Manuscripts on the web
While the Oral Tradition
of disseminating information has been the main practice in India, scholars
had indeed preserved their thoughts and interpretations of the scriptures
in different written forms. These manuscripts constitute the bulk of preserved
information and most of the manuscripts that have survived (specifically
in South India), are on Palm Leaves.
Palm Leaf manuscripts
provide a wealth of Information on a variety of subjects which include
not only discourses on the scriptures but, treatises on Astronomy, Mathematics,
Medicine, Arts and Architecture to name a few. The text was written primarily
in the regional language (Tamil, Telugu,
Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya
etc.) but invariably, all text relating to the scriptures was either in
Sanskrit or Tamil. Sanskrit was written in the Grantha script.
It will be of help
to preserve whatever information we have collected from these manuscripts
in a format that could be subsequently processed on computers. Earlier
attempts at preserving the manuscripts used Microfilm as the medium but
this approach does not lend itself to search where a specific item of information
is required to be located.
To be able to process
the information electronically, one needs to represent the information
in electronic form, specifically a form that lends itself to easy indexing.
Also, one cannot ignore the need to preserve the text in the script in
which it was written, to allow detailed study of the manuscripts itself.
While this could be easily accomplished with the contents saved as high
resolution images, it is preferable to chose a form where the script could
also be handled on the computer.
It is in this respect,
the approach taken at IIT Madras offers many advantages. The software tools
available allow maximum flexibility in not only retaining the contents
in their original form, but also permit direct indexing for subsequent
reference. The information in the leaf could be displayed in most appropriate
forms for scholars to directly observe the text as also the information
in a script of their choice. A web page allowing access to a complete manuscript
where a scholar can view a specific leaf, search for words (or phrases)
in meaningful ways etc., can be of great help to researchers.
An example of this
approach is presented in the linked page.