The people of Barak Valley proudly hail the legacy of Gurucharan College. The Barak Valley region was historically a part of the then Surma Valley, most part of which is now in the territorial domain of the state of Tripura and Sylhet district of Bangladesh. The Barak Valley finds historical reference in many ancient documents. However, the complete journey through history of the valley is not so vivid; a major portion of the history remains obscure due to lack of proper historical records. Oral traditions, folklore and manuscripts constitute a valuable treasury of information for the reconstruction of the historical past of any region. The Barak Valley is not an exception to this fact. Here also we find a remarkable tradition of writing manuscripts on a variety of subjects ranging from epical story, excerpts from religious scriptures, chronicle of family lineage and so on.
Critical analysis of manuscripts may reveal valuable historical ingredients, more particularly on things related to socio-cultural evolution, customs and traditions of the people historically inhabiting an area. Thus, manuscript may be considered as a national resource to the study of many dimensions of the society in the historical perspective. In Barak Valley, scholars are of the opinion that writing of manuscript was either from personal interest or from royal patronage. Without much exception, the majority of the manuscripts were found in the custody of the successors of the original author. The custodians of the manuscripts keep them preserved as a mark of memory of their forefathers and as a matter of family pride. As such, getting access to these manuscripts and collecting
The most part of the valley region falls within the flood plain of river Barak and its numerous tributaries and suffer frequent inundation during the long rainy season. Many manuscripts and other historical documents of this area had been the victim of this annual calamity. The Normal School, Silchar is the pioneer Institute to collect and preserve manuscripts found in this locality.
The Manuscript Centre of Gurucharan College, Silchar is the first of its kind in any college in the entire Barak Valley. The college owns and maintains a Manuscript Centre of excellence running in association with the National Mission for Manuscript, (at present under IGNCA), Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The Manuscript Center comprises of two wings. The Manuscript Resource Centre was recognized in 2005 by the National Mission for Manuscript, while the Manuscript Conservation Centre was established in 2010 in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
The representatives from the Manuscript Center, mainly a few senior faculty members and the librarian were able to trace out a few tens of households located in various parts of Cachar district of Barak Valley where manuscripts were kept as ancestral property. Even after repeated visits, the college was unable to convince most of them to hand over these valuable manuscripts in the safe custody of the Manuscript Center. These manuscripts were in pathetic condition due to unscientific mode of preservation and were likely to be completely damaged in course of time. Only fifteen donors voluntarily contributed a significant number of manuscripts to the Centre. Successive collection drives accomplished in multiple phases resulted in gathering a resource of about 150 numbers of manuscripts in the Manuscript Centre of the college.
In the last few years 92 manuscripts have been cataloged as per the standard protocol. Out of these, 79 manuscripts are written in Sanskrit, 11 in Bengali and 2 in Bilingual (Bengali and Sanskrit). The remaining 58 manuscripts are in the process of proper documentation. The cataloged manuscripts contain both prose and poetry written in archaic Bengali script on paper material and Sachi Patra (bark of tree specially meant for writing). Among these, the earliest manuscript dates back to 1873 AD. The pages of a few manuscripts written on paper are found to be partially damaged and words are illegible in some cases. Some of the manuscripts are reproductions from published books, particularly from religious scriptures. Only a few of the cataloged manuscripts are the product of original authorship.
The glimpses of culture, tradition and customs of the indigenous people find mention in a number of manuscripts related to folk literature. A few manuscripts can serve the reference of calligraphy writing. The manuscripts being important national resources, portray the literary, cultural and historical heritage of a particular group of people or region. That is why, the Manuscript Resource Centre of the institution has the potential to explore the hidden treasure and unveil the intellectual legacy of the region.
The Center is venued in the second floor of the B.C. Gupta Memorial Central Library and the library staff look after the maintenance of the manuscripts. Looking at the extreme weather conditions especially during the summer season when high temperature and humidity prevails, it seems to be detrimental to preserve manuscripts in normal room temperature. The Centre needs to be conditioned to prescribe limits of temperature and moisture. Interested students, researchers and amateur readers have regular access to these valuable resources for their academic purposes and also to satisfy their keen interest and hobbies.
High resolution scanning of the manuscripts and their printing in the form of hard bound books may be a better option for regular reference to the original manuscripts. It has come to the notice of the learned manuscript lovers that still there are hundreds of scattered manuscripts lying unattended in the custody of people who do not even know their invaluable significance. In this context, the role of the Manuscript Centre of Gurucharan College becomes indispensable to search for such unexplored resources of the valley region and take the appropriate measures for their collection, preservation and maintenance.