Sunday, August 8, 2021




                                              (Stein with his helpers in Taklamakan desert )
                                                                ( Aurel Stein )
              ( The first page of the catalogue presented to Maharaja Partap Singh by Stein )
                                        ( The Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute  Jammu )
                                      ( The Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute  Jammu )
                    ( Letters written to Stein from Jammu By Govind Koul and Sahaj Ram Bhat in Sanskrit )

   ( A page from the printed catalogue prepared by Govind Koul and Sahaj Ram Bhat )

"Stein was the bedrock of India's archaeology, India's history, India's strategic interest in Central Asia." 
(Dr Lokesh Chandra)
Being from the Suryavanshi clan of Kshatriyas , the Dogra Rajput rulers of Jammu were ardent devotees of Sri Raghunath Ji or Sri Rama. Accordingly, they built some majestic temples dedicated to Sri Rama . Situated right in the heart of the Jammu city , Sri Raghunath Ji Temple is the example of their intense devotion to Sri Rama. This is possibly the biggest temple complex in North India .
Work on the temple was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of the Jammu and Kashmir state in 1835 AD and was subsequently completed by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1860 AD.Maharaja Ranbir Singh was also a lover of literature and accordingly many libraries were opened during his rule .He also started a translation department and got some Persian and Arabic books translated .
For promotion of Dogri, Maharaja Ranbir Singh got its script standardized on the lines of Devanagari script. The modified form of the script came to be known as Namme Dogre Akkhar(New Dogra letters) as against the older version i.e.Parane Dogre Akkhar . Standardization made the script fit for purpose of litho and typo printing which was extensively done afterwards for preparing books for official use and school studies. Dogri classes were started at Raghunath Mandir Pathshala.
To protect rare manuscripts and texts lying in private hands, he opened the Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library at Jammu.Pandit Asananda of Jammu ,who was connected with the royal family of Jammu did some wonderful work by collecting manuscripts from people by spending about fifteen thousand rupees from the treasury as per instructions of Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
The Maharaja entrusted manuscript collection from Kashmir to Pandit Rajkak who was assisted by Pandit Balbadhra, Pandit Sahib Ram ,Pandit Krishna Bhat ,Pandit Daya Ram and Pandit Sukh Ram. These Pandits also procured some rare birch bark manuscripts for the Raghunath Library.
The Library has more than 6000 manuscripts, of which around 2000 have been digitised . It also houses more than twenty thousand books . Many manuscripts preserved in the Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library have been written in Sharda script.
The collection at the Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library includes books on grammar, lexicography, prosody, music, rhetoric, Kavya, drama, fables, Dharmasutras, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Jyotisha, Architecture, Medicine, Epics, Puranas, Bhakti and Tantra.
The active efforts since 1875 to understand Kashmir’s submerged past have to be understood to contend and substantiate the identity of Kashmir in a historical context. The patrons of Indological studies in Kashmir include Maharaja Ranbir Singh, Maharaja Pratap Singh, Raja Amar Singh and Maharaja Hari Singh. Western scholars include George Buhler, Marc Aurel Stein, George Grierson, Dr. David B. Spooner, Prof. Sten Konow, Prof. Maurice Winternitz, Dr. Eugen Hultzsch and John Marshall. The plethora of Kashmiri Pundits who assisted Indologists in unearthing the Hindu legacy of Kashmir include Prof. Nityananda Sastri, Pt. Govind Kaul, Pt. Damodar, Pt. Sahib Ram, Pt. Mukund Ram Sastri, Pt. Ananda Kaul, Pt. Ishwar Kaul, Pt. Sahaz Bhat and Prof. Jagdhar Zadoo and many more.

From Professor  Buhler's  write up, Aurel Stein came to know about Maharaja Ranbir Singh' s private collection of manuscripts held inside Sri Raghunath Ji Temple complex ,Jammu. Stein had come to Kashmir to collect Sanskrit  and Sharda manuscripts .After completing  his task with the help of his many Pandit friends, he Left Srinagar in August 1988 and  arrived in Jammu . In Jammu , he  inspected the manuscripts that were held in shabby condition in two locked rooms inside Sri Raghunath Ji Temple ,Jammu.He was more than certain that if not catalogued, segregated and scientifically preserved, this treasure may be lost due to harsh climatic conditions ,termites and other insects . He  sought help from the British resident in Kashmir  and together they impressed Maharaja Partap Singh for cataloguing  and scientific and proper preservation of the treasure.

