In 1868, the Government of the Bombay Presidency set in motion a programme for the collection of ancient Indian manuscripts. Fifty years later 28,000 such manuscripts had been gathered. This collection was eventually kept in Pune, where the dry climate was considered likely to help preserve the manuscripts. Thirty manuscripts of the Rigveda were inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 2007 as representatives of this magnificent collection.
The Rigveda is the collection of the hymns and ritual chants of the Aryan people. Some date more than a thousand years ago, others from centuries later. They were initially transmitted orally within the priestly Brahmin families, but as time passed and the language became more difficult to understand, the texts were written out with notes to aid pronunciation, and commentaries to aid understanding. The 30 manuscripts of the Rigveda preserved in Pune are among the most important witnesses to the text of the Rigveda, and the printed text of the Rigveda is dependent on them. The oldest text dates from 1464 Five of the volumes contain the complete text: complete texts are rare. Thirteen volumes contain the oldest known commentary, and five contain the traditional aids to pronunciation. One of the texts is written on birch-bark, and the others on paper. Since the Rigveda hymns and ritual chants have been the heart of Hinduism for three thousand years and more, they have been at the heart of Indian culture and history. The historical and cultural significance of this collection is immense.