The Siddha System of Medicine (Traditional Tamil System of medicine), which has been prevalent in the ancient Tamil land, is the foremost of all other medical systems in the world. Its origin goes back to B.C 10,000 to B.C 4,000. As per the textual and archaeological evidences which indicate the remote antiquity of the Dravidian civilization of the erstwhile submerged land Kumarikandam, that is the Lemuria continent situated in the Indian ocean, the Siddha System of Medicine is contemporaneous with those of the submerged lands Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Chinese and Grecian medicines. The uniqueness of Siddha System is evident by its continuous service to the humanity for more than 5000 years in combating diseases and also in maintaining its physical, mental and moral health while many of its contemporaries had become extinct long ago. The roots of the ancient Siddha System are intertwined with the mythology and culture of the ancient Tamil civilization that existed in the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, predating much of recorded history.
The Siddha system of medicine is mainly practised in the Southern part of India. It is the earliest traditional medicine systems in the world which treats not only the body but also the mind and the soul. The word Siddha has its origin in the Tamil word Siddhi which means “an object to be attained” or “perfection” or “heavenly bliss”. India being the birth place of many traditional philosophies also gave birth to Siddha. The roots of this system are intertwined with the culture of ancient Tamil civilization. “Siddhargal” or Siddhars were the premier scholars of this system in ancient times. Siddhars, mainly hailing from Tamil Nadu laid the foundation for Siddha system of medicine. Hence, it is called Siddha medicine.
Siddhars were spiritual masters who possessed the ashta (eight) siddhis or unique powers. Agastyar or Agasthya, is believed to be the founding father of Siddha Medicine. Eighteen Siddhars are considered to be pillars of Siddha Medicine. Siddha medicine is claimed to revitalize and rejuvenate dysfunctional organs that cause the disease. Kayakarpam, a special combination of medicine and life style, Varmam therapy, Vaasi (Pranayamam) and Muppu the universal Salt are the specialities of Siddha system of medicine. Thus, this system connects both spiritual and physical and treats the person as a whole i.e. it concentrates the physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being of an individual. It is difficult to trace the beginning of this ancient system. It began with man and may end with him. Instead of giving the name of any of individual as the founder of this system our ancestors wisely attributed its origin to the creator. According to the tradition it was Shiva who unfolded the knowledge of Siddha system of medicine to his concert Parvati who handed it down to Nandhidevar and he in turn to the 18 siddhars. Therefore it is called ‘Shiva Sampradayam, (tradition of Siva), or ‘Siddha Sampradayam’. The system is said to have emerged in antiquity, from the highly evolved consciousness of the Siddhars. The clarified intellect and heightened intuition of the Siddhars, resulting from their yogic powers, enabled them to explore the world around them and exploit its natural resources for the sake of humanity. Their findings on the characteristics of plants, metals, minerals and animal products and their knowledge of the properties of drugs, its purification, processing, fixing dosage, toxicity, antidote and clinical application, were preserved in the form of verses for the use of the posterity.
The contributors of Siddha system, the Siddhars, of Tamil land, were mystics, yogis, poets, devotees, seers and medical men of various combinations and various statures. They were super human beings who possessed supernatural powers (like Eight types of Siddhis). They were the greatest scientists of ancient times and were the guardians of the world and they existed, and still exist, for the benefit of the public at large. They were men of great practical knowledge and wisdom. They had full awareness of the nature and activities of all the objects in this planet and of all times-past, present and future. They were mainly responsible for the growth and development not only of Tamil medicine that includes alchemy, medicine, yoga, kayakalpa (rejuvenation therapy), philosophy, astronomy, astrology, varma, muppu, thokkanam etc., but also for many other sciences of public utility.Agasthiyar is the prominent one among the eighteen and some of his works are still standard books of medicine and surgery in daily use among the Siddha Medical practitioners. Siddhars believed that a healthy soul can only be developed through a healthy body. So, they developed methods and medications to strengthen their physical body and thereby their souls. They practiced intense yogic practices, including years of periodic fasting and meditation, and were believed to have achieved supernatural powers and gained the supreme wisdom and overall immortality. The knowledge of Siddhars which was orally transmitted initially was later written in palm leaf manuscripts, fragments of which are found in many parts of South India. The methodology of siddha thought has helped decipher many causes of disorders and the formulation of curious remedies which sometimes have more than 250 ingredients. Till half a century back most of the practicing siddha medical practitioners were traditionally trained, usually in families, and by Gurus (teachers). When the guru knew martial arts, he is also known as an aasan. It is believed that some families may possess more knowledge written in palm leaves but keep them solely for their own use. Over a period of time after Independence, Government in a way of promoting traditional systems of medicines opened schools for teaching indigenous systems of medicine including siddha. Today, siddha is taught in Government as well as in private siddha medical colleges in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Siddha medicine is also taught in two universities of Srilanka…
In Siddha medicine, the individual is a microcosm of the universe. The human body consists of the five primordial elements – earth, water, fire, air and space, the three humours – vatha, pitta and kapha and seven physical constituents. Food is the basic building material of the human body and gets processed into humours, tissues and wastes. The equilibrium of humours is considered as health and its disturbance or imbalance leads to a diseased state. There is equal emphasis on the body, mind and spirit and strives to restore the innate harmony of the individual. Treatment is aimed at restoring balance to the mind-body system. Diet, lifestyle, yoga and meditation play a major role not only in maintaining health but also in curing diseases.