Fumigation chamber inaugurated for preserving palm-leaf manuscripts

A fumigation chamber to disinfect and help preserve ancient manuscripts was inaugurated at the Oriental Research Institute (ORI) in the city on Tuesday.

The ORI is a repository of over 30,000 palm-leaf manuscripts and has a collection of nearly 70,000 Kannada and Sanskrit works which enshrine a slice of ancient Indian knowledge base and heritage. The ORI shot to international fame when the only extant copy of Kautilya’s Arthashastra was discovered among its collections by scholar R. Shamasastry in 1905.

The fumigation chamber was established with the guidance of Subbaraman, former Superintending Archaeological Chemist, Archaeological Survey of India, and was inaugurated by G. Hemantha Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, University of Mysore.

Prof. Hemantha Kumar said apart from preservation and conservation of ancient palm-leaf and paper manuscripts, digitalisation exercise would also be taken up which will help in better preservation of the documents.

The fumigation chamber can accommodate up to 50 manuscripts at a time and will be subjected to various treatment as recommended by the conservation protocol established by the ASI. S. Shivarajappa, Director, ORI, said they plan to have a similar but a larger facility at the basement which can accommodate anywhere up to 500 or 1,000 manuscripts at a time.

He said the manuscripts have to be treated and kept in the chamber for nearly 15 days as part of the exercise. Lemongrass oil or citronella oil is used for palm-leaf besides application of other chemicals. Both paper and palm leaves have to be preserved under ideal conditions that includes temperature of 22° C and humidity of 55%.

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