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Sanskrit Manuscripts in the South Asian Rare Books Collection

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(The following is post by Jonathan Loar, South Asian Reference Librarian, Asian Division)

In 1938, the Library of Congress received a three-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation to establish a project for the development of Indic studies, which was the Library’s first initiative to collect South Asian materials systematically. This grant enabled the project’s director, Horace Poleman, to spend about a year in India between 1939 and 1940. Urgency moved him to collect both rare books and contemporary works on modern affairs, as the outbreak of World War II cast uncertainty on the future of obtaining publications from India and the rest of the region. Poleman’s trip resulted notably in the Library’s acquisition of a large number of Sanskrit manuscripts, such as the Vyavasthasarasangraha (a compendium of Hindu authorities on religious law), Sarasvatistotra (a hymn of praise to the Hindu goddess of learning and music Saraswati), and a copy of Raghunandana Bhattacarya’s Tithitattva (a treatise on Hindu rituals to be performed on specific lunar days) dated to 1628.

Sanskrit is one of the principal classical languages of ancient India. The word itself means something like “perfected,” “refined,” or “well put together” (sam – together, krta – done, made). Works in Sanskrit are found throughout Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu religious traditions. For many Hindus, it is a sacred medium of expression – the language of ancient scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita. Many people are familiar with Sanskrit in the Devanagari script – the same script used for Hindi, Nepali and other modern vernaculars – but Sanskrit texts have also been written in other writing systems, (e.g., the Grantha in southern India, the Sharada in Kashmir). To get a sense of what the language sounds like, check out some samples of poetry and prose from contemporary Sanskrit authors in the Library’s South Asian Literary Recordings Project.

Sanskrit vowels and consonants with a guide to pronunciation, from H.H. Wilson’s “An Introduction to the Grammar of the Sanskrit Language,” 1841, Library of Congress general collections. Also freely available on HathiTrust.

Poleman was prepared for his acquisition trip to India. In addition to holding a doctorate in Sanskrit from the University of Pennsylvania, he had already authored a comprehensive census of Indic manuscripts in North American libraries. The range of manuscripts in the Library’s collection reflects his deep understanding of Sanskrit literature. The majority deal with religious subjects, like the Anantapuja (worship), Shraddhasankalpa (funerary rites), and Gayatrisahasranamastotra from the Rudrayamala (esoteric religion, or tantra). There are also smaller works from sections of the Padma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, and other puranas, or religious texts that tell the stories of Hindu gods and goddesses. Notable works on other topics are the Vaiyyakaranasiddhantaratnakara (grammar) and Sanketakaumudi (astrology).

The manuscripts acquired by Poleman for the Library, as well as several other manuscripts acquired or received as donations over the years, are part of the South Asian rare books collection’s “Indo-Aryan Ms.” series. Searching the Library’s online catalog with “Indo-Aryan Ms.” in quotation marks is a quick way to browse records for about 470 of these manuscripts. Here are highlights of four exemplary manuscripts in the series.

Bhagavad Gita. Indo-Aryan Ms. 173. Date: 1729.

Indo-Aryan Ms. 173, Bhagavad Gita (1729). South Asian rare books collection, Asian Division.

Estimated to have been composed between 200 BC and 200 AD, the Bhagavad Gītā (literally “Song of the Lord”) is one of the most beloved works of Hindu religious literature. The Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the voluminous Mahabharata epic, is an extended conversation between the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer, the Hindu god Krishna. When Arjuna’s courage wavers on the battlefield, Krishna delivers teachings about the necessity of doing one’s duty without attaching selfishly to the fruits of action, as well as the importance of devotion (bhakti) to God. The image of the manuscript seen here includes verses seven and eight of the text’s fourth chapter, where Krishna promises to return, age after age, whenever righteousness declines.

Kalpasutra. Indo-Aryan Ms. 213. Date: 18th/19th century.

Indo-Aryan Ms. 213, Kalpasutra (18/19th century). Top image: the chief disciple after Mahavira’s passing, Indrabhuti Gautama, surrounded by auspicious symbols. Bottom image: Mahavira in the Pushpottara heaven. South Asian rare books collection, Asian Division.

