Palm-leaf manuscripts are manuscripts made out of dried palm leaves. Palm leaves were used as writing materials in the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia reportedly dating back to the 5th century BCE.  Their use began in South Asia and spread to other regions, as texts on dried and smoke-treated palm leaves of Palmyra palm or the talipot palm.  Their use continued till the 19th century, when printing presses replaced hand-written manuscripts. 
One of the oldest surviving palm leaf manuscripts of a complete treatise is a Sanskrit Shaivism text from the 9th-century, discovered in Nepal, now preserved at the Cambridge University Library.  The Spitzer Manuscript is a collection of palm leaf fragments found in Kizil Caves, China. They are dated to about the 2nd-century CE and are the oldest known philosophical manuscript in Sanskrit.  
The text in palm leaf manuscripts was inscribed with a knife pen on rectangular cut and cured palm leaf sheets; colourings were then applied to the surface and wiped off, leaving the ink in the incised grooves. Each sheet typically had a hole through which a string could pass, and with these the sheets were tied together with a string to bind like a book. A palm leaf text thus created would typically last between a few decades and about 600 years before it decayed due to dampness, insect activity, mold and fragility. Thus the document had to be copied onto new sets of dried palm leaves.  The oldest surviving palm leaf Indian manuscripts have been found in colder, drier climates such as in parts of Nepal, Tibet and central Asia, the source of 1st-millennium CE manuscripts. 
The individual sheets of palm leaves were called Patra or Parna in Sanskrit (Pali/Prakrit: Panna), and the medium when ready to write was called Tada-patra (or Tala-patra, Tali, Tadi).  The famous 5th-century CE Indian manuscript called the Bower Manuscript discovered in Chinese Turkestan, was written on birch-bark sheets shaped in the form of treated palm leaves. 
Hindu temples often served as centers where ancient manuscripts were routinely used for learning and where the texts were copied when they wore out.  In South India, temples and associated mutts served custodial functions, and a large number of manuscripts on Hindu philosophy, poetry, grammar and other subjects were written, multiplied and preserved inside the temples.  Archaeological and epigraphical evidence indicates existence of libraries called Sarasvati-bhandara, dated possibly to early 12th-century and employing librarians, attached to Hindu temples.  Palm leaf manuscripts were also preserved inside Jain temples and in Buddhist monasteries.
With the spread of Indian culture to Southeast Asian countries like as Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines, these nations also became home to large collections. Palm-leaf manuscripts called Lontar in dedicated stone libraries have been discovered by archaeologists at Hindu temples in Bali Indonesia and in 10th century Cambodian temples such as Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei. 
One of the oldest surviving Sanskrit manuscripts on palm leaves is of the Parameshvaratantra, a Shaiva Siddhanta text of Hinduism. It is from the 9th-century, and dated to about 828 CE.  The discovered palm-leaf collection also includes a few parts of another text, the Jñānārṇavamahātantra and currently held by the University of Cambridge. 
With the introduction of printing presses in the early 19th century, the cycle of copying from palm leaves mostly came to an end. Many governments are making efforts to preserve what is left of their palm leaf documents.   
The round and cursive design of the letters of many South Indian and Southeast Asian scripts, such as Devanagari, Nandinagari, Kannada, Telugu, Lontara, Javanese, Balinese, Odia, Burmese, Tamil, Khmer, and so forth, may be an adaptation to the use of palm leaves, as angular letters could tear the leaves apart. 
Palm leaf manuscripts of Odisha include scriptures, pictures of Devadasi and various mudras of the Kama Sutra . Some of the early discoveries of Odia palm leaf manuscripts include writings like Smaradipika, Ratimanjari, Pancasayaka and Anangaranga in both Odia and Sanskrit.  State Museum of Odisha at Bhubaneswar houses 40,000 palm leaf manuscripts. Most of them are written in the Odia script, though the language is Sanskrit. The oldest manuscript here belongs to the 14th century but the text can be dated to the 2nd century. 
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 around 3rd century BCE.  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. 
