Chennai, Feb 9
(IANS) In a unique initiative to catalogue the priceless heritage of
the past, students in Tamil Nadu have discovered nearly 500,000 palm
leaf manuscripts, including a Mahabharata text said to be over 1,000
years old, from private collections.
In the exercise by the state government, supported by the central
government, students of the Madurai Kamaraj University went from door
to door in Madurai in search of family held manuscripts on palm leaf
that were more than 75 years old.
The National Service Scheme (NSS) students, roped in by the district
library authorities in Madurai, 500 km from Chennai, were told to
catalogue all available details of these manuscripts, mostly handed
down ! from generation to generation.
Copper plates with writings, family heirlooms, were also catalogued
Astrology manuscripts were not included in the cataloguing exercise
from Feb 1-5, but texts on the traditional 'siddha' system of medicine
were put in.
Though a complete assessment of the project is not yet available,
university sources said a huge wealth of information on life as long
ago as the 15th century was out there awaiting scholars.
The students had only catalogued where the manuscripts were available,
but not collected them. They needed to be acquired and preserved,
possibly microfilmed and kept in museums and special libraries, experts
The students found 30,327 bundles of palm leaf texts in Madurai
district itself. Each such bundle contains 50 written leafs.
A Mahabharata text, said to be a 1,000 years old, was found with a
family in Vadi! patii. The family said it had the manuscript for
In Theni district, 229,542 palm leaf manuscripts have been found. Also
found were 9,000 ancient documents and 900 metal plates and coins with
writing on them.
In Virudhnagar district, 250,000 palm leaf manuscripts were found.
Besides, copper manuscripts were found in Anaiyur, belonging to the
reign of the Thirumalai Naicker dynasty.