Sanskritik Rashtravad

The voice of Indian culture

Ancient palm leaf manuscripts

6 min read

Knowledge of the past is necessary for the betterment of the present. Palm leaf manuscripts that preserve our traditions, historical heritage and glorious past are prominent in this. The writings on palm leaves contain valuable information about India’s past.

Turning the pages of history, it is known that kings and emperors used to write about their times on stone pieces, pillars and palm leaves. Like the kings of the Chola dynasty.

Palm leaf manuscripts are manuscripts made out of dried palm leaves. Palm leaves were used as writing materials in the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia dating back to the 5th century BCE and possibly much earlier. Their use began in South Asia and spread elsewhere: in the form of texts on dried palm leaves.

One of the oldest surviving palm-leaf manuscripts of a complete text is a 9th-century Sanskrit Shaivism text, discovered in Nepal, now preserved in the Cambridge University Library. The Spitzer Manuscript is a collection of palm leaf fragments found in the Kizil Caves, China. They date to approximately the 2nd century CE and are the oldest known philosophical manuscripts in Sanskrit.


Palm leaves up to one meter long and ten centimeters wide are durable for a long time, so they were used for writing books and painting. Firstly these palm leaves were dried, boiled or soaked and then dried again. In palm-leaf manuscripts, the text was rectangularly cut and the letters were scratched with a knife-tip iron pen, also called a shalaka, right on the palm-leaf sheet. By cutting them in the desired shape and then applying kajal on them, these letters turned black and became readable.

The dyes were then applied to the surface and the ink was wiped away leaving incised grooves. Each sheet usually had a hole through which a string could pass, and these were tied together with a string to bind the sheets together like a book.

The entire manuscript was pierced by inserting pieces of bamboo about four centimeters or so from each end i.e. binding in today’s language by attaching heavy wooden covers at the front and back and then tying with braided cords. Among the thousands of manuscripts written on palm leaves, there are some such, for which gold has been used to write.

The manuscript of Mahabharata on palm leaves and the manuscript of Gita written with golden letters, flower-leaves juice have been preserved for almost four hundred years in Gitapress of Gorakhpur.

A palm leaf made in this way typically lasts between a few decades and about 600 years before decaying due to moisture, insect activity, mold, and fragility. Thus the document had to be copied onto a new set of dry palm leaves. The oldest surviving palm leaf Indian manuscripts have been found in cool, dry climates in Nepal, Tibet, and parts of Central Asia, the source of 1st millennium CE manuscripts.

preparation And protection

Palm leaves are first cooked and dried. The writer then uses the pen to write the letter. Natural dyes are applied to the surface so that the ink sticks to the grooves. The process is similar to intaglio printing. Afterwards, a clean cloth is used to wipe off the excess ink and the leaf manuscript is prepared.

The individual sheets of palm leaves were called patra or parna in Sanskrit (Pali/Prakrit: panna), and the prepared medium for writing was called tada-patra (or tala-patra, tali, toddy). . Sugar discovered in Turkestan bower The famous 5th-century Indian manuscript, called the Manuscript, was written on sheets of treated birch-bark the size of palm leaves.

Hindu temples often served as centers where ancient manuscripts were regularly used for learning and where texts were copied when they became worn out. In South India, the oldest surviving palm leaves in temples and associated monasteries served these functions, and large numbers of manuscripts on Hindu philosophy, poetry, grammar and other subjects were written, multiplied and preserved inside the temples.

Archaeological and epigraphical evidence indicates the existence of libraries called Saraswati-Bhandara, which probably date back to the early 12th century and employed librarians attached to Hindu temples. Palm-leaf manuscripts were also preserved in Jain temples and Buddhist monasteries.

The library of Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi, built in 1914, also known as Saraswati Bhavan, has three lakh books, oriental texts, rare manuscripts under one roof. 16,500 rare manuscripts brought from different parts of the country have been preserved here. A team of experts has been engaged to fix thousands of manuscripts written on palm leaves using scientific methods. This work is being done with the initiative of Infosys Foundation. These would traditionally be wrapped in red colored ‘Kharwa’ cloth. Kharwa is a special type of cotton cloth on which books are wrapped by applying chemicals. It provides protection to books from insects and moisture. The library of Tamil Nadu has a world of more than 70,000 manuscripts. There is also a manuscript on palm leaf which is kept in the display section so that one can understand this obscure language.

