, the project has always been dependent on Central government funds. The department is still waiting for the remaining Rs. 1.5 crore to complete the project.

"It is one of the few exhaustive, ambitious projects in the country and we have been very dedicated to its cause," said Prof. Dash. "Scholars traced the availability of vast number of manuscripts available in South India, rich not only in quantity but also in quality. At the suggestion of Dr. A. C. Woolner, the then Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University and head of Sanskrit Studies, it was decided to undertake this project," said Prof. Dash.

"Now, when it is nearing completion, it is stalled. All the delay has affected the project a lot," said Prof. Dash. 

European scholars too, he said, have written to various committees urging immediate release of funds for the project. "We get calls almost everyday for published volumes. They get sold in three months. When the whole world is showing an immense interest in Sanskrit, stalling of the project due to lack of funds is unfortunate," said Prof. Dash.

The project needs at least 30 trained professionals trained in manuscript reading and documenting of their details but they have been managing with just seven, say project members. "Due to shortage of faculty members, we appointed some retired scholars on contract basis. They have been waiting for their arrears too, and one of them has died doing so," says a senior professor.

Researchers claim the project has not got much help from the State government. "Citing history and politics of the State, many have tried to stall the projectmany times. However, with the new V-C, there is a sense of hope. Salaries for last two months have come. We hope the Central government takes note of our plight too," said a professor.

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