‘Siddhas’ were those men who attained ‘perfection’ in spiritual, intellectual, mental, vital and physical levels. Each of these eighteen Siddhas who appear in Siddha Vaidya have attained state of perfection in various disciplines, contributed immensely to the fields of medicine, Alchemy, Science, Chemistry and Astrology etc. In addition to these 18 Siddhas there are several others who appeared from time to time. The term Siddha had several interconnected and overlapping, meanings.
Definition and Nature of a ‘Siddha’
Siddhas way of living and writings provide valuable insight into human potential. History of Siddhas is important because of their transformed lives can be accessible to everyone and anyone. They were always behind the scenes stimulating the intelligence of their students, assisting them in their works and guiding towards higher consciousness.
The Siddhas belong to a non-conformist, “counter-tradition “meaning it is the tradition which opposes, because they have never believed in the idol worship or ritualistic practices. They had challenged many of the accepted beliefs that were prevalent in the society.
The oldest of eighteen Siddhas were Nandiver, Agastya, Thirumoolar and Boganathar and rest of the Siddhas fixed according to the evidences available which ranges from four to twelfth century AD. Siddhas achieved mastery over nature with the help of Yoga and medicine.
Powers of Siddhas:
Siddhas have gained expertise in eight different disciplines of supernatural powers.
• Becoming as small as an atom at their own will
• Expanding one own self
• Becoming heavy
• Becoming light
• Knowing everything past or future
• Ability to reach anywhere
• Absolute control over mind / sense/ animate and inanimate objects
• Command over every one by mere thought or word
They had written enormous amount of medical texts on palm leaves in the form of poetry. They had given detailed descriptions of ten different types of descriptions of curing diseases in addition to magnetic and spiritual healing process.
The chosen number ‘eighteen’
• The number “eighteen” appears to be the symbolic.
• There were eighteen arhants in Chinese mythology, while in Alchemy there were eighteen types of treating quick silver, eighteen days of war between Rama and Ravana in the epic Ramayana, there are eighteen Agamas or Hindu holy texts, eighteen consonants, the list is ever growing.
• In Siddha medicine number “eighteen” has a special place. Macchamuni one of the eighteen Siddhas says that there are eighteen important herbs.
• In Kundalini yoga “eighteen” is a significant number; Kundalini (energy) after reaching sahasrara chakra has to cross further through eighteen mahavidyas, eighteen energized subtle centres encircling the sahasrara region, finally to unite with Lord Siva.
• Several evidences denote that the number eighteen refers to achievements discovered by the Siddhas. Actually there are more than eighteen Siddhas who had obtained enlightenment, but the pioneering eighteen Siddhas made astonishing discoveries in every possible field especially in the area of medicine.
Uniqueness of Sage Agastya in Eighteen Siddhas
Agastya was one of the seven holy men or sage mentioned in the Vedas of Hindu philosophy who played vital role in the composition of vedas.
In Sanskrit ‘Aga’ means a mountain while ‘asti’ means a thunder.
Agastya was born with tremendous knowledge and wisdom. Agastya matured into a great sage and a scientist, but never grew physically, attaining the height of only three hand spans. He developed Siddha Vaidya into the great medical science we see today.
Agastya is a sage of cultural integration, leading a fusion between northern Aryans with southern Dravidians.
Agastya has an equally distinguished place in the South like sage Vyasa in the Northern part of India. He is in fact called as “Tamil yogi or the Tamilian Sage.”
He is mythologically represented in India as the Canopus, the brightest star in the extreme southern sky and is worshiped near Cape Comorin as Agastisvara. He is believed to be still alive by many Hindus though invisible to ordinary eyes, somewhere on Himalayas or mountains in southern India “Agastya’s hills” from which the sacred river of Tamraparni takes its birth.
Facets of the learned Sage
• Agastya was the inventor of Tamil language; written a treatise of Tamil grammar with 12000 principles of the language, also author of several other treatises on theology, religion, ancient history, medicine, pharmacology, usage of plants and herbs in the treatment of ailments.
• A master of par excellence in meditation, Agastya gained enlightenment on the Mount Kailash.
• There are hundreds of ancient treatises from various areas of science ascribed to Agastya. As a physician, Agastya occupies the same eminence amongst the Tamils as Hippocrates does amongst the Greeks, and it is remarkable that there are some very curious coincidences between the doctrines of the former and those of the latter, especially as regards the prognosis and diagnosis of diseases, the critical days, and premonitory symptoms of death. The existence of seminal animalcules, which was discovered by Ludwig Hamm in Europe only in 1677 A.D., is mentioned by Agastya in one of his medical works.
• Detailed descriptions and preparations of medicines to cure ailments are it a common fever, cancer, impotence, abdominal problems or any unknown health problems were giving quick results described in his book.
• He was the original teacher who had taught his disciples the techniques of Kriya yoga, divinizing the cells of the body which can make the physical body free from death for several hundred years, enables the body to gain glow of light.
• He wielded very high influence which he acquired at the court of Kula Sekhara(according to the tradition of the first Pandian King);and numerous are the elementary treatise which he composed for the enlightenment of his royal disciple; and the one with the grammatical principles of language systematically arranged has naturally acquired high renowned position in that era.
• There is a 160 year old bibliography of Siddha Vaidya literature attributed to Sage Agastya. The manuscripts had valuable information on the treatments of diseases which goes up to several thousand stanzas in addition to several other literature consisting of details about eighteen different kinds of leprosy, cure of gonorrhea, purification of poisons relating to animal, plants, metals and vegetables and the art of making powders.
Accomplishments of Siddhas:
• The ancient texts written by the Siddhas were often obscure and they have used ambiguous language on purpose. The interpretation of obscure language requires a spiritual awareness but at the same time can be addressed to a casual listener also.
• The language they had used was as unconventional as were their lives which gave birth to an idea that they may be monks belonging to Buddhism.
• Siddhas used a language that is symbolic, secret, suggestive and paradoxical. It is also called ‘Sandhya bhasa’ or twilight language, meaning the ideas is explained either by the dawn or by the dark of night. The language is also termed as “enigmatic language”, “hidden sayings”, and “intentional language” which is characterized by deceptive simplicity.
• Some of the critics say that some of the terms have dual meanings and can mislead the commoner. The essential characteristic feature of the language is its polysemantic nature, its multivalence, and its capacity to express at the same time a number of meanings both at the level of ordinary experience and at the level of transcendence.
• Siddha language is mystical in nature with suggestive, epigrammatic and enigmatic nature. Typology, wordplay, paradox, repetition, and metaphor to convey to the listener the richness of the reality hidden in the visible terms and symbols were freely used by the Siddhas while writing the important texts in poetical forms. The use of numerals to denote mystical experiences is a favorite device of the Siddhas and an authentic pattern of Thirumoolar.
• Alphabet symbolism is also a common technique found in Siddha poetry. We can safely say that the monosyllables that we find in Siddha poetry are no longer gibberish. They have a meaning and a message.
• Siddha texts are like closed treasure chest locked by state of ignorance. Matter in these texts is jigsaw puzzles which can be revealed by a practicing Siddha. Evidence for history of Siddha tradition was gathered from various sources like legends, archeology, paleobiolgy, genealogy, astronomy, ancient literature.
• There is a story suggesting that the idea of in vitro-fertilization is actually very old; exhibiting the knowledge that there are no new diseases or inventions. Agastya’s disciples also made significant contributions to medical science.
It seems very odd to modern man to gain mastery over two exactly opposite subjects like yoga and medicine especially during these times when there is specialization for every possible field, integration of spiritual, scientific disciplines is unthinkable.