Every time the West portrays India as a land of snake charmers and fakirs, most people take offence, and understandably so. But in Tamil Nadu, many people may smile and nod their head in agreement.
For, the state is home to 18 Siddhars — saffron-attired ascetics or mystics who were believed to have attained supernatural powers through intense penance in dense forests for years. One of them, Pambatti Siddhar, was said to have even tamed snakes. These Siddhars were the earliest known medical professionals.
Primarily living in the region which is now western Tamil Nadu, these men were known to be knowledgeable in various subjects, such as astronomy, literature, arts, music, drama and a particular method of medicine that they are said to have discovered from the forests and mountains, which is now known as Siddha.
Besides treating normal diseases such as fever, common cold, Siddha has also been used in treating non-communicable diseases like diabetes, kidney ailments, etc. In recent times, it is also used to treat infectious diseases like dengue, and now is being touted as a possible solution to COVID-19.
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