In Indonesia the palm-leaf manuscript is called lontar. The Indonesian word is the modern form of Old Javanese rontal. It is composed of two Old Javanese words, namely ron "leaf" and tal " Borassus flabellifer , palmyra palm". Due to the shape of the palmyra palm's leaves, which are spread like a fan, these trees are also known as "fan trees". The leaves of the rontal tree have always been used for many purposes, such as for the making of plaited mats, palm sugar wrappers, water scoops, ornaments, ritual tools, and writing material. Today, the art of writing in rontal still survives in Bali, performed by Balinese Brahmin as a sacred duty to rewrite Hindu texts.
Many old manuscripts dated from ancient Java, Indonesia, were written on rontal palm-leaf manuscripts. Manuscripts dated from the 14th to 15th century during the Majapahit period. Some were found even earlier, like the Arjunawiwaha , the Smaradahana , the Nagarakretagama and the Kakawin Sutasoma , which were discovered on the neighboring islands of Bali and Lombok. This suggested that the tradition of preserving, copying and rewriting palm-leaf manuscripts continued for centuries. Other palm-leaf manuscripts include Sundanese language works: the Carita Parahyangan , the Sanghyang Siksakandang Karesian and the Bujangga Manik .
In Myanmar, the palm-leaf manuscript is called pesa (ပေစာ). In the pre-colonial era, along with folding-book manuscripts, pesa was a primary medium of transcribing texts, including religious scriptures, and administrative and juridicial records.  The use of pesa dates back to 12th century Bagan, but the majority of existent pesa date to the 1700-1800s.  Key historical sources, including Burmese chronicles, were first originally recorded using pesa.   The Burmese word for "literature," sape (စာပေ) is derived from the word pesa. 
In the 17th century, decorated palm leaf manuscripts called kammavācā or kammawasa (ကမ္မဝါစာ) emerged.  The earliest such manuscript dates to 1683.   These decorated manuscripts include ornamental motifs, and are inscribed with ink on lacquered palm leaves gilded with gold leaf.  Kammavaca manuscripts are written using a tamarind-seed typeface similar to the style used in Burmese stone inscriptions.  Palm-leaf manuscripts continued to be produced in the country well into the 20th century. 
The Universities' Central Library in Yangon houses the country's largest collection of traditional manuscripts, including 15,000 pesa.  In February 2013, the Pali Text Society, Sendai University, and the University of Toronto, along with local partners, began an ongoing initiative to digitise and catalogue Myanmar's palm-leaf manuscripts, including collections from U Pho Thi Library in Thaton, and Bagaya Monastery in Inwa.   The digitised manuscripts are available at the open-access Myanmar Manuscript Digital Library. 
The palm leaves are first cooked and dried. The writer then uses a stylus to inscribe letters. Natural colourings are applied to the surface so the ink will stick in the grooves. This process is similar to intaglio printing. Afterwards, a clean cloth is used to wipe out the excess ink and the leaf manuscript is done.   Details can be found in videos listed in the external links section.
Devanāgarī or Devanagari, also called Nāgarī, is a left-to-right abugida, based on the ancient Brāhmī script, used in the northern Indian subcontinent. It is one of the official scripts of the Indian Republic and Nepal. It was developed and in regular use by the 7th century CE. The Devanāgarī script, composed of 47 primary characters, including 14 vowels and 33 consonants, is the fourth most widely adopted writing system in the world, being used for over 120 languages.
A manuscript was, traditionally, any document written by hand or typewritten, as opposed to mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. More recently, the term has come to be understood to further include any written, typed, or word-processed copy of an author's work, as distinguished from the rendition as a printed version of the same.
The Pāli Text Society is a text publication society founded in 1881 by Thomas William Rhys Davids "to foster and promote the study of Pāli texts." Pāli is the language in which the texts of the Theravada school of Buddhism are preserved. The Pāli texts are the oldest collection of Buddhist scriptures preserved in the language in which they were written down. The society first compiled, edited, and published Latin script versions of a large corpus of Pāli literature, including the Pāli Canon, as well as commentarial, exegetical texts, and histories. It publishes translations of many Pāli texts. It also publishes ancillary works including dictionaries, concordances, books for students of Pāli and the Journal of the Pali Text Society.
