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[BKARTS] Manuscript house hunt - Eye-opener on 750-yr-old Buddhist text from thieves

Manuscript house hunt - Eye-opener on 750-yr-old Buddhist text from thieves


Santiniketan, Oct. 3: An antique thief's confession in Siliguri has led to
realisation that a 750-year-old manuscript worth over Rs 2 crore in the
black market is in the possession of Visva-Bharati University.

Six months after Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel medal and other memorabilia
were stolen from the Rabindra Bhavan Museum here, efforts are underway to
take the manuscript out of the Indo-Tibetan department and place it in the
memorial museum, which now has a more stringent security system in place.

On a nationwide hunt to locate Tagore's medallion, the CBI recently arrested
a couple in Siliguri trying to sell an old Buddhist manuscript along with
some antiques. During interrogation, they said they were aware of the
"priceless" manuscript in Santiniketan.

The CBI immediately informed the university authorities, who went into a
tizzy. "That a couple in Siliguri is aware that a manuscript (in
Santiniketan) is priceless makes it clear that antique smugglers had set
their eyes on it," a senior CBI official said.

The manuscript seized in Siliguri had a gold-plated cover similar to the one

Titled Prajna Paramita, meaning perfection in knowledge, it is one of six
Buddhist holy texts. About 750 years old, it runs into 1,000 pages and has
been in the Indo-Tibetan department for the past nine years.

"My friend Bimalendra Kumar and myself bought the manuscript from a Lama in
Kalimpong for Rs 3,000 nine years ago and kept it in the library for the
sake of students of Tibetan culture," said Naren Dash, the head of the
Indo-Tibetan department.

After the arrest in Siliguri came to light, Dash got in touch with the
Visva-Bharati authorities with a request to move the manuscript from the
departmental library to ensure safe custody.

He said: "When I came to know about the market value of the manuscript, I
thought only Rabindra Bhavan could provide adequate security."

A university official said the first page of Prajna Paramita is scribbled
with liquid gold ink. The manuscript was taken out of the library yesterday
and will be kept in a "safe place" till the formalities to shift it to the
museum are completed.

The Indo-Tibetan department has over 6,000 manuscripts and several Mongolian
paintings. Many of the manuscripts have historical significance.

Vice-chancellor Sujit Basu assured the Dalai Lama during a programme in
Calcutta recently that a manuscript centre will soon be set up to ensure
their upkeep.

The ministry of culture is said to be working on the proposal to set up the

Sunil Sarkar, the registrar, today said: "We are also digitising valuable
manuscripts for preservation."


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