Digitisation of 200-year-old palm manuscripts that carry priceless information on preparing a range of medicinal formulations with locally available medicinal plants is on in the Government Siddha Medical College here.
A team comprising Dr. Subhash Chandran, a faculty member of Government Siddha Medical College, Palayamkottai, Pa. Pon Velappan of Kallukumi near Vilaathikulam in Thoothukudi district, an expert in reading and preserving palm manuscripts, and R. Ganesan, a former student of Egmore Fine Arts College, Chennai, who is also a painter and photographer, are working on digitising the palm manuscripts.
Though palm manuscripts are available across Tamil Nadu and Kerala, this literatures is abundantly available in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanniyakumari and Virudhunagar districts.
“The problem we face in extracting information from these manuscripts is that those who now own them refuse to share it with us for digitising it as it would give eternal life while the manuscript’s lifespan is very limited. While a few handover the palm manuscripts, most of the public won’t,” Mr. Velappan feels.
Most of these palm manuscripts, ranging from three pages to 600 pages are on Tamil literature, religion, ancient medicinal practices among others. While the palm manuscripts obtained from Kanniyakumari district are wider, the manuscripts recovered from other areas are narrow.
Recalling a childhood incident, Mr. Velappan said his mother administered ginger juice when he developed fits as a Class IV student but it was not effective remedy. But his relative had a different idea.
“Before leaving the room where I was lying, he told us that they should not speak to him when he returns with the herbal plant. He returned with a plant in his hands, crushed it and applied the juice on the head. Within a few minutes, I became alright. Even though everyone asked him to share the name of the plant, he refused. Till today, no one in the village knows what the miracle plant was. He could have learnt it from his ancestors or read it from a palm manuscript. So, we are sitting on a huge treasure and are losing it if we don’t use it,” says Mr. Velappan.
Dr. Subhash, who recovered a palm manuscript from Valliyoor eight years ago that had valuable information on curing a range of ailments of elephants, feels that thousands of palm manuscripts with priceless information are yet to be shared for extracting the information.
“If it is done, I firmly believe that it would certainly give valuable lead for preparing low-cost and effective medicines for a range of ailments including cancer,” Dr. Subhash said.
The small team, after completing the digitisation of over 400 palm manuscripts are now continuing this work that needs a lot of patience to complete another 300-odd manuscripts. “Digitisation of 1,000 palm manuscripts is our objective so that we can make it an e-book for giving access to everyone who wants to read it,” says Dr. Subhash.