So far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, the Tamil works were mostly written on palm-leaves. They were copied again and again in the palm-leaves, generation after generation and thus preserved for posterity. The palm-leaf manuscripts thus protected were consigned to flames on the Bhogi festival day, thrown into the fire or the river or eaten away by moths or insects - all due to the ignorance of the people!
Dr. U.V. Swaminatha Iyer, Thiru. C.V. Damodaran Pillai and Prof. S. Vaiyapuri Pillai were seriously engaged in searching for and obtaining the surviving manuscripts and publishing them. However, of about one lakh palm-leaf manuscripts that are found in various countries of the world, only 25% of them have been rendered in book form so far! The remaining 75% are still in the form of palm-leaves only! Before these too are eaten away by insects, they should be preserved for posterity by Xeroxing, micro-filming and storing in the internet, etc. But the best way to preserve and propagate them, among the people, is to publish them as books.
Only a few institutions are now engaged in their publication. Among these, the Institute of Asian Studies holds a place of prime importance. Besides publishing the palm-leaf manuscripts in Tamil, the Institute furnishes their translations into English also, so that, as the poet Suppiramaniya Bharati says, they would receive the acclaim of the foreigners too.
The Institute has already published, in book form, many palm-leaf manuscripts relating to Varma arts, Music, Drama, Yaksakanam, Folk narratives, etc. It is significant that Uttantan Kovai is the first book to the published in the series of literary manuscripts.
For involving me in editing the minor literary piece, I offer my thanks to the Institute Directors Dr. G. John Samuel and Dr. Shu Hikosaka.
I am grateful to Mr. P.S. Subramaniam of Akur who helped the Institute by giving this palm leaf manuscript, to Pulavar B. Kannaiyan for getting the address of Mr. Balakrishna Mutaliyar, who belongs to Uttantan's lineage.
I thank the curator Dr. S. Soundarapandiyan of Government Oriental manuscript Library, Vidwan Balasaranatan, Mr. Cayram, Mr. Bhaskaran of U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer Library for helping in comparing various other copies of this palm leaf manuscript.
As soon as I told that I was going to edit the Uttantan Kovai, Uttantan Balakrishna Mudaliar with great zeal not only gave the paper manuscript of the first 70 songs but also accompanied me to Taiyur for collecting materials. I also thank his daughter Miss. B. Thilaka for taking photographs.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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