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Traditionally, it is taught that the siddhars laid the foundation for this system of medication. Siddhars were spiritual adepts who possessed the ashta siddhis, or the eight supernatural powers. Agastya is considered the first siddha and the guru of all siddhars; the siddha system is believed to have been handed over to him by Murugan, son of Shiva and Parvati.
The Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy of the Government of India coordinates and promotes research in the fields of ayurveda and Siddha medicine. The Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), a statutory body established in 1971 under AYUSH, monitors higher education in areas of Indian medicine, including siddha medicine. To fight bioprospecting and unethical patents, India set up the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library in 2001 as a repository of 223,000 formulations of various systems of medicine common in India, such as ayurveda, unani, siddha medicine and homeopathy.
The Siddha science is a traditional treatment system generated from Dravidian culture. Palm leaf manuscripts say that the Siddha system was first described by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati. Parvati explained all this knowledge to her son Lord Muruga. He taught all these knowledge to his disciple sage Agasthya. Agasthya taught 18 Siddhars and they spread this knowledge to human beings.
Siddha focused to "Ashtamahasiddhi," the eight 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. The Siddhars wrote their knowledge in palm leaf manuscripts, fragments of which were found in parts of South India. It is believed that some families may possess more fragments but keep them solely for their own use. There is a huge collection of Siddha manuscripts kept by traditional Siddha families.
According to the manikandan, there were 22 principal siddhars. Of these 22, Agasthya is believed to be the father of siddha medicine. Siddhars were of the concept that a healthy soul can only be developed through a healthy body. So they developed methods and medication that are believed to strengthen their physical body and thereby their souls. Men and women who dedicated their lives into developing the system were called Siddhars. 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. Through this spiritually attained supreme knowledge, they wrote scriptures on all aspects of life, from arts to science and truth of life to miracle cure for diseases.
From the manuscripts, the siddha system of medicine developed into part of Indian medical science. Today there are recognized siddha medical colleges, run under the government universities, where siddha medicine is taught.
Most of the practicing Siddha medical practitioners are traditionally trained, usually in families and by gurus (teachers). When the guru is a martial arts teacher, he is also known as an ashan. They make a diagnosis after a patient's visit and set about to refer to their manuscripts for the appropriate remedies, which a true blue physician compounds by himself or herself, from thousands of herbal and herbo-mineral resources. The methodology of siddha thought has helped decipher many causes of disorders and the formulation of curious remedies which may sometimes have more than 250 ingredients.
Generally the basic concepts of the Siddha medicine are similar to Ayurveda. The only difference appears to be that the siddha medicine recognizes predominance of Vaadham, Pitham and Kabam in childhood, adulthood and old age, respectively, whereas in Ayurveda, it is totally reversed: Kabam is dominant in childhood, Vaatham in old age and Pitham in adults.
According to the Siddha medicine, various psychological and physiological functions of the body are attributed to the combination of seven elements: first is ooneer (plasma) responsible for growth, development and nourishment; second is cheneer (blood) responsible for nourishing muscles, imparting colour and improving intellect; the third is oon (muscle) responsible for shape of the body; fourth is koluppu/Kozhuppu (fatty tissue) responsible for oil balance and lubricating joints; fifth is elumbu (bone) responsible for body structure and posture and movement; sixth is elumbu majjai (bone marrow) responsible for formation of blood corpuscles; and the last is sukkilam (semen) responsible for reproduction. Like in Ayurveda, in Siddha medicine also, the physiological components of the human beings are classified as Vaadham (air), Pitham (fire) and Kabam(earth and water).
World Siddha Day
After former Chief Minister Karunanidhi's announcement of Tamil New Year's Day as World Siddha Day, the first World Siddha Day was celebrated on 14 April 2009, addressed by his Excellency Shri Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Tamil Nadu. The second World Siddha Day was celebrated in a grand manner on 14 April 2010, at Image Auditorium, Adyar, Chennai; more than 2000 students, post graduates, practitioners and traditional vaidyas participated in the celebration. In connection with the celebrations, a website was launched. The third World Siddha day was celebrated at Trivandrum, Kerala, where Siddha doctors met on 14 and 15 April 2011.
Concept of disease and cause
It is assumed that when the normal equilibrium of the three humors — Vaadham, Pittham and Kabam — is disturbed, disease is caused. The factors assumed to affect this equilibrium are environment, climatic conditions, diet, physical activities, and stress. Under normal conditions, the ratio between Vaadham, Pittham, and Kabam are 4:2:1, respectively.
According to the Siddha medicine system, diet and lifestyle play a major role in health and in curing diseases. This concept of the Siddha medicine is termed as pathiyam and apathiyam, which is essentially a list of "do's and don'ts".
In diagnosis, examination of eight items is required which is commonly known as "enn vakaith thervu". These are:
- Na (tongue): black in Vaatham, yellow or red in pitham, white in kabam, ulcerated in anaemia.
- Varnam (colour): dark in Vaatham, yellow or red in pitham, pale in kabam.
- Kural (voice): normal in Vaatham, high-pitched in pitham, low-pitched in kabam, slurred in alcoholism.
- Kan (eyes): muddy conjunctiva, yellowish or red in pitham, pale in kabam.
- Thodal (touch): dry in Vaatham, warm in pitham, chill in kapha, sweating in different parts of the body.
