Blackening palmleaves

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 11 13:38:04 UTC 2001


Dear Dr. Mueller,

Congratulations for developing the noninvasive technique of digital
blackening of palm leaves! With tamil in the family, this may be of
interest to you.

Two old poems from literature on physical darkening come to mind:

A) Tamil as a Messenger to Madurai Shivan (12th century AD),
(maturaic cokkanAtar tamizviTu tUtu, UVS, 1930) has a couplet:

    maJcaL kuLippATTi maiyiTTu muppAlum
    miJcap pukaTTa mikavaLarntAy!

This couplet can be interpreted in a couple of ways:

i) As for a girl, the meaning:

When you were little, you enjoyed taking showers with turmeric
daubed  all over,  decorated the eyes with collyrium and
drank milk/juices - all essential for healthy growth.

ii) As for the tamil, the meaning:

All your treasures in palmleaves are protected with
turmeric, the letters on those leaves are blackened with soot
for clarity, and in the early stages of your life,
TirukkuRaL nourished you!

(muppAl = 3 kinds of milk. Also, muppAl is another name for the
famous TirukkuRaL because it is divided into three sections.)

B) The second example comes from ParaJcOti Munivar's tiruviLaiyATal
purANam (16th century?). Again on Madurai, the seat of sangam poets.

    cEya tArakai varuNamAt tITTiya vA_nam
    Aya ETTi_nai iruLe_num aJca_nam taTavi
    tUya vALnilA e_numveN tUci_nAl tuTaippA_n
    pAya vElaiyil muLaitta_na_n pa_nimatik kaTavuL.

Siva appears in the sea. The crescent moon on his head sends out
rays to dispel the darkness of the night sky and the stars shine.
Those lunar rays are like a writer using a soft, white cloth to
remove the carbon  from the face of palmleaf manuscript and the
letters look bright and clear!

           sky  ------>  palmleaf
           darkness of the night ---> carbon smear
           stars -----> letters
           moon's rays ----> soft cloth

N. Ganesan

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list