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September 22, 2006
US university restores 700-yr-old Indian scriptures
The project will digitally preserve 13th century scholar Madhavacharya's Sarvamoola granthas, a collection of 36 works.
The project will digitally preserve 13th century scholar Madhavacharya's Sarvamoola granthas, a collection of 36 works with commentaries on his Dvaita philosophy of the meaning of life and the role of God.
WASHINGTON, DC: Two engineering professors at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York have used advanced digital technology to restore 700-year-old scriptures written by the scholar Madhavacharya on his Dvaita philosophy.
Collectively known as the Sarvamoola granthas, the 36 works are the prime source of the popular Hindu Dvaita philosophy that convey Madhavacharya's commentaries on the meaning of life and the role of God.
PR Mukund, Gleason professor of electrical engineering at RIT, and his colleague Roger Easton, have embarked on this project to restore 340 palm leaves, each of which is 26 inches long and two inches wide, and is bound together with braided cord threaded through two holes.
They are separated by heavy wooden covers, almost all of which are damaged.
According to the professors, the techniques used to store them earlier had resulted in further degradation. "It is literally crumbling to dust," said Prof Mukund.
He added that 15 per cent of the manuscript is missing, and what remains is difficult to handle and to read.
At some point in their lives, the palm leaves were also applied with oil, which has all but destroyed them. Mukund said: "The book will never be opened again unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Because every time they do, they lose some. After this (the digital restoration), there won't be a need to open the book."
Inspired by his spiritual teacher's message, Mukund traveled twice to India along with Easton - in December 2005 and June 2006 - to get a hand on the manuscripts that were kept in a math in Udupi in Karnataka.
They were joined by Keith Knox, an imaging scientist at Boeing, and Ajay Pasupuleti, Mukund's doctoral student at RIT.
Together, they spent six days imaging the document using a Sensys scientific digital camera and an infrared filter. Knox brought in his own imaging software.
The process was complex. Images of each palm leaf, back and front, were captured in eight to 10 sections, processed and digitally stitched together.
They ran the 7,900 total images through various image-processing algorithms using Adobe Photoshop and Knox's software.
The processed images will be stored in a variety of media formats, including electronically, in published books and on silicon wafers for long-term preservation.
Mukund and Pasupuleti will return to India at the end of November to give printed and electronic versions of the Sarvamoola granthas to the math at a public ceremony in Bangalore. "We feel we were blessed to have this opportunity to do this," Mukund said.
"It was a fantastic and profoundly spiritual experience. And we all came away cleansed."