Digitising Sanskrit Manuscripts

India has a very large number of Sanskrit manuscripts which cover our ancient knowledge and wisdom. This knowledge needs to be unlocked by modern day scholars. Today, these manuscripts are inaccessible to scholars because their present owners are possessive of them, many are in a very delicate condition and difficult to handle, and there is no comprehensive catalogue. We aim to make these manuscripts easy to access and to read by scholars. This legacy is at risk of being lost due to ageing and because it is valued by antique and art collectors across the world.

We apply computing technology to solve the problems described above. Our programme will

  1. produce digital images of 2.5 million Sanskrit manuscripts,

  2. produce a digital catalogue so that scholars can find manuscripts of interest to them,

  3. allow scholars to download manuscripts of their interest (after paying the charges prescribed by the owning libraries), and

  4. transliterate the writings in the important manuscripts into digital Devanagari text which is computer searchable.

In so doing, we hope to train a cadre of manuscriptologists who will help scholars and libraries even after the programme is over. We will create cutting edge technology in ‘optical character recognition’ (OCR), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. We are putting together the required IT infrastructure. 

We will start by encouraging manuscript libraries to join the programme. Once suitable agreements are in place with a library, we will 

  1. work at the library to produce digital images of its collection;

  2. digitally enhance the quality the images to make them more readable;

  3. create appropriate digital catalogue entries for each manuscript;

  4. publish this catalogue such that scholars can access it from their web browsers;

  5. if the owners agree, add the library’s collection catalogue to the Worldcat.org for wider dissemination;

  6. transliterate the digital images of important manuscripts from their original script to Devanagari thereby creating a large corpus of computer readable and searchable digital Devanagari text;

  7. create a portal that will allow scholars to view sample pages of the digital images of manuscripts of interest; and

  8. enabling scholars to pay the respective library charges and download the manuscripts of their interest

These are painstaking tasks, quality being of utmost importance. We expect to complete the digital imaging and cataloguing of 2.5 million manuscripts within seven years, while transliteration could take up to twenty years.

Although this programme looks very different to the work Dharohar does with children, it stands on the same pillars (lifelong learning and building communities). Through the programme we hope that scholars will find it easier to create a new body of work of national importance that is based on the old knowledge that will soon be lost.

Why do we do it?

  • To preserve our heritage

  • To make our ancient wisdom more accessible

What do we do?

  • Digitally image old manuscripts

  • Create searchable text files from these images

  • Share them with scholars in India and beyond