INTACH restoring centuries-old Quran manuscript

INTACH Conservator busy with restoration of historic Quranic manuscripts. —Excelsior/Shakeel
INTACH Conservator busy with restoration of historic Quranic manuscripts. —Excelsior/Shakeel

Govt shows no interest in preserving rare documents

Irfan Tramboo

Srinagar, Apr 2: The Manuscript Conservation Centre (MCC) at INTACH here is currently busy with the restoration of a nearly 150-year-old finely written manuscript of the Quran with care and caution.
Dating back to 1294 Hijri Calendar—1877 CE—the MCC received the manuscript from a family in Srinagar, which has had possession of it ever since, for restoration so that its legacy is preserved for the future.

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“We do not know who had wrote it; it is part of a private collection. For the last month, we have been busy with its restoration, doing it page by page and ensuring that its historic importance is preserved,” said Imran Ali, working as a Conservator at INTACH’s J&K chapter office in Lal Chowk.
He mentioned that during the restoration, they are ensuring that the essence of the manuscript is kept intact, without adding anything new that does not belong to it or makes it look odd.
“What we ensure is restoration, preserving the essence of the historical manuscripts; we make it a point that whatever goes into its restoration does not disturb the balance in any manner,” he said.
Giving details about the manuscript, Imran said its size is 23.17 centimeters with a thickness of 6.5 centimeters, using handmade paper throughout, and the writing carried out using insoluble ink.
Regarding the condition of the manuscript received at INTACH in December last year, apart from being fragile, it had dust and dirt, ink smudges, lost areas, abrasion, rodent attacks, loose folios, wrinkles, tear crease marks, and mud deposition.
After the manuscript was received and the proper assessment was carried out, a treatment plan was outlined, which included dry brushing, pagination, reinforcement, strip lining, binding, full lining, and consolidation.
”So far, I have been able to restore some of its pages in the last month or so, the work is ongoing, and keeping in view its condition, it will take some time,” he said.
Interestingly, in the process of restoration of the ancient Quran, the page numbering is an issue for the conservators because the manuscript hasn’t been numbered. “Once we are done with its restoration, it will go to a person who has memorized the Quran; that will ensure the pagination.”
It is to be noted that since the start of the work by INTACH in 2022, its MCC has received 106 manuscripts for restoration, with the majority of them from private repositories.
Saleem Beg, Convenor of INTACH’s J&K Chapter, told Excelsior that the majority of the manuscripts, according to official figures, are in private possession.
“As per the official figures, the number is 40,000; that only emphasizes the need to focus more on such treasures lying in private possession; those under the possession of the Government are around 6-7 thousand,” he said.
Beg noted that they have sent two separate proposals to the Director Archives as well as the SPS Museum for the restoration of the manuscripts lying with them; however, those proposals have been pending for quite some time now.