About the Acharya Web Site
The Acharya Web Site disseminates
information relating to computing with Indian languages. The information
presented at this site reflects the experiences gained at the Systems Development
Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT
Madras. These experiences relate to the project undertaken at the laboratory
where Software tools for developing interactive computer applications in
different regional languages of India have been set up.
Indian Institute of Technology
Madras was setup in 1959 by the Government of India and is one of the five
institutes started during the fifties and early sixties. The five IITs:
Kharagpur, Bombay, Madras, Kanpur and Delhi together with the recently
added two(Guwahati and Roorkee), are reckoned as Institutions of national
importance. The institutes together admit about 3200 students each year
to different undergraduate programs in Engineering based on a common all
India entrance test taken by close to two hundred thousand aspirants.
Systems Development Laboratory
The Systems development Laboratory
in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering was setup in 1976
to help students gain skills in building systems which use the computer
as the base. The early years of Hardware Development had given the lab
its identity as a unique lab setup, managed and run exclusively by the
students of the department under the guidance of
Professor Kalyana Krishnan. During the past 15 years, emphasis has shifted to
systems development supporting multilingual computer applications for education
IITM Software and Multilingual
The project carried out at
SDL relates to computing with Indian languages. Application development
is based on a set of software tools created to work with text in different
Indian languages and scripts.
The software base for application
development is distinguished by features which provide uniformity in the
use of the applications across all the languages/scripts of India. The
applications work transparently across languages on account of the unique
coding scheme used for representing text in terms of syllables. This has
been achieved through the use of syllable level codes of fixed size which
are ideally suited for linguistic processing.
The applications developed
as part of the Multilingual systems project have been distributed free
on the internet. Also, this web site presents an example of online Interactive
lessons to help people learn Indian languages. The Acharya site is best
known for its free online interactive lessons to learn Sanskrit.
Technical aspects of computing
with Indian languages have also been covered in the pages presented at
the site. In essence the site serves as a source of reference on several
aspects of computing which are relevant in the context of Information technology
relating to education and literacy in India.
The following category of
applications have been developed and distributed through this site.
- Multilingual document preparation.
- Linguistic text processing
- Speech enhanced applications
(Text to Speech)
- Bharati Braille
- Data Base applications including
- Information Technology aids
for the Disabled
Projects to help the disabled
The Acharya Site has also gained
substantial visibility on account of the applications developed to help
disabled persons in India gain skills in using the computer. The speech
enhanced applications have won appreciation from the Visually Handicapped
groups. NGOs in different parts of the country have endorsed the use of
the IITM Software and Tools for imparting training to Visually Challenged
children and adults. Two national level projects have already been started
where the benefits of Information Technology in Indian languages directly
help disabled as well as underprivileged children cope with the challenges
The Acharya site presents
details of these two projects.
1. NIB - The
National Initiative for the Blind (Linked to the Vidya Vrikshah site).
2. VIKAS - Village
Information Knowledge And Skills (Linked to the Vidya Vrikshah site).
Association with Volunteer
Volunteer organizations in
the country have willingly come forward to promote the use of the Multilingual
Software. The volunteers of Vidya
Vrikshah, an NGO based in Chennai, work closely with the lab and have
helped train hundreds of persons in the use of the multilingual editor
and related applications. The two national level projects mentioned above
were initiated by Vidya Vrikshah and have attracted the attention of groups
involved with the planning and implementation of "Sarva Siksha Abhyan"
run by the Government of India.
Over the years, the lab has interacted with several
volunteer groups in the country. Many of these groups have actively promoted the use of the software and have themselves prepared very useful web pages.
SDL over the years.
The pages relating to the
of development of the project offer more details. A set of
photographs bring back memories for those who had worked in
the lab from its inception.
About the name "IITM Software".
Software applications are
generally identified by their specific names. We have however refrained
from giving any specific name to the set of software applications developed
in the lab, for we feel that the use of the software is more important
than the name it carries. It may also be kept in mind that more than sixty
students who contributed to the development shared this view. The name
"IITM Software" was chosen as a generic name for the set of development
tools and applications created in the lab. Since the approach to representing
text is unique, some of our friends have suggested the name "Acharya System",
which name may eventually apply if the software gains enough visibility
and finds wider use in the country.
About the Acharya Logos
on different pages.
The Acharya Web Site now
displays many different images as logos in different pages. These logos
represent concepts about this universe from the oldest of the Hindu scriptures,
where any item of information about the world we live in, can be traced
to one of five basic elements. In some specific cases, the images relate
to the UNESCO Heritage Sites in India. A separate
page has been devoted to explaining the meaning of the logos.