Digitisation of pre-modern Hindu ritual manuscripts from Kathmandu Valley (EAP945)

Aims and objectives

This project aims to digitise the collection of Mr Upendra Bhakta Subedi, alias Govinda Baje, 81, a descendant of an illustrious family of Rajopadhyaya Brahmins from the heart of Kathmandu Valley. The Rajopadhyayas were the priests of the Malla Kings and Mr Subedi's family have been priests in various temples in the Valley including Mahavadeva Temple at Makkhan, and the Basantapur Aagum‐‐tutelary deity of the Malla Kings. The ancestors of Mr Subedi were renowned Tantric practitioners like Jujuram, alias Jeeva Gyaneshwar. A popular myth mentions that one his ancestors was transformed into a widely revered Tantric deity called Bijeshwari‐‐Bijyasa: Ajima.

The collection has manuscripts ranging from 17th-19th centuries by Mr Subedi's ancestors. They are mostly manuals on Hindu secret rites and rituals in the languages of Sanskrit, Newari and Nepali, and scripts of Devanagari, Pracalit and Pacumva. The manuscripts are in the form of Thyasaphus--folded books, loose and bound folios in Nepali paper totalling about 10,000 folios. The material is located in the ancestral Aagam house of Mr Upendra Bhakta Subedi. A colophon in the house mentions that restoration work on the building was last carried out over 150 years ago. The earthquakes of April 25 and May 12 2015 severely damaged the house and though still standing, it is not inhabitable and safe anymore, which makes retrieval of the collections a challenge in itself. The collection is scattered around the many floors in the house, including some in the attic. The ensuing monsoon after the earthquake has damaged a substantial portion of the manuscripts, requiring immediate intervention including minor conservation and preservation work. Given that the house lies abandoned and unguarded and thefts of medieval artefacts, idols and manuscripts have happened in the past, it is important that these records are preserved as soon as possible.