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Principles of Siddha

Siddhars have recommended certain basic guidelines to be followed for healthy living which includes observation of certain regimen as mentioned in “Pini anugaa vidhi” literally meaning rules that help prevent disease. Their concept of “Kaayakarpam” for prevention of diseases is highly admirable as it makes one’s body resistant to infections. Their concepts pertaining to Habitat, Seasons, Diet (Thinai/Nilam, Naal ozhukkam, Kaala ozhukkam, Unavu) are preventive as well as adaptive.

1. Pini Anugaa Vidhi (Prevention of diseases)

“Thinna mirandulae sikka adakkaamar...” -- Therayar

“ Paal unbhom; ennai perin veneerir kulippom…” -- Therayar

The above verses illustrate the do's and don’ts in all our activities. These preventive measures against illness are summarized below:

i. Drink boiled water

ii. Take meals twice a day

iii.Take diluted buttermilk and melted ghee

iv. Take sufficient quantity of milk and milk products

v. Never eat root tubers except yam

vi. Never consume food that was prepared the previous day

vii. Always have food after feeling hungery

viii. Always consume sour curd

ix. Practice walking after a good diet

x. Drink water at the end of meals

xi. Use hot water while taking oil bath.

xii. Never suppress any natural urge

xiii. Never sleep during daytime

xiv. Always indulge in healthy sexual acts

xv. Take emetic medication once in six months

xvi. Take purgative medication every four months in a year

xvii. Take snuff medications eight times in a year

xviii. Shave hairs weekly

xix. Take oil bath once in every four days

xx. Apply eye medications once in three days

xxi. Never smell fragrance during midnight

xxii. Never reside close to dust and articles related to dust

xxiii. Never sleep under a tree shade or near a burning lamp

These rules when followed strictly, keep away death. These simple preventive principles have an in depth scientific value though they were designed much before the advent of modern science. These rules have been followed as routine custom through several generations.

2. Kaaya Karpam (Gerontology)

”Udambar azhiyil uyirar azhivar…”-- Thirumandiram by Thirumoolar

The above quote states that maintaining a healthy body is essential as it holds a healthy mind which is required to attain salvation. Adoption of preventive techniques to maintain one’s body health helps to retain youthfulness and attain spiritual perfection.“Kaaya Karpam” (rejuvenation and longevity) was practiced as a preventive measure against illness. Practicing Kaaya Karpam also provides acquired immunity (seyarkai vanmai) to our body. Kaaya Karpam acts in 2 ways i.e., prevention against disease and restoration of health during illness. Thus, it is preventive as well as constructive. Kaaya Karpam is studied under three categories viz.

i. Mooligai Karpam

ii. Thathu and Seeva Karpam

iii. Yoga Karpam

i) Mooligai Karpam

This deals with drugs used in Siddha for Kaaya Karpam (rejuvenation and longevity) which have plant origin

Ex: - Fruits of Phyllanthus emblica (Amla)

ii) Thathu and Seeva Karpam

This deals with minerals and animal products used as Kaaya Karpam preparations. This also includes “Muppu” (A combination of three salts) - a very unique preparation in Siddha.

iii) Yoga Karpam (Yogic Practices)

Yogasanam, Pranayamam, Iyamam, and Niyamam fall under this category.

Siddhars have described several yogic postures which are aimed at developing and maintaining the wellness of the body and soul. Saint Thirumoolar has detailed several yogasanas (yogic postures) in his valuable work titled ‘Thirumandiram’.

3. Concepts regarding habitat and season

Siddha science which visualizes man as a microcosm, believes that planetary changes and natural rhythms that result in six seasons/year (perum pozhuthu) and six periods/day (siru pozhuthu) also result in corresponding physiological changes in other creatures living in macrocosm, viz., the Universe.

“Andathil ullathae Pindam,

Pindathil ullathae Andam …”

-- Satta Muni Gnanam

This verse means that the environment is same within and outside our body which indicates that the body physiology must be tuned according to the habitat and the prevailing season as an adaptive and preventive measure for one’s health.

Accordingly, Siddhars designed basic regimen in harmony with the habitat (Nilam) and seasons (Pozhuthu).

