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Indian classical treasure-trove goes digital

A million rare manuscripts, palm leaves, copper plates and age-old classical literature are to be digitised under a project.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2005 16:43 IST

A million rare manuscripts, palm leaves, copper plates and age-old classical literature are to be digitised under a project jointly undertaken by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the Indian ministry of communications and information technology.

CMU will provide proprietary software and hardware to the Digital Library of India (DLI) for $5 million.

"In collaboration with the S.V. Digital Library (SVDL) of the Tirumula Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), we have started scanning as many manuscripts, palm leaves and age-old books to host them on our portals in digitised form," CMU director Kiran Kumar told IANS.

"We have scanned about 130,000 documents from 31 digital centres across the country. The target is to reach about a million mark by 2008 so as to preserve our rich cultural heritage for posterity," he added.

Using the latest technology, the DLI has also roped in academic experts to translate and document the hoary literary material from 14 digital centres in southern India and upload it on its web sites for browsing by the public free of cost.

"Till date, we have digitised about 30,000 books in vernacular languages, including Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and English, with the subject material spanning religion, culture, history, arts and science," Kumar said.

"The problem with digitising the age-old books is font recognition as digital technology finds it difficult to recognise and translate these characters."

According to SVDL director B.S. Reddy, the DLI has launched an awareness campaign to collect the literary treasure-trove from institutions, organisations and individuals who have the priceless material in the form of manuscripts, palm leaves and rare books.

"The literary documents in whatever form can be brought to our centres for scanning and digitising them. We will return the originals with a digital copy of the material to the rightful owners," Reddy said.

"Going forward, we intend to offer user-friendly support for full text indexing and search facility based on optical character recognition. Such online search allows users to locate the relevant information easily and reliably."

The digital library can be accessed at www.dli.ernet.in or http://dli.iiit.ac.in.

First Published: Aug 30, 2005 16:43 IST