Credit goes to Aurel Stein for getting the manuscripts at Sri Raghunath Ji Temple Manuscript Library catalogued using services of some expert Kashmiri Pandits proficient in Sanskrit and Sharda .Stein visited Jammu in 1889 for this work and was given full cooperation by Pandit Radhakrishen ,the then governor of Jammu who got a separate building constructed for this library inside the Sri Raghu Nath Ji Temple complex . Maharaja Partap Singh issued orders for this task and sanctioned special pay of Rs75 and Rs 50 per month respectively to Pandit Govind Koul and Pandit Sahaj Ram Bhat ( Sahaz Bhat )  who catalogued more than six thousand rare manuscripts in a scientific manner for this library. These experts were assisted by Pandit Mukandram Shastri   from Kashmir who was also tasked by an order of Maharaja Partap Singh on the recommendations of Aurel Stein. These experts had already worked with Stein and were well known to him. Sahaj Kak Bhat   ( Sahaz Bhat  )  and Govind Kaul stayed in Jammu for about 18 months to complete the task. They were in regular correspondence with Aurel Stein who stayed at Lahore. This correspondence done in Sanskrit is also preserved in a British museum. Stein visited the library again in 1940. His diaries are preserved in a museum in UK. The Jammu visit of 1940 in his diary reads this:
" I visited Jammu again after 50 years the Raghunath temple library. Its six thousand old Sanskrit manuscripts had been catalogued by me with the help of Pandit Govind Koul and another excellent scholar friend Sahaz Bhat in what seems now like a previous birth. It had been a dreary task but it saved the collection from being lost. I had a very attentive reception, had to talk Sanskrit again for an hour or so thus purifying my tongue by use of the sacred languages after all my peregrinations in the barbarian North and West. It was a quaint experience to find myself in the end garlanded in the traditional Kashmir Hindu fashion for the first time in life....December 12, 1940."
   ( Pandit Mukand Ram Shastri )

 Aurel Stein’s closest friends in Kashmir were , Prof Nityananad Shastri  ( Sanskrit teacher at S. P. College , Srinagar ) Pandit Govind Koul (Incharge Translation Department during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh ),Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri ( Translator during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh ) ,Sahaz Kak Bhat (  linguist and physician and also  father of Hakim  Sham Lal Bhat ) and  Harabhatta Zadoo ( Sanaskrit scholar and son of Pandit Keshav Bhatta Zadoo , the Royal Astrologer in the Court of Maharaja Ranbir Singh ) . Apart from these,  Stein had befriended about 15 Sanskrit scholars from Kashmir.


When Stein left Kashmir, he arranged for Pandit Govind Kaul to join him at Lahore to work on Sanskrit manuscripts. On  Govind Koul’s 's death in June 1899, a shocked Stein lamented that Govind Koul , ''like another Kalhana departed as my best Indian friend beyond all hope of reunion in this Janma". Paying fulsome tributes to him, Stein wrote: "Whenever Govind Kaul was by my side, whether in the dusty exile of Lahore or alpine coolness of Mohand Marg in Kashmir, I was in continuity with the past as the historical student of India. His personality embodied all that change of ages indicated and showed as the mind and psyche of India."


About his association with  some  learned Kashmiri Pandits , Stein writes this :-


"But perhaps the greatest advantage I derived from Kashmirian Pandit association with my labours was the chance it gave me to study in close contact those peculiarities of traditional Indian thought, belief and conduct which separate Hindu Civilization so deeply both from the West and the East and which no amount of book knowledge could ever fully reveal to a Maleecha (uncouth  foreigner) .”
The catalogue prepared by the learned Pandits was got published from Nirnaya Sagara Press ,Bombay by Aurel Stein in 1894 and presented to Maharaja Partap Singh. These rare manuscripts are available to research scholars and the library staff may allow photographing using your own camera . The birch Bark manuscripts are highly delicate ,as such copying of these is not allowed.The library is located on the back side of Sri Raghunath Temple and is easily approachable from Hari market entrance .It remains open from 19.30 a.m. to 5p.m.The library is presently known as Sri Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute,Jammu.
(Avtar Mota)

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