Man on a mission: preserving Thirukkural on palm leaves

“Kedayil vizhuchelvam kalvi oruvaruku, madalla matrai yavai” (Learning is the only imperishable wealth, others are not true riches) — 10 years ago, these words changed the life of 58-year-old Jaswant Singh, and thereafter began his journey, learning the Thirukkural. He started writing couplets on a palm leaf, using an ezhuthani (metal stylus), from the end of 2019, and using the lockdown to his advantage, has now completed all 1,330.

Meet Mr. Singh, a civil engineer by profession and a nature lover by passion. At his house in Mogappair, he stoops over a small table with the stylus in his hand, his hand moving over the leaves smoothly, as he engraves words on it — a pagdi (turban)-wearing sardar reading out the couplets has surprised many.

Watch | Punjabi man in Chennai preserves Thirukkural on palm leaves

“I am a native of Hoshiyarpur in Punjab, but I grew up in Chennai. I did my schooling from a Hindi-medium school and realised the potency of Tamil much later in life. I started learning various literature, and 10 years ago, started reading Thirukkural. It is the only text applicable to all religions and races. It is applicable to mankind, always, and is not restricted to a particular time period,” he said.

He then wanted to preserve the Thirukkural on palm leaves and embarked on a mission. “Though I started in 2019, I used the lockdown to my advantage, as I was home. I got some palm leaves from a tree without the nongu (ice-apple), put it in hot water, along with some spices and papaya leaves for softening. After drying them in the shade, I started writing the kurals on them,” he said.

To make the engravings clear he applies a mixture of ash, from burning the leaves of a kind of spinach, and lemongrass oil on the leaf.

“This can be preserved for hundreds of years. Children should also start writing the names of family members and ancestors on such palm leaves so they can be passed on from one generation to another,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 10:21:57 AM |

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