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Tughlaq, Jain works vie for roll of honour

    New Delhi, August 5, 2012: The only surviving copy — and in all probably narrated by the king himself — of a manuscript on medicine and architecture flourishing under Tughlaq ruler Firoz Shah, and another manuscript on the 16th Jain Tirathankara Shantinath, will compete at the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

    Seerat-e-Firoz Shahi and Shantinath Charitra — housed respectively at Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library in Patna and Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad — have been nominated by the Ministry of Culture and the National Mission for Manuscripts as India’s entries to UNESCO’s universal register of heritage documentation.

    A collection of documents, manuscripts, oral traditions, audiovisual material, and library and archival holdings of universal value, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register aims to preserve and protect the world’s documentary heritage and make it universally accessible.

    While India boasts a wealth of manuscripts, so far only five of those nominated by the government have been inscribed in the the register — the Rig Veda manuscripts from Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (Pune) in 2007, the IAS Tamil medic manuscript collection in 1997, Saiva manuscripts, Pondicherry, in 2005 and the Tarikh-i-Khandan-i-Timuriyah and the Laghu Kalachakra Tantra Raja Tika in 2011.

    Prof Dipti Tripathi, director of NAMAMI, says the nomination dossier has been sent to UNESCO whose expert panels will assess them.

    Seerat-e-Firozshahi is a manuscript dating back to the 16th century with a wealth of detail on the architecture and times of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1309-1388). He is known to have owned a library of manuscripts, and for having transported two Ashokan pillars to Delhi from Topara and Meerut. “The Seerat-e-Firozshahi is a first-hand account of this proposal to bring the Ashokan pillars to Delhi, focuses on the architecture and environment of the times and the systems of medicine in use. The manuscript reveals how culling of birds was seen as a process for balancing of species and has observations on astronomy, ” says Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, director of Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library.

    The last page of this Persian manuscript, where the author would have inscribed his name, is missing. “It is widely believed it is an autobiographical work; Firoz Shah may have narrated it to a scribe. The original dates back to the 14th century and was never found,” adds Ahmed.

    Shantinath Charitra is a 13th century manuscript in Sanskrit by Ajita Prabhasuri on the life of the Tirathankara. “Its historical significance lies in the fact that this is probably the oldest manuscript with miniature paintings, and one of the first to be written on paper-palm leaves,” says Dr Jeetendra B Shah, director of L D Institute.

    The manuscripts

    Seerat-e-Firoz Shahi

    16th century copy, Persian

    Writer: Not on record, 14th original possibly narrated by Firoz Shah Tughlaq

    Contents: Accounts of king’s proposal to bring Ashokan pillars to Delhi, architecture, environment, systems of medicine in use then, balancing of species, astronomy, methods for setting up astrolabs

    Shantinath Charitra

    13th century, Sanskrit

    Writer: Ajita Prabhasuri

    Contents: The life of 16th Jain Tirathankara Shantinath. Probably the oldest manuscript with miniature paintings, one of the first to be written on paper-palm leaves.
    – News Courtesy: The Indian Express

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