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Digitizing Balinese Lontars

With the help of the Internet Archive and Ron Jenkins, a theater professor at Wesleyan University, the Balinese are leading the world as the first culture to have their entire literature go online. The documents are centuries-old lontar palm leaves incised on both sides with a sharp knife and then blackened with soot. As of today 477 lontars have been scanned and uploaded to the Internet Archive.

The writings consist of ordinary texts to sacred documents on religion, holy formulas, rituals, family genealogies, law codes, treaties on medicine (usadha), arts and architecture, calendars, prose, poems and even magic. The estimated 50,000 lontars are kept by members of the Puri (palace) family and high priests to ordinary families. Some are carefully kept as family heritages while others are left in dirty and dusty corners of houses. Digitizing the lontars makes them available to scholars and students and salvages the documents from getting destroyed by insects or humidity, as many already have.

Very few Balinese have actually read any lontar due to language obstacles and the view that is it sacrilegious. Traditionally, the lontars are read and performed by priests. Forty-one of such performances have been uploaded to the Internet Archive.

Gatutkaca Pralaya Nyoman Catra

Visit the Balinese Digital Library at The Internet Archive:

Balinese Digital Library collection
Collection of Lontars
Collection of Videos

Read more about this project and Balinese lontars at The Jakarta Times:

Ancient ‘lontar’ manuscripts go digital | Rita A. Widiadana and Ni Komang Erviani, Bali
US scholar brings ancient Balinese scripts to digital age | Ni Komang Erviani, Denpasar

-Grace Neveu and Jake Johnson

Originally posted on The Internet Archive Blog by Grace Neveu.

Written by internetarchive

April 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm

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