The Odia script is a Brahmic script used to write primarily Odia language and others including Sanskrit and other regional languages. It is one of the official scripts of the Indian Republic. The script has developed over more than 1000 years from a variant of Siddhaṃ script which was used in Eastern India, where the characteristic top line transformed into a distinct round umbrella shape due to the influence of palm leaf manuscripts and also being influenced by the neighbouring scripts from the Western and Southern regions.
The Grantha script is a South Indian script, found particularly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Originating from the Pallava script, the Grantha script is related to the Tamil and the Vatteluttu scripts. The modern Malayalam script of Kerala is a direct descendant of the Grantha script. The Southeast Asian and Indonesian scripts such as Thai and Javanese respectively, as well as South Asian Tigalari and Sinhala scripts are derived or closely related to Grantha through the early Pallava script. The Pallava script or Pallava Grantha, emerged in the 4th century CE and was used until the 7th century CE, in India. This early Grantha script was used to write Sanskrit texts, inscriptions on copper plates and stones of Hindu temples and monasteries. It was also used for classical Manipravalam – a language that is a blend of Sanskrit and Tamil. From it evolved Middle Grantha by the 7th century, and Transitional Grantha by about the 8th century, which remained in use until about the 14th century. Modern Grantha has been in use since the 14th century and into the modern era, to write classical texts in Sanskrit and Dravidian languages. It is also used to chant hymns and in traditional Vedic schools.
Cilappatikāram, also referred to as Silappathikaram or Silappatikaram, is the earliest Tamil epic. It is a poem of 5,730 lines in almost entirely akaval (aciriyam) meter. The epic is a tragic love story of an ordinary couple, Kannaki and her husband Kovalan. The Cilappathikaram has more ancient roots in the Tamil bardic tradition, as Kannaki and other characters of the story are mentioned or alluded to in the Sangam literature such as in the Naṟṟiṇai and later texts such as the Kovalam Katai. It is attributed to a prince-turned-monk Iḷaṅkõ Aṭikaḷ, and was probably composed in the 5th or 6th century CE.
Tolkāppiyam, also romanised as Tholkaappiyam, is the most ancient extant Tamil grammar text and the oldest extant long work of Tamil literature. The surviving manuscripts of the Tolkappiyam consists of three books (atikaram), each with nine chapters (iyal), with a cumulative total of 1,610 (483+463+664) sutras in the nūṛpā meter. It is a comprehensive text on grammar, and includes sutras on orthography, phonology, etymology, morphology, semantics, prosody, sentence structure and the significance of context in language.
Birch bark manuscripts are documents written on pieces of the inner layer of birch bark, which was commonly used for writing before the advent of mass production of paper. Evidence of birch bark for writing goes back many centuries and in various cultures. The oldest such manuscripts are the numerous Gandhāran Buddhist texts from approximately the 1st century CE, from what is now Afghanistan. They contain among the earliest known versions of significant Buddhist scriptures, including a Dhammapada, discourses of Buddha that include the Rhinoceros Sutra, Avadanas and Abhidharma texts.
The French Institute of Pondicherry UMIFRE 21 is a French research centre in Puducherry, India, under the joint supervision of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). It is the largest of the 26 research centres under this dual umbrella. It is also part of the research unit 3330 "Savoirs et Mondes Indiens" of the CNRS, along with the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH) in New Delhi.
Saraswathi Mahal Library, also called Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji's Saraswathi Mahal Library is a library located in Thanjavur (Tanjore), Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the oldest libraries in Asia established during 16th century by Nayakar kings of Thanjavur and has on display a rare collection of Palm leaf manuscripts and paper written in Tamil and Sanskrit and a few other indigenous languages of india. The collection comprises well over 49,000 volumes, though only a tiny fraction of these are on display. The library has a complete catalog of holdings, which is being made available online. Some rare holdings can be viewed on site by prior arrangement. Encyclopedia Britannica mentions the library as the "Most remarkable library of India".
