The consecration ceremony of Ayodhya Ram Mandir found resonance in Gujarat’s Vadodara where a two-day exhibition was held at the Oriental Institute of MS University displaying Ramayana manuscripts, including the ‘Ayodhya Mahatmya’, dating back to September 14, 1655 AD.
outed as one of the oldest recorded documents testifying the Temple, it was cited as evidence by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Punarudhar Samiti in Varanasi in the Supreme court proceedings leading up to the historic judgment.
The Ayodhya Mahatmya is part of the Skand Purana of the 7th to 9th century which was copied by Pandit Harishankar in 1655. It was in 2005 that a committee of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple trust, a party in the Supreme Court litigation, asked the Oriental Institute to provide a copy of the manuscript as “conclusive evidence” in proving the birthplace of Lord Rama.
It was considered crucial scriptural evidence that lent credence to the present site of Ram Janmabhoomi as the birthplace of Lord Ram. The Ayodhya Mahatmya is from the genre of literature that describes cities of pilgrimage – their religious importance as well as geographic details.”
It proved the exact location of the Ram Janmabhoomi that was supported by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) where the Babri Masjid stood. There are many other manuscripts, but since the one at MSU is dated, it was crucial and conclusive evidence.
The two-day display of the manuscripts at the Manuscript Exhibition Hall of the institute began on the evening of January 22, following the Pran Pratishtha ceremony in Ayodhya, and went on until January 24. It saw a stream of visitors from the university as well as senior academicians. Along with the Ayodhya Mahatmya, the Critical Edition Wing of the Oriental Institute also put up on display the Ramayana Manuscripts – the only critical edition of the complete Valmiki Ramayana available in the country is at MS University.
It was on March 12, 1951 that a Ramayana Department was set up at the institute to especially prepare the critical edition of complete Valmiki Ramayana by studying interpolations from all the seven kandas (books).
After the completion of Valmiki Ramayana in 1975, on the suggestion of the University Grants Commission, a permanent Critical Edition Department was established which has so far completed the ‘Vishnupurana’ in two volumes, and the ‘Markandeyapurana’ in three volumes while the work on ‘Vayupurana’ is under progress. The Institute also has a ‘Vishwamitra Mahatmya’, which is a manuscript of the glorious past of Vadodara city.
The Oriental Institute signed an MoU with the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), Delhi for the Manuscript Conservation Centre in 2019 for preventive conservation as well as curative treatment of manuscripts.
The Institute has a Manuscript Section, which has 30,421 manuscripts in different Indian scripts and on different materials such as paper, palm leaf, and even barks of trees. The manuscripts are accessioned and catalogued in five volumes and digitised under the project with NMM.
The Printed Section is enriched with over 1 lakh printed books on Indology and Research journals of reputed institutions in India and abroad. The Translation Branch owes its existence to the princely donation of Rs 2 lakh made by the Late Maharaja Sayajirao at the session of the fourth Gujarati Literary Conference held in Baroda in 1912 for the publication of popular literature in Gujarati, Marathi and Hindi. In 1931, this section, which was originally a branch of the Commissioner of Education, was annexed to the Oriental Institute.
The Manuscript Exhibition Hall has on display ancient writing material, various types of manuscripts, copper plates, astrolabes (astronomical instrument), Sri Yantras (mystical diagrams), scrolls, Ganjipha and illustrated manuscripts for visitors.
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