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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. Agastyar 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 Tamil 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 this knowledge to his disciple sage Agasthya. Agasthya taught 18 Siddhars and they spread this knowledge to human beings.
Siddha is focused on "Ashtamahasiddhi," the eight supernatural power. Those who attained or achieved these 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 believed 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 practised 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 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 formulated curious remedies which may sometimes have more than 250 ingredients.
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.
It is assumed that when the normal equilibrium of the three humors — Vaadham, Pittham and Kapam — 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 Kapam 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:
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 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. Commercially, Siddha medicine is practiced by Siddha referred in Tamil as vaithiyars.
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