World’s first Palm-leaf Manuscript Museum in Kerala

The recently opened Palm Leaf Manuscript Museum in Thiruvananthapuram has added to the cultural and intellectual life of the state of Kerala. The museum, which is the world’s first of its kind, contains 187 manuscripts and other artefacts related to the former Travancore kingdom from 650 AD until the end of the 19th century. It also has documents from the regions of Kochi and Malabar.

Exhibits at the Museum

The museum’s exhibits include palm leaf manuscripts, styluses, carriers for Cadjan bundles, copper plates, and bamboo splints. The museum is divided into eight galleries, each focused on a different aspect of Travancore history, including “History of Writing,” “Land and People,” “Administration,” “War and Peace,” “Education and Health,” “Economy,” “Art and Culture,” and “Mathilakam Records.” Some galleries also include films and QR code technology for gathering additional information.

The museum is particularly notable for its manuscripts, which are written on cured and treated palm leaves and contain primary source material on a variety of topics. One of the most famous manuscripts is the account of the Battle of Colachel, in which Travancore’s Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch East India Company in 1741. This battle put a halt to Dutch expansion in India and cemented Travancore’s place as a major power in the region.

The museum is divided into eight galleries representing different segments of Travancore history: ‘History of Writing’, ‘Land and people’, ‘Administration’, ‘War and peace’, ‘Education and Health’, ‘Economy’, ‘Art and culture’, and ‘Mathilakam Records’. These galleries also include films and QR code technologies for gathering information.

Conservation Efforts

The Palm Leaf Manuscript Museum was created as part of a larger conservation effort by the state of Kerala. The museum is located in a three-century-old building that is home to the Central Archives for the state government. The first phase of the museum’s collection was selected from 1.5 crore (15 million) palm leaf records that had been poorly preserved throughout the state.

According to Dr. V. Venu, the State Additional Chief Secretary and former Director General of the National Museum in Delhi, the manuscripts at the museum provide important information on the development of writing in the area, including the evolution of the Malayalam script from earlier systems like Vattezhuthu and Kolezhuthu. They also offer insights into the complex administrative systems, proclamations of the Travancore royals, and international negotiations and agreements that shaped the kingdom’s history.

The Palm Leaf Manuscript Museum is a valuable resource for both general visitors and specialized researchers. It offers a glimpse into the rich history of the Travancore kingdom and helps to fill in gaps in our understanding of Kerala’s past. The museum’s audio-visual technology and multimedia exhibits make it an engaging and informative experience for all who visit.




Latest E-Books