With the spread of Indian culture to Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, these nations also became home to large collections. Palm-leaf manuscripts in dedicated stone libraries called lontar have been discovered by archaeologists in Hindu temples in Bali, Indonesia, and in 10th-century Cambodian temples such as Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei.

The Paramesvaratantra, one of the oldest surviving Sanskrit manuscripts on palm leaves, is a Shaiva canon text of Hinduism. It dates from the 9th century, and dates to around 828 CE. The discovered palm-leaf collection also includes parts of another text, the Jnanarsva Mahatantra, currently held by the University of Cambridge. Many governments are making efforts to save their palm leaf documents.

writing systems Of Design Of With Relation,

The rounded and curved design of the letters in many South Indian and Southeast Asian scripts, such as Devanagari, Nandinagari, Telugu, Lontara, Javanese, Balinese, Odia, Burmese, Tamil, Khmer, and so forth, may have been an adaptation to the use of cursive writing. of palm leaves, as the angular letters could tear the leaves.

regional Variations

Rajasthan From a Jain palm leaf manuscript. In Jaisalmer’s Granth Bhandar, some ancient manuscripts of palm leaves are kept as treasures.


The palm leaf manuscripts of Odisha include scriptures, images of devadasis and various postures of the Kamasutra. Some of the earliest di
scoveries of Odia palm-leaf manuscripts include writings in both Odia and Sanskrit such as the Smarakadipika, Ratimanjari, Panchasayaka and Anangaranga. The State Museum of Odisha in Bhubaneswar houses 40,000 palm leaf manuscripts. Most of them are written in the Odia script, although the language is Sanskrit. The oldest manuscript here dates back to the 14th century but the text may date back to the 2nd century.

Tamil Nadu

16th century Christian prayer in Tamil, palm leaf manuscripts In 1997 the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the Tamil Medical Manuscript Collection as part of the Memory of the World Register. A very good example of the use of palm leaf manuscripts to store history is the Tolkappiyam, a Tamil grammar book written around the 3rd century BCE. A global digitization project led by the Tamil Heritage Foundation collects, preserves, digitizes and makes available ancient palm-leaf manuscript documents to users via the Internet.

Java And Bali

palm leaf manuscript in indonesia lontar It is called The modern form of the Indonesian word is Old Javanese. rontal , It is composed of two old Javanese words, namely Ron “Leaf” and rythm , Borassus flabellifer , Palmyra Palm”. Due to the shape of the palm leaves, which spread like a fan, these trees are also known as “fan trees”. The leaves of the rontal tree have always been used for many purposes, such as for making pleated mats, palm sugar wrappers, water scoops, jewelry, ritual tools, and writing materials. Today, in the art of writing rontal Still survives in Bali, rewriting Hindu texts as a sacred duty performed by Balinese Brahmins.

kakawin arjun marriage Balinese palm-leaf manuscript of.

Many older manuscripts, dated from ancient Java, Indonesia, were written on palm-leaf manuscripts. Manuscripts dated from the 14th to the 15th century during the Majapahit period. anything found as before Arjunawiwaha , Smaradahana , Nagarakretagama And kakwin sutsom , of which were discovered on the neighboring islands of Bali and Lombok. This suggests that the tradition of preserving, copying and rewriting palm-leaf manuscripts has continued for centuries. Other palm leaf manuscripts include Sundanese language : works Carita Parahyangan , Sanghyang Siksakandang Karesian And Bujangga ruby ,

letter number 383 of the Spitzer manuscript; This palm leaves either side of Sanskrit It is written in

The manuscript of Mahabharata on palm leaves and the manuscript of Gita written with golden letters, flower-leaves juice have been preserved for almost four hundred years in Gitapress of Gorakhpur.

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