19.06.2013 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Two manuscripts from Nepal now in UNESCO’s prestigious Memory of the World Register

©Keshar Library -Susrutasamhita, an ancient manuscript

©National Archives -Niśvāsattatvasaṃhitā, the earliest surviving tantric manuscript

Two Nepali manuscripts of world significance are now in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. The Niśvāsattatvasaṃhitā, the earliest surviving tantric manuscript, and the Susrutasamhita, the oldest document in the field of Ayurveda medicine, have been added yesterday to the prestigious list recognizing documentary heritage of outstanding value. They are the first inscriptions from Nepal in the Register.

“I congratulate Nepal for the inscriptions of the two manuscripts in the Memory of the World Register. I am confident that their inclusion in the Register contributes to creating greater awareness of the need to preserve Nepal’s memory held in the country’s archives and libraries”, says Axel Plathe, UNESCO representative to Nepal.

The Niśvāsattatvasaṃhitā Manuscript, which is deposited at the National Archives, is said to be the earliest surviving tantric manuscript and as such it is important source for the early history of tantrism. It has had a great influence in shaping other tantric texts. Tantrism has had impact on many major Asian religions and even influenced Islam practiced in India. The Western World has been influenced by tantras through the practice of yoga, which has its roots in tantrism (Bjonnes) as well as through the New Age groups in America.

The 1134 year old palm leaf manuscript of the Susrutasamhita (Sahottartantra), held by the Kaiser Library in Kathmandu, is considered as the oldest document in the field of Ayurveda medicine, a systematic and formal tradition of healing that became South Asia's principal medical system and has profoundly influenced all cultures surrounding South Asia including Tibet, Central Asia, China, South-East Asia and the Middle East. The manuscript focuses especially on surgery and discusses various kinds of diseases related to heart, skin, gynecology, etc. It also describes various methods and use of herbs in curing diseases.

The two manuscripts from Nepal are among 54 new additions to the Memory of the World Register, approved yesterday by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. Among the others are The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara: from the original manuscripts of his adolescence and youth to the campaign Diary in Bolivia, presented by Bolovia and Cuba; the Pages of Testimony Collection, Yad Vashem Jerusalem, 1954-2004, presented by Israel; and Maha Lawkamarazein or Kuthodaw Inscription Shrines, presented by Myanmar, 

The complete list is available at: www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/flagship-project-activities/memory-of-the-world/register/access-by-year/2013/

The Memory of the World Register now includes a total of 299 documents and document collections from the five continents, safeguarded on various supports from stone to celluloid and parchment to sound recordings.  

UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992. Impetus came originally from a growing awareness of the parlous state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in many parts of the world.


Kathmandu, 19 June 2013

Press release UNESCO/KAT 11/2013

<- Back to: UNESCO Office in Kathmandu
Back to top