14 Oct

Koba Library

Yes, you need to call this library (Gyan Bhandar) of Jains as the Eighth Wonder of the World!

"The moment you pick the manuscript/”hastaprat”/”pandulipi” you feel as if it is talking with you! As per experts, after seeing  the alphabets of these manuscripts/ “hastaprats”, letters, language, pattern in which it is written, quality of paper & ink used in it, various pictures drawn in it & hundreds of such minute details, it seems each copy gives an introduction of its own unique & distinct identity!” A bright sparkle was evident in the eyes of Acharya Shri Ajayasagarsuri Maharaj while he was saying this! This Mahatma devoted his entire life towards the enrichment & and preservation of knowledge. However, his source of inspiration and his Guru - Gurudev Pujya Shri Padmasagarasuriji’s worship of knowledge heritage is so profound and comprehensive, that it cannot be described in words! He marched barefoot from village to village in India and collected a treasure of ancient manuscripts from people. A large number of such elusive and rare texts are safely preserved in the form of manuscripts at the Acharya Kailashsagarsuri Gyanmandir in Ahmedabad, also popularly known as Koba Gyan Mandir. This library will seem like a wonder in many ways. It is the only library in the whole world where more than three lakh manuscripts originating from the Indian subcontinent are stored and preserved in a readable condition. It was a breathtaking experience for us when we got a chance to witness this carnival of spectacular manuscripts!

So today let's visit this marvel that has preserved and protected the legacy of ancient heritage. Situated in an absolutely peaceful landscape amidst natural beauty, this library is located near the Sabarmati-Gandhinagar Highway - away from the chaos of Ahmedabad City!

The beginning:

“The people of the Jain community have been special worshippers of knowledge. This can be seen from the fact that there is a dedicated festival in the Jain community to worship knowledge – the festival (parva) of Gyan Pacham. People of the Jain Community take utmost care in the preservation and protection of knowledge and their respect towards knowledge can be gauged from the fact that they are always careful that their feet do not touch any paper or letters (alphabets/words) written anywhere and that they, in no way, disrespect knowledge. And probably this is the only reason why literature and scriptures dating back thousands of years have progressed ahead till today. “ It seemed like pages of the deep past were passing through his eyes while speaking with Pujya Acharya Shrimad Vijay Ajaysagar Suriji Maharaj who is currently situated at Prahlad Nagar – Ahmedabad for his Chaturmas and who has been completely devoted to this Koba Library from past 35 years!  Stating further, Guruji continued “Around 125 years back, my eldest Gurudev Pujya Shri Buddhisagar Suriji Maharaj, through his deep ‘Yog Sadhana’ got an indicative resolve that something should be done to protect & preserve our rich heritage of knowledge and that scholars & Mahatmas (monks) can get the convenience of quenching their thirst of knowledge at a single place! My Gurudev Rashtrasant Shri Padmasagar Suriji started the work in this direction which eventually became a goal of his life. During his vihar journey in Rajasthan, he found a few manuscripts in decrepit and damaged condition. In those days, Agamprabhakar Pujya Punyavijayji Maharaj had undertaken the task of deep research-based editing of Jain Agamas based on ancient manuscripts and thus, Gurudev used to send such damaged manuscripts to them for their appropriate restoration and preservation. It was at that time that Gurudev realised that there is a great treasure of such rich knowledge that is lying in worn out and neglected condition in these villages. He thought that villages and their cultures were getting destroyed every passing day and with this pattern of downfall, it is imperative to save this treasure of knowledge before it gets extinct in this flow. With this resolve, he started visiting villages and got in touch with people who had such ancient treasures of knowledge. He told them that if they could not preserve and take care of the copies, they could hand them over to him. In a span of around 50 years, he walked barefoot (vihar) for about 2,00,000+ kilometres covering Bihar in the north to Salem in the south and countries like Nepal and collected as much literature as possible. Taking note of this feat, many generous donors collectively donated sums and established a Trust in the year 1980 named “Shree Mahavir Jain Aradhana Kendra” and laid the foundation stone of this Koba Library. Full-fledged work began in the year 1987. Initially, the process started in a small room which eventually and gradually went on expanding. All the manuscripts/ “hastaprats” collected in that span of 50 years have been stored here. As and when people got to know about this noble cause and such a visionary initiative, they too started contributing to it by sending copies of manuscripts/ “hastaprats”. While a few donated the manuscripts out of respect and reverence, many a times copies were also purchased by paying the appropriate sums from donations from Shravaks. This library was established with a goal of streamlining and preserving the dilapidated and worn-out copies of literature/granths/manuscripts and today, we feel satisfied that we could work to a great extent towards this goal. Today, top scholars across the globe acknowledge this library in their research work for the references that they get from here and this gives us the motivation to keep working towards this cause”

