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Preservation of old manuscripts the natural way -

nabadip - Mon, 16 May 2005 11:47:02 +0530
Mission for Manuscripts mulls change in conservation & restoration system

Pioneer News Service/ New Delhi

With the biggest-ever survey on the country's ancient manuscripts to be launched by the Government next month, the system of conservation and restoration of the writings is likely to undergo a change.

The National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) under the Ministry of Culture, which is conducting the survey, had so far been using modern technology to conserve and restore manuscripts. However, with indigenous methods of conservation and restoration proving to be more useful, the NMM has decided to draw people from remote villages along with city-bred conservation experts for its special panels to be constituted shortly.

"The idea that indigenous preservation techniques are more effective than new-age technologies has been accepted by our mission and we are going to have select experts from isolated pockets of the country for the purpose on our panels," director, NMM, Sudha Gopalakrishnan told The Pioneer.

Earlier this year, such rural experts presented their understanding of age-old methods at an exhibition held here at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, which enthused NMM officials to track back the past through indigenous methods.

An exhaustive collection of herbs, roots, seeds and other plant and mineral products used in the conservation of manuscripts are available across the nation to serve as fungicides, insecticides and preservatives.

The problem that the NMM is facing now is tracking down experienced practitioners of traditional conservation methods who live in far-flung areas. As the survey takes off in about 20 states, along with documentation of manuscripts' data, finding the right people for the conservation work will be the mission's parallel search.

And, to prevent the loss of manuscripts forever due to time and climate-related influences, the NMM will have to pursue the conservation and restoration panels' formation on a war-footing, Ms Gopalakrishanan said.

Samples of indigenous techniques being used to preserve ancient manuscripts were showcased at the IGNCA exhibition. For example, a palm leaf manuscript maker from Orissa demonstrated how leaves are processed and written on by incising with a metal stylus and inking them with carbon black and plant gum.

Similarly, practitioners from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu showed how fast-disappearing manuscripts can be preserved through simple Kovai leaf methods. The NMM is also taking preservation feedback from traditional Sri Lankan experts.