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Lecture By Eva Wilden (EFEO)
23 AUGUST 11
Eva WIlden, EFEO, Pondicherry
On the Seven Uses of Palm-leaf - ōlai and ēṭu in the Tamil Literature of the First Millennium
We are reading and editing Classical Tamil texts that may date back to roughly the beginning of the 1st millennium of the Commnon Era. However, the manuscripts that are still existant are at the very best some two to three hundred years old. If we nevertheless want to find out something about what manuscripts might have meant in their own cultural contexts, the one route that opens up is locating references to manuscripts and related practises in the literary texts of an earlier period. A cursory survey of sources from the first millennium (in so far as they are available in searchable, digital form) brings to light the following occurences (apart from a number of manuscript-related terms such as ōlai and ēṭu for the palm-leaf itself): kāppu for the string the manuscript is tied with and ūci for the stylus employed for writing, no less than seven uses for manuscripts, namely letters of official and private nature, an ensign of peace, an amulet, accounts, inscriptions, palm-leaf as a medium for a poetic and/or learned tradition, and finally a metaphoric reference to something like a book of fate.