Punjab has a long and an illustrious history. Under the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, its borders extended to the west of the Indus river and kissed the foothills of the Himalayas. Most of the events of that era were recorded in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and Farsi text. Apart from the sacred texts, the archives were stored; but in a deplorable state. In the year 2003, Panjab Digital Library undertook the task of finding and saving these manuscripts and archives by way of digitising.
The founder and one of the driving force behind this organisation is Mr Jatinder Singh. Initially, the organisation’s motive was to digitise the manuscripts that were lying in Punjab’s villages as they were at a greater risk of being damaged. But as Singh explains, the contrary happened. “Manuscripts lying with universities and museums were at a greater risk of getting extinct due to frequent usage, but the ones with the people were safe.” The digitisation process started and took a lot of time and effort. Singh and his team used to carry CRT monitors and all the other equipment to villages on their shoulders for the digitisation. Singh adds, “People often asked us that why were we doing the job of the government?”
Slowly, Singh and his team’s efforts started bearing fruit. Till date, Panjab Digital Library has digitised 16 million pages and has received requests for digitising 70 million more pages. “People have started getting aware, and they come to us on their own.” As Punjab was the erstwhile Pepsu State, people come not only from Punjab; but also from Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
Many families in Punjab have retained old artefacts such as coins, brass ornaments and even clothing of the Sikh gurus. Panjab Digital Library’s prime focus rests on digitising pages and manuscripts. But still, they have digitised 35,000 artefacts the majority of which are Phulkaris.
The idea to bring up Panjab Digital Library was spontaneous according to Singh. The idea of keeping our relics under lock and key, according to Singh is good; but the present generation should know about them. Commenting on the unique idea of the project, Singh says, “The main idea was to build interest for our forgotten history among our people, especially children. Some of the manuscripts haven’t even been seen by our grandparents, so how can we expect our children to know about them.”
Even after running a dedicated organisation, Singh feels that more institutions should come up and take up this job. “We cannot sit and wait for the governments to fund us. There is not a single organisation or a government in this world, which can take care of the all reminisces of its bygone era. A collective effort involving the people and the government needs to be taken up for the same.”
They can be visited on www.panjabdigilib.org.
Text by Gurbir Singh Sidhu
Images courtesy: Panjab Digital Library