|Book published in 1781|
Madras Christian college professors Gift Siromani,S.Govindarajan and M.Chandrasekharan jointly conducted some research on this.Based on the evolution of the Tamil script over the years,they prepared a retroactive script of the Thirvalluvar era and prepared Thirukural manuscripts in Tamil Brahmi .They tried to recreate how Thirukural couplets would have appeared during the various stages of the evolution of the Tamil scripts.Given below are two samples recreated by them.
BC 250 to 250 AD it would have appeared like this .The couplets relate to ஊடல் உவகை
AD 735 to 795 AD it would have appeared like the above image .The couplets relate to உழவு
At the world Classical Tamil conference held at Coimbatore at 2010 a palm leaf manuscript of Thirukural was displayed .
|Thirukural manuscript displayed at Coimbatore conference|
This is a copied palm leaf manuscript, a mere replication .In ancient days when a palm leaf is damaged or likely to be disfigured ,their contents would be copied with a stylus on new palm leaves.They copied them to be preserved for the posterity .Writing on palm leaves was a skilled job and was done by professionals in olden days.In olden days without any preserving techniques ,the life of a palm leaf was only aroud 100 to 150 years. Now with the latest techniques their shelf life has improved to 500 years. By stringent measures the life could be extended by another century.If not properly preserved palm leaves could be damaged and decayed by variations in Rh, temperature,light, insects, constant handling and bad storage.Now a days special preservatives are used and palm leaves are stored under air condition at low temperature.
But many scholars took great pains to collect palm leaf manuscripts and preserve them.The Saraswati Mahal Library in Thanjavur, the Oriental Manuscripts Library and the Adyar Library at Chennai, have good collections of manuscripts. Theosophical Society Library, Adyar, has done commendable work in this respect. Sarabhoji and other rulers of Thanjavur took great trouble to collect manuscripts for the Saraswati Mahal library.In 2003 the Government of India started an autonomous body called National Mission for Manuscripts (NAMAMI) to survey, locate and conserve Indian manuscripts.The idea was to create a national resource base for manuscripts, for enhancing their access, awareness and use for educational purposes.NAMAMI's main field of work is digitisation of palm leaf manuscripts for the benefit of posterity.The Mission has rare Rigveda manuscripts preserved at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune.The Orissa state museum is the largest repository in the world with around 50,000 palm leaf manuscripts.
|U.V.Swaminatha Iyer Library|
U.V.Swaminatha Iyer collected umpteen number of palm leaf manuscripts from all parts of Tamil Nadu and are stored in Dr. U.V. Swaminatha Iyer Library, at Besant Nagar in Chennai.The palm leaf manuscripts are classified as follows in this library.Transcribed and published manuscripts ,transcribed but unpublished and there is a third category where the palm leaf manuscripts are yet to be transcribed. It is reported many of the manuscripts relating to Ayurveda and Sidha medicines are yet to be transcribed.The library has published few books from the transcribed manuscripts.18 purana's are among the preserved rare books in this library .61 palm leaf manuscripts relating to Sangam literature are available in this library.This is the only library in world to have palm leaf manuscripts relating to Silapthikaram and Thirukural.
UNESCO has a project to preserve the palm leaf manuscripts of Asia called "Memory of Asia".A recent Survey says there are hundred thousand unpublished palm leaf manuscripts of traditional Indian knowledge in Tamil.The existing palm leaf manuscripts in Tamil cover diverse fields such as the following
1. Indigenous medicine- including Siddha Ayurveda; and Yunani systems
2. Human anatomy (Varmam, surgery)
3. Veterinary science (Vakatam)
4. Agriculture (Kuvam, Karanul)
5.Traditional art and architecture - including Temple art Temple architecture Shipbuilding Carpentry Metalworking Sculpture
7.Techniques of writing
8.Astrology & astronomy
12.Physiognomy (Samudria Laksanam)
(Ref http://xlweb.com/heritage/asian/palmleaf.htm )
These palm leaf manuscripts are remnants of history .They contain valuable traditional knowledge in manifold fields,more particularly in the field of medicine.Even today these traditional therapy gives long lasting non surgical relief to many ailments.Early transcription and publication of these rare manuscripts would be a great boon to the world.