There are more than a million Sanskrit manuscripts in manuscript depositories across India and around the world. The MUM South Asian Manuscript Collection is a collection of photographs of a tiny portion of these Sanskrit Manuscripts. On this website we present a bibliography of this small collection, and taking a broader view, we present a suite of tools to help locate and recover ancient manuscripts and preserve them for posterity.
Modern science investigates the order in creation to find the universal principles and laws by which the universe has come into being, and by which it continues to be governed today. Ancient Vedic Science, the science of human consciousness, is a complete science of life, said to contain the complete knowledge at the basis of the creation and maintenance of the universe. The textbooks of this ancient Vedic Science are the actual laws that govern creation, they comprise what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi calls the Constitution of the Universe. The core of the Vedic Literature is the Rik Veda, followed by Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. These are said to be the abstract impulses of consciousness at the basis of the creation of the universe. These primordial textbooks of the ancient Vedic Science are then further elaborated in a broad and detailed commentarial literature including Upavedas and Ayurveda, Vedangas, Upangas, Brahmanas and Pratishakhya.
Veda means knowledge. Vedic Literature is nothing but pure knowledge. The pure knowledge of the Veda elaborates itself by analysis and compresses by synthesis. This is the essence of Maharishi’s Apaurusheya Bhashya of the Veda, the uncreated commentary of Veda: The first expression of any text is like a seed which contains the total knowledge of the entire tree. From that first expression the great variety and diversity of the tree unfolds with perfect order, and then at the close all the great diversity of expression is again summarized and synthesized in the closing expression [See begining & end verses of 40 Branches of Vedic Literature.]From the first expression of Rig Veda, “ak,” the entire Vedic Literature unfolds sequentially and systematically through layer upon layer of analysis and synthesis.
" anvaya-vyati-rekābhyāṁ niṣhprapañchaṁ prapañchyate."
अन्वयव्यतिरेकाभ्यां निष्प्रपञ्चं प्रपञ्च्यते"The creation is created by analysis and synthesis"
Quoted by Shankara in his Gītā Bhāṣhya
The memory of all the Vedic texts was originally maintained from each generation to the next by the Vedic families of India. The sounds of the various texts were passed on to the children of each new generation, who committed them to memory. In the world, nothing lasts so well as a human being: Through the traditions of the Vedic families, the knowledge of the Vedas and the Vedic Literature was passed on through countless hundreds and even thousands of years. Although the principle Vedas continue to be preserved by memory in India, in recent times, many of the peripheral texts, the commentarial Vedic literature, has been written down, creating hand-written books that preserve the precious expressions of the ancient sages and saints of India. Writing is a more precarious way of preserving a text over long periods of time, because the physical material decays quickly, and systems of writing change over time, even though the knowledge of Sanskrit language itself is unchanging. Despite all the problems which the effort to preserve the ancient Vedic Science in written form faces, many many texts have been preserved through time in this way, in writing. For some of the more famous and important texts, scholars have gathered the various manuscripts scattered throughout India and created critical editions, which take into account all the textual variations and anomalies in each text, and these are published as printed books. But there are many texts which through neglect, or ignorance of their value have never been published, and are preserved even today only in handwritten manuscripts.
The handwritten texts of the ancient sages and saints of India are generally written in the local script used by the people of that region where they are being preserved. This is natural, because this is what the people in that region will be most easily able to interpret and practically use. In southern India, the scripts used include Grantha, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Devanagari is the most common script in the north of India
The texts are preserved either on paper, or more commonly on palm leaves. Although palm leaves are not so famililar in the West, they last much longer than paper. Paper often becomes brittle and weak after one or two centuries. Even palm leaves need to be copied over every two or three hundred years or so, although they can last longer if they are kept in proper humidity and temperature controlled environments.
Whereas 150 years ago, the vast majority of manuscripts were held in the private libraries of scholars who maintained the texts in their families, since then the trend has been to gather manuscripts together in large manuscript repositories. In these large libraries, the individual texts are catalogued and described, usually including a few verses from the beginning and ending of each text to give a flavor of the whole. These descriptions are collated together in large volumes called Descriptive Bibliographies. The catalogues and descriptive bibliographies of all the major manuscript depositories are published and many are even available on the internet. These catalogues provide entry into a vast field of Vedic Literature, a largely untapped reservoir of knowledge of Natural Law.
This website aims to collect the resources and knowledge needed to make practical use of the millions of Sanskrit manuscripts that are stored all over India. We will showcase the libraries that hold large collections of manuscripts, and the different scripts used to write Sanskrit in different parts of India, as a starting point for entering into the study of the ancient writings of India.
Vivek Vaidyanathan, M.A. Maharishi Vedic Science
Director, M.U.M. South Asian Manuscript Collection