After the successful digital makeover to the Mewar Ramayana, the British Library plans to apply that treatment to other historical documents. It took three years for the British Library to create the digital copies of the Mewar Ramayana, considered to be one of the best illustrated manuscripts of the great Hindu epic. Marina Chellini, curator of North Indian languages at the library, said the project to digitize the Mewar Ramayana is just the beginning for the British Library.
The collections that Chellini stated they have in their possession include “manuscripts, early printed books, research level publications, prints, and drawings.”
“The Sanskrit collection is small by Indian standards, but very choiced,” said Jeremiah Losty, Asian and African Studies head. “The Buddhist Sanskrit texts from 12th century from Nepal and Eastern India, with beautiful illuminations done in the monasteries particularly stand out.” Both Losty and Chellini were in Mumbai last week to mark the completion of digitization of the Ramayana, which can now be accessed from the CSMVS and the British Library sites.
The India Office of the library also has in their possession the Razmnama, the Persian translation of the Mahabharata, another great Hindu epic.
“Many people in the 18th and 19th century, who came to India from the UK and Europe, were avid collectors of manuscripts and paintings. The majority of the Indian miniatures come from the collection of Richard Johnson, who was in India in the East India Company’s service 1770-90,” said Losty.
Other digitization projects for the British Library include the Early Bengali Book Project, in partnership with the National Library situated in Kolkata. The British Library is also slated to take up digitization work of the Adi Granth, considered the most sacred book of the Sikhs.
As for the digitization project of the Mewar Ramayana, the British Library collaborated with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya in Mumbai, as the original manuscript was split between the two. Books two, four, five, six, and seven of the Ramayana are held by the British Library, while Book one is in the possession of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya. Book three is with the Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute in Jodhpur. Unfortunately, the only part left of Book five is an album of eighteen paintings.
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