As you may be aware I have been engaged for the last few years in drawing the attention to the way the valuable Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayana Collection housed in Patna Museum and the Bihar Research Society has been the victim of neglect and apathy.
These two Institutions in their long history of over 100 years held a pre-eminent place as pioneers of Indological research in pre- Independence India. Their rich collection of antiquities and libraries were resources for scholars not just from India but also from Germany, Austria, France, Japan , Burma and Sri Lanka.
As one of the biggest donors my late Father (Rahul Sanskrityayana) made a conditional gift of the fruits of his four intrepid journeys to Tibet and to other places on the subcontinent to enrich the study of history and Buddhist studies from primary sources . The Collection consists of rare texts and xylographs, coins, photo-plates, statues and valuable thangkas .
Rahulji considered these to be the heritage of this country, not just of the state of Bihar. Since 1933 when the first contributions were made by him the Collection is acknowledged as the pride of the Museum but except for the early years when the doyens of historical studies undertook their research and wrote their learned treatises it was starved of funds and qualified research assistants and therefore underutilized. This is such a descent from a time when the halls, galleries and offices on the premises were inhabited by eminent scholars and serious students engaged in academic discourse.
I strongly protested to the Chief Minister a move by the state government in 2017 when it was proposed that items from the Collection be moved piecemeal to the to-be-inaugurated private Bihar Museum.
This would have disturbed the integrity of the Collection that needed to be studied in context. Eminent historians had joined in protest and proposed that the Collection be treated as the core around which a Centre for Buddhist and Historical Studies be set up on the premises of the Patna Museum. Due to the protest the Rahul Collection remained in Patna Museum although many of the antiquities from the Museum were relocated.
In March this year another disturbing report reached me that the Collection was to be moved to Bihar Museum. As the donor’s family our wishes in this respect on both occasions were not sought.
My letter to the Chief Minister citing our pain at the way the memory and contribution of my Father to Bihar were being dishonoured met with no reply. Random statements from various sources surfaced in the newspapers that I had been misinformed and that there was no such proposal were contradicted by published gazette notifications about the administration and affairs of Patna Museum, a State museum being placed in the hands of the new Bihar Museum and its eminences. The Bihar Research Society’s status is already moot.
To add insult to injury I came across a report in the newspapers regarding the delay in the release of the translations of a few texts by the CIHTS. These texts are part of the corpus of the texts that my late Father had restored to India to enable deep study of our history and philosophical traditions . These texts in their Sanskrit originals had been lost after the destruction of the ancient monasteries. As Buddhism grew in Tibet many of them were translated into Tibetan from Sanskrit. The CIHTS had undertaken the translation of fifty of these texts out of which five are now ready for release pending the graciousness of the State government.
I am astounded by the myopic vision of the people who have sanctioned the project without due deliberation. There are no scholars involved in the project from the Bihar government. Instead in an arbitrary exercise in bureaucratic willfulness the very people who are directly responsible for the destruction of the stature of Patna Museum and of the Bihar Research Society are today the self-proclaimed promoters of this project.
At a time when the need is to promote the study of the richness of our history and culture and the importance of Buddhist Studies on the basis of authentic sources, two great institutions that are acknowledged pioneers are in their death throes.
I request you to address my concerns and prevent this final disaster from occurring. Please use the pages of your newspaper to investigate how such high-handed interference with public institutions and national heritage by those ill-qualified for the task has been allowed.
Jaya Sankrityayana Parhawk
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