Exhibition begins at Government Museum, Egmore

From 4,000-year-old tablets bearing Mesopotamian writing to two volumes of the original handwritten poems of Subramania Bharathi, including, ‘Pudumai Penn' and ‘Kaani Nilam Vendum,' with markings by the poet himself - the history of the human race in words is the focus of ‘Rare manuscripts', an exhibition being organised by the National Mission for Manuscripts here.

The week-long exhibition that got under way at Government Museum, Egmore, on Monday is part of an attempt to acquaint visitors with the role of manuscripts in deciphering history, and methods to promote their conservation.

Diverse display

Hundreds of manuscripts of different shapes and sizes, with various illustrations, many of them dating more than a thousand years are part of the display. It also includes manuscripts on ivory and some bordered with gold brocades, apart from models of manuscripts preserved by polythene lamination.

Manuscripts explaining the Tholkappiam and Thiruvasagam, the Old Testament in Hebrew, stories from the Ramayana and line drawing of Vishnu avatars and a Unani medicinal tract in Arabic are other attractions at the exhibition. Mainly in Tamil, Telugu, Pali, Grantha and Sanskrit, these manuscripts are from museums and research organisations across the State and Puducherry.

A Kannada manuscript on a blackened cloth written with white stone and a 200-year old manuscript giving Tamil equivalents of English words also attracted much interest.

Painted wooden planks that were used to cover the palm leaf bundles in the 18th century are part of the display as is a precious piece of paper containing Mahatma Gandhi's signature in Tamil and Hindi.

Workshop

A two-week workshop on curative conservation of manuscripts coinciding with the exhibition was also inaugurated. The workshop is to help the participants know about the different modern methods to conserve manuscripts. “The workshop will help them understand the causes of the deterioration of manuscripts by natural causes, microbial attack or mishandling,” said J. M. Gandhimathi, curator, chemical conservation centre, Government Museum.

Dipti.S.Tripathi, director, National Mission for Manuscripts, inaugurated the exhibition. T.S. Sridhar, Principal Secretary and Commissioner of Museums, participated.