Siddha medicine, traditional system of healing that originated in South India and is considered to be one of India’s oldest systems of medicine. The Siddha system is based on a combination of ancient medicinal practices and spiritual disciplines as well as alchemy and mysticism. It is thought to have developed during the Indus civilization, which flourished between 2500 and 1700 BCE. According to this theory, it came to South India when the Dravidian people (speakers of Dravidian languages), who may have been the original inhabitants of the Indus valley, migrated southward.
Siddha medicine appears as part of Tamil culture in the earliest Tamil writings (Tamil is one of the principal Dravidian languages). For example, there are references to it in Tamil shangam literature (1st–4th century CE), including mention in the Tolkappiyam (“Ancient Literature”), a treatise on grammar and poetics, and in Tirukkural (“Sacred Couplets”), a work attributed to the Tamil poet-saint Tiruvalluvar.
Practitioners of Siddha medicine are known as siddhars (or siddhas). According to Tamil tradition, there initially were 18 siddhars; these individuals often are portrayed as having received their knowledge of the Siddha system indirectly from the deity Shiva. Siddhars held that the object of their study was to preserve and prolong life. To do so, they believed, required humans to live according to the laws of nature. They led simple lives themselves and were unconcerned with caste, creed, color, or nationality. They contributed not only to a system of medicine but also to the knowledge of eternity, alchemy, and Yogic living. Some believe that the siddhars travelled widely to other countries to propagate their system of medicine and enrich the sciences.
Siddhars possessed ashtama siddhi, the eight great supernatural powers. These powers may have bee attained at birth (because of one’s previous karma), by chemical means, by the power of words, or through concentration. Meditation on the elements, beginning with the “gross” and ending with the “subtle,” enabled the siddhars to gain mastery over the elements. Many of the ancient philosophical tenets of the Siddha system continue to be relevant to modern practitioners.
Siddha medicine seems to be an ancient Indian traditional treatment method that originated in South India and can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization in the third millennium BCE or earlier. The method of this medicine is shown to have derived from Hindu God Shiva, who introduced it to his consort Parvati, as per ancient Siddha vaidyam literature. Nandi instructed nine Devtas about that after Parvati handed it over to him.
The majority of Siddha medical practitioners are typically trained, generally in families and under the guidance of gurus (teachers). When the guru teaches martial arts, he is referred to as an ashan.
According to the Siddha system, there are five elements that exist in nature: earth, water, fire, air, and ether, all of which form the original basis of all corporeal things. It is believed that there is an intimate connection between the macrocosm of the external world and the microcosm of the corporeal being. In the human body the element of earth is present in the bone, flesh, nerves, skin, and hair; the element of water is present in bile, blood, semen, glandular secretions, and sweat; the element of fire is present in hunger, thirst, sleep, beauty, and indolence; the element of air is present in contraction, expansion, and motion; and the element of ether is present in the interstices of the stomach, heart, neck, and head.
The three doshas may be compared to three pillars that support a structure. The physiological function in the body is mediated by three substances (dravayas), which are made up of the five elements and are involved in all functions of the body, physical, emotional and mental. They are Vatham, Pitham and Karpam. In each and every cell of the body these three doshas coexist and function harmoniously. The tissues are called dhatu.
Varma is an area of practice in Siddha medicine that is concerned with varmam. The varmam are points of intersection of bone, muscle, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. The ancient siddhars believed that disease emerged when these points were adversely affected by an external force. A manipulative technique used in Siddha medicine to restore health at the varmam is known as ilakku murai. There are believed to be 108 varmam, according to Siddha tradition.