Apart from these, hundreds of palm-leaf manuscripts remain scattered
in different parts of Tamilnadu. Dr. U. V. Swaminatha Ayer, a great Tamil
savant and a pioneering textual critic, collected about 2500 palm-leaf
manuscripts and brought out a few of them in print. Owing to his life-
long efforts and those of other scholars, a significant number of Tamil
manuscripts have been retrieved from oblivion, and possible decay and
death. These manuscripts are now being preserved at Saraswathy Mahal
Library Thanjavur, Government Oriental Manuscript Library Madras. Archives
of Tamilnadu Government, Institute of Asian Studies Madras, Adyar Theo-
sophical Society, Tamil University, Kerala University Manuscript Library and
.a few other places in India and abroad.
These manuscripts are different subjects like grammar, religious hymns,
fine arts, medicine. astrology and so on, besides literary texts and folk
songs. Only about twenty percent of them have been published so far.
And research in Tamil is at present being carried on primarily on the
basis of the printed texts. Obviously, any literary history or the history
of Tamil culture written on the basis of printed works without reference
to these manuscripts will be as much incomplete as it is unauthentic.
Moreover, these manuscripts if published will bring a new awareness into
the study of Tamil literature and other arts. They could possibly throw
new insights forcing us to alter some of the conclusions we have arrived
at on the basis of the printed materials.
Such realities impelling, the Department of Manuscript logy of this Institute
has, with the cooperation and financial assistance of the National Archives,
Department of Culture, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, undertaken a project, which comprises three stages. The
first stage consists in collecting and preserving palm-leaf manuscripts,
documenting them and bringing them out in print. During the second
stage, training courses would be conducted in the Institute in the reading
and editing of palm-leaf manuscripts. Intensive studies of the individual
manuscripts and comparative examination of the various readings of a
manuscript and the preparation of an authentic history of the manuscripts
would be the third stage of this project.
Notwithstanding the efforts in the past, a large number of manuscripts still remain in the remote villages of Tamilnadu. They belonging to the various disciplines of human creativity are languishing in decayed and mutilated palm
leaves in the homes of the rural folk who are blessedly ignorant of their
value and the need for preserving them. Yet another dimension of this
state is that apart from being recorded on the palm leaves, a significant
part of folk literature lives only on the tongues of non-literate men and
women of the country side. This component has been living through
generations, composed, transmitted and performed orally without any con-
tact with writing. Besides collecting the manuscripts the field staff of
our Institute transcribe those 'oral' compositions and translate them into the
literary idiom. The songs of the folks have been recorded in as much a
'natural' context as possible.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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