Rare literature of various languages:

Just because it is a Jain Library does not mean that only Jain literature is available here. In fact, it has manuscripts/literature on Vedant – Yog – Ayurved – Buddhism which are now classified under the “rarely available” category and the experts on these subjects contact the Koba Library in case they want to refer to any material on these topics. Manuscripts/ “Hastaprats” in languages like Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Orria, Telugu, Kannada, Burmese, Tibetian and many other are available here. Literature not just limited to Jainism but various subjects like Ayurved, Yog, Jyotish (astrology), Shilp (architecture), Tatvagyan(philosophy), Dharma across various languages are available here due to which researchers/ scholars/ experts of many fields across the world visit this library to quench their thirst of knowledge & research. All thanks to this Gyan Bhandar, a huge amount of rare ancient literature that was not known to any and a lot of unpublished literature came out to this world that would otherwise had been extinct by now. Acharya Shri says, “We have so much unpublished literature with us that is enough to engage many scholars and experts for about 40 years & we would still be left with unpublished matter!”

A heaven for scholars and researchers:

There are 2 reasons why scholars and researchers come to Koba.

One is the volume and quality of knowledge heritage preserved and recorded here and its unique cataloguing system in this digitized era and the second important reason is that they get easy access to this knowledge heritage. After being convinced that these Granths/ manuscripts are not available anywhere in the world, when it is found that those Granths/ manuscripts are available in Koba and when these Granths reach in the hands of such Scholars/Researchers, they simply experience an unmatched level of joy & happiness.

Pujya Ajayasagarsuriji Maharaj Saheb has many such examples. He says, “The World of these Handwritten Granths is also very interesting. It astonishes our minds to see the level at which the art of handwriting was developed in our culture over hundreds of years. One can only be surprised to see the amazing uniformity of hand-written words even without computers or printers, super accurate uniformity in handwriting, smooth changing of colours of their ink, no spacing differences even for drawn pictures and conveying messages with beauty through various calligraphy effects!”

And yes, we too saw such a beautiful art of handwriting and journaling of various Granth at Koba Library during the research of this article. Each page of the written manuscripts had pictures of beautiful animals painted on one side margin to capsulate the page number. A pictorial glimpse of it has been shared here in the article as well.

Each Prat (manuscript) has its own history and its own world of heritage! One can only understand this when they see this. Pujyashree Ajayasagarsuriji Maharaj says, that during the time of Corona, a renowned scholar Poojaben Vaid was studying here where she found various granths on Jain Ayurveda which were not available anywhere. Reading detailed descriptions of the types of Vayu and granths based on Nadishastra literally brought tears to her eyes.

Many scholars from Japan have already visited Koba for studying Buddhist literature. In fact, so much data about our ancient Tirths such as Palitana, Shankeshwar, Sametshikharji, Ranakpur etc. has been found in these ancient manuscripts that the references are useful enough to help us in legally establishing the rights of the Jains in the courts.

One of the finest Cataloguing techniques in the world!

What makes Koba Library different??

The Cataloguing system here is the most important reason why this repository of knowledge is different from all the other libraries of the world and it has become a centre of attraction for scholars. Mr Ketan Shah, who handles the technology part of Koba Gyan Bhandar says, ‘The Granth that comes to us is included in the catalogue along with approx. 400 data points/ information related to it and thus the work of finding it digitally becomes very easy. One very important highlight is that all the manuscripts present in this library are scanned and their copies are available digitally. But apart from that a detailed and in-depth information of these manuscripts is also captured which makes the entire process of cataloguing very special and unique. A few data points are as follows:

  • Who wrote the manuscript,
  • When it was written,
  • In which language was it written,
  • Where it was originally written,
  • On whose request it was written,
  • Name of Guru whose Discipline wrote it,
  • Under what circumstances it was written,
  • Which method or pattern has been followed in framing the Granth,
  • Who all supported financially for getting it written,
  • During which King’s Lifespan it was written,
  • Name of the Written Granth with its Unique Specialities,
  • If it is known by any other name, then an alternate name of that Granth

Special software has been created for this activity in which we can enter any detail of the catalogue or with the help of any linked information with respect to specific shlok/stenga one can match the saved data of software & find the manuscripts within seconds.

