India has two major medicine systems: Ayurveda (Knowledge of Life) and Siddha (Knowledge of Health). They both define health as a complete presence of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social balance. They are among the oldest systems for health promotion.
The word Siddha evolved from the world Siddhi. Siddhi means “perfection” or “heavenly bliss”. Medicine is only a part of the whole system. Other areas are chemistry, physics, philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, yoga, arts, mathematics, etc. Siddha treatments developed with the ancient civilizations of Harrappa and Mohenjo-daro, in the Indus River valley, 6000 – 7000 years ago. It was transplanted into Southern India along with the Dravidian people who migrated south about 2500 years ago. During this migration, many plants were added into the medicine chest of Siddha treatments. The complete history of the Dravidian people, of which the Tamil people where one population, and their way of life is still being researched and many aspects are unknown due to the limited or the destruction of the historical evidence.
The Siddha System is a mixture of art, philosophy and science.
Those who researched, applied and developed the Siddha system were called Siddhars. There are recorded to be 18 famous Siddhars who contributed greatly to the system. The Siddha medical system is the oldest recorded herbal medicine in the world. The records consist of synthetically written texts on palm leaves in an old form of Tamil poetic language.
“One that cures physical ailment is medicine
One that cures psychological ailment is medicine
One that prevents ailment is medicine
One that bestows immortality is medicine“
There are 9 branches of the Siddha medicine:
Rejuvenation medicines (KAYAKALPA MARUTHUVAM) dealing with prolonging life as much as possible.
Paediatrics (BALA CHIKICHAI) emphasizing the health of the mother and the child and the environmental factors affecting them.
Gynaecology and Obstetrics (MATHAR MARUTHUVAM)
Surgery (ARUVAI MARUTHUVAM)
Acupuncture and acupressure (VARMA VAIDYAM)
Ophthalmology (KANNOI MARUTHUVAM)
Psychiatry (KIRIKAI CHIKISAI)
Blood letting using leeches (KURUDI VIDAL)
Diet control (PATHIYAM)
Siddha medicine advised the physician to working diagnosis with perception, inference and the instruction of the inspired (Agama):
1. Perception – by sense organs, by mind, by yoga, by pain or pleasure;
2. Inference – by co-existence, by effect and by cause;
3. Agama – by following the ancient philosophical concepts, texts of the Vedas and Shiva Agamas, and the medical classics of the great Siddhars.
The method of diagnosis is feeling the pulse of the patient in order to detect imbalances. Further consultation about the environment of the patient, their psychological state, their life style, including nutrition, astrological influences on their birth, as well as karmic influences are taken into consideration for a wholistic interpretation of the current state of the patient.
The Siddhars identified around 4448 diseases.
Siddha medicine is being taught in certain cities of Tamil Nadu, India as higher education line of study.