IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


14th August, 2023 Culture

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  • Government plans law on protection of Indian manuscripts
  • Planning to introduce the National Manuscripts Bill 2023, possibly in the Winter Session of Parliament.



  • India’s manuscripts have for centuries captured the imagination of the world.
  • India possesses an extensive array of ancient manuscripts, representing a significant aspect of its cultural legacy. However, numerous manuscripts have been lost or are currently housed in foreign museums.
  • According to the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), India possesses an estimated 10 million manuscripts in 80 ancient scripts like Brahmi, Kushan, Gaudi, Lepcha, and Maithili.

National Mission for Manuscripts

  • Establishment of the National Mission of Manuscripts (NMM) was aimed at safeguarding India's extensive repository of manuscripts.
  • The NMM an autonomous body was established in 2003 by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
  • The primary mission directive involves recognizing, gathering, recording, safeguarding, and maintaining manuscripts from various regions across India, ensuring their availability to the public.
  • It’s a unique project in its programme and mandate, the Mission seeks to unearth and preserve the vast manuscript wealth of India.
  • The NMM operates as a comprehensive national initiative with the goal of fulfilling its motto: 'preserving the past for the future'.
  • According to the NMM, 75% of the existing manuscripts are in Sanskrit, 25% are in regional languages.
  • India possesses an estimate of five million manuscripts, probably the largest collection in the world.
  • The NMM has successfully digitized 330,000 manuscripts, encompassing around 31 million folios. While over 118,000 manuscripts have been uploaded, only approximately 70,000 are presently accessible to the public via online platforms.
  • The Bakhshali manuscript, an ancient mathematical text inscribed on birch bark, stands as the earliest documented instance of zero's utilization, originating from India.

National Manuscripts Bill 2023

  • Primary Aim: Is to document and catalogue Indian heritage texts, regardless of their location within India or overseas.
  • Maintain accurate and up-to-date information about them.
  • Elaborate the circumstances under which these texts can be accessed for consultation.
  • The Bill envisages setting up a 10-member National Manuscripts Authority (NMA), with the Union Minister of Culture would be the Chairperson of this body.
  • The NMA would serve as the highest authority for establishing policies related to digitization, conservation, preservation, editing, and publication efforts concerning manuscripts.
  • The NMA will additionally create a specialized digital platform for the purpose of indexing, cataloguing, uploading, and downloading manuscript copies.

Significance of the National Manuscripts Bill 2023 

  • Numerous priceless Indian manuscripts are currently dispersed across various regions within the country and even overseas. These manuscripts are in the possession of private collectors, museums, and institutions, often lacking proper documentation and care.
  • It's imperative to establish a connection between the study and interpretation of manuscripts and sustainable livelihoods.
  • Manuscripts hold significant importance as a vital component of India's documentary heritage.


  • A manuscript denotes a handwritten composition on materials such as paper, bark, cloth, metal, or palm leaf, having an age of at least seventy-five years and carrying significant scientific, historical, or aesthetic value.
  • Notably, lithographs and printed volumes do not fall within the scope of manuscripts. These manuscripts are available in various scripts and languages, often presenting the same language in diverse scripts; an example is Sanskrit being transcribed in Devanagari, Odia, Malayalam scripts, and others.
  • Manuscripts differ from other historical records like rock inscriptions and revenue documents which offer direct insights into historical occurrences. Instead, manuscripts hold intrinsic knowledge content.


Preserving and reviving India's ancient manuscripts is not only a matter of cultural importance but also a means of better understanding the country's historical development, intellectual achievements, and contributions to various fields. By revitalizing efforts to recover lost manuscripts and promote their study, India can reclaim a significant part of its cultural heritage and ensure that these priceless documents continue to inspire and educate generations to come.


Q. Indian folk art and crafts have a rich cultural heritage that showcases the diversity of Indian culture. Discuss (250 Words)