At least 800,000 books and manuscripts, including India's first political treaties the "Arthasastra" written in the 4th century B.C. by Kautilya, that are lying in Mysore University in Karnataka, will be digitised by Google, the world's leading Internet search engine.
"Written in both papers and palm leaves, there are around 100,000 manuscripts in our library, some dating back to the eighth century. The effort is to restore and preserve this cultural heritage for effective dissemination of knowledge," said J. Shashidhara Prasad, vice chancellor of the university.
"Many manuscripts on ayurveda, mathematics, medicine, science, astrology and economy including 'Arthasastra' and several paper manuscripts of the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore will be digitised first," Prasad, who was recently in Delhi, told IANS.
Written either in Sanskrit or Kannada, these resources of knowledge would be patented and printed after the digitisation work is over, Prasad said.
"Depending upon the exclusivity of the materials, we will patent them before making them available on public domain," he said, adding that Google has offered them free service.
"Google has offered to digitise theses manuscripts as well as 700,000 other books free of cost. Google India chief (Eric Schmidt) had already interacted with us and is ready to provide us expertise, software and even manpower," Prasad said, adding that they have also received some financial assistance from the University Grants Commission (UGC) for the digitisation work.
Asked why Google is interested to do the job for free, the vice chancellor said the company would get free link for these materials once the necessary patent right is done.
Prasad, who is also a physicist, said that selected physics students of his university are also getting trained to help in the digitalisation process.
Mysore University, an enduring symbol in the sphere of higher education in India, was founded by the then Maharaja of Mysore Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in 1916.
It is the first university of Karnataka and currently 122 colleges are affiliated to it with a total strength of nearly 55,000 students, in graduation, post-graduation and research levels.
However, the vice chancellor did not spell out the exact timeframe of the project. "It's a tough job and we could not spell an exact timing of its completion."
Elaborating on its utility, Prasad said they would allow students, scholars and historians from all over the country to access the knowledge base.