Attributed to the monk Bhadrabahu (4th century BC), the Kalpasutra is an important work in the Jain religious tradition. It contains the sacred biographies of tirthankaras, literally “ford-makers,” or spiritual adepts who teach and show others the path toward the soul’s liberation from reincarnation. Prominent in this text is the life story of Mahavira (6th century BC), the twenty-fourth Jain tirthankara and near-contemporary of the Buddha in eastern India. Like many Jain scriptures, the language of the text is classified as Prakrit (i.e., Ardhamagadhi Prakrit), a type of vernacular that developed historically from Sanskrit. The South Asian rare books collection has two copies of the Kalpasutra with beautiful illustrations; the other copy from the mid-15th century is pictured on the main page of the South Asian Collection Research Guide.

Picture of right palm with inscriptions. Indo-Aryan Ms. 155. Date: 19th century.

Indo-Aryan Ms. 155, Picture of palm with inscriptions (19th century). South Asian rare books collection, Asian Division.

This double-sided folio represents the Sanskrit genre of rekhashastra, or the science of palmistry. Many such manuscripts depict the palm highlighted with various lines (rekha), according to which the palmist can make prognostications about one’s health, lifespan, and personality traits. In the Asian Reading Room, there are a number of secondary sources on rekhashastra in various languages: Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, Nepali, and Gujarati, as well as many English works in the Library’s General Collections.

Shivasahasranamavali. Indo-Aryan Ms. 194. Date: 19th century.

Indo-Aryan Ms. 194, Shivasahasranamavali (19th century). South Asian rare book collection, Asian Division.

A sahasranama is a Hindu religious text that lists 1,000 names of a particular deity. Reading a sahasranama calls to mind the deity’s different qualities and stories. This incomplete manuscript has more than 400 names of the Hindu god Shiva. Among his many names, Shiva (auspicious) is also Shambhu (benevolent), Ugra (fierce), and Gangadhara (the one who holds the sacred Ganga River in his matted hair).

Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Albrecht Weber Collection

Fifty-five Sanskrit manuscripts are in the collection of the 19th-century German Indologist Albrecht Weber, which the Library of Congress acquired in 1904. Some of these are Weber’s handwritten copies of manuscripts housed in other institutions and collections, and some are copies produced by other scholars, mostly in the late 19th century. Thirteen are in Devanagari script, while the rest are a mix of Devanagari and romanized transliteration. Many also contain Weber’s handwritten marginalia, indicating his notes on variations in different manuscripts of the same work.

Weber Ms. 14, the Kathaka Samhita of the Black Yajur Veda, an ancient Hindu scripture in Sanskrit with a mixture of verbal formulas, or mantras, used in religious rituals. This manuscript in the Weber collection is in Sanskrit with romanized transliteration, and it bears Albrecht Weber’s initials with the date of August 23, 1859. South Asian rare book collection, Asian Division.

An itemized list of manuscripts in the Weber collection is available in the 1902 German publication, “A Catalog of the Library of the Late Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Berlin.” The relevant pages of this work with the manuscript titles and other information are available in the South Asian Collection Research Guide.

Access to Sanskrit Manuscripts at the Library of Congress

All of the Library’s Sanskrit manuscripts are part of the Asian Division’s South Asian rare books collection. The Asian Division’s rare book policy states that access to rare materials is reserved for individuals engaged in scholarly research. To inquire about these manuscripts or to make the necessary appointment in advance to view them, please contact South Asian reference staff through the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian online inquiry form.

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Comments (38)

  1. Please let me know VEDA VIVRUTTI by Raghavendra Yati is available with you thank you

  2. Hi Jayant – Unfortunately, the Library of Congress doesn’t have this work with the title “Veda Vivrutti” by Raghavendra Yati. If you are referring to Raghavendra Tirtha/Raghavendra Swami (17th century), there are a number of books by and about him in LC’s online catalog. For example, see the record for Gitavivrti, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: In this record, you can click on the name “Raghavendra Swami” to retrieve more titles related to him. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us through the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian page:

  3. I am looking for any books or manuscript s written by R.Halasyanatha Shastri .he had edited Bhramasutram Bhashshyam Sivakamani Dipika…There are two volumns of the book that I found but I have been told there were 10 volumes printed and another six are in manuscripts ..this was around 1908 to 1914.He passed away in 1914 and we are not able to trace any of his books.

