The Wandering Voice - Three Ballads from Palm Leaf Manuscripts (An Old and Rare Book in Tamil)

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Item Code: NAY740
Author: R. Nirmala Devi
Publisher: Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai
Language: Tamil Text with English Translation
Edition: 1987
Pages: 314
Other Details 9.50 X 7.00 inch
Weight 590 gm
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Book Description
The ancient Tamils had been one of the important sea-faring peoples of the world and they had had commercial as well as cultural contacts with the European and the South East Asian countries. After the sixteenth century, these contacts got deepened, resulting ultimately in a wholesome cultural interaction and interfertilization between the Tamils and the other peoples. As a result, a number of Tamil manuscripts are found in the museums, archives and libraries of several countries abroad, which include Britain, France. Finland, Netherlands, U.S.A., U.S.S, R., Sri Lanka. Malaysia and Thailand. Prof. Julian Vinson has mentioned in 1892 that there were 561 palm-leaf manuscripts in the National Library in Paris. In 1956, Dr. Xavier Thaninayagam has written about the rare Tamil manuscripts being preserved in the libraries abroad. Gregory James' article in the Journal of Tamil Studies (No. 18) gives detailed information about these manuscripts. A paper read out by Prof. Ayyadurai Damotharan at the Fifth World Tamil Conference also refers to the availability of Tamil palm-leaf manuscripts in the European countries... The Tamil palm-leaf manuscripts on martial arts found in Japan have been edited by the Institute of Asian Studies and translated into English.

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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