Ola Leave Manuscripts
Sri Lanka possesses one of the richest unbroken literary traditions of the world, going back thousands of years, since even before the dawn of Christian era. Palm leaf manuscripts had been remained as the dominant writing material of the country from earliest time to 20 century A.D., which were prepared by a traditional technological process incorporated with some cultural practices, utilizing Palmyra Palm (Borassus flabelliformis) leaf or Talipot Palm (Corypha umbraculifera) leaf.
Palm leaf manuscript tradition was interwoven with number of elements of the ancient society including religion, culture, economy, technology, art, rituals and so on. Therefore it can be recognized as a widely spread manuscript culture, exceeding limits of a mere writing material. These palm leaf manuscripts are invaluable source containing a great deal of knowledge and wisdom, which were acquired by our ancestors within thousands of years as a result of experiments and experiences. Large amount of information can be revealed from these manuscripts regarding Buddhism, history, indigenous medicine, vetanary science, ancient technology, astrology, astronomy, demonology, language and literature, social condition, economic status and so on.
At present, these manuscripts are perished very quickly due to number of environmental factors and human activities. Writing on palm leaf manuscripts and associated traditional technological and cultural activities will be completely disappeared very soon. It can be estimated that approximately 1000,000 palm leaf manuscripts are extant now from millions of manuscripts written at the past. Unfortunately, manuscripts which were venerated in the past are sold to foreigners as antiques and aesthetic objects and become their properties. On the other hand, Palm leaf manuscripts are deteriorated mainly as a result of humidity, activities of termites and rats and negligence. In order to safeguard this ancient tradition of palm leaf manuscript writing it is necessary to revitalize this ancient tradition by disseminating the technical know-how of producing such manuscripts and also by redefining its potential uses in the contemporary society.
Designing a project for dissemination of technical know how of producing palm leaf manuscripts and by doing that inculcating procedures of preserving them and using them for contemporary uses within the national development process, has become a nationally interested issue now.