  4. Thanks for your question! The Library of Congress doesn’t have any manuscripts by or from R. Halasyanatha Shastri. It appears that this particular title was released in print in two volumes, as part of other titles comprising the Bharatee Mandiram Sanskrit series. The Library doesn’t have the first edition, but it does have the 1986 reprinting in two volumes: Many other libraries also have this work, so it should be available through Inter-Library Loan: Additionally, it looks like does have a digital copy of Volume I from 1908: If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us through the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian page:

  5. Its an honour to share the details of the only Mahakavya of last millennium ‘Matrumukti Muktavali’ written by late Prof. Jayakrushna Mishra. Its a champu Mahakavya of 724 pages, one of the biggest Sanskrit Mahakavya of this era.The book shows the path for harmony & prosperity between countries in this modern era. Is it possible to consider the Mahakavya for this library. It may help many Laureates.


  6. Thank you for your comment. Please direct these types of inquiries to the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian online inquiry form:

  7. I’m searching for a work of Raghavendra teertha (A sounth Indian saint famously known as Raghavendra Swamiji in India), who lived in 17th century.
    It is belieaved that he has authored a work which is in the form of commentaries for Vedas, no manuscripts are available in India.
    Name of the work is not known,
    but there are some indications about the name, it could be something like VEDA-TRAYA VIVRUTI or VEDARTHA MANJARI.

    Can you please let me know, any work of this kind is present in the The Library of Congress ?
    Please drop a mail if you need more clarification.

  8. Thanks you for the question, Sameer! I’m just now seeing this question, after it came to us through the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian. As noted there, the Library does not have any copies, manuscript or printed, of the Vedatrayavivrtti (Veda-traya-vivruti). Please feel free to reach out through Ask-a-Librarian with additional questions,

  9. Have you gone through oldest mss of Bhagavat puran before 1420 AD. I inquire this specifically because a scholar from my city, claimed that he had oldest mss of Bhagavat puran around 1425 AD.

  10. Thanks for the question. I’m not familiar with this manuscript of the Bhagavata Purana mentioned in your message. You may want to direct this question to some of the libraries in India with large manuscript collections, such as the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune, State Central Library in Hyderabad, and especially the National Library of India in Calcutta, as well as other notable libraries or research institutes in your city. Additional questions can be directed to the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian,

  11. Sir I have almost 1000pages or more manuscripts but I don’t know how many years they are old.

  12. Thanks for this comment, Manish. If you can locate a colophon at the end of a manuscript, you will sometimes find the year of its creation. Depending on the nature of the manuscript, its date will often be written according to one of many different types of calendars (e.g., Islamic, Hindu). To ask additional questions, please use the Asian Division’s Ask a Librarian email service,

  13. I am interested in Gayatri Sahasranam from Rudrayamal version. I would like to know more about it.

  14. Dear Sai,

    Thank you for your question about our blog on Sanskrit manuscripts at the Library of Congress. This collection does have one manuscript of the Gayatrisahasranamastotra from the Rudrayamala, which is Indo-Aryan Ms. 89. Here is the bibliographic record with more information about this particular edition of the manuscript: As you can see, this version dates roughly to the nineteenth-century, and the Sanskrit text is contained on 18 leaves with 9 lines on each manuscript leaf. If you have additional questions, please email us through Ask a Librarian,

    Kind regards,

    Jonathan Loar
    South Asia reference librarian
    Asian Division, Library of Congress

  15. Namaste jonathan,
    Have you any idea about Bhagavad Gita tablet in Egypt?

  16. Dear Abhas – Thank you for the comment. Please direct your question to the Asian Division’s Ask a Librarian,

  17. Hi…I am doing my research and Sanskrit on the writings and literature written by Pandita Kshama Rav. Could u pls help me by checking the availability of the following books:
    1. Uttarsatyagrah Geeta with English Translation
    2. GramJyoti
    3. Vichitra Yatra Parishad
    Kindly check and let me know if any of them are available. If yes, pls let me know where and how can I receive access to them.
    Thanking you in anticipation.

  18. Hello Divya – Thank you for this question. May I ask that you enter this question on the Asian Division’s Ask a Librarian? Here is the link to enter your question,

    Thank you,
    Jonathan Loar
    South Asia reference librarian
    Asian Division, Library of Congress

  19. Highly informative

  20. Hi there,

    Do you have the treatise on ancient aeronautics titled “Vymanika(Vaimanika) Shastra) by Maharishi Bharadwaj? Do you have the original and full version?