Habitat (Nilam)

Habitat or nilam indicates the place where one lives. On the basis of certain characteristic features like geographical (landscape) conditions, climatic conditions, flora, fauna, etc., habitat is categorized as follows:

i. Hilly tract (Kurinji)

ii. Sylvan tract (Mullai)

iii. Agricultural tract (Marutham)

iv. Coastal tract (Neithal) and

v. Arid tract (Paalai)

Each habitat is said to harbour a particular humour (Uyir Thathu). The influence of habitat on the incidence of the diseases was predicted as follows.

This can be interpreted from the following table

Habitat (Nilam)
Geographical description
Prevalent disease
Hilly tract Mountains and its surroundings Kabham related disease and liver disease
Sylvan tract Forest and its surroundings Pitham, vaatham related diseases and liver disease
Agricultural tract Fields and its surroundings Ideal place for healthy living
Coastal TractOcean, sea and its surroundings Vaatham related disease and liver disease
Arid TractDesert and its surroundings Vaatham, pitham, kabham related diseases

The following table depicts the state of predominant humour (Uyir thathu) in each type of habitat.

Humours (Uyir thathukkal)  Hilly tract  Sylvan tract  Cultivation area  Coastal area  Arid area 
Vatham       @   #  #
Pitham       #
Kabham   #    @  

# indicates predominant and @ indicates balanced

Season (Pozhuthu)

Each day, is divided into six periods of four hours each, which is called siru pozhuthu. Every year, on the other hand, is divided into six seasons of two-month duration each, which is called perum pozuthu. The effect of seasons on the incidence of diseases has been defined and further, seasonal conduct has been advised to prevent these diseases. A single humour (uyir thathu) dominates over the other two in a particular season and during any specific period of a day and hence the food habits and other lifestyles must be tuned in accordingly for healthy living.

Cyclic representation of states of the three humours (uyir thathukkal) in a day

Daily regimen (Naal Ozhukkam)

Naal Ozhukkam mentions the systematic order of every day activities that every person needs to follow in order to avoid lifestyle disorders and related diseases. It describes the methodology to take good care of our body and mind.

i. Waking up (Kaalai Ezhuthal)

Our new day begins as we wake up and it is the first activity of a day. The apt time for wake-up is between 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM. As we wake-up early, we breath fresh air rich in vital respiratory gases and that also helps the three humours or Uyir thathukkal to be in the state of equilibrium. Meditation and worship performed early in the morning brings immense pleasure to one’s mind.

ii. Excretion of stools and urine (Mala salam kazhithal)

This is the act (or) function of eliminating the waste products of digestion and other metabolic activities. Excretion of faeces and urine are activities of vaatham and hence it should be performed soon after we wake up. Urine is passed first followed by stools. It is normal to pass faeces twice a day and urine 4 times a day which when disturbed indicates abnormal bowel function. One should not suppress these two physiological reflex activities.

Certain methods have also been mentioned for cleaning after the act of defaecation in order to avoid infections.

Proper excretion indicates proper digestion and helps the three humours or uyir thathukkal to stay in equilibrium.

iii. Brushing of teeth (Pal thulakkal)

Oral cavity being the main entrance of our gastro-intestinal tract must be well maintained by taking good oral care. Plaque deposits formed as a result of mastication should be cleaned properly in order to avoid infection.

Siddhars have mentioned the use of certain herbal twigs and powders for a good dental care. The herbal twigs are considered best to be used as brush, as they are used and thrown (single use). Also, the act of chewing the herbal twig increases salivation and releases the juice of that particular twig which usually has astringent and disinfectant property. The bristles so formed help remove plaque easily away from teeth. This twig is usually selected without any nodes and from a fresh, well grown tree

In cases where people suffer from ailments like stomatitis, the use of twigs is restricted and instead the use of appropriate herbal powders is advised.

iv. Exercise

Iron rusts when not in use and, similarly, our body becomes a ground for diseases when not involved in proper physical exercise. As a part of daily regimen (naal ozhukkam), Siddhars stressed on the importance of practicing yoga which includes asanas, breathing techniques, meditation techniques, etc. These practices are aimed at developing body strength as well as peace of mind resulting in health and harmony. Early morning is the best time to perform yogic exercises as it help to face the day with great energy and enthusiasm. To refresh oneself after a day’s activity, physical exercises can be done in the evening. Physical exercises must be done in a well-aerated area and before meals or 2 hrs after meals

