From Sanjaya Jena in Bhubaneswar
More than 30,000 palm leaf manuscripts are stored in a small government office in Kujanga tehsil in Orissa. An official who worked there says these include records of poet Rabindranath Tagore'sancestral property.
Narottam Behera, who heads the Kujang tehsil in Jagatsinghpur district said the government had been requested to take hold of the 1,876 manuscripts. ?We want the government museum to conserve them but nothing has been done,? said Behera.
The manuscripts of the estates of the Vardhaman zamindars (landowners) are in the tehsil office. Tagore owned ancestral property in Pandua village in Jagatsinghpur and used to visit the house frequently. Amid the sylvan surroundings of this village, he composed the lyrical verses of Chitrangada.
The house was damaged in the 1999 cyclone, which hit the coastal districts of Orissa killing over 10,000 people, and is now lying in ruins.
The other pieces of history apparently lying uncared for in the tehsil building include eight British-made brass swords and four single and double barrel guns, which might have been used by the police during the colonial rule.
Sources revealed that apart from these, articles and utensils from British households?some made of gold and silver?were also housed in the office. The Vardhaman zamindars controlled large coastal parts of the state. Besides, British officers had several camps because of the navigation network in the area.
In 2003, authorities from the state government museum in Bhubaneswar inspected the antiques at the tehsil. They had reportedly drawn up a plan to take the palm leaf manuscripts to the museum for conservation. The Bhubaneswar museum already has over 30,000 manuscripts.
?We have documented some of those manuscripts (in the tehsil),? said Chandrabhanu Patel, superintendent of the government museum. ?However the responsibility of preserving the manuscripts is that of the local administration?, he added.
A survey by museum officials has found the state to have about 340,000 manuscripts in various museums or with private owners. ?This is the highest number (of manuscripts) so far known for any state,? a museum official said.