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Zee NewsSource: http://zeenews.india.com/news/from-the-past/700-year-old-hindu-manuscript-restored_327570.html
October 06, 2006
700-year-old Hindu manuscript restored
Washington, Oct 06: Two Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) scientists -- P.R. Mukund and Roger Easton - have successfully restored a 700-year-old Hindu philosophy palm-leaf manuscript with the help of modern imaging technologies.
Known as the Sarvamoola Granthas, the manuscript attributed to scholar Shri Madvacharya (1238-1317) is a collection of 36 works, and contains Sanskrit commentaries on scholar Dvaita's philosophy of the meaning of life and the role of God.
The manuscript is difficult to handle and to read, the result of centuries of inappropriate storage techniques, botched preservation efforts and degradation due to improper handling.
Each leaf of the manuscript measures 26 inches long and two inches wide, and is bound together with braided cord threaded through two holes.
Heavy wooden covers sandwich the 340 palm leaves, cracked and chipped at the edges. Time and a misguided application of oil have aged the palm leaves dark brown, obscuring the Sanskrit writings.
"It is literally crumbling to dust," says Mukund, the Gleason Professor of Electrical Engineering at RIT.
According to him, 15 percent of the manuscript is missing. Mukund says he first became involved with the project when his spiritual teacher urged him to find a solution.
Mukund sought the expertise of RIT colleague Easton, who imaged the Dead Sea Scrolls and is currently working on the Archimedes Palimpsest. Easton, a professor at RIT's Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, brought in Keith Knox, an imaging senior scientist at Boeing LTS, as a consultant.
Mukund added Ajay Pasupuleti, a doctoral candidate in microsystems at RIT, and the team was formed. The scientists traveled to India in December 2005 to assess the document stored at a monastery-like mathas in Udupi, India. Sponsored by a grant from RIT, the team returned to the monastery in June and spent six days imaging the document using a scientific digital camera and an infrared filter to enhance the contrast between the ink and the palm leaf. Images of each palm leaf, back and front, were captured in eight to 10 sections, processed and digitally stitched together.
The scientists ran the 7,900 total images through various image-processing algorithms using Adobe Photoshop and Knox's own custom software. The processed images of the Sarvamoola granthas will be stored in a variety of media formats, including electronically, in published books and on silicon wafers for long-term preservation.
Etching the sacred writings on silicon wafers was the idea of Mukund's student Pasupuleti. The process, called aluminum metallization, transfers an image to a wafer by creating a negative of the image and depositing metal on the silicon surface.
Mukund and Pasupuleti will return to India at the end of November to give printed and electronic versions of the Sarvamoola granthas to the monastery in Udupi in a public ceremony in Bangalore.
Based on the success of this project, Mukund is seeking funding to image other Dvaita manuscripts in the Udupi region written since the time of Shri Madvacharya. He estimates the existence of approximately 800 palm leaf manuscripts, some of which are in private collections.