Hindu guru organisations are innovators of contemporary Hinduism with far-reaching relevance on a multitude of local levels and on a global scale. They are relatively recently founded religious organisations, which compete for members and legitimacy with more established forms of Hinduism and with other emergent religious groups. This ethnographic research project focuses on three contemporary Hindu guru organisations located in the South of India, which show one core feature: they engage in the medical domain. They all devote considerable resources to promoting Siddha medicine (citta maruttuvam), a vernacular medicine mainly practiced in the Tamil speaking areas of South Asia, which is integrated in the Indian public health sector.
The research deals with the organisations’ Siddha medical activities to approach the question of competition. It uncovers and examines the way in which religious organisations of the type of nova religio gain authority, recognition, and symbolic capital through their participation in the Siddha medical realm against the backdrop of an intriguing welding of nationalism, identity politics and medical revivalism.