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BOOK REVIEW Table of Contents   
Year : 2007  |  Volume : 49  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 146
Tamil culture and psychiatry

Department of Psychiatry, Stanley Medical College and Hospital, Chennai - 600 001, Tamil Nadu, India

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How to cite this article:
Thirunavukkarasu M. Tamil culture and psychiatry. Indian J Psychiatry 2007;49:146

How to cite this URL:
Thirunavukkarasu M. Tamil culture and psychiatry. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2007 [cited 2022 Dec 4];49:146. Available from:

Published by O. Somasundaram

#30, 23 Cross Street, Besantnagar, Chennai - 600090, Tamilnadu, India

I hereby express my most sincere gratitude to the editor, for requesting me to review the book, 'Tamil Culture and Psychiatry', written by Dr. O. Somasundaram, a true milestone in comparative studies in science and philosophy. I finished the book at a stretch while I was traveling from Singapore to Tokyo. It is a very interesting and engaging book not only because of my love for Tamil but also for its lively presentation.

I have always noticed that most of the psychiatric textbooks had liberally borrowed quotes and citing from Greek, Roman and English literature, but very gingerly from Indian literature. India, the land of richest heritage and immeasurable wisdom, is the owner of 2 (Sanskrit and Tamil) of the 8 classical languages in the world. It is intriguing and disappointing that Indian literature has got little importance in psychiatric literature. Acting on this disappointment, I had urged all of my colleagues and professors, proficient in literature, to document their observations, because that, in my humble opinion, is the only way to let the world know about our rich knowledge in psychiatry. Dr. Somasundaram has accomplished an incomparable job in this regard.

The author has thoughtfully categorized the complexly heterogeneous and stunningly voluminous information in this comparative study into separate easy-to-read topics. He has brought to light varied topics like psychiatric concepts, religious treatment, attitudes of the mentally ill, etc. His attempt to describe the expressions of the mood, its constituents and psychopathology and the evidence of suicidal behavior in Tamil culture deserve special mention. His interesting questioning of Leff's findings in the International Pilot Study of Schizophrenia (IPSS), description of sexuality in Thirukkural, psychopathology of perception and reasoning, psychology of ageing and devotion are special highlights of the book, which make this book a must-read for not only psychiatrists but also for all Indian clinicians, in general.

The author does not limit his observations to ancient Tamil literature. Instead, he continues his work in 20 th century Tamil literature and even in Indian cinema and songs, which are abundant in their expressions of various moods and behaviors, including alcoholism. He has scored extra miles by also describing the details of mental illnesses in the Siddha and other Indian systems of medicine.

The section describing Saint Ramalingar's teaching clearly elucidates the importance given to novel 21 st century concepts like mental health promotion in ancient Tamil culture. A couple of pages in the book were devoted to the author's experience with the assailants of the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu.

I sincerely appreciate the author's call to Indian psychiatrists to serve our nation. I strongly recommend this book to all practicing psychiatrists, trainee postgraduates and medical students, which will not only enlighten the present and upcoming generation of doctors about the wealth of wisdom in Indian literature, but also will serve as an inspiration for others to work more on this topic, which will in turn help authors in psychiatry to use Indian literature as references in their works.

Correspondence Address:
M Thirunavukkarasu
Department of Psychiatry, Stanley Medical College and Hospital, Chennai - 600 001, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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