Palm leaf manuscripts (Tamil: ஓலைச் சுவடி, Oriya: ତାଳପତ୍ର ପୋଥି, Kannada: ತಾಳೆಗರಿ, Sinhala: පුස්කොළ ලෙඛන) are manuscripts made out of dried palm leaves. They served as the paper of the ancient world in parts of Asia as far back as the 5th century BCE. and possibly much earlier. They were used to record actual and mythical narratives in South Asia and in South East Asia. Initially knowledge was passed down orally, but after the invention of alphabets and their diffusion throughout South Asia, people eventually began to write it down in dried and smoke treated palm leaves of Palmyra palm or talipot palm.
Once written down, each document had a limited time before which the document had to be copied onto new sets of dried palm leaves. With the spreading of Indian culture to South East Asian countries such as Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, these nations became home to collections of documents in palm leaf. In Indonesia the palm-leaf manuscript is called lontar. With the introduction of printing presses in the early 19th century this cycle of copying from palm leaves came to an end. Many governments are making efforts to preserve what is left of their palm leaf documents.
The rounded or diagonal shapes of the letters of many of the scripts of southern India and Southeast Asia, such as Lontara, Oriya and Tamil are believed to have developed as an adaptation to writing on palm leaves, as angular letters tend to split the leaf.
Regional variations 
Palm leaf manuscripts of Odisha have both text of scriptures, pictures of Devadasi and various mudras of Kamasutra. Some of the early discoveries of the Oriya palm leaf manuscripts include writings like Smaradipika, Ratimanjari, Pancasayaka and Anangaranga in both Oriya and Sanskrit.
In 1997 The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognised the Tamil Medical Manuscript Collection as part of the Memory of the World Register. A very good example of usage of palm leaf manuscripts to store the history is a Tamil grammar book named Tolkāppiyam which was written c. 4th century. A global digitalization project led by the Tamil Heritage Foundation collects, preserves, digitizes and makes ancient palm-leaf manuscript documents available to users via the internet.
- IAS Memory of Asia palm-leaf manuscript preservation
- Conservation and Digitisation of Rolled Palm Leaf Manuscripts in Nepal
- Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts
- Sanford Steever, 'Tamil Writing'; Kuipers & McDermott, 'Insular Southeast Asian Scripts', in Daniels & Bright, The World's Writing Systems, 1996, p. 426, 480
- Nāgārjuna Siddha (2002). Conjugal Love in India: Ratiśāstra and Ratiramaṇa : Text, Translation, and Notes. BRILL. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-90-04-12598-8. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Interview: Digitalizing heritage for the coming generation. Bhasha India. Microsoft. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
Media related to Palm-leaf manuscripts at Wikimedia Commons
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