Get a glimpse of the world’s longest palm-leaf manuscript

 Scholarly work: The Oriental Research Institute has displayed a palm-leaf manuscript that measures 90 cm in length at the ongoing exhibition in Mysuru.

Scholarly work: The Oriental Research Institute has displayed a palm-leaf manuscript that measures 90 cm in length at the ongoing exhibition in Mysuru.

Heritage buffs taking delight in the written word have something to look forward to at the Oriental Research Institute (ORI) in Mysuru.

For, on display is what is presumably the world’s longest palm-leaf manuscript that measures 2.95 feet and is only one of its kind in the world. The manuscript is reckoned to be nearly 300 years old and is a work titled Viramahesvarachara Sangraha written by Nilakantha Nagamathacharya.

A senior scholar of the ORI, Geetha said the manuscript is a bundle of 180 palm leaves, each measuring 90 cm or 2.95 ft and about 4 to 5 cm in width. “It was transported to Frankfurt, Germany, to be showcased in an exhibition more than 10 years ago,” she added.

The manuscript is a rare scholarly work espousing the Veerashaiva philosophy and so far one book of 70 chapters has been published. In all, the entire manuscript could run into nearly 300 chapters. It is preserved in a wooden case specially made for the purpose.

The ORI has displayed some of its rare collections in the two-day exhibition, out of its collection of more than 30,000 palm-leaf and paper manuscripts, accounting for nearly 70,000 works in Sanskrit and Kannada. Juxtaposed with the longest palm-leave manuscripts is a miniature work only in size but encompasses all the 700 stanzas of Devi Saptashati . The specimen work on display is about 500 years old and needs a magnifying glass to read the contents of each page which highlights the intricate work of the inscriber who remains anonymous.

Each folio of the manuscript has 26 lines and if each page of the work was to be copied on a normal font and printed, it would run into three A4-size pages, which underlines the dexterity of the scribe who engraved it on a bark leaf without a slight blemish.

“At the end of the work, the scribe draws the readers’ attention to all the hardship he endured while inscribing on the folio and exhorts them to protect it by all means. The scribe also has a word of advice when he states that it should not be tied too tightly as the leaves or the folio may get damaged,” said Ms. Geetha. Likewise, there is a small bundle of manuscripts of the the size of a matchbox and it is the Bhagavad Gita .

Visitors will also get to view the manuscript containing Kautilya’s Arthashastra — an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft and polity which was discovered in the ORI in 1905 by R. Shama Shastry. Its existence till then was known only through indirect references in other ancient works.

Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s Sritattvanidhi in original is also on display. The exhibition concludes on Wednesday, according to ORI director S. Shivarajappa.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 5:13:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/get-a-glimpse-of-the-worlds-longest-palm-leaf-manuscript/article24567354.ece