Yogic and physical exercises practiced under proper guidance along with appropriate diet habits facilitate proper functioning of internal organs, thereby leading to longevity.

v. Bath

Physical exercise is followed by a bath to clean oneself of the sweat and dirt formed as a result of one’s activities. A bath before sunrise is considered good for health. Oil bath is recommended once in 4 days to bring strength to the five motor organs also known as Panchainderiyangal. The method prescribed is application of gingelly oil/ghee/certain medicated oil, usually followed by use of herbal bath powder (Panchakarpam) for washing. This practice is believed to protect the body against illness in all seasons. Methods for an oil bath, seasonal and diet restrictions while taking an oil bath have also been clearly discussed in ancient Siddha literature

vi. Dress and Ornaments

A detailed description of dress code for men and women according to seasonal variations have been given due importance in day-to-day life. Influence of planets on humans, their relation to ornamental gems and how these can be used to treat diseases have been described in detail.

vii. Diet

Diet plays a major role in our everyday activity. Diet acts as the source of vital nutrients to gain energy and it builds our body. Improper diet habits cause disturbances in equilibrium of the three humours (Uyir thathukkal) and physical constituents (Udal thathukkal) in turn causing several diseases.

”Unavae marunthu; marunthae unavu”

This verse, meaning diet can act as medicine, explains the importance of diet.

The diet concept of Siddhars is based upon taste of foods as it indicates the natural property of the kind of food. A typical diet must therefore include a combination of 6 tastes that is best suited to the prevailing season.

Hunger (pasi - one of the 14 physiological reflexes or Vegangal) indicates the need for food. Diet intake nourishes the different physical constituents, viz., Udal thathukkal in a particular sequence and finally provides strength to our body. However, food like milk, water and meat soup provide instant strength to body.

According to Saint Thiruvalluvar, 3 main factors decide the structure of a good diet.

a) Taste

b) The constitution of person who intakes the diet

c) Time of season

a) Taste

Tastes may have a compatible counterpart or an inimical counterpart and inimical tastes should never be taken together. A particular taste of food when taken in combination with its inimical taste food might yield poisonous effects due to dietetic incompatibilities.

E.g. Milk and fish should never be taken together. Similarly, a combination of milk and green leafy vegetables is also harmful.

A diet should also include food that normalises the three humours (trithoda sama porul). The concept of inimical and compatible taste in diet is also applied for selection and preparation of Siddha medicines.

b) The constitution of person

Diet with respect to quantity and quality should be taken according to the gender, age, physical/mental activity and basic body constitution (viz., vaatham, pitham, kabham) of the person

c) Time, season, and habitat

Selection of proper diet also takes into consideration the period of day (breakfast/lunch/dinner) seasonal variations and geographic locations

viii. Sleep

Sleep is nature’s way of providing rest to our body. Proper sleep is required when our body feels tired after a day’s work and it is therefore best to sleep at the end of a day. Sleep helps our body to carry out repair activities. The quantity and quality of sleep equally influences one’s good health. A man deprived of sleep develops varied disorders. Siddhars have mentioned certain procedures to follow with regard to sleep.

As a part of daily regimen (Naal ozhukkam), good personality traits like silence, sincerity, charity, humanity, humility, honesty, politeness, justice, love and care for others are also encouraged since they result in purity of mind and will better chances of success in achieving eternal bliss.

Seasonal conduct (Kaala ozhukkam)

The seasonal conduct called Kaala ozhukkam structures out the guidelines to be followed in different seasons to prevent illnesses and help one’s wellbeing. The guidelines are related to modifications in diet, lifestyle, etc. with respect to a particular season.

Cyclic representation of seasonal effects on the three humours (Uyir Thathukkal):

The seasonal conduct also mentions some precautionary steps to follow during Kaalachaerkai which is a transition period of 14 days i.e., last seven days of the ongoing season and first seven days of the next season. Seasonal conduct of the ongoing season should be gradually stopped and the regimen of the next season should be gradually initiated during this period so as to help our body adapt to seasonal changes.

