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The Siddha system of medicine owes its origin to the Dravidian culture which is of the Pre-vedic period. An examination of the ancient literature would reveal that the vedic Aryans owed allegiance to the cult of Shiva and the worship of the phallus (linga) which was later on absorbed by, and incorporated into the Vedic culture. The Shiv Cult is associated with its medical counterpart, the Siddha system of medicine, which is mainly therapeutic. Mercury, sulphur, iron, copper, gold, bituman, white, yellow and red arsenic and other materials as well as vegatable poisons are extensively used in the pharmacopocia of the Siddha tradition. The Siddha system of medicine is prevalent in the Sourthen States of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore, where the Dravidian civilization was document.

In the North of India, the Siddhar-Kalpa system (Siddha means one who has attained immortality. Kalpa means panacea) is known as Tantric Science. Siddha Science considers nature and man as essentially one. One who knows the anatomy of nature and its five elements knows well the anatomy of men. Nature is the foremost physician.

The Tamils who are inhabiting the Southern peninsula of the sub-continent of India have an impressive and venerable past, as ancient as that of perhaps the Egyptians. They undertook a systematic study of nature and its elements and from what they were able to grasp, they had developed a highly systematised medicine which is now known as Siddha system. It is well founded on the basic principles of nature and its elements offer a careful and thorough study of the human system.

The Siddhars :The ancient Tamils in their quest for knowledge for longevity developed two ways by which man can achieve mastery over nature. One is the Yogic way and the other is through medicines. The people who dedicated themselves to this task were themselves great yogis known as Siddhars. Hence the system of medicine propounded by them came ot be known as Siddhars system of Medicine. This system can be traced to the prevedic period.

Siddhar, a Tamil word that is derived from its root ‘chit’ means perfection in life or heavenly bliss. It generally refers to eight kinds of supernatural powers attainable to man. The persons who had attained such miraculous powers attainable to man. The persons who had attained such miraculous powers in life are known as Siddhars. They are men born with great talents who lived thousands of years ago in Tamil country, who by their devotion and search for truth, avhieved perfection in their life time.

Ancient Siddha Medical Works: The earliest mention the use of medicinal plants is to be found in Thirumular Thirumantiram-Ennayiram, Tholkappiam and the ancient Tamil works of Sangarm Literature which are believed to have been written thousands of years before the Christian era. There are now more than 500 works in Tamil dealing with various subjects such as science of life, nature of universe, astronomical data, cosmic dance, atomic theory, space travel, alchemy, ‘Kaya Kalpa’ medicine, etc.

The Neem Tree : The Neem tree was regarded as sacred in Mohenjo-daro Civilization. In the annals of the ancient Siddha System of Medicine, the first medicinal plant mentioned as well as found a place, in ancient Tamil literature is Margosa or Neem. This has been used by Tamils from time immemorial as a deterrent for smallpox and other infectious diseases and also considered to possess powers to ward off evil spirits. Perhaps they were aware of the germicidal action and the medicinal properties of the Margosa, Tirumular, the great siddha is said to have been in deep penance for several thousands of years before the Christian Era in eternal bliss under a sacred pipal tree.

Basis of the Siddha System : According to Siddha medical science the universe consists of 5 elements. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether which correspond to the five senses of the human body. Man consumes water and food, breathes the air and then maintains the heat in the body. He is alive because of the life force given by ether.

The earth is the first element which gives fine shape to the body, including bones, tissues, muscles, skin, hair etc.

Water is the second element representing blood, secretions of the glands, vital fluid etc.

Fire the third element that gives emotion, vigour and vitality to the body. It also helps digestion, circulation and stimulation besides respiration and the nervous system.

Above all others is the characteristic of man’s mental and spiritual faculties. A suitable proportion of these five elements in combination with each other produce a healthy person. These elements are divided into two halves, namely physical and subtle. And this subtle part is futher sub-divided into two equal parts of which one is retained as such and the other part is again subdivided into four equal parts. This is what is known in Siddha system of Medicine as the theory of Panchikarnam (Fivefold combination).

It is a fact that the functioning of the five elements in the human body. The ideal of the unification of energy and matter and the synthesis of the various phenomena of sound, light, heat, etc. which modern science has been endeavouring to establish were achieved by the ancient Siddhas, when modern equipements was not available for research. Siddhas also held that he who knows the secret doctrine of the five elements, could change a baser metal into gold. And Siddhas alchemy is based on this theory.

