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CTMR starts project to train Siddha practitioners to decode ancient palm leaf manuscripts

Peethaambaran Kunnathoor, Chennai
Friday, March 16, 2012, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

As part of its efforts for innovation and researches in the Indian System of Medicines, the Centre for Traditional Medicines and Research (CTMR), Chennai has now engaged in a new mission to train the professionals of Siddha system to imbibe information from old palm leaf manuscripts that contain Siddha methods of treatment and disease management.

Recently the Centre has envisaged a project for digitizing the available Siddha palm leaf manuscripts with it, and got the go-ahead approval from the central Ayush department with financial support. To serve as a prelude to the digitization work, the Centre has designed a workshop to train the institutionally trained physicians and the indigenous practitioners decode the medical manuscripts, the treasure trove of Siddha system.

The programme was kick-started in Chennai in last week with a participation of practitioners from hospitals, medical colleges, universities and from forum of traditional healers. According to the organizers of the programme, Tamil Nadu has a very good collection of palm leaf manuscripts written in ancient Tamil and in Sanskrit. CTMR will train the participants to read, decode and transliterate the contents, which will help enhance their knowledge and can preserve for the future generation, said Dr T Thirunarayanan, the secretary of the Centre.

“Among Asian countries, India has the largest number of palm leaf manuscripts and Tamil Nadu is said to have a lion portion of them. Majority of them contains medical knowledge. If they cannot be properly preserved, they will completely get ruined as the maximum life span of the dried leaves is 300 years, however careful preservation can extend the period to a little more. Only a small part of the treasure trove of information on siddha was published in printed materials so far. It is a challenge to preserve and retrieve all these information,” Dr Thirunarayanan explained.

He said CTMR has collected more than 250 manuscripts which were considered to be originated in the 16 th century, and most them are in perilous conditions. The written palm leafs were preserved by various indigenous healers spread across the state, and they  contain information on disease classification, diagnostic methods, healthy life style, drug formulations and processing methods of herbo-mineral drugs. There are some leafs which deal with age old mantras and tantras (hymns and strategies).

He further added that the purpose of preservation and digitization would be served when people were trained in decoding the scripts because the number of learned men was dwindling.

For the participation in the workshop, CTMR has selected 13 post graduate students in Siddha, four Siddha physicians and four indigenous healers, and made them capable of reading and decoding the manuscripts. The training contained basic language skill, ancient grammar, different types of scripts, and numerals. The secretary of CTMR said the Centre is planning to publish a set of books based on Siddha medical manuscripts.

Vidwan Sironmani, N Srinivasan, Vaidya S Usman Ali, Dr S Rajkumar and Prof. N Aranamuruval of the Central Classical Tamil Institute took lessons on reading and decoding of manuscripts.


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