The Kerala State Archives Department will soon create a digital archive of ancient palm-leaf manuscripts of Ayurveda and Siddha streams of medicine, much of it now in the hands of private collectors and practitioners.

State Archives Director Reji Kumar said the department would work in tandem with the National Mission for Manuscripts, which sought to unearth and preserve the country's vast manuscript wealth, to execute the project.

The department would borrow the original palm leaf manuscripts and palm scrolls from their owners, copy them into a digital medium, and return the records to the proprietors after treating them with chemical preservatives. It will also help preserve ancient records gathering dust in temples and churches in the State.

Assistant Conservation Officer G. Suneethi said the department had helped conserve ancient palm-leaf records found in the Koodalmanikyam temple in Irinjalakuda, Kooramana temple in Muvatupuzha, and the Chakrapani temple at Trikkarippur in Kasaragod.

The manuscripts were cleaned with alcohol, treated with camphor and lemon grass oil to restore their original suppleness, and then preserved chemically.

Churches interested

A few churches and Bishop houses in the State had evinced interest in the conservation scheme, she said.

As part of an agreement with the Arakkal family in Kannur, a Muslim dynasty which ruled over erstwhile Cannanore, the department had acquired thousands of 18th-century manuscripts relating to the flourishing maritime trade the family had with foreign countries.

The department had also struck an agreement with the Tamil Nadu State Archives to acquire the Tellichery and Anjengo Factory records (1714-1802), which was expected to provide researchers an insight into the hitherto unknown facets of the history of Malabar.

Archivist S. Parvathy said the department was also creating a repository of manuscripts, rare books, and records of historical value currently in possession of private collectors.

The donors to the department in this category included the late Kadackavoor Sivanandan, an ex-Indian National Army (INA) soldier, who handed over valuable documents relating to Malayalis who served as combatants with legendary leader Subhash Chandra Bose.

The other noted donors were Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer; Urmila Lal, grand daughter of Dewan Madhava Rao; Sivan (old copies of Kesari magazine edited by Swadesabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai); Vikraman Bhattathiri (ancient Maha Bhagavatham scrolls); and Justice Sreedhara Menon, among others.

The department will launch an awareness campaign to stress the importance of preserving the archival wealth of the State.