Palm-leaf manuscripts are made out of dried palm leaves, and ancient scholars had used these leaves as writing material, similar to the present day paper. But if the palm-leaf manuscripts are not preserved properly, it would be eaten away by white ants and by other small insects. Most of our ancient Tamil texts were written by our Shaivite Nayanmars using these Pam-leaf manuscripts only. But still we are able to read lot of epics like Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavatam, since all these were preserved properly, through the grace of the almighty.
A large number of manuscripts were destroyed during the times of Mughal invasion. Some rare manuscripts are also available in our ancient temples, and it is safely preserved by our Archaeological department.Due to the help of some noble persons like our Tamil Thatha, Swaminatha Iyer, as he was fondly called by the Tamil likers, lot of Tamil manuscripts were recovered from various places. The great 11th century Shaivite Saint Sri Nambiyandar Nambi had recovered lot of palm leaf manuscripts from the temples, by singing songs in praise of Lord Shiva. Some of our beautiful and divine manuscripts are also kept by the University of Cambridge.After the introduction of paper in the 19th century, the system of using palm leaves was come to an end. But still our Indian government is taking proper steps to collect the ancient manuscripts from various places of India.
If we are able to recover all the lost ancient manuscripts, we can enjoy by reading the matters contained in the divine manuscripts.During the period of Vijayanagar king, Sri Krishnadevaraya, the holy works made by Sri Vyasaraja, Kanakadasa and Purandaradasa were written in palm leaf manuscripts.
Out of the thousands of songs sung by Sri Purandaradasa and Sri Kanakadasa, at present only some few hundred songs are available. But at this present modern day world, since we are having lot of technical devices, and communication media facilities, we would be able to store lot of matters written by the great scholars, in order to make it to be read by the future generations.