With Bharat Yagnik

AHMEDABAD: Takao Hayashi, a Japanese scholar from Kyoto, hunted for Patasarani, a 17th century palm-leaf manuscript on mathematics by mathematician Ganesha Daivajna in libraries across India. His quest finally ended at BJ Institute of Learning and Research in Ahmedabad.

The research resulted in a PhD thesis on history of Indian mathematics and astronomy. Likewise, when US researcher Abigail McGowan wanted to study ancient water conservation in India, she headed for Gujarat.

With one in every five ancient Indian manuscripts, Gujarat is attracting foreign scholarsresearching an array of subjects. Centres like LD Institute of Indology, MS University’s Oriental Institute, Hemchandracharya Gyan Mandir at Patan, Jain Aradhna Kendra at Koba and BJ Institute are the new hubs of scholars from across the world.

While many have started digitizing their manuscripts, others have launched special courses. Private collectors and educational institutions in Gujarat collectively hold around 20 lakh manuscripts according to one estimate.

Director of BJ Institute Ramji Savaliya said that so far manuscripts were associated with the study of religions like Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism. “But, now ancient texts are being used to understand the time period’s culture and traditions. We get more than 20 scholars every year from countries like China, Canada, Germany, the UK and the US,” he said.

Jeetendra Shah, director of LD Institute of Indology, adds that apart from pure Indian subjects such as languages, mythology and religious texts, researchers flock to the state for architecture, astronomy, biology, medicine, dance and drama, mathematics and metallurgy studies.

“Gujarat has texts ranging from ninth century to 18th century. Thanks to patronage of the kings and affluent businessmen, education and preservation of various texts was considered very important,” Shah said.

Kanu Shah of Koba Jain Aaradhana Kendra says that the centre is primarily of interest to Jain scholars. “More than 25 foreign scholars come annually,” he adds.

The interest has also created demand for experts of languages such as Pali, Prakrit and Apbhransh that motivated BJ Institute to launch a course on manuscripts last month.

Officials say that an expert in copying manuscripts or a translator can earn anywhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 35,000. Savaliya says most students for the course have a professional background.


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