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The International Mother Language Day: Exclusive Collection at the National Museum

By : The International Mother Language Day: Exclusive Collection at the National Museum

February 22, 2022

Mother Language Day

The theme of the 2022 International Mother Language Day is Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities.

On this occasion, Audrey Azoulay (Director-General, UNESCO) said in a message,

"Technology can provide new tools for protecting linguistic diversity. Such tools, for example, facilitating their spread and analysis, allow us to record and preserve languages that sometimes exist only in oral form. Put simply, they make local dialects a shared heritage. However, because the Internet poses a risk of linguistic uniformization, we must also be aware that technological progress will serve plurilingualism only as long as we make the effort to ensure that it does".

When it comes to technology, one recalls the tradition of illustrated manuscripts in Indian history. With the use of technology, efforts have been made to digitize the exquisite collection that is available at the National Museum. The history of manuscripts dates back to times whence printed text was not produced on a mass scale. This tradition led to the oral transmission of knowledge. 

Literature in Sanskrit, the classical language of India, represents a continuous cultural tradition in the subcontinent. It dates back to the times of the Vedas. To date, post-independence, around 5,000 manuscripts have been procured by the National Museum. These have been well preserved. Few of these manuscripts are illustrated in line and colour. They represent different schools of miniature paintings and authenticate episodes from history.

These rare illustrious Sanskrit manuscripts have been documented with the use of technologies such as scanning, photography, videography, and preservation in the form of meta-data. The same can be accessed easily by scholars and researchers across the country. The collection has been written in variegated scripts (such as Nagari, Devanagari, Sarada, Oriya, Bengali and Gurmukhi).  Regional and texts belonging to different dialects can be found in this collection (such as Awadhi, Braj, Bundeli, Maithili and Rajasthani dialects).

The National Museum also has a rich collection of Chitra-pothis' - palm-leaf manuscripts of Odisha. The exquisite and colourful folios belong to Bhagavata Purana, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Devi Mahatmya. Palm-leaf were used for writing even in the 18th and 19th centuries, as evident from the collection.

For a Virtual Tour of the collection, visit:

One of the 12th-century birch-bark manuscripts preserved at the National Museum is Balabodhini, authored by a popular Kashmiri Pandit, Jagaddhara Bhatta. The text therein is written in the Sharada script, with pen and black ink, imparting a vivid character to the quaint birch bark.


Another beautiful manuscript dated the 18th century is Rasamanjari (A Bouquet of Delights), regarded as one of the great classics of Sanskrit literature. Rasamanjari is Bhanudatta’s creation belonging to the 15th century. The first folio of the manuscript contains a verse in honour of Lord Shiva, who can be seen trying to save his left female half, beloved Parvati. The painting is rich and colourful with strong elements of stylization.


For more on National Museum:

And on the exquisite Manuscript Collection:

Source: Inputs from the CAA Team, National Museum (New Delhi).  Special thanks from Dr Divya Sethi