The Siddhars: the great artisans of gold medicines in medieval South India

Abstract

Gold, the king of metals, valued for its timeless beauty and properties, was known to the ancients as the metal of gods, a symbol of nobility of spirit, knowledge and meditation. To the alchemists, gold that never tarnishes was the metal of sun, giver of light and warmth. In Indian tradition, gold, a sacred metal, is seen as a “mineral light” capturing threads of brilliance in physical form. The metal is even consumed as an elixir to treat diseases and prepare the body and mind for spiritual journeys. The Siddhars (‘the perfected ones’), considered as saints and mystics in South India, played a vital role in alchemy, processing gold into a bioavailable form and formulating an important number of gold-based medicines such as thanga parpam, thanga chendooram, thanga kattu, thanga chunnam and other preparations. Due to the myths and legends surrounding the Siddhars and to the scarcity of the primary sources, many modern scientists looked at this medical system with some disdain and omitted to discuss its important achievements. In this work, it is our intention to fill in this gap and focus specifically on the gold-based Siddha medicines.

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Funding

Horizon Fellowship, Concordia University, and NSERC Discovery Grants of MP.

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Correspondence to Subhathirai Subramaniyan Parimalam.

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Subhathirai Subramaniyan Parimalam has no conflict of interest. Simona Badilescu has no conflict of interest. Rama Bhat has no conflict of interest. Muthukumaran Packirisamy has no conflict of interest.

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Subramaniyan Parimalam, S., Badilescu, S., Bhat, R. et al. The Siddhars: the great artisans of gold medicines in medieval South India. ADV TRADIT MED (ADTM) (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13596-020-00540-9

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Keywords

  • Siddha medicine
  • Gold
  • Medicine
  • Alchemy
  • Indian medicine