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Academic unlocks ancient writings

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A university tutor has transcribed 300 year-old palm-leaf folios unveiling more about the teachings of a renowned Indian philosopher which were unveiled at a ceremony in Parliament in May.

The palm-leaf folios have been in the British Library since 1942 and, after a three-year effort, Ragasudha Vinjamuri has completed her transcription in Telegu, providing a new insight into the life and work of the12th century Hindu theologian and philosopher Acharya Ramanuja.

Ramanuja is considered one of the most important exponents of the Sri Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism.

Ragasudha's work was released in print at an event in Parliament on May 10, to mark the beginning of Ramanuja’s 999th birthday celebrations. Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East hosted this event at the House of Commons along with the Sanskruti Centre for Cultural Excellence.

Ragasudha, an Associate Tutor in the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Sunderland in London, is a writer, poet, journalist and founder of Sanskruti Centre for Cultural Excellence. She has also popularised folk dances such as Koya and Lambadi to a wider audience in the UK. 

It took more than three years to complete the entire transcription.

Describing how her work started and what prompted her to take on this task, Vinjamuri explained: “The curator of South Indian languages at the British Library, Nalini Persad, came across the palm leaf folios in Telugu one day and had invited me to look through them.

“As two of my published works are already catalogued in the British Library, she was aware of my engagement over the years with the Telugu language. After an initial discussion on the content, I volunteered to work further on the folios. It took more than three years to complete the entire transcription.

Ragasudha Vinjamuri

“Since Telugu is my mother tongue, I have written and published poems, short stories, and articles on Indian migrations to Mauritius, Burma and Britain. These works have been published in different publications in India, UK, Mauritius and USA.

“The article on how Indian languages, especially Telugu and Marathi, have been taught in Britain since the 1840s, was published in prestigious publications during the World Telugu Congress and European Marathi Sammelan. With this background, the chance to transcribe something in Telugu perhaps came to me naturally and I am humbled for this historic opportunity.”

Some of the folios were badly damaged and needed Ragasudha to extensively research and identify the missing content from those broken folios. From there she could ascertain the author of the work with the help of scholars in India.

 

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