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Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

`Hortus Malabaricus' - a feather in the varsity's cap


THE DEPARTMENT of Publications is one of the oldest wings of the University of Kerala. It has certainly done proud to the seat of higher learning over the years. Among its notable contributions are a series of glossaries in the various science subjects, popular science books and translations of classics.

The university has also been bringing out reprints of some of the valuable books that are now out of print. The "Hortus Malabaricus" is one such text.

Its reprinted English version, brought out recently, has been selected for the Book Fair, being held at the Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. The theme for the fair this year is "Indian Contribution to World Civilization in the field of Science and Technology". The Vice-Chancellor, B. Ekbal, has been invited to deliver a talk on this book at the fair.

Brought out in 12 volumes, this is the first complete translation in English of the 325-year old-Latin treatise on the plant wealth of Asia and the tropics and in essence that of the Malabar coast. Some of the plants that find a mention in this book have since become extinct.

It has been edited by K. S. Manilal, Professor Emeritus, Calicut University, and contains modern nomenclature and botanical interpretations of the rich and varied plant wealth of the region.

The palm leaf inscriptions of Itty Achuthan, a traditional physician who belonged to Alappuzha, formed the original matter for the Latin text. It is thanks to the Dutch that the palm leaves were recovered from junk, more than three centuries ago.

As many as 400 sets of the English version were brought out by the university and over 200 of them have already been procured by research institutions and other similar organisations. Through priced at Rs. 20,000, the entire set is available at a concessional rate of Rs. 16,000.

The university has already initiated steps to bring out the Malayalam version of the "Hortus Malabaricus", to be low-priced and aimed at the individual buyer.

* * *

THE KERALA University Union chairman, Ben Darwin says, "The Kerala University Union's coffers are empty. We have no money to organise programmes."

The Union is still reeling under the impact of the unpaid bills: leftovers of the University Union Youth Festival. Even after the University of Kerala allowed an additional grant of Rs. 1 lakh to the Union, the apex student body still needs another Rs. 1 lakh to settle all its dues.

Adding to the Union's woes is the fact that its chairman is now in prison. He was remanded to police custody following the recent SFI-ABVP clash in the Medical College Hospital premises which culminated in the arrest of many SFI activists. The other Union office-bearers are now looking for ways to pay back the Youth Festival debt, something in which they are not succeeding all that much.

According to Ben Darwin, the Union would like to put together a drama festival, a `must-organise' annual fixture in any Union's calendar. "Apart from the drama fest, we would like to organise a couple of more programmes before we demit office," he said. Though some student leaders say they would like the University to give more money to the University Union, there are many in the University who say the only lasting solution to this problem is a periodic hike in the Union fee which is collected as part of a student's annual fee.

and G. Mahadevan.

By J. Ajeth Kumar and G. Mahadevan.

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