It is worth mentioning here that 36 volumes of this catalogue have been published so far. There is enough material available in the Gyan Bhandar to publish at least 100 volumes of this catalogue. It is worth highlighting that 1 catalogue book contains about 3000 manuscripts/”hastaprats”. One can just imagine the quantum/ volume of knowledge that is being preserved from the fact that 36 such catalogues have already been prepared and are functional while work is under progress to reach to the milestone of 100 catalogues! Isn’t that phenomenal?! And perhaps that is why it is often observed that scholars/ researchers who have travelled across the world to find their incomplete findings, finds the references and necessary information at Koba & that too with minimum effort!

A team of around 50 people, most of whom are scholars and researchers themselves, are working tirelessly day and night to pass on the invaluable heritage of this knowledge to the next generation. And this complete activity and its operations are being done with the generous support of various donors.


Number of Manuscripts present in Koba.

A number of Manuscripts are available in PDF format.

Yearly Average number of Manuscript’s PDF taken by People from Koba Library.

No. Of Sadhu-Sadhviji Ms For whom Shrut Bhakti is being performed by the Koba Library.

Besides Koba, the other 42 Shrut Library’s Manuscripts scanned data is received by Koba Gyan Bhandar.

This is a Manuscript written in Ank Pallavi style popular in the 12th century which is only available only at Koba.

According to the information given by Panditji Sanjaybhai Jha, this is a symbolic Lipi/script. This manuscript is about 300 years old. Jain’s 23rd Tirthankar Lord Parshvanath Stavan has been written in the above manuscript composed only of numbers.

Check out these Manuscripts with beautiful lettering in handwritten copy, side drawings and designs.

What happens after the manuscripts are brought in at the Koba repository?

Manuscript’s Situation when it arrives and then sorting begins

By this type of chemical process, the dust of the manuscripts is first removed, the papers are separated and the Japanese tissue paper is applied to it to make it long-lasting.

This is a Manuscripts Super Secured Storage System. Storage cabinets are specially made out of unique Wood and special Steel wherein there is no place for moisture to enter due to which there are rare chance for damage due to organisms (which usually happens in moisture) and it becomes long lasting.

Special Preservation & Protection Technique

When these manuscripts reach Koba Library many of them are in a condition that their sight just shatters our heart – messy and bent pages and very delicate condition.

Gajendra Shah, the in-charge of the Manuscripts Department at Koba Gyan Bhandar is showing the complete process and with every passing section, the excitement is visible in his explanation. You can just try to visualize the world with the description!

First of all, the manuscripts come to this repository in a crumpled, sticky state – such a delicate state that even if you try to stick the torn paper, it turns into powder! Then the team carefully sorts it and fumigates it wherein it is placed in the fumigation chamber to remove all the dust, soil, and fungus. After that with a special process, multiple sticked pages are steadily separated and later on with the help of Japanese Tissue Paper, those Manuscripts are lined using specially prepared Menda paste that gives it a long-lasting life. Due to this process, even torn or heavily damaged pages are now in a condition that nothing happens to them even if you try to fold them!

In this complete process, a smart combination of two techniques is followed: one that is followed globally and the other that has been traditionally in use in India.

The storage and preservation of these restored manuscripts are done in a unique way.

Burmatic wooden storage is specially designed for storing these manuscripts. The speciality of this wood is that it doesn’t expand or shrink or get damaged due to moisture or unfavourable climatic conditions. It is also layered with a tough stainless steel layer.  These movable cabinets are structured in a manner that they don’t catch moisture. In addition to it, as a precautionary measure, an Ayurvedic pack is placed with these granths to prevent attack from mites/organisms.

With the techniques & and processes followed here, the manuscripts can easily be preserved for the next 200-300 years. A storage system is set in a way that it can protect the manuscripts against any damage and wear and tear due to atmosphere, fire, water and insects!

Like manuscripts,  you will find many books here which cannot be found anywhere else. Dr. Hemant Kumar, in-charge of the Books department shows a book of talking Gita and also a rare book on the art of sculpting which has an enormous depth on the subject matter. Just like that Along with Koba Gyan Bhandar, they do have a wonderful Samrat Samprati Sangrahalay (museum) where scriptures, artwork, ancient statues of the second and third centuries, copies of the order released by Akbar banning slaughter during Paryushan festival, the world’s longest Chaturmasik Invitation Card & many articles can be found that date back to hundreds & hundreds of years. We shall have a detailed talk on this some other time!

Koba Library Address

Shri Mahavir Jain Aradhana Kendra, Koba (શ્રી મહાવીર જૈન આરાધના કેન્દ્ર, કોબા)

Click here to get the location on Google Maps


Credits :-
mid-day Newspaper

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