Tigalari, also known as Tulu script, is a Southern Brahmic script which was used to write Tulu, Kannada, and Sanskrit languages. It was primarily used for writing Vedic texts in Sanskrit. It evolved from the Grantha script. It is called as Tigalari lipi in Kannada-speaking regions and Tulu speakers call it as Tulu lipi. It bears high similarity and relationship to its sister script Malayalam, which also evolved from the Grantha script.
The Skanda Purana is the largest Mukyapurana, a genre of eighteen Hindu religious texts. The text contains over 81,000 verses, and is of Kaumara literature, titled after Skanda, a son of Shiva and Parvati, who is also known as Murugan. While the text is named after Skanda, he does not feature either more or less prominently in this text than in other Shiva-related Puranas. The text has been an important historical record and influence on the Hindu traditions and rituals related to the war-god Skanda.
The Eight Anthologies, known as Eṭṭuttokai or "Eight Collections" in the literature, is a classical Tamil poetic work that forms part of the Eighteen Greater Texts (Patiṉeṇmēlkaṇakku) anthology series of the Sangam Literature. The Eight Anthologies and its companion anthology, the Ten Idylls (Pattuppāṭṭu), is the oldest available Tamil literature. According to Kamil Zvelebil, a scholar of Tamil literature and history, dating these Eight Anthologies or their relative chronology is difficult, but the scholarship so far suggested that the earliest layers were composed sometime between the 1st century BCE and 2nd century CE, while the last layers were completed between 3rd and 5th century CE.
The Ten Idylls, known as Pattuppāṭṭu or Ten Lays, is an anthology of ten longer poems in the Sangam literature – the earliest known Tamil literature. They range between about 100 and 800 lines, and the collection includes the celebrated Nakkīrar's Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai. The collection was termed as "Ten Idylls" during the colonial era, though this title is considered "very incorrect" by Kamil Zvelebil – a scholar of Tamil literature and history. He suggests "Ten Lays" as the more apt title. Five of these ten ancient poems are lyrical, narrative bardic guides (arruppatai) by which poets directed other bards to the patrons of arts such as kings and chieftains. The others are guides to religious devotion (Murugan) and to major towns, sometimes mixed with akam- or puram-genre poetry.
The Oriental Research Institute & Manuscripts Library, University of Kerala, is one of the leading centres of Indology in India. It is located at Kariavattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The institute carry out researches on Indian language manuscripts, about 80% of which are in Sanskrit. The department is microfilming the manuscripts of certain technical subjects.
Indian copper plate inscriptions are historical legal records engraved on copper plates in India.
Siddhaṃ, also known in its later evolved form as Siddhamātṛkā, is a medieval Brahmic abugida, derived from the Gupta script and ancestral to the Nāgarī, Assamese, Bengali, Tirhuta, Odia and Nepalese scripts.
The Mānasāra, also known as Manasa or Manasara Shilpa Shastra, is an ancient Sanskrit treatise on Indian architecture and design. Organized into 70 adhyayas (chapters) and 10,000 shlokas (verses), it is one of many Hindu texts on Shilpa Shastra – science of arts and crafts – that once existed in 1st-millennium CE. The Manasara is among the few on Ancient Indian architecture whose complete manuscripts have survived into the modern age. It is a treatise that provides detailed guidelines on the building of Hindu temples, sculptures, houses, gardens, water tanks, laying out of towns and other structures.
Pecha is a Tibetan word meaning "book", but in particular, refers to the traditional Tibetan loose-leaf books such as the kangyur, tengyur, and sadhanas. Pechas sometimes have top and bottom cover plates made of wood, cardboard, or other firm materials, and are often seen wrapped in cloth for protection. The word pecha has entered common use in other languages such as English in the Tibetan Buddhist community, evident online in discussion forums and software products that include the word in their names.
Nandināgarī is a Brahmic script derived from the Nāgarī script which appeared in the 7th century AD. This script and its variants were used in the central Deccan region and south India, and an abundance of Sanskrit manuscripts in Nandināgarī have been discovered but remain untransliterated. Some of the discovered manuscripts of Madhvacharya of the Dvaita Vedanta school of Hinduism are in Nandināgarī script.