Kalpa Treatment : Ancient Siddha devoted time in finding out suitable remedies rather than describing the causes of a disease in detail. The scope of ‘Kaya Kalpa’ treatment is two-fold; one is to cure degenerative diseases and the other is to prolong the life span. Kalpa serves as an anti-degenerative elixir -- that can cure cancer and heart diseases is itself rejuvenation.1


Unani Tibbor Graeco-Arab medicine may be traced to that system of Greek medicine which was developed during the Arab civilization. The Muslims still call it Unani (lonian) medicine out of adherence of its true historial derivation, whereas European historians call it Arab medicine. It is now practiced in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent.

Basic Concept of health and disease: The basic framework consists of the four-humour theory of Hippocrates, which pre-supposes the presence in the body of four-humours : blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. The body is regarded as comprising the following :

Arkan (elements) comprising the different states of matter and materials entering into and forming a part of everything in the universe;
Mizaj -- the bodily temperament;
Akhlat -- the structural components;
A’da -- the fully developed and mature organs;
Ruh -- the vital forceor life force;
Quwa’ -- the bodily power;
Af’al -- the corporeal functions.
It will be seen that these seven working principles are comprehensive in that the arkan includes the elementary constituents of the body; the mizaj; the physiochemical aspects of the body; the akhlat, the bodily humours, A’da, the anatomy of the body; ruh, the life force or vital force; quwa’, energy, and af’al the physiology of the body including the biochemical processes.

In addition to these natural principles, there are 9 non natural principles such as (1) foods, (2) drinks, (3) movement, (4) repose, (5) sleep, (6) wakefulness, (7) excretion, (8) retention and (9) passions. These could be classified into six categories (1) atmospheric air, (2) food and drink, (3) physical movement and repose, (4) psychic movement of repose. (5) sleep and wakefulness, and (6) evacuation and retention. The natural principles which constitute the human body, were also considered responsible for the maintenance of health. The loss of any one of these components could cause even death.

In Unani medicine, great emphasis is laid on human nature, and the physician is advised to activate and follow this power and not to antagonize it. According to Hippocrates (480-377 B.C.) "Nature heals; the physician is only nature’s assistant. "Sohl Masilu (died 999) the teacher of great Ibn Sina states "the word physics (tabiat) occurs in two senses (1) the faculty which administers the body involuntarily and (2) the power which performs actions suitable to the body... when a disease is chronic, them in most of the cases, physics removes it little, or it becomes perplexed and powerless against it".

The Greeks, however, were not content with borrowing the Indian drugs only, and they subjected new therapeutic measures, such as applications of leeches and antidotes for snake bite that were current in India, to their own tests before they adopted them as useful therapies. Celsus (25 BC 50 AD) has given as excellent account of lithotomy and cataract operation, as developed and practised by the ancient Hindus and described in the Sushmita Samhita. Following the decline of the Greco-Roman Empire, the torch of science was kept aglow mainly by the Muslims.

The names of several Indian products like Indian sword, camphor, sandal and aloes are found in the poetry of pre-Islamic period. During the Abbasid Caliphate, Ayurvedic medicine was introduced with new vigor in Arab countires. A number of renowed Indian vaidyas were invited ot Baghdad and several Ayurvedic treatises were translated into Arabic, for example, the Sushruta Samhita was translated into Arabic as Kitab-Shawasoon-al-Hind, and the Arabs developed great respect and love for Indian culture as well as Indian medicine. With the advent of Muslim rule, the Greco-Arabian medicine also came to India and was enriched by addition of many therapeutic measures of Ayurveda, in particular the use of plentiful herbal products.

There were physicians in the Alai period (1296-1216) whose genius and accomplishments in the treatment and cure of diseases could be compared with those of Galen and Hippocrates. Barani mentions, in particular, the "master physician" (Ustad-ul-Atibba) Maulana Badr-ul-Dindimeshiqi who occupied an asteemed position during the entire Alai period. The physicians of Delhi learnt the Tibbi medicine from him. He could treat the patient only through pulse reading. He had such proficiency in medicine that if the urine of different animals mixed together was brought before him he could recognize it and smilingly state the urine of various animals was intermixed in the bottle!

The basic philosophy of Tibb is that the body, composed of matter and spirit, is taken as a whole because harmonious life is possible only when there is a proper balance between the bodily and spiritual functions. Unani Tibb seeks the restoration of the body as a whole to its original state.

