PROMISES FOR NEXT MILLENNIUM
by Dr. Gautam
ASIATIC SOCIETY OF INDIA
Asiatic Society is an heritage Institution of
India is the fountain head of Indian renaissance for the newly
found research vision and mission of eighteenth century. In an
exclusive interview Prof. Anil Sarkar, General Secretary of
Asiatic Society talks to Dr Gautam Chatterjee about the holdings
of the Institute and highlights the promises of the next
G.C. Why Asiatic Society is an Heritage Institution?
Prof. Sarkar: The Asiatic Society was founded in 1784 by Sir
William Jones. You would be wondering if you know about the
first spelling. It was ASIATIC Society. This was the forum where
from other heritage institution were born like Indian Museum
,Survey of India etc. From here renaissance or the new awakening
started rolling. Today it is a socio-cultural and scientific
repository which is open to the world to explore.
G.C.: Taking cue from the world ‘Open’ I may like to ask how
open you have been in last fifty years.!
Prof Sarkar: Earlier it was a vision to the world as if viewing
from the hole now we may like to open up the treasure of Asiatic
Society to the world.
G.C.; Please enlighten us about the treasure of Asiatic
Society which it seems common man does not have an iota of
understanding barring few scholars!
Prof Sarkar: Well! Asiatic society is a treasure house. We have
several million heritage items say we have around one lakh rare
books and the oldest one is 15th century printed book.
Moreover,there are several thousands books on Indology.
G.C. What about Manuscripts?
Prof Sarkar: Yes, I am telling you! First of all we have around
45000 original Mss. And those are of different scripts like
Brahmi, Sarda, Devnagiri etc. The earliest one is a 7th century
A.D. Mss titled Kubjikamata Tantra which is of later Gupta
Script and its treatise on Tantra contemplations. There are
illustrated Mss of Padshanama and hordes of xylographs written
in Brumise script and other scripts. Those are written in golden
colours on black background some are punctuated with
illustrations and drawings as well.
Moreover, we have a 250 B.C. Ashokan Edict known as Vairat
inscriptions. This is a bilingual inscription.
The script in Brahmi and languages are Pali and Sanskrit.
The edict talks about the Dharma of Buddha.
G.C.: I am really amazed! Do people know all these? Why don’t
you establish a museum?
Prof Sarkar: We have a small exhibition but lack of space and
fund poses problem for creating a museum. First we want to open
up a small Museum of rare photographs which will be followed by
an album in print!
G.C.: Do you have rare paintings in your institute?
Prof. Sarkar: Yes, we have 48 rare paintings mostly of 19th
century rare paintings. But lack of space those are kept in
small room you can have a look! (I had seen those store house of
paintings which was really in bad shape and needs breathing
space for those rare creations which are worth some million
G.C.: Why don’t you get the corporate help to open a
Museum---for the world?
Prof Sarkar; Yes, we hope that corporate world like ITC, Tata
might comeforward to help us. It is interesting to note that
Asiatic society was the mother of Indian Museum and today its
neglected totally partly due to internal politics and secondly
lack of governmental patronage. If you want to save this
heritage corporate should step in!
G.C.: Why is that Asiatic Society remained unsung in the
Golden Jubilee year of India’s independence.?
Prof. Sarkar: The calendar of Event for the Golden Jubilee
‘Yugpad’ omitted ‘Asiatic Society’ and it was not celebrated.
And the budget for 1996-97 was 3.5 cores and it was slashed to
1.8 crore in the 97-98 and that too could not be spent by the
Asiatic Society itself.
G.C. Lets go away from controversy can you enlighten us about
Asiatic Society’s publication endeavor. As perhaps Asiatic
Society is the oldest Publisher of India.
Prof. Sarkar Yes! In 1784 the first scientific periodical in
India ‘Asiatic Research’ was published which continued unto
1839. We have twenty volume and indices. Again in 1832 Asiatic
Society Journal came out which totals today 2200. In 1848
Bibliotica Indica was published which talks about the Book and
Mss. On India. Memories of Asiatic Society brought out 12
volumes and 93 books. Another 32 Monographs were published by
Asiatic Society, some 40 books on catalogue and bibliographic
descriptions were published. There are thousands of Microfilms
available and soon many would come in CDs.
G.C. I think world of Researcher should come down to Calcutta
to explore ‘our civilisation’, Because its a real treasure house
for any researcher. However, Sir how you are thinking to expand
the information dissemination process.
Prof. Sarkar: Soon we will be reaching out to the people at
multi-levels including INTERNET. And Mss and information should
be available to the world for a nominal price. Moreover, we will
also create a broad index of our age old publications which can
be accessed through Internet.
G.C.: Thank you for talking to us and allowing access and
show us the treasure of the world. I think the world should
strive to upkeep the treasure of India as Asiatic Society is
part of the ‘Memory of the World’ project of United Nations.
Asiatic Society is an heritage Institution of India is the fountain
head of Indian renaissance for the newly found research vision and
mission of eighteenth century. In an exclusive interview Prof. Anil
Sarkar, General Secretary of Asiatic Society talks to Dr Gautam
Chatterjee about the holdings of the Institute and highlights the
promises of the next millennium.