19/02/2013

One of the most magnificent surviving copies of the Ramayana to be reunified online in a major international project

One of the finest and most lavishly produced copies of India’s great epic, the Ramayana, will be brought together for the first time in a new digital resource, reuniting folios which have been separated across different institutions in India and the UK for just under two centuries.

The digitisation of the 17th c. manuscript is the result of a major collaborative partnership between the British Library and other institutions in India, and was announced by the Prime Minister David Cameron at the CSMVS Museum in Mumbai last night during the visit of a major business and education delegation to India including the Library’s Chief Executive Roly Keating. The British Library currently holds around 80% of the surviving manuscript, and the remaining folios are held by the CSMVS Museum as well as other Indian institutions. The project is funded by one of the oldest philanthropic institutions in India, The Jamsetji Tata Trust, as well as the Friends of the British Library and the World Collections Programme.

The Ramayana or ‘Story of Rama’ is one of the two ancient Sanskrit epics of India. Traditionally attributed to the sage Valmiki, its tale of exile, struggle, loss and redemption has been the subject of numerous retellings over time in many languages. The Library’s Mewar manuscript of the Ramayana, which was commissioned by Rana Jagat Singh I of Mewar in 1649, contains over 400 exquisite paintings and is widely considered to be one of the finest of all surviving illustrated copies. The reunified manuscript will be made available online for the first time early next year, transforming access to this key text for the international research community and the general public alike.

The Mewar Ramayana project is part of a larger British Library aim to develop resources for the study and understanding of the shared history and culture of the UK and India. Since signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Ministry of Culture in 2010, the Library has worked closely with Indian research communities and institutions and has led collaborative projects including the digitisation of 10,000 historical images of Indian botany, and a major exhibition on Indian history, Mughal India: Art, Culture & Empire.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said “Our vision is to unlock the vast potential of the Library’s collections – for the UK, for the world, for anyone and everyone - through digitisation and collaboration with overseas partners. The Library’s South Asian collections are the richest and most extensive outside the sub-continent, and it is increasingly important to share and widen access to them in new and different ways. We hope that the digitisation of this unique text on this digital platform will allow people to study and enjoy this great treasure as never before.”

Dr Mukherjee, Director General of the CSMVS Museum says “We feel proud to be the prime collaborator in the Digital Reunification of Maharana Jagat Singh’s Ramayana. This unique and pioneering project will allow everybody, and research scholars in particular, to study, evaluate and appreciate the dispersed folios of the manuscript in one place. We are grateful to the British Library, Baroda Museum & Picture Gallery and private collectors and, of course, our financial partner Jamsetji Tata Trust for collaborating with us in this endeavour.”

Notes to Editors:

The digitally reunified Mewar Ramayana will be hosted on the British Library’s website and that of CSMVS Museum in Autumn 2013.

The CSMVS Museum, or Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, was formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Mumbai.

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Friends of the British Library

The Friends of the British Library is a registered charity (number 328095). It provides funding in the form of grants to the British Library to allow the Library to acquire new items and collections, procure new equipment and facilities, and produce exhibitions. Further information can be found at www.bl.uk/friends.



CSMVS Museum is a Grade I Heritage Building of the city. It has been awarded first place for Heritage Building Maintenance by the Indian Heritage Society. The Key Gallery, located in the central foyer, showcases a representative collection from the various sections of the Museum such as Archaeology, Indian Miniature Paintings, Indian Decorative Arts and the Chinese and Japanese collection. It thus gives an overview of the Museum’s rich collection. Our aim at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya is to create awareness of our rich ancient heritage among the people. Therefore, the museum, in addition to the artefacts that are showcased in the permanent galleries, regularly houses temporary exhibitions and lectures on a multitude of topics and also hosts special events. http://csmvs.in/
 

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