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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.

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   Palm Leaf manuscripts in Oriya. Approximately a hundred and fifty years old (circa 1850).

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