NETamil, a five-year project by the Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO), Pudhucherry, (translated as French School for Asian Studies), facilitated through a European Union grant, will convert some of the oldest available palm leaf inscriptions of Tamil classics into digital format, to make them more accessible to Tamil language enthusiasts worldwide.
The Department of Tamil, EFEO, headed by Professor Eva Wilden, won a 2.5 million grant from the European Research Commission for NetTamil earlier this year. The project which ropes in European collaboration will use hi-tech equipment for photographing and digitising from Denmark, which is not easily available in India. The ultimate aim is to make classical literature available on an open source platform, with consent from copyright holders. “What we would like is for anyone to open a file on the Internet and access an ancient Tamil text,” says Ms.Wilden.
Making a case for the preservation of manuscripts, Ms. Wilden says that the tropical climate of South India poses a challenge to the longevity of manuscripts. “Most important works in European archives are boxed and stored in climate-controlled conditions. But there are many Tamil manuscripts bundled up in small libraries,” she explains, adding it is imperative to copy manuscripts every 100 years to preserve the text, as they are at risk of being eaten away by insects. “For want of being copied and oiled properly, some of our manuscripts have been lost to the world.” Preserving the sources for all texts is also imperative to spot variations while transcribing from the original manuscript. But as there are thousands of manuscripts and not enough funds to preserve them all, new media technologies which convert ancient literature into digital format, present a far less expensive way of preserving classical literature for posterity.
Image Source : Joshua and Rachel Elek