  21. Hi Tarun,

    Thanks for your question. The Library’s Asian Division does not hold any manuscripts of the Vaimanika Shastra. Our earliest print work on the subject is from the 20th century. See the following bibliographic records for additional information on some print works:

    Br̥had vimānaśāstra (published 1959)
    Bibliographic record:

    Vymaanika-shaastra (published 1973)
    Bibliographic record:

    Vaimānika śāstramu (published 2006)
    Bibliographic record:

    Maharśi Bhāradvāja’s Br̥had Vimānaśāstra (published 2020)
    Bibliographic record:

    These books are available onsite at the Library of Congress. Please ask your local city/district/state and university libraries if they can help you locate a copy near you. Feel welcome to use our Ask a Librarian service for additional questions.

    Kind regards,

    Jonathan Loar
    South Asia reference specialist
    Asian Division, Library of Congress

  22. Namaste Jonathan, I am in search of Vayu Leela Vistarana book / Sanskrit manuscript written by Shri Padmanabh tirtha / Padmanabh Yati in 14th century. Do you have a copy of this or Can you please share info about Library or University in US or Europe where it’s available. Best Regards, Girish

  23. Hi Girish,

    I can confirm that we do not have any manuscripts of Vayu leela (lila) vistarana at the Library of Congress. I also do not see any bibliographic records for books or manuscripts in the Library’s online catalog ( or WorldCat ( We do have a few recent printed editions of works by Padmanabha Tirtha, such as the Sattarkadipavali, In this record, clicking the embedded link in the name “Padmanabhatirtha, -1324, author” will retrieve more bibliographic records for related works. If you have additional questions, feel welcome to reach out on Ask a Librarian, You may want to continue asking other libraries in India and around the world, as uncatalogued manuscript collections may not appear in online catalogs.

    Kind regards,
    Jonathan Loar
    South Asia reference specialist
    Asian Division, Library of Congress

  24. Namasthe Jonathan. I am looking for a book by name vyasarajabhyudaya / vyasaraja abhyudaya by Sri vijayeendra tirtha or Sri sudheendra tirtha(the author of this book is not confirmed), and vyasarajavijaya of Sri vijayeendra tirtha. Is this book available here or any other library that I can find the book?

  25. Namaste jonathan.
    I am looking for a book named Vyasaraja abhyudaya authored by Sri vijayeendra tirtha or Sri Sudheendra tirtha( author is not confirmed).
    And vyasarajavijaya by Sri vijayeendra tirtha.
    Sattarkavilasa by Sri vyasatirtha.
    Vedantasarasangraha khandana by Sri Vyasateertha.
    Are these books available with you ? Or where can I find them? Pls guide me.

  26. Hi. Am Madhav from India.
    Am looking for a book named vyasaraja abhyudaya by Sri vijayeendra teertha and a book named Vyasarajavijaya by Sri vijayeendra teertha. And a book named sattarkavilasa by Sri vyasareertha. Are these books available here. Or where can I find it?

  27. Dear Madhav,

    Thank you for your questions. The Library of Congress does not have manuscript or print copies of the works about which you asked: Vyasarajabhyudaya, Vyasarajavijaya, Sattarkavilasa, and Vedantasarasangraha khandana. I also cannot locate print copies at other libraries on WorldCat (, a website that aggregates the catalogs of many libraries around the world. While time does not permit me to do an exhaustive search for these titles, it should be noted that some texts exist only as references in other works. That said, WorldCat does not fully index many South Asian libraries, including manuscript collections.

    Here are the links from WorldCat related to two of the authors you mentioned, Sri Vijayindra Tirtha and Sri Vyasa Tirtha. These links will show the titles of books related to each author. At the bottom of a title’s WorldCat record, you will see which libraries have copies.



    (I did not find an entry for Sudhindra Tirtha).

    For your additional research, I would recommend you contact major libraries in India (e.g., National Library of India in Calcutta) as well as the major manuscript repositories identified by the National Mission for Manuscripts,

    In addition, your local district or state library may be able to guide you toward accessing the New Catalogus Catalogorum, a multi-volume alphabetical register of Sanskrit and allied works and authors. The only additional information I can offer about the Vyasarajabhyudaya text is that the New Catalogus Catalagorum says it is ascribed to Sudhindra Tirtha (see volume 39, page 260). Additional questions may be directed to our Ask a Librarian service,

    Kind regards,

    Jonathan Loar
    South Asia reference specialist
    Asian Division, Library of Congress

  28. Vast quantity of antique literature, Sanskrit manuscripts, Tamil, Telugu and other ancient literary works have been stolen by the Christian missionaries and consigned to flames after being ‘officially condemned’.
    Those which survived, taken back to their countries and kept hidden and thieves to with their loot.

