Siddha medicine of the “Tamils”

Siddha medicine can very well be called a medicine that is “eternally perfect.” Siddha medicine system is oldest medicine system in India which developed in and is widely practiced in South India especially Tamilnadu.

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Tracing the roots of the Siddha Medicine

Siddha system of medicine is about 10,000 years old. Even though debatable, it is maintained that the inhabitants of the great Indus Valley Civilization were Tamils who later headed south forced by the invaders. This assumption is based on the similarities between the anthropological details of the inhabitation, their habits, and their religious practices.

The Siddha medicine system has a divine origin; according to tradition Lord Shiva passed on the knowledge of Siddha medicine to his wife Parvati who further gave the knowledge to Shiva’s consort, Nandi the bull. The knowledge on this medicine system was then passed on to the very first practitioners of this traditional medicine system, the Siddhars.

Many interesting similarities between the early civilizations of Mohenjo-Daro & Harappa civilizations and the Tamils also give a boost to the assumption that Siddha medicine system is the most ancient medicine system originating in South India. The worship of Neem and Pipal trees and the sacredness of snakes are common to both. The Saivite philosophy is also common to both. In the words of Sir John Marshal, Director General of Archaeology, “Among the many revelations that Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa have had in store for us, none perhaps is more remarkable than the discovery that Saivism has a history going back to the chalcolithic Age or perhaps over farther still and that it thus takes its place as the most ancient living faith in the world.”

One more assertion that Siddha medicine system goes beyond the Ayurveda texts is the fact that the Siddhars have very secretively held the use of different kinds of salts in therapy which finds no mention in any Ayurveda texts whether old or relatively new!

Ancient Siddha literature

The oldest Siddha literature is “Thirumandiram” which was written by Thirumoolar and is in the form of 3000 verses written in a time period of 3000 years. Thirumandiram is one of the most respected works of ancient Tamil literature and dates back to 6th or 7th century C.E.

Pogaar saptha kaandam (Bogar 7000) is another Siddha medicine text authored by Siddhar Pogar. It is referred to as the Bible of Alchemy in Siddha medicine. Historically, the text can be traced back to 10th century.

Most of the texts of siddha medicine belongs to the religious groups called kayasiddhas whose works date from 13th to 14th century C.E. Kayasiddhas have incorporated the means of Yoga, alchemy, medicine and certain tantric rituals to attain perfection of the body and its state. The various authors belonging to Kayasiddhas are Akattiyar (Agastya) who is also the traditional founder of Siddha medicine, Teraiyar (17th century) who has authored 12 medicinal texts in Siddha medicine.

Underlying problems

Complete and holistic information is not available on Siddha medicine system because of three underlying reasons;

  • The knowledge and the nuances of practice of Siddha medicine were passed on to the disciples by word of mouth.
  • There is a dearth of literature as a lot of ancient text has been destroyed and lost to the world irrevocably.
  • Whatever literature is there, is in Tamil and not available for widespread use.

    The Siddha medicine system has descended from the Siddhars who practiced it. Various subjects of Siddha medicine such as medicine, surgery, psychiatry and alchemy were written on palm leaves. These Palm leaf texts were passed on from one generation of practitioners to another. But a lot of text has been lost owing to many reasons.

  • Some of the valuable text has been polluted by posterity.
  • Due to the incompetent and unscientific methods of preserving Palm leaf texts, these texts have been destroyed.
  • A lot of Pal leaf text is destroyed because of the adverse environmental conditions, white ants, wars and ignorance.

    Siddha vs. Ayurveda

    The two traditional medicine systems of India, Ayurveda finds predominance in Northern parts of India and to some extent in the southern state of Kerala while Siddha system of medicine originates as well as practiced widely in south India especially Tamilnadu.

    The Siddha system of medicine views the predominance of the three humors; Vatham, Pitham and Kapham in childhood, adulthood and old age respectively while Ayurveda considers the three humors; Kapham, Vatham and Pitham dominant in childhood, old age and adulthood respectively.

    The Ayurvedic treatment has two components- Curative and Preventive. The Ayurveda practitioner considers the drug, diet, exercise and all other factors inclusive of condition of body and mind, temperament, sex, age, metabolic fire, work rest pattern and sleep pattern. The Siddha system identifies the cause of the disease by studying the patient in detail, and the medical treatment then emphasizes on the patient’s environment, meteorological condition, age, sex, race, habits, mental frame, diet, appetite, habitat, physical condition, physiological constitution etc.

    Looking forward

    The face of Ayurveda and Siddha medicine has changed a lot over the years and has been imbibed in the day to day lifestyle of the world. There is a constantly growing market for Siddha medicine system and along with Ayurveda it forms a total market share of approximately 814 million USD. Studies have reported that the total global herbal market is of the size 62 billion USD and brings the ancient system of Indian herbs and medicine to the forefront.

  • Author: Pooja S. Banerjee

    A pharmacist by profession,Pooja has research experience in the field of herbal medicine and medicinal chemistry. She has also authored many International and National research and review papers in peer reviewed journals. Her passion for writing has made her foray into the world of medical writing. She writes travel blogs for creative satisfaction.

    Comments

    1. Shrishti says:

      Good post about this Tamilian medicine system!

    2. Arul Amuthan says:

      This post gives more details about Siddha system of Medicine. In fact, Ayurveda acquired few areas from Siddha such as pulse diagnosis, metal based drugs, animal based drugs, yoga etc. These areas are well described in Siddha literature than Ayurveda. Varmam (Marmam or vital point manipulation), kaayakalpam (Rejuvenation), metal based therapy, biological medicines are some of the important, still practiced areas of Siddha system. It has a bright future, since all other traditional systems were already known to world.

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