JAINpedia board project director Dr Mehool Sanghrajka
Image by Institute of Jainology © Institute of Jainology
The JAINpedia project director, Dr Mehool Sanghrajka, is a trustee and director of the Institute of Jainology (IoJ).
He conceived the JAINpedia project after the cataloguing of the collection of Jain manuscripts in the British Library was finished in 2006. The completion of this 12-year project, which includes the holdings of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), is a testament to the dedication of the scholars who worked on this task. Producing the catalogue was a milestone in the IoJ’s history, and its launch by Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace was the icing on the cake.
Although the catalogue brought much wider awareness of the collections, especially newer acquisitions, it had already become clear that they were not being fully used except by a few academics and learned monks and nuns. The challenge was a simple one – how to make this collection accessible to a wide and diverse audience?
The question of access was a multi-faceted one. First of all, physical contact with these manuscripts can be difficult as some are rare, many-centuries old and fragile. Access is therefore limited to scholars with specialist requests. Secondly, assuming that one could get to the manuscripts, many are in languages that have not been spoken for a millennium and more. Finally, even if one can read the script the contents are difficult to appreciate without an understanding of Jain philosophy, history and culture!
Out of this challenge came the seed of JAINpedia. It was envisioned as a rich online resource that would have at its heart a digitised collection of some 5,000 folios from the Jain collections at the British Library, the V&A, the Bodleian Library and the Wellcome Trust Library. The digitised images would be given context in commentaries from contemporary scholars, in audio and video material and in translations of the original texts. Alongside this there would be material specially for schools and young people, as well as somewhere for members of the British Jain community to record their views and practices in the 21st century.
This resource would then be launched in the community through major exhibitions at the V&A and the British Library, activities in schools and events at other regional religious and heritage centres and at Jain temples across the UK.
Bansri Mehta is responsible for the day-to-day management of the entire project, supporting the implementation of all of the project’s goals. She manages the partnerships, dealing with project partners, funders and supporters. Bansri helps organise events, activities and exhibitions, and is in overall charge of the volunteers at these events. She posts on the JAINpedia blog and also works on the Jain Spirit and Learn Jainism websites.
She is also the primary contact with the technical team based at KCL.
Bansri is an experienced freelance event manager with a Jain background.
Professor Nalini Balbir, winner of the Ahimsa Award 2010, is the editor-in-chief of JAINpedia. After completing the Catalogue of the Jain Manuscripts of the British Library including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum with Kanhailal V. Sheth, Kalpana K. Sheth and Candrabhal B. Tripathi, Nalini agreed to take the editorial lead on the new website project. She is responsible for writing the majority of the encyclopaedia articles and all of the descriptions, translations and transcriptions for the manuscript images.
Nalini is a professor in the Department of Indian Studies at the University of Paris-3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle and the Director of Studies in Middle Indian Philology in the School of Advanced Studies in History and Philology at the Sorbonne, Paris, France. Her chief research interests are in Jainism, Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Theravada Buddhism, and Hindi languages and literature of the 20th century.
Nalini is the main contributor of JAINpedia content. More details about her and her work can be found on the page about contributing scholars.
Jasmine Kelly is the JAINpedia content manager, responsible for managing and developing all of the content on the website. She works closely with Nalini Balbir on the editorial strategy and implementation. Jasmine is the primary contact with the wider project team based at the Institute of Jainology (IoJ).
Jasmine is a freelance online content specialist, with experience in a variety of ambitious online and digital initiatives.
The team responsible for the design, creation, management, content presentation and delivery of the JAINpedia website in the development and launch phases is based at the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) at King's College London. Formerly known as the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, DDH is a research and teaching department and is an international leader in the application of technology in the arts and humanities and in the social sciences.