Rare ayurveda and yoga manuscripts pit Patanjali against culture ministry
There is a tussle going on between Yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s Divya Yog Mandir Trust Patanjali Yogpeeth and the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) which comes under the Union ministry of culture over access to copies of rare manuscripts on ayurveda and yoga.
Patanjali wants to access digital copies of the manuscript for research, but NMM doesn’t seem to be too keen on sharing the documents, despite the intervention of its parent ministry, the ministry of culture. NMM director V Venkata Ramana Reddy could not be reached for comment because he went on a month-long medical leave last week. People familiar with the matter at NMM said on condition of anonymity that Reddy’s message to them, mentioning the intervention of the minister of culture and asking that the manuscripts be shared, was seen as more of a guideline than a direction.
NMM’s position has been that there are copyright issues. In August, Reddy wrote to Patanjali: “The NMM cannot use or provide to any third party the digital copies of any manuscripts without the prior permission of the manuscripts holders. We have written to the ministry regarding the ownership rights and also requested the institutes, which have been covered under the digitization project to provide their consent for making the digital data accessible to people on the website of NMM.”
Patanjali doesn’t see it that way.
It has accused the mission of spending crores of rupees of public money for collecting manuscripts from across India but not making any use of it in public interest. It blamed the mission of deviating from its mandate of dissemination of knowledge contained in the manuscripts.
Acharya Balkrishna, general secretary, Patanjali Yogpeeth, said the trust has already published about two dozen research books and manuals on the subject after collecting manuscripts as old as 2,000 years from various sources including libraries and individuals.
“We have requested multiple times to the NMM and the ministry that we do not want original manuscripts but copies, and only for research and publication purposes for the benefit of the people in general with no commercial use,” Balkrishna said over the phone. “These government-run institutions collected manuscripts and digitized the same using public money running in crores of rupees but are not allowing us access for public use. We have been trying for this for the past 4-5 years. I met the NMM’s directors too but to no avail,” he added.
One of Patanjali Yogpeeth’s affiliates Patanjali Ayurved is in the business of making and selling foods and cosmetics.
In September, after Union minister of culture Mahesh Sharma intervened in favour of Patanjali, Reddy wrote to the Manuscript Resource Centers (MRCs) and Manuscript Conservation Centers (MCCs), from where it sources manuscripts, asking them to hand over the digitized copies of manuscripts to Patanjali. The NMM sources the manuscripts from MRCs and MCCs for digitization but returns the original manuscripts along with a DVD containing the digitized data.
“The minister of culture has desired that digitized/photocopies of the manuscripts on Ayurveda and Yoga available with your MRC may be provided to the Patanjali Yogpeeth for research purpose,” the NMM director said in an email to the MRCs. The email had no effect.
The Mission has so far digitized about 1,200 Ayruveda and Yoga manuscripts. It is said to have about 10,000 Ayurveda and Yoga manuscripts in its possession. Launched in 2003 during the NDA government, the NMM works for the preservation of the vast manuscript wealth of India — estimated to be in the tens of millions. These manuscripts cover a variety of themes.