THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala might take great pride in the classical language status accorded to Malayalam. But the fact remains the language still has few experts knowledgeable in its old scripts.Faced with an acute shortage of experts in the old scripts such as ‘Vattezhuthu’ and ‘Kolezhuthu’, which have now fallen into disuse, the State Archives Department is launching a search for ideal candidates who can be trained in ‘deciphering’ documents written using these scripts.
According to Archives Department officers, the selected manuscriptologists will be employed in transliterating old palm-leaf manuscripts in the department’s possession, including the Travancore-era ‘Mathilakam’ documents. Archives director P Biju said the department proposed to select ten candidates for the training-cum-transliteration project. ‘’There is a shortage of experts in this field. At the moment, we have only three people, a number quite inadequate considering the size of the project,’’ he said.
The Archives Department has an enviable collection of palm-leaf manuscripts, copper plates and other documents dating back centuries.
A majority of the older documents use scripts such as ‘Vattezhuthu,’ ‘Kolezhuthu,’ ‘Malayanma’ and old Tamil, a fact that has slowed down the department’s project to transliterate and digitise the documents. “The oldest documents in the department’s archives date back to the 14th century,” Biju said. ‘Vattezhuthu ‘and ‘Kolezhuthu’ were used to write Malayalam in the language’s infancy. ‘Malayanma,’ closely related to ‘Vattezhuthu’, was used largely in the southern part of Thiruvananthapuram.
Write with a stylus in summer camp
This summer, the Archives Department has come up with a novel initiative to get children interested in old scripts and writing methods. Open to children from Classes IV to XII, the department’s summer camp will offer them a chance to write with authentic ‘Narayam’ - or ‘Ezhuthaani’ (stylus) - on palm leaves. The camp will be held from April 23 to 25. Those interested should contact the department before April 20. For details, call 9495871627.
Decoding the language
The Archives Dept is looking for ideal candidates who can be trained in ‘deciphering’ documents written using ‘Vattezhuthu’ and ‘Kolezhuthu’.
Vattezhuthu ‘and ‘Kolezhuthu’ were used to write Malayalam in the language’s infancy.
‘Malayanma,’ related to ‘Vattezhuthu’, was used largely in the southern part of Thiruvananthapuram.