Unani practitioners hold a respectable place in society, particularly in rural communities. In urban areas, Tabibs are often consulted for treatment of diseases and in matters relating to the protection of health. The Tabibs adhere to the traditional moral and social values while treating their patients. The pharmacopoeia consists of an extremely rich armamentarium of natural drugs, mainly herbal, but also including animal, mineral, and marine drugs. The drugs can be used singly or as polypharmaceuticals, in the form of decoctions, infusions, tablets, powders, confections, syrups and aquas. It is true that the Unani pharmacopoeia is lacking in detailed experimental, physiochemical and biomathematical data, but, it is nearly always safe. One keynote of Unani medicine is that the drug should not serve as a quick curative and in the end generate serious side effects such as those sometimes observed with synthetic drugs. Another aspect is that the physical faculties (temperament) should be allowed to function according to their own nature and their own speed under the operation of the operation of the natural laws, and their functioning should be given help in every possible way.2

The Siddha System of medicine is the oldest and it is in vogue from the growing of vegetable kingdom on the Earth. There are two ancient system of medicine in India. The Siddha which flourished in the South India and Ayurvedha prevalent in the North India

The word Siddha comes from the word Siddhi which means an object to be attained perfection or heavenly bliss. Siddha generally refers to Athma Siddha that is the 8th supernatural power. Those who attained or achieved the above said powers are known as Siddhars.

There were 18 important siddhars in olden days and they developed this system of medicine. Hence, it is called Siddha Medicine.

Basic Principles

Siddha science considers nature and man as essentially one. Nature is man and man is nature. Man is said to be the microcosm and Universe is the macrocosm because what exists in the world exists in man. Man is nothing but a miniature world containing the five elements of the various principles which constitute the minerals, vegetables and the animal kingdom. According to Siddha medical science, the Universe originally consisted of atoms which contributed to the five basic elements, viz., earth, water, fire, air and ether which correspond to the five senses of the human body and they were the fundamentals of all the corporeal things in the world.

A close relationship is found to exist between the external world and the internal system of man. Siddhars (practitioners of Siddha) maintain that the structure of the human body is a miniature world in itself. Man consumes water and food, breathes the air and thus maintains the heat in the body. He is alive on account of the life force given by ether. The earth is the first element which gives fine shape to the body including bones, tissues, muscles, skin, hair etc. Water is the second element representing blood, secretions of the glands, vital fluid etc. Fire is the third element that gives motion, vigor and vitality to the body. It also helps digestion, circulation and simulation besides respiration and the nervous system. Above all, ether is the characteristic of man's mental and spiritual faculties.

Siddha system of medicine is based on Saiva Siddhantha. Siddha is a Tamil word that is derived from its root 'chit' which means perfection in life or "heavenly bliss".

The fundamental subjects of Siddha methodology are


Siddhars, spiritual scientists of Tamil Nadu explored and explained the reality of Nature and its relationship to man by their yogic awareness and experimental findings. They postulated the concept of spiritualism for self improvement and the practices propounded by them came to be known as the "SIDDHA SYSTEM".

Siddha medicine is practised in Southern India. The origin of the Tamil language is attributed to the sage Agasthya and the origin of Siddha medicine is also attributed to him. Before the Aryan occupation of the Sind region and the Gangetic plain there existed in the southern India, on the banks of the river Kavery, and Tamirapani, a civilization which was highly organised .This civilization has a system of medicine to deal with problems of sanitation and treatment of diseases.

This is the Siddha system of medicine. It is possible that in the course of time this system and the one prevalent in the north supplemented and enriched each other. The therapeutics of Siddha medicines consists mainly of the use of metals and minerals whereas in the earlier Ayurveda texts there is no mention of metals and minerals . From earliest times in Siddha text, there is mention of mercury, sulphur, copper, arsenic and gold used as therapeutic agents. The analogy : if there are one hundred herbal /mineral combination in Ayurveda to cure a disease , Siddha just uses ten herbs/mineral to elicit a similar cure. The Tridosha theory , sapta dhatu physiology and nomenclature of the diseases in the two systems may seem similar.

According to Siddha medicine AIDS has been written by the Tamil Siddhars as far back as few thousand years during the ancient prehistoric civilisation of Southern India. Traditionally, it is said there were 18 Siddhas. They left their imprint not only in medicine but in yoga and philosophy. The Siddhas were essentially Yogis and secondarily physicians.


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