Abstract

In Kerala, South India, one finds many thousands Syriac, Malayalam, Malayanma, Kolezhuttu, Vattezhuttu manuscripts of older and more recent date, all belonging to the autochthonous communities of the St Thomas Christians, a seven million-strong minority group that has lived organically incorporated into the local Hindu society for almost two thousand years. Because of the humid, tropical climate and other factors, these manuscripts are greatly endangered. The present complex international project, based on cooperation between Indian, German, Hungarian and American institutions, aims at saving these manuscripts both in their content and in their physical reality.Its means are as follows: as a first step, the tasks of digitising and describing the manuscripts are undertaken; as a second step, an organised electronic data-base is established and the most important manuscripts are published in facsimile editions, together with their respective scholarly descriptions; in the third stage of the process, the data obtained are used for clarifying many an obscure point of the history of Christianity in Kerala, as well as for publishing, translating and interpreting the newly discovered texts. The new information issuing from the treatment of the Indian Syrian manuscripts sheds light not only on local history, but also on the communication network that has linked, over the centuries, this minority to all branches of the Syrian Christians living in a diaspora all over the Middle East.This is an open-ended project, the keywords of which are preservation, access and recycling. Thus, besides preservation, by means of open-access electronic publications, it makes the manuscripts accessible for the wider scholarly community. At the same time, the benefits resulting from the publications are returned to the proprietors, on the condition that they spend the proceeds on the conservation of the original manuscripts, in their physical reality.