India’s First Epigraphy Museum

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India's First Epigraphy Museum

The museum will feature inscriptions that span India’s entire history. These inscriptions provide insight into India’s political, dynastic, social, religious, and administrative past.

G Kishan Reddy, Union minister and Hyderabad MP, laid the foundation stone for an epigraphy museum at Salar Jung Museum’s western block in Hyderabad on Monday.

Foundation stone ceremony

On Monday in Hyderabad, India’s inaugural Epigraphy Museum hosted its groundbreaking ceremony. This facility will house inscriptions and multimedia installations that demonstrate writing history through multilingual scripts and languages. When complete it will open to the public.

The museum forms part of the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) Bharat Shared Repository of Inscriptions (BSRRI) initiative and seeks to digitize one lakh ancient inscriptions; serving as a central repository for those that remain undigitized.

Officials believe that digitizing inscriptions will assist in both preserving original objects and making them more easily accessible for researchers, as well as increasing knowledge by making these documents readily available online. Since inscriptions provide us with essential historical knowledge, digitizing them allows us to read them more accurately.

Inscriptions provide us with a window into past events and people, giving a comprehensive picture of social and cultural conditions during specific time periods.

According to a senior official, the museum will contain over 10,000 inscriptions that span multiple languages and dates – some in Sanskrit while others written in regional tongues like Tamil or Telugu. They will be displayed through exhibit panels, standees and pedestals in order to preserve their cultural value.

Some of the most notable inscriptions that will be on display in the museum include Hathigumpha and Udayagiri edicts, both written during the 2nd century BC by Kharavela of Kalinga in eastern India and depicting important political documents.

Other inscriptions featured at the museum include those found on temple walls in Tamil Nadu and copper plate inscriptions from Ashoka’s dynasty. Tamil inscriptions provide particular insight into medieval South India, providing insights into social conditions as well as filling any gaps in historical knowledge about different dynasties.

Inscriptions to be digitised

Inscriptions are one of the primary sources for historical knowledge. They provide details about people, events and places that cannot otherwise be recorded through other mediums. Written in various scripts and languages, epigraphists study these inscriptions by deciphering and understanding them; an epigraphist studies these texts. Although initially neglected as sources for knowledge in India and overseas research is now taking place on them regularly.

G Kishan Reddy, Union Minister of Culture in India, recently laid the foundation stone of India’s inaugural epigraphy museum at Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. This special facility will serve as an archive of all ancient inscriptions found across India as well as featuring multimedia installations to give visitors insight into Indian writing history and script development. When complete, the museum will open to the public within six months.

The museum marks a monumental step forward for epigraphy studies in India. As its main digital repository of ancient Indian inscriptions, its opening will make them accessible not only to historians and researchers from other nations but also students and the general population alike.

Before now, archaeology museums were the only way to access and study these inscriptions. Now with this new museum’s creation, scholars will be able to examine them more easily from home while also giving younger generations of students more exposure.

The Epigraphic Branch of the Archaeological Survey of India was first established at Bangalore by British officials who recognized their significance in reconstructing India’s past. Eminent German, English and Indian scholars including Dr. E Hultzsch, James Burgess and Rao Bahadur Venkayya led this branch.

P T Nagarajan and P Balamurugan reverently unrolled an estampage (the impression of an inscription) written in Tamil that measured over 10 feet long and was dated 1902. The document confirmed the gifting of land to a temple during the 13th century.

The museum will be ready in six months

India’s inscriptions provide historians with insight into our nation’s political, dynastic, social, religious and economic past; however collecting and categorising them has been an uphill struggle due to many estampages being lost over time. A digital museum hosted at Hyderabad’s Salar Jung Museum can now assist researchers in collecting and categorising them; also enabling scholars to cross-check them.

The museum will serve as a one-stop shop for epigraphists nationwide. It will contain over 1 lakh books on epigraphy, an archival repository, activity space, AV room and even an “Hindi/English to Brahmi kiosk”, where visitors can enter their name and get it printed out in Brahmi script.

On Monday, Union Minister of Culture G Kishan Reddy laid the foundation stone of a new epigraphy museum near Salar Jung Museum’s Western Block and said its digital repository would enable scholars and students to better study India’s history. Additionally, he encouraged younger researchers to pursue epigraphic research.

Inscriptions can be found carved onto stone tablets, copper plates or other objects used during ancient times to document various aspects of life. They provide insight into past people, places and events which isn’t accessible through other sources.

India is home to an ancient epigraphic heritage dating back more than 2500 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded histories. The Archaeological Survey of India established an epigraphy branch at Bangalore in 1886; later moving it to Ootacamund in 1903 and Mysore later that same year. Two zonal branches were also set up at Lucknow and Nagpur to speed up survey of Sanskritic inscriptions in those regions.

Nirmala Sitharaman announced during her Budget speech last year the establishment of a Bharat Shared Repository of Inscriptions digital museum at Hyderabad with the aim of digitizing one lakh ancient inscriptions within three years. The Archaeological Survey of India will set up this museum under cost sharing agreements with state governments.

The museum will be open to the public

Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad will be home to India’s inaugural digital National Museum of Epigraphy, featuring over 100,000 copper plate grants and stone inscriptions carefully preserved by Archaeological Survey of India. Additionally, an innovative display method will introduce floating alphabets from different scripts used across India along with pronunciation sounds to showcase this pioneering museum.

Inscriptions are historical documents that provide a window into the past. They show ancient administrative methods, trade and commerce practices, religious practices and social hierarchies among other topics. This museum will celebrate India’s rich heritage while helping preserve inscriptions for future generations through interactive projection mapping of Indian inscriptions; all are welcome to attend!

An ASI team of 60 epigraphists have been busy classifying estampages (impressions on inked paper) at its regional centre in Mysuru using special software called Epigraphic Archive which captures details about each inscription before digitizing them for access by historians worldwide.

Epigraphists have been employed since the establishment of the Epigraphy Branch within the Archaeological Survey of India at Ootacamund in 1887. Subsequently, to enable more systematic surveys of Dravidian inscriptions by ASI regional offices in Lucknow and Nagpur.

Even with ASI’s best efforts, some inscriptions remain in poor condition and need extensive conservation work to preserve. Furthermore, over the years many estampages have been lost as a result of inadequate preservation measures or transfers (the Epigraphy department was previously housed at Chennai, Udhagamandalam and Bengaluru).

G. Kishan Reddy, the union minister and Telangana BJP president of Telangana, laid the foundation stone of an epigraphy museum near Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad on Monday. Reddy highlighted the significance of protecting inscriptions while advocating using technology to make them accessible for modern generations and emphasize their vital role in understanding cultural history and traditions.