Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rig Veda manuscripts on UNESCO's list

UNESCO has added 30 manuscripts of the Rig Veda to its "Memory of the World Register," which lists "documentary heritage of ... world significance." (Its news service mis-states their age as dating "from 1800 to 1500 B.C.", confusing an early but plausible date for the composition of the oral vedas with the dating of the 15th-19th century C.E. manuscripts at Pune, India.) The National Mission for Manuscripts of India's Ministry of Culture made the nomination on behalf of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune. That institute's library was ransaked in 2004 by one hundred fifty vandals outraged at the claims of an American scholar who had done research there. The UNESCO designation will bring prestige to the institute and, maybe, some protection. So here is a case of enlisting the prestige of an oral scripture, the Rig Veda, in the iconic form of some of its oldest manuscripts to lend legitimacy to a research institution. (By the way, UNESCO proclaimed "the tradition of Vedic Chanting" to be a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" in 2003.)

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