Cataloguing and Digitization of Medical Manuscripts in Kerala
The word ‘Ayurveda’ (ayush vedah) the knowledge of life duration, living healthy life, which proclaims it as the science of health. This discipline is not confined to the health problems and their treatments concerning just human beings but also includes all other living beings such as birds, animals, plants and trees. All issues concerned with health related to veterinary and agricultural sciences are also part of this medical science of ancient India which most probable is applicable in modern age.
Chinmaya International Foundation Shodha Sansthan in collaboration with AYUSH (the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India) has undertaken to catalogue and digitalise all medical manuscripts in Kerala.
The Tradition in Kerala Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine, has been extremely popular in the southern Indian State of Kerala for a very long time. Practitioners of Ayurveda in Kerala continue to be familiar with all its eight main branches: Shalya (surgery), Shalakya (cure of diseases of the eyes, ears, etc. by using shalakas or sharp instruments), Kayachikitsa (cure of diseases affecting the whole body), Bhutavidya (psychotherapy), Kaumarabhritya (pediatrics), Agadatantra (science of antidotes to poisons), Rasayanatantra (preparation and application of elixirs) and Vajikaranatantra (the science of aphrodisiacs). In contemporary Kerala too, all these branches of Ayurveda continue to be popularly employed and the advent of allopathic medicines has not really diminished the popularity of Ayurvedic treatment.Traditionally, Ayurvedic knowledge was passed on within families, and therefore, succeeding generations of practitioners may be found in various parts of Kerala.
Due to the popularity of Ayurveda in the region, many manuscripts related with this discipline are preserved in Kerala. Such manuscripts may be found in almost each village in Kerala, the majority of them belonging to private custodians. Though not exhaustive, a survey of the ‘Science Texts in Manuscript Repositories of Kerala and Tamil Nadu’ was carried out by the late Dr. K.V. Sarma and he identified 1,286 Ayurveda manuscripts in Kerala. Among these, 586 are independent works and the rest are commentaries. But, The National Mission for Manuscripts had a exhaustive survey in district-wise and identified about 12,000 manuscripts through Thunchan Memorial Trust and Kerala University Manuscript Library. It needs more exhaustive and detail survey and proper documentation.
However, it is worth noting that the total number of Ayurvedic manuscripts may be larger still in private repositories, especially in the custody of the practicing families. Since their work depends on the knowledge contained in these manuscripts, the private owners of Ayurvedic manuscripts are reluctant to part with them and hence these are seldom donated to manuscript libraries. While many such private repositories are known, information is yet to be obtained about many more. Though no firm statistics are available about the collections in private libraries, it appears that manuscripts dealing with Vishacikitsa are quite popular. A few manuscripts on Mrigacikitsa may also be available.The languages employed in most manuscripts in Kerala are Sanskrit and Malayalam, although a few in the southern region of the State are also written in Tamil. The same holds true of Ayurveda manuscripts. Of these, the Malayalam and Tamil manuscripts are in their respective language scripts. A few Ayurveda manuscripts in Malayalam are found in Vattezhuttu, an ancient script used for Malayalam and Tamil. Sanskrit manuscripts in Kerala are usually in the following scripts-Grantha, Devanagari, Nandinagari, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, etc. Some of the Ayurveda manuscripts comprise Jyotisha portions also. Among the Tamil manuscripts a considerable number of manuscripts deal with the Siddha system of medicine.
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