Panjab University: Digital makeover for centuries old masterpieces under wayhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/panjab-university-digital-makeover-for-centuries-old-masterpieces-under-way-5644624/

Panjab University: Digital makeover for centuries old masterpieces under way

One of the oldest varsities of the country, PU has a rich collection of old treatises but with the number of Persian and Arabic readers on the decline, not many people are aware of this wealth.

Panjab University: Digital makeover for centuries old masterpieces under way
An old manuscript at PU library. (Express photo: Dar Ovais)

A PERSIAN dictionary ‘Farhang-e-Jahangiri’ dating back to the 17th century is among the treasure trove of 490 centuries old manuscripts in Urdu, Persian and Arabic in the AC Joshi Library of Panjab University that are being digitised.

One of the oldest varsities of the country, PU has a rich collection of old treatises but with the number of Persian and Arabic readers on the decline, not many people are aware of this wealth. Among the important manuscripts enshrined in the library are Jung Nama-e-Kabul written by Syed Fida Hussain in 1838, Farhang-e-Jahangiri written by Mir Jamal Al Din Husayn in the beginning of the 17th century, and a Persian Urdu translation of Waris Shah’s Heer Ranjha dating back to 1790. PU is in the process of digitising these works. Assistant archivist Mritunjay Kumar says this work has been going on since 2018. “We hope to complete this process by next year,” he says.

Dr Ali Abbas, coordinator, Department of Urdu and Persian, who has painstakingly brought these 490 works to light, says he was surprised when PU library officials told him that no one had ever enquired about these tomes.

Farhang-e-Jahangeri was written during the rule of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. ‘Farhang’ means dictionary in Persian. The 1,000-page dictionary contains the names and details of various cities and places in the region besides words from different languages. “The writer has used many other dictionaries of the time to prepare this valuable work, and the author named it in the honour of Mughal emperor Jahangir,” he adds.

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Another important piece in Urdu ‘Jung Nama-e-Kabul’ by Syed Fida Hussain in 1838 presents the history of Afghanistan. “It is the characterisation of the battle between Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk and Dost Mohammad Khan of Kabul, which started in 1838. It describes how the army of Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk started marching towards Kabul from Meerut in November 1838 with the backing of British and also gives a detailed account of Kabul of that time,’’ says Abbas.

The Persian translation of Heer Ranjha written by Waris Shah in 1790 uses a plethora of new words in vogue during those days. “Everything written in this book is lucid, and every new word has been described beautifully,” says Abbas.
The books carry hand-drawn pictures that continue to mesmerize even after centuries. The colours are so bright that it seems as if these were drawn yesterday.

Padma Shri awardee Surjit Patar, president of Punjab Sahit Academy, says PU must publicize such works. “We have to preserve them in both forms, physically as well as digitally. Besides, varsities such as PU must tell youngsters about the valuable nuggets in their libraries,” he says.