Scroll is rare, needs to be protected, say Mumbai city experts

Aug 04, 2018, 08:35 IST | Fiona Fernandez

City experts decode the newly found scroll

Scroll is rare, needs to be protected, say Mumbai city experts
Dr Sonali Pednekar

"It's rare to come across the scroll's length (40 ft)," said Dr Sonali Pednekar, head of the history department at VG Vaze College, Mulund East. According to her, it wasn't entirely rare for families to maintain their own accounts, but the length of the document speaks volumes about this particular family's wealth. "This seems like an expense document belonging to possibly a well-placed family's marriage because it extends for 10 days.

The marriage begins on the 13th day of the second half of the month of Magh (Hindu calendar) and ends on the 10th day of the following month of Phagun, which loosely corresponds to a period from late January to early February," she added.

Significance of Modi script
Generally, in Maharashtra, documents were written in this script till as late as the 1950s for legal and administrative purposes. Children in primary sections of Marathi medium schools were taught the script till the 1950s, and many were conversant in this script for their family budgets and expenses.

"The script is written from left to right, and the scroll is handmade paper, which is typically how accounts would have been maintained in the 1800s. The ink used is natural, made from plant extracts. The numbers are in fractional denominations and not integers, which again, is integral to this script," explained Pednekar.

The document mentions ingredients cooked in meals, including vegetables like vangi, kothimbir, kakdi, as well as dudh, badam and sugar, indicating the preparation of a sweet. There's a reference to sugarcane juice, which might have been a welcome drink for guests. All of this adds up to 'bhojan kharch' (expenses for meals) but there are mentions of other 'kharch' too, like expenses for horses.

"Once we have access to the actual scroll, more details and a general understanding of people belonging to a certain strata of society from that period will come to light. Its maintenance is the critical need of the hour," she said.

Expert Kurush Dalal couldn't agree more. "The need of the hour is for this document to be kept in safe custody, restored, and digitised by academic experts," said the assistant professor (Archaeology) at the Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of Mumbai.

Poorly preserved
Dalal added, "It is most definitely the Modi script, and a genuine document. It appears to be a detailed account of expenses. The missing donor of this document is highly suspect. The scroll has been handled in a casual manner. Look at how it has been stuck together with cello tape."

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