- Malam (stool): black stools indicate Vaatham, yellow pitham, pale in kabam, dark red in ulcer and shiny in terminal illness.
- Neer (urine): early morning urine is examined; straw color indicates indigestion, reddish-yellow color in excessive heat, rose in blood pressure, saffron color in jaundice, and looks like meat washed water in renal disease.
- Naadi (pulse): the confirmatory method recorded on the radial artery.
The drugs used by the Siddhars could be classified into three groups: thavaram (herbal product), thadhu (inorganic substances) and jangamam (animal products). The Thadhu drugs are further classified as: uppu (water-soluble inorganic substances or drugs that give out vapour when put into fire), pashanam (drugs not dissolved in water but emit vapour when fired), uparasam (similar to pashanam but differ in action), loham (not dissolved in water but melt when fired), rasam (drugs which are soft), and ghandhagam (drugs which are insoluble in water, like sulphur).
The drugs used in siddha medicine were classified on the basis of five properties: suvai (taste), gunam (character), veeryam (potency), pirivu (class) and mahimai (action).
According to their mode of application, the siddha medicines could be categorized into two classes:
- Internal medicine was used through the oral route and further classified into 32 categories based on their form, methods of preparation, shelf-life, etc.
- External medicine includes certain forms of drugs and also certain applications (such as nasal, eye and ear drops), and also certain procedures (such as leech application). It also classified into 32 categories.
The treatment in siddha medicine is aimed at keeping the three humors in equilibrium and maintenance of seven elements. So proper diet, medicine and a disciplined regimen of life are advised for a healthy living and to restore equilibrium of humors in diseased condition. Saint Thiruvalluvar explains four requisites of successful treatment. These are the patient, the attendant, physician and medicine. When the physician is well-qualified and the other agents possess the necessary qualities, even severe diseases can be cured easily, according to these concepts.
The treatment should be commenced as early as possible after assessing the course and cause of the disease. Treatment is classified into three categories: devamaruthuvum (Divine method); manuda maruthuvum (rational method); and asura maruthuvum (surgical method). In Divine method, medicines like parpam, Chendooram, guru, kuligai made of mercury, sulfur and pashanams are used. In the rational method, medicines made of herbs like churanam, kudineer, or vadagam are used. In surgical method, incision, excision, heat application, blood letting, or leech application are used.
According to therapies the treatments of siddha medicines could be further categorized into following categories such as purgative therapy, emetic therapy, fasting therapy, steam therapy, oleation therapy, physical therapy, solar therapy, blood-letting therapy, yoga therapy, etc.
Varmam are vital points in the body that act as energy transformers or batteries. They form centres for boosting the vital life-force Uyir Sakthi flow through the intricate nadi system of the body. Nature, by its design, has protected these vital centres by placing them deep inside the body or by covering them with tissues inaccessible to normal attempts of breach.
Varmam is a holistic therapy on its own and tackles the body, mind and spirit. A varmam expert understands the underlying links between the body, vital life-force and the mind.
Varmams have been classified based on the type of pressure needed to injure: (a) Paduvarmam (varmam due to injury), (b) Thodu varmam (by touch); Thattu varmam (by blows); (c) Thaduvu varmam (by massage); (d) Nakku varmam (by licking i.e. tongue massage); and (e) Nokku (by staring). The widely used and recognised ones are the 12 Paduvarmams and 96 Thoduvarmams; there is less consistency with the other categories simply because of the way of application or the deeper knowledge needed to apply them. In these categories, the Nokku varmam is rarely seen practiced, as those masters who were able to do this are almost extinct. Nokku Varmam exploits the 3-d sense of balance by using subtle movements to induce the eyes of the recipient.[clarification needed]
A varmam therapist needs to have a deep knowledge about the body's nerves and physical structure to do an effective treatment. There are only a few therapists existing in this world, and the modern siddha world is trying to preserve this art of healing.
Siddha has lost its popularity after modern medicine was introduced, as a scientific medical system, even in Tamil Nadu. Still, there are a few ardent followers of the system who prefer Siddha for only a few diseases like jaundice. After some modern doctors, such as Dr. Ramalingam, IMPCOPS, president, Chennai, C.N. Deivanayagam, tried to popularize the Siddha system, a few modern doctors have started suggesting Siddha. In 2012, VA Shiva Ayyadurai, a Tamilian and MIT systems scientist, launched an educational program for medical doctors through the Chopra Center with Deepak Chopra which integrates concepts from traditional systems medicine such as Siddha, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine, with systems science and systems biology.
The Tamil Nadu state runs a 5.5-year course in Siddha medicine (BSMS: Bachelor in Siddha Medicine and Surgery). The Indian Government also gives its focus on Siddha, by starting up medical colleges and research centers like National Institute of Siddha and Central Council for Research in Siddha. There has been renewed interest in Siddha, as many started feeling modern medicine is not complete and changing its stands/theories frequently. The health minister of Tamil Nadu in 2007 claimed that Siddha medicine is effective for chikungunya.
Commercially, Siddha medicine is practiced by
- Siddha family doctors (traditional practitioners), often referred in Tamil as vaithiyars, have transferred knowledge to their children, and
- Medically certified Siddha doctors who have studied in government Siddha medical colleges.
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