Siddha system is one of the oldest systems of medicine in India. The term ‘Siddha’ means achievement and the ‘Siddhars’ were saintly figures who achieved results in medicine through the practice of Yoga. Eighteen ‘Siddhars’ seem to have contributed towards the development of this medical system.
In the ancient period Indian saints handled the plants and herbs for long life with better health and lived more than thousand years of age. The sages were called Rishis in the North and Siddhars in the South and their systems were known as Ayurveda and Siddha.
The name Siddha oushadha (siddha medicine) relates to the earlier esoteric medicinal postulates concerning longevity, even immortality, and the later iatrochemical formulations as conceived and practiced by 18 Siddhars, located in what is today, the Tamil Nadu. It is for this reason, the entire Siddha medical literature is in Tamil. The Siddha system has about 800 texts of which 180 are in print.
According to Siddha predictions, it is known to the world that Lord Siva taught the Siddha principles and philosophies to Matha, Sri Parasakthi. After that the Siddha principles were presented to the followers of Lord Siva and Sakthi, to Siddhars, starting with Siddhar – Nantheesar, then to Siddhar Thirumoolar, Agathiyar and other disciples along with the 18 Siddhars and so on.
When we go through the Tamil Literature, we can see several Siddhars like Agathiyar, Tholkappiyar etc. All the Siddhars adopted the principles of Saiva Siddhantham. It is an excellent philosophical theory to human beings with holy life. In all Siddhars, Agathiyar was considered the prominent leader with his later guru Lord Subramaniyar. From the old Siddha literature we can understand that Siddhar – Agathiyar was first taught by Lord Siva, Sakthi and later by Lord Subramaniyar.
The system is also called Agasthyar system in the name of its famous exponent sage Agasthya. A number of medical works of this system are ascribed to him but it may be difficult at this time to say the exact number that can be credited to him. This system of medicine developed within the Dravidian culture, which is of the pre-vedic period. The Siddha system is largely therapeutic in nature.
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.
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 other 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.
Siddha System presents the slogan, “Food is being medicine and medicine is being food” to people.