Sarvamoola Grantha

Hidden in a wooden chest in the heart of a monastery in Udupi, India, an ancient Hindu manuscript had been deteriorating bit by bit over the last 700 years. That manuscript is the Sarvamoola Grantha authored by Shri Acharya Madhva (1238-1317), a thirteenth century saint and one of the greatest spiritual leaders in the world.

What is Sarvamoola grantha?

Sarvamoola granthas comprise of thirty-six of Shri Achaarya Madhva’s seminal and ground- breaking works, including commentaries on various important scriptures such as SoothraprasthAna, GitA prasthAna, Upanishad prashtAna, Shruthi prasthAna, PrakaraNa granthas, IthihAsa prasthAna, PurAna prasthAna etc are collectively called the Sarvamoola granthas. These works, directly authored by Shri Acharya Madhva and transcribed by his disciple, Shri Hrishikesha Tirtha, form the foundation of Tattva-vada, or Bimba-Pratibimba- vaadha school of philosophy. Tattva- vaadha/Dvaita is one of the three major schools of thought related to Hindu philosophy. These inscriptions on palm-leaves have been maintained at the Palimaru matha, Udupi, Karnataka for over 700 years.

How did we preserve the Sarvamoola?

Under the margadarshana(guidance) of Guru, Shri Bannanje Govindacharya, using modern imaging technologies, Tara Prakashana has digitally restored this rare 700-year-old palm-leaf manuscript containing the essence of Hindu philosophy. Dr. P.R. Mukund, professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and spiritual disciple of Shri Bannanje Govindacharya, formed a team with imaging experts Dr. Roger Easton and Dr. Keith Knox.

Dr. Easton is a Professor at RIT's Imaging science department, and Dr. Knox is a Technical Fellow at Boeing Corporation. They were joined by Dr. Ajay Pasupuleti, Dr. Mukund's disciple, and traveled to Udupi in December 2005 on a trip funded by a private donation. This was followed by another trip in June 2006, during which high-resolution imaging equipment and associated cameras, filters and translation tables were setup in Udupi and all leaves of the Sarvamoola granthas were imaged. This trip was funded by RIT.

They obtained images of the palm leaves using a Sensys scientific digital camera from Photometrics, Inc. that had been purchased in 1999 for use on other manuscripts by RIT. The images were captured using near-infrared radiation, which enhances the contrast between the ink and the palm leaf. Images of each palm leaf were captured in ten sections, processed, and digitally stitched. Various image processing algorithms were applied using Adobe Photoshop as well as custom software developed by Dr. Knox.

The entire Sarvamoola granthas that contained 336 palm leaves with text incised on both sides of every leaf was imaged by taking more than 7500 images in five days. Dr. Knox's custom-developed software and Adobe Photoshop were used to process the images. The text is now clearly readable, and several unreadable areas of the work have been enhanced and rendered readable. This enhanced version has been preserved by prints and stored in Udupi's Palimar matha for use by scholars. Work is also underway to preserve the entire work on Silicon wafers; by using a process called aluminum metallization, the image is transferred to a wafer by creating a negative of the image and depositing metal on the silicon surface. These wafers are both fireproof and waterproof and can be read using only magnifying lenses (no need of computers or electronic equipment). Each leaf of the manuscript measures 26 inches long and two inches wide. The leaves are bound together with braided cord threaded through two holes. Heavy wooden covers sandwich the 342 palm leaves, which are cracked and chipped at the edges. In its current condition, the Sarvamoola Granthas is difficult to handle and to read as the result of centuries of inappropriate storage, botched preservation efforts and improper handling. The passage of time and a misguided effort to preserve the manuscript with oil have turned the palm leaves dark brown, obscuring the Sanskrit text, and the aging leaves shed bits of the sacred scriptures every time it is touched.