New Publication on Siddha medicine and Digitization of Siddha texts and items

Sébastia, Brigitte 2019. From siddha corpus to siddha medicine. Reflection on the reduction of siddha knowledge through exploration of manuscripts, In: Mishra A. (ed.). Local Health Traditions: Plurality and marginality in South Asia, Orient BlackSwan, New Delhi, pp. 129-155,  ISBN: 9789352876617, URL: Download: Sébastia (2019).

Brigitte Sébastia has recently published a chapter in Arima Mishra’s edited volume on Local Health Traditions: Plurality and Marginality in South Asia. Sébastia, an experienced researcher of Siddha medicine, here reports on a digitization project led by her, aiming at preserving textual documents, including palm-leaf manuscripts, handwritten notes, published books, etc., of the Siddha medical tradition but also of some non-textual items, including ancestors’ photographs, diplomas, grinders, apparatuses used to prepare medicines, and surgical instruments. The fact that Siddha practitioners often wish for the preservation of such objects, encouraged Sébastia to apply with a project on the digitization and cataloguing of Siddha manuscripts and items to the Endangered Archives Programmes of the British Library, sponsored by the philanthropic foundation, Arcadia. The present two-year digitization project is called Conservation, documentation and preservation of the knowledge of siddha medicine (EAP810) and is part of the Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library. A description of the project can be found here:

Sébastia plans to make digitizations available online through the EAPs webpage. The project, once finished, will comprise around 400 siddha manuscripts. The texts, composed in verse or prose, are written on palm leaves collected from palm trees.

As Sébastia writes, her aim “was not only to preserve siddha knowledge, but also to encourage research on siddha medicine and on its allied subjects (philosophy, alchemy, yoga, etc.).” (Sébastia 2019: 130). And although the project initially targeted medical manuscripts, the descriptive catalogue testifies that in many texts the medical matter is inextricably enmeshed with other subjects, namely alchemy and magic, philosophy and spirituality, ascetic practices and astrology, and forms that she calls the ‘siddha corpus’.


Roman Sieler

I am a Medical Anthropologist interested in non-codified and manual medical practices in South Asia. My interests also include Tamil Studies and the history of medicine. Currently, I am a full-time postdoctoral researcher and part of a collaborative research centre at Tuebingen University.

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