Age-old manuscripts soon to be an online read

72,300 of them are being digitised as part of a Tamil Nadu government initiative to preserve the intellectual heritage of the State.

September 10, 2014 11:37 pm | Updated September 11, 2014 08:09 am IST - CHENNAI:

Thousands of rare and original palm-leaf and paper manuscripts at the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library here will soon be available to the public at the click of a mouse.

The 72,300 manuscripts, providing a deep insight into subjects as varied as the Vedas, the Agama Sastra, architecture and mathematics, are being digitised as part of a Tamil Nadu government initiative to preserve the intellectual heritage of the State.

The digitised manuscripts will be hosted on the website of the Archaeology Department, which too is being modernised.

Vintage value Officials say most of the manuscripts at the 145-year-old library are 300-400 years old, while some date back to over 500 years. The palm-leaf manuscripts include those of the Tamil classics Tirukkural and Tolkappiam .

“72,300 of them are being digitised as part of a Tamil Nadu government initiative to preserve the intellectual heritage of the State.”

The digitisation project will cover 15,000 “estampages,” impressions on paper of inscriptions on temple walls and pillars, boulders or stones, all of which are under the custody of the Epigraphy Wing of the department. Nearly 5,000 of them have been digitised by now, say officials.

The project, cleared by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, has been sanctioned Rs. 2.84 crore — Rs. 2.34 crore for the work on the manuscripts and Rs. 50 lakh for that on the estampages.

Expert monitoring The project implemented by the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu is monitored by groups of experts, both internal and external. Officials have consulted institutions such as the Roja Muthiah Research Library here.

The department is using overhead scanners to prevent any impact on the brittle manuscripts. Those not in Sanskrit are being covered first.

In microfilms The Sanskrit manuscripts, which constitute two-thirds the number, have been microfilmed with the help of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.

The data will be transferred to digital form using converter equipment.

Officials are confident that half the work will be completed in a year.

The basic idea is to make available the precious body of knowledge in the public domain so that more intensive research can be taken up by scholars anywhere in the world, the officials added.

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