Explorer, archaeologist and geographer, Stein is always acknowledged immediately, but a Sanskritist, seldom, perhaps never. Even though Aurel Stein was the first among Europeans to understand the ethos of Kashmir’s culture and recognize the value of its contribution to the history of world culture, his life and labours in Kashmir as a Sanskrit scholar have received very little attention. Of the many, one of the high point of Stein’s achievements as a Sanskrit scholar has been that during his labours in Kashmir from 1888-1905 he collected more than 350 Sanskrit manuscripts there which he later deposited in 1911 in the Indian Institute Library now part of the New Bodleian Library, Oxford.
According to Dr. Gillian Evison of the Indian Institute Library,“While Sir Aurel Stein is well known today as the outstanding European explorer and archaeologist of the remote deserts of Central Asia, his love affair with the land and the people of Kashmir seems to have escaped attention. A poignant memorial to his fascination with Kashmir’s history, culture and literature can be found in the collection of over three hundred manuscripts which he deposited with the Bodleian’s Indian Institute Library in 1911. There they have remained hidden from public view for nearly a century. In an era in which popular perceptions of Kashmir have come to be dominated by modern politics, Kashmir ’s rich cultural heritage has received little public attention.”
The pioneering project of this web site undertaken by Kashmir Bhawan Centre, Luton, with the support of Heritage Lottery Fund (East), Cambridge, is therefore an extraordinary example of international cooperation to promote common heritage. “It will enable people to better understand the shared history of Britain and Kashmir by making some of Sir Aurel Stein’s Kashmir manuscripts accessible through the web site”.
The web site is a memoir to Sir Aurel Stein’s Kashmir life. It is a homage to his achievements as a Sanskrit scholar and his relations with his adopted home – Kashmir and its native scholars. The web site aims to obliterate the gulf of time and distance that has so far obscured Stein’s life and labours in Kashmir . It brings the spotlight on Stein’s lesser known aspects and shifts the focus on him from Central Asia to Kashmir.