Preserving more Marathi manuscripts and making them accessible - major project (EAP248)

Aims and objectives

Marathi is a New Indo-Aryan language with inscriptional evidence extending back to A.D. 1012 and literature beginning in the 13th century. Manuscripts of this literature are found in university and monastery libraries and in private homes, mostly in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Some Marathi manuscripts are extremely rare and valuable; a significant number are copies of texts that have not yet been published and that most people have therefore not even heard of. These manuscripts provide most of the extant evidence for the early phase of one of the major regional cultures of India.

The texts whose manuscripts this project will preserve and make accessible are, for the most part, religious in their inspiration, but they also give a great deal of evidence about everyday life in pre-modern India, and some of them relate to such sciences as medicine, astronomy, engineering, and horse-breeding. They are thus great resources for intellectual and social as well as religious history.

It is estimated that there are more than 25,000 Marathi manuscripts in Maharashtra. Many are in a state of neglect. They are not systematically catalogued, in most cases they are not carefully preserved, and in no case have they been made easily available to scholars throughout the world. Some libraries that house manuscripts have inadequate arrangements for protecting them even from dust and insects, let alone humidity; in private homes, manuscripts are often stuffed into gunny-sacks in dusty, smoky attics.

Modernisation and the advance of new technologies are proceeding rapidly in Maharashtra; there is more and more disposable income; and yet funding (both public and private) for preserving the basic sources for Marathi literary culture is woefully inadequate. Manuscripts in private homes are often discarded or even burned as the generation that cherished them dies off and another takes over and cleans out the house. Institutions devoted to the preservation of traditional literary culture and history suffer from inadequate funding. There is no organisation planning to catalogue or preserve, let alone copy to make accessible, the tens of thousands of Marathi manuscripts in Maharashtra itself. The Marathi Manuscript Centre in Pune was therefore founded and has begun the collection of manuscripts and preparation of a catalogue.

The material to be copied under this project is presently found in two institutions in India: 510 catalogued manuscripts at the library of the Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute in Pune, and 359 manuscripts of the Prajna Pathshala collection from Wai, which has been donated to the Marathi Manuscript Centre.

Both digital and microfilm copies of these 869 manuscripts will be created. Besides sending the microfilms and one copy of the digital version of each manuscript to the British Library, one digital copy will be retained in the Marathi Manuscript Center, Pune. Deccan College will be given digital and microfilm copies. These 869 manuscripts should produce approximately 120 rolls of microfilm, and the digital copies (.tiff files and .pdf files) should fill 24 DVDs.

The project will also focus on the need to involve and train a new generation of manuscriptologists. For this purpose, a three-day manuscriptology workshop will be held, selecting 20 MA, MPhil, or PhD students from Maharashtra to learn how to read, catalogue and care for Marathi manuscripts. In addition one postgraduate (MPhil or PhD) student will work as an apprentice in manuscriptology for the duration of the project.


The project created microfilm and digital copies of 943 Marathi manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 17th centuries. The complete Marathi manuscript collections of the Prajna Pathshala in Wai and the Anandashram in Pune have been copied, as well as those remaining manuscripts belonging to the Marathi Manuscript Centre that were not copied in the earlier pilot project EAP023. The copies have been deposited with the Marathi Manuscript Centre in Pune and with the British Library.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: