October 27, 2011

BRC's Manuscripts Mission in West Bengal Libraries

During the second half of 2011, The BRC Manuscripts Mission traveled to libraries in West Bengal. The Most significant of the hundreds of works we have photographed in the last six months is a tal manuscript worshiped on the altar at Caitanya Tal Mandir in Navadwipa. 

This manuscript is said to be a commentary by Srila Gadadhara Pandit on the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, with annotations by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself! While this will need to be verified, we are very grateful to head mahanta Sri Sudin Goswami (at right with the manuscript) who was extremely cooperative and friendly and allowed us to photograph the entire manuscript.

In exchange we supplied him a disc with the digital images and we will make a complete copy on metal plates for the temple to preserve the work for many generations to come.

Another library successfully reproduced was at the Caitanya Mandir, Gaighat, Patna. HH Mahavisnu Swami kindly gave us an introduction and in November our team spent a week photographing more than a dozen manuscripts. The temple is a little run down and requires some renovations but the Mahanta there, Sri Kishori Raman Goswami was very kind and helpful. On the altar there is a beautiful Deity of Krsna Who appears very similar to Sri Sri Radha Raman in Vrndavana.

Our team carefully wrapped the manuscripts and stored them in three almiras the government has given the temple as a grant. But we were also concerned to hear that some persons have already started to sell off some of the manuscripts in the local markets for pocket money. We have made an offer to look after the manuscripts should the situation change and he can no longer care for them.

October 19, 2011

The Main Types of Manuscripts at BRC

There are three main types:

1) tree bark, like this one at our BRC library in Kolkata:

2) palm or tal leaf, which is usually the oldest and rarest kind. This one was donated recently:

This was part of a batch of 20 that were found floating around in the big Mayapur flood of 2000 and were rescued by a local man. Most were ruined but a few survived and we recorded them for posterity.

3) a variety of different types of paper, such as this cotton based sheet at Halisahar Caitanya Doba mandir:

October 4, 2011

Special Highlights from the Birnagar Collection

The total number of manuscripts from the Birnagar Collection is 137, plus 17 letters and 27 books. Nine are original, hand written works by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, including his autobiography Svalikhita Jivani (see photos below).

One of the letters in the collection is of special historical value to followers of Srila Prabhupada — a hand-written Bengali letter to Lalita Prasada Thakura, sent from Moscow on June 21 1971:

National Hotel, Red park, Moscow, Russia
21st June, 1971. 
My dear uncle Prabhupada Lalita Prasad Thakur,
Kindly accept my humble obeisance to your lotus feet. At present I am staying at the above mentioned hotel in Moscow, Room No. 356. With me there are two American disciples.
Here the preaching subject will be 1. Vedic Conception of Communism, 2. Knowledge derived from authoritative tradition, 3. Scientific classless society. Now with your blessing in this severely atheistic country the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu will be preached.
Here many local and foreigner girls and boys have visited. I advise them to do the Bhajana of the Lord. A few boys of this place have become very much impressed after listening to our Harinama. They want to join us. But the laws of this country are so tough that they cannot go against them. Here discussions are going on to meet many reputable professors and there will be the arrangement of lecture in the Indian Embassy. You bless me.
From here I will go to Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London etc. This is the first time I came to Moscow. If you want to write to me, send it to this address—3764 Watseka Avenue. 
Yours affectionately, Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami
Svalikhita Jivani

Of the remainder, there are 44 works written, edited or compiled by Lalita Prasada Thakura, as well as 33 hand copied manuscripts by Rupa and Jiva Goswamis and Visvanatha Chakravarti. Two books are by Sri Bipin Behari Goswami, the diksa guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
With scanning now completed we face a great challenge in preserving them by de-acidification and encapsulation. Some unknown person previously tried to laminate an unpublished work Rasa-rasodaya by Bhaktivinoda Thakura with plastic with near disastrous results. The wrong type of plastic was used and its shrinkage has damaged the manuscript considerably.

Once the preservation is completed the originals will be returned to Birnagar for storage and display. Most of the scanned works will be available on the BRC website.
hand-written biography of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.