Schoyen Manuscript Collection
CATALOGUE OF MANUSCRIPTS (available at the IGNCA)
Digital Copies of these manuscripts can be seen at the IGNCA's Intranet
Two large collections of palm-leaf and paper manuscripts that transmit principally Sanskrit, Tamil and Manipravalam texts are preserved in the French institutions of research in the South Indian Town of Pondicherry. The major collection is that of the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), which comprises 8187 palm-leaf bundles, 360 paper codices and 1144 recent paper transcripts (i.e. post-1950 paper manuscripts commissioned or copied by employees of the IFP), which are now on-line.
At the instigation of the IFP’s founder director, the manuscripts began to be collected from every area of the Tamil-speaking South of India (see history of the Collection) and the collection contains texts of every branch of precolonial Indian learning. But nearly half of the material relates to one of the major theistic traditions of India, that concerned with the worship of the God Siva (see rough breakdown of contents). It is in fact the largest collection in the world of manuscripts of texts of the Saiva Siddhanta, a religious tradition that in the 10th century CE was spread right across the Indian subcontinent and beyond, as far as Cambodia in the East. This tradition long represented the mainstream of tantric doctrine and worship and appears to have influenced every Indian theistic tradition. Its surviving texts, the majority of them unpublished, range from the 6th century CE to the colonial period.
In recognition of its importance the collection of SHAIVA MANUSCRIPTS IN PONDICHERRY has in 2005 been deemed a UNESCO “Memory of the World” Collection. This has given a boost to our on-going efforts to the huge task of completing a catalogue of the whole collection
The 1662 palm-leaf bundles of the Pondicherry Centre of the Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) belong to a single collection from the far South of India (Tirunelveli District). More than a third of this material (about 650 bundles) relates to the cult of the Hindu God Vishnu and at least 60 of these Vaishnava manuscripts transmit texts that have never been published.
The IFP’s collection comprises of 8187 palm-leaf bundles, 360 old paper codices and 1144 paper transcripts (C20th) and the EFEO’s of 1662 palm-leaf bundles, wich amounts to 11353 manuscripts in total.
The National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) has also selected the IFP as one of its Manuscripts Resource Centres. These Centres have the task of surveying and cataloguing manuscripts in unknown collections in the regions surrounding them. Thus the IFP, in addition to maintaining its own manuscripts, is currently also surveying and cataloguing institutional and private collections around Pondicherry and in a few coastal districts of Tamilnadu.
All photos of manuscripts are supplied for STUDY PURPOSES only. The readings may be cited with appropriate acknowledgements but the photos themselves may not be reproduced without permission. For permission to reproduce of photographs, please refer to the Photo Copyright Form.
The price of each digital image is 10 Indian rupees.*
*Each image will usually include the verso of one folio and the recto of the next and so the cost will usually work out to 10 rupees per folio. (In the case of manuscripts with exceptionally long leaves, this may be double.)
After the receipt of the demand of the digital images of the manuscripts theManuscript Request form / MOU will be sent to the researcher / can be downloaded from the IFP web site. He / She has to fill the form and send it back to the Archivist, French Institute of Pondicherry, along with the payment in India or in France (for payment particulars refer the copyright form) After the receipt of payment the digital images will be sent to them on a CD ROM. In addition to the cost of the images , we make a handling charge of rupees 100 in India and 500 outside India per order.
Those who come directly to Pondicherry to make their own digital photos may take the photos free of cost on the following conditions :
1) That optimal digital photos are taken with our guidance in our premises.
2) That whole bundles are photographed together (not just excerpts transmitting one text).
3) That the digital images are given to us (transferred onto a computer of the IFP and not deleted).
4) That a Manuscript Request Form is signed that cedes copyright to the IFP and in which the user undertakes to acknowledge the IFP’s manuscripts appropriately wherever their readings or other information about them is published.
5) That images of the manuscripts will not be reproduced without written permission of the IFP.
Ancient Sanskrit manuscript goes digitalBy Harsh Kabra
Scientists from the US are using modern imaging techniques to digitally restore a rare 700-year-old Indian palm leaf manuscript on Hinduism.
Restorers from New York's Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) are working on Sarvamoola Grantha which expounds on the essence of Hindu philosophy, the meaning of life and the role of God.
This priceless collection of 36 erudite commentaries was written in Sanskrit by Sri Madvacharya (1238-1317 AD), one of India's greatest theologians.
In addition to commentaries based on sacred Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, Puranas, Brahma-sutras, Mahabharata and others, the collection also includes independent philosophical tracts, a commentary on daily rites, and several hymns in praise of God.
Dr PR Mukund, a professor of electrical engineering at RIT, is leading the project along with his colleague Roger Easton.
"Among the various scholars and spiritual leaders in India during the last millennium, Sri Madvacharya had a profound impact on the society," explains Dr Mukund.
"He analysed all aspects of Hindu holy texts and showed the structure of the spiritual world that serves as a backbone of the world's diversities. As a result, preservation of this collection for future generations is essential," he says.
These manuscripts were stored at Phalimaru Matha (a monastic establishment of the Hindu tradition) near the coastal town of Udupi in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Dr Mukund has had a long association with several such mathas and has been actively involved in the publication of books on philosophy.
He was unnerved by the deteriorating condition of the 13th century manuscripts.
"Over time, many of the original manuscripts were lost or were badly damaged due to deterioration of the palm leaves," he reveals.
Many leaves are cracked or have chipped off. Substantial parts of the leaves are missing in some collections. Friction between the binding cord and the edge of the hole on the palm leaves has further damaged them.
Inappropriate storage has led to the palm leaves staining, splitting and sticking to each other. As a result, the manuscript is very brittle and difficult to handle without further damage.
"The palm leaves have darkened over time and are now dark brown in colour," adds Dr Mukund. This has made it difficult to read the manuscript with the naked eye.
The project is making use of cutting-edge technology to digitally restore the manuscripts.
Initially, high-resolution images of the manuscripts are acquired.
Depending upon the size and format of the manuscript, each leaf can be captured in five or more sections.
These sections are then connected to make an image of the complete palm leaf. After this, the images are processed to enhance the readability of the text.
The team is also preparing to use a novel long-term storage technique.
For the first time, images of the palm leaves will be etched on the silicon wafers normally used in the microelectronic industry.
Dr Mukund explains that silicon wafers can withstand very high temperatures and are not affected by the presence of water. It will also be possible to read these images without using additional equipment.
The team also plans to image some 800 more palm leaf manuscripts written since the time of Sri Madvacharya.
However, all of this would need substantial funds.
"We need about $100,000 per year for the next three years," Dr Mukund says. "We have started the project, but have no money to pay staff and lab fees for silicon processing.
Scientists acquiring images of the original palm leaves
The badly damaged leaves of the manuscript must first be organised
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/6149702.stm Published: 2006/11/17 01:44:37 GMT