The table below gives brief information about the seasonal guidelines

Preferred taste
Preferred Diet
Preferred life style
State of 3 humours (Uyir Thathukkal), Appetite
Rainy season from Aug 16th – Oct 15th (Kaarkaalam)Sweet (Inippu), Sour (Pulippu), Salty (Uvarppu)Hot potency and digestible food.Emetic, purgative drugs and appetizersUse dry clothing. Avoid butter milk, day time sleep and tire some workPitham is in accumulated state,Vaatham is in aggravated stateDecreased appetite
Autumn from Oct 16th – Dec 15th (Koothir kaalam)Sweet (Inippu), Bitter (Kaippu), Astringent (Thuvarppu)Dry and cool food, light diet BloodlettingAvoid curd, oil, fats, alcohol, daytime sleep sunlight, dew, heavy meals and salty diet.Use clean and dry clothes.Pitham is in aggravated state, Vaatham is in mitigated state.
Early winter Dec 16th – Feb 15th (Muun Pani kaalam)Sweet (Inippu), Sour (Pulippu), Salty (Uvarppu)CoolOil (thylam) application

Use boiled water, blankets.

Exposure to evening sun light and slight work is good.

Always use footwear.
Pitham is in mitigated state.Increased appetite and immunity.
Late winter from Feb 16th – Apr 15th (Pinpani Kaalam)Sweet (Inippu), Sour (Pulippu), Astringent (Thuvarppu)Avoid diet that increases vaathamOil (thylam) application

Use boiled water, blankets.

Exposure to evening sun light and slight work is good.

Always use footwear.
Kabham is in accumulated state.
Spring from Apr 16th – June 15th (Ilavaenil Kaalam)Bitter (Kaippu), Pungent (kaarppu), Astringent (Thuvarppu)Dry and hot potency food, solid, liquid and semi-solid food.Emetic, Nasal application (Nasiyam)medications.Avoid bulky diet cool diet and daytime sleepKabham is in aggravated state.
Summer June 16th – Aug 15th (Muduvaenil Kaalam)Sweet (Inippu)CoolantVatha neutralizing medications Reside in ventilated area. Avoid food that is digested with difficulty.Vaatham is in accumulated state,Kabham is in mitigated state.

4.Guiding Principles of Diagnosis in Siddha

To diagnose a disease, Siddhars investigate the cause of the disease, the signs and symptoms, complications if any, and pathological tissue (udal kooru) changes. They examine both the body and the disease together to arrive at a conclusion regarding the condition or disease. For diagnosis, two paths are followed, viz., approach to the disease called Noi naadal and determination of etiology of the disease called Noi mudal naadal.

Essentially, the Siddha system follows a unique methodology in diagnosis of disease. It consists of eight criteria for physical examination and is called ‘Envagai thervu’. These include:

i. Tongue (Naa)

ii. Colour (Niram)

iii. Speech (Mozhi)

iv. Eyes (Vizhi)

v. Stool (Malam)

vi. Urine (Moothiram)

vii. Touch (Sparisam)

viii. Pulse (Naadi)

Out of these eight entities, methods used for physical examination of urine (Neerkuri and Neikkuri) and pulse are unique to Siddha and act as confirmatory diagnostic tools.

Physical examination of urine

Neerkuri (Symptoms expressed in urine)

This is the physical examination of urine which deals with the colour, smell, quantity, frequency, specific gravity, frothiness and taste of urine.


This is a method in which a drop of gingelly oil is dropped over a urine sample. The spreading pattern exhibited by the oil droplet over the surface of urine gives a confirmatory clue that helps in the diagnosis of the disease.


Diagnosis using pulse is a very important aspect of Siddha and is the method developed by Siddhars to extend our sensual perceptions to the interior of our body to diagnose and confirm illnesses. In other words, it performs the job of present day inventions like stethoscope and sphygmomanometers. The pulse movements (pulsations) are compared to the movement of different animals according to the intensity felt for easy interpretation. It is felt mainly at 10 points, out of which the one felt over radial artery is considered the best and is felt in left hand for females and in right hand for males. It is usually felt using 3 fingers (viz, index, middle and ring fingers) in view of assessing the states of vaatham, pitham and kabham simultaneously.

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