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Strong security needed to protect Dakhinpat artefacts: Shiela Bora
Staff Reporter

Shiela Bora, convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Assam chapter addressing the media at Guwahati Press Club, on Saturday. – UB Photos
 GUWAHATI, March 23 - There is an urgent need to provide a strong security system to the Dakhinpat Satra of Majuli to protect its treasure of invaluable historical artefacts, said Prof Shiela Bora, convenor of the Assam Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) here today.

Bora while addressing a press conference said that the Dakhinpat artefacts include the Ahom era golden crowns of the royals, three trunk-loads of golden and copper coins, golden pitchers and plates, various items made of silver and copper – including the silver staff with the story of Dashavatara engraved in it, copper plates with inscriptions of royal decrees, conch shells of various sizes and shapes, kingphap silk clothes and sanchi and tulapat manuscripts, among others, she said.

She informed the media persons that their organisation has written to the Chief Minister about seven months back, seeking a grant of Rs 4.2 crore to set up a museum on the campus of the Satra for the proper conservation of the above artefacts. But the State Government has learnt to have agreed so far to sanction an amount of Rs 3.5 crore.

An amount of Rs 11 lakh of the above sum has recently been released and asked to be spent within the current month. However, it would not be possible on the part of the INTACH Assam Chapter to spend this amount within the current month, she said.

She informed the media persons that excluding the coins, their organisation has listed and documented 1,700 artefacts so far preserved by the Satra. However, these invaluable artefacts are kept by the Satra in a 300-year-old dilapidated wooden structure called Bhoral (storehouse). An aged Bhakat is engaged as its sentry.

Significantly, the INTACH members were told by the Dakhinpat Satradhikar (head of the Satra) that two white cobras are there to ensure security of these artifacts, said Prof Bora, adding, the present condition is such that these invaluable artefacts are vulnerable to burglary etc.

Manuscript conservation: Mridu Moucham Bora, an expert in sanchi and tulapat manuscript conservation and general secretary of the Dhing, Nagaon-based Society for Srimanta Sankardeva, who supervised the implementation of the INTACH manuscript conservation project in Dakhinpat Satra, said within a period of seven months since June 6, 2018, 631 manuscripts, with 20,718 folios, were conserved.

Sven of these manuscripts are rare illustrated ones. These seven manuscripts include – Sachitra Bhagawat Katha, Kurukshetra, Geeta, Ekadash Skandha Bhagawat, two Kirtanas and the Banamali Devar Charita, he informed. After conservation, all these manuscripts were digitised. Altogether 41,100 images were taken during the digitisation process, he said.

The manuscripts have now been shifted to a safer place from the wooden dak bungalow where they were preserved until the conservation process started. The manuscripts are now sealed in a three-layered cover comprising oil papers, acid-free papers and red cloths and kept in the acid-free almirahs donated by the INTACH to the Dakhinpat Satra for the purpose.

But, in the face of fungal infection and rodent attack several of the manuscripts were damaged irreparably, said the manuscript conservator. He maintained that the manuscripts of Dakhinpat Satra were damaged mostly during the past about 100 years and flood is found to be one of the major factors responsible for the loss of a huge number of manuscripts of the Satra.

Prof Bora said the Dakhinpat Satra manuscript conservation project of the INTACH has been funded by the Prince Clause Emergency Fund for Art and Cultural Heritage and Whiting Foundation, Netherlands. INTACH Assam Chapter received an amount of 15,000 Euros as grant from this Foundation for the purpose.

The project was implemented under the technical guidance of Mallika Mitra, director of the National Manuscript Mission, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, said Prof Sheila Bora.

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