India’s manuscripts are scattered in known and unknown collections across the country. One of the main programmes of the National Mission for Manuscripts is the first concerted effort to create and compile a National Database of Indian Manuscripts. As the most significant contribution of the Mission, it is being compiled with information on Indian manuscripts in public and private collections that is gathered through different information collection processes.

When it was established in 2002, one of the challenges before the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) was to collect information about the availability of manuscripts, to locate manuscripts and to prepare a national database of manuscripts. It seemed to be challenging considering the fact that unlike developed countries of the West, availability of manuscripts in India is not limited to organized repositories only. Here manuscripts are available in libraries, muthas, temples, mosques as well as in households. Therefore, it is not only the country with largest number of manuscripts but also the largest number of repositories. From Mizoram to Gujarat and from Leh to Kanyakumari, one may come across manuscript anywhere. Presumption in this regard is bound to be proved futile.

After establishment, NMM has formulated a detail plan to face this challenge of locating and documenting manuscripts. In its first and second phases of existence, emphasis was given on door to door survey to locate   manuscript repositories and detail documentation through post survey.  Simultaneously, under a strategy which is aimed at far reaching consequences, a network of institutions locating at different corners of the country has been created. The institutional framework has been worked out to entrust upon the responsibility of locating and documenting manuscripts to these institutions. Gradually the network of institutions has stated to shoulder the responsibility of documentation with more eficiency and accuracy. As a result the emphasis has shifted and survey and post−survey activities are carried out through Manuscript Resource Centres or MRCs now. This is a remarkable shift from the policy followed earlier, though the very seed of the network was sowed just after the beginning of the Mission. Steps have been taken to strengthen the network and make it more comprehensive and effective. As a result, a number of almost inactive MRCs have been rejuvenated and a large number of new MRCs have been established to end the regional imbalance and give the much needed boost up to data collection.

Most of the manuscript wealth of India has not been documented in a manner to provide a common portal for reference to aid scholars and researchers. In many instances, there has been no knowledge of or access to these manuscripts, creating a gap between the knowledge cultures of the past and present.

NMM is engaged in detailed documentation of manuscripts in India, by creating a National Catalogue of Manuscripts. This electronic catalogue provides information of manuscripts from institutions, religious, cultural and educational, as well as private collections across the country.

Objectives of documentation

  • Location of the unknown manuscript reserves in the country, both in institutional and private repositories
  • Documentation of the entire estimated ten million manuscripts of the country
  • Reaching out to the grass root level for gathering information on manuscripts, as well as spreading awareness
  • Creation of the electronic catalogue of manuscripts to be made available on the Internet