Mrunal Manmay Dash

Once proud of preserving the largest collection of palm leaf manuscripts in the entire world, the State Museum of Odisha in Bhubaneswar has apparently lost almost half of its precious assets in a span of just four years.

The shocking revelation was made in a recent RTI report which stated that the State Museum now has 20,000 palm leaf manuscripts and 50,000 other artefacts with almost 20,000 precious manuscripts missing, based on the last audit of the museum made in 2016-17.

So where did the manuscripts go? Neither the culture department authorities nor the Museum authorities agreed to make any comments on this in front of the camera.

However, linguist, Padma Shri Debiprasanna Patnaik, shared a startling anecdote with the reporters. He alleged, “I was offered a rare manuscript for Rs 10,000 by a local black marketer. This is how the manuscripts went missing. The Museum authorities have sold it in the black market.”

As per reports, Doctor Chandrabhanu Patel was the Superintendent of the State Museum from 2001 to 2011. Even the Odisha Historical Research Journal documents the number of manuscripts in State Museum to be 37, 273.

Culture Expert, Pradyumna Satapathy said, "The manuscripts which are valueless in Odisha, fetch thousands of rupees in the international market. There is a racket active in stealing these rare manuscripts and selling them in the market."

The collections of manuscripts in the State Museum have been categorized into 27 sections consisting of Vedas, Puranas, Kavyas, Tantra, Religious, Scriptures, Philosophy, Astrology, Ayurveda, Grammar, Lexicon, Music, Mathematics, etc.

Though the National Pothi Mission was started in other parts of India in 2003, the e-Pothi programme in Odisha was first launched by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on September 29, 2014.

(Reported By Laxminarayan Kanungo, OTV)