  29. Dear Sir/Madam,

    Do you have Agastya Samhita manuscripts?

    • The following is a reply from the blog’s author:
      Hi Dharmender: We do not have any manuscripts with the title Agastya Samhita at the Library of Congress. The majority of our manuscripts are listed on this research guide: Please reach out via Ask a Librarian with additional questions,
      Kind regards,
      Jonathan Loar
      South Asia reference specialist
      Asian Division, Library of Congress

  30. I was going through this page and came across Indo-Aryan Ms. 173, Bhagavad Gita (1729). South Asian rare books collection, Asian Division. It seems that the manuscript is dated 1729. Based on the script, i am surprised that it is 1729 as alphabet ‘a’ (you can also see it in the first picture on top left corner with picture titled – Sanskrit vowels and consonants with a guide to pronunciation, from H.H. Wilson’s “An Introduction to the Grammar of the Sanskrit Language,” 1841, Library of Congress general collections. Also freely available on HathiTrust.) is what would suit more to that era. logically, it was samvat 1929 (7 and 9 are mirror images, again as described on the first picture bottom), which might make this manuscript of 1929 – 56 = 1873 or 1872 AD, which better suits the script of the era. if you have last page or two, i would be interested in reading it so if i am wrong in my understanding, i can correct my self. thank you.

    • The following is a reply from the blog’s author:
      Hi Manish: Thank you for this comment, and I do understand the good point you have made with regard to the different ways to write the “a” character in Devanagari. While the अ has been commonplace in printing for a long time, I am unsure of the exact point of transition when it became the accepted way to write the character “a.” The answer may relate to specific regions and/or communities such that both forms were in use in different regions or times. I do see what looks like an अ in the Devanagari text reproduced in Hortus Indicus Malabaricus (late 1600s). This is freely accessible through the Biodiversity Heritage Library,

      Our Bhagavad Gita manuscript referenced in this blog does have a clear date of “shake 1651” on the final folio. (The image pictured on the blog is from the text’s fourth adhyaya). With the Shaka era being approximately 78 years behind the western calendar, the date in our catalog record is 1729. The record is at this link:

      Please feel free to contact through Ask a Librarian with additional questions,

      Kind regards,
      Jonathan Loar
      South Asia reference specialist
      Asian Division, Library of Congress

  31. I want purchase books

    • Thanks for your comment. While the Library of Congress does not sell copies of its collection items, more information on the Asian Division’s South Asian manuscript collection is available on this research guide: For additional reference, books available through the Library’s gift shop are searchable at this link:

  32. I came to know that there are few rules postulated by Sage Bhrigu known as “Bhrigu Saral Padhati” for astrologers.
    By any chance, do you have any books that contains these rules.

    • The following is a reply from the blog’s author:

      Hi Sastry Karra: Thank you for your question. We do not have any books in our online catalog ( specifically with the title “Bhrigu Saral Paddhati.” However, we do have many other books related to astrology, including printed editions and studies of the Bhrigu Samhita. For example, please see the bibliographic records: (Sanskrit and Hindi); (Gujarati); and (Hindi). Please contact your local public or university library to ask about obtaining a copy near you or possibly through Interlibrary Loan. Additional questions can also be directed to Ask a Librarian,
      Kind regards,
      Jonathan Loar
      South Asia reference specialist
      Asian Division, Library of Congress

  33. Do you have a digital collection of Hindu original manuscripts free for use?

    • Here’s a reply from the author:
      Dear Ani: Thank you for your question. To date, the Library of Congress has digitized only a few of its manuscripts in Sanskrit and other South Asian languages. You can access those through the new South Asian Digital Collection,, by selecting “Manuscript/Mixed Material” under the filer for original formats. Additional questions can also be directed to Ask a Librarian,

      Kind regards,
      Jonathan Loar
      South Asia reference specialist
      Asian Division, Library of Congress

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