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Two rare Nepali manuscripts in UNESCO list

  

HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE

KATHMANDU: Two rare manuscripts — Nisvasattatvasamhita, the earliest surviving tantric manuscript, and Susrutasamhita, the oldest document in the field of Ayurveda — from Nepal have been added to the prestigious list recognising documentary heritage of outstanding value of the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

These are the maiden manuscripts from Nepal in the world-renowned register of UNESCO, UNESCO Kathmandu Office said. Axel Plathe, UNESCO representative to Nepal, in a press release today congratulated Nepal for the feat.

“I am confident that their inclusion in the register contributes to creating greater awareness of the need to preserve Nepal’s memory held in the country’s archives and libraries,” he said. The two manuscripts are among 54 new additions to the Memory of the World Register, approved yesterday by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

The Nisvasattatvasamhita, which is deposited at the National Archives, is said to be the earliest surviving tantric manuscript and as such it is an important source for the early history of tantrism. It has had a great influence in shaping other tantric texts. Tantrism has had impact on many major Asian religions and even influenced Islam practised in India. The Western World has been influenced by tantras through the practice of yoga, which has its roots in tantrism as well as through the New Age groups in America.

The 1,134-year-old palm leaf manuscript of the Susrutasamhita, held by the Keshar Library in Kathmandu, is considered the oldest document in the field of Ayurveda medicine, a systematic and formal tradition of healing that became South Asia’s principal medical system and has profoundly influenced all cultures surrounding South Asia, including Tibet, Central Asia, China, South-East Asia and the Middle East. The manuscript focuses especially on surgery and discusses diseases related to heart, skin and gynecology, among others. It also describes methods and use of herbs in curing diseases.

The Memory of the World Register now includes a total of 299 documents and document collections from the five continents, safeguarded on various supports from stone to celluloid and parchment to sound recordings. UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992. The impetus came from a growing awareness of the parlous state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in many parts of the world.

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