A Critical Study of the Chronology of Siddhas


by K. V. Ramakrishna Rao, B.Sc., M.A., A.M.I.E., C.Eng.(I)., B.L.


The dates of Siddhas have been a crucial subject in the Tamil literature. Though the word Siddha is not found in the ancient Tamil or Sangam literature, the concept of Siddha and Siddhas is traced back to Sangam period (500 BCE - 500 CE or 300 BCE - 300 CE) by some scholars. It is also closely linked with the origin and development of Saivism, Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, Tantras, Science and technology in South India and as well as in India.

The Tirumantiram of Tirumular plays a crucial role in this regard, as it is the ancient extant literature on the subject matter. Again the date of Tirumular and Tirumantiram has been, as the scholars so far have assigned different dates undecided (presently it varies from 3000 BCE to 4th / 5th centuries CE) depending upon different synchronisms. The word siddhar is found in Tirumantiram, therefore, the Siddhar of his period is recognized. The Siddhar of this period had been entirely different from the Siddhar of the later period in different aspects. However, the word is not found in the Nikandus (except Pingalanthai.92), so, this evidently proves that such group must have originated only after the Nikandu period i.e, 13th-14th centuries. Even Agarathi, Abidhana, Vadamalai nikandus (of 19th century) too do not mention Siddhar. However, the word Siddhan is used to denote Sivan and as well as Buddha. Therefore, it is implied that the nomenclature Siddha, Siddha literature, Siddha system of medicine etc., are of later origin perhaps belonging to 17th - 19th centuries.

Who were Siddhas?

The scholars, who dealt with the subject, have mystified it without going into the details. K. K. Pillai, R. V. Sambasivam Pillai, M. P. Somu and others have expressed that questions like - Who were Siddhas, What was their period or age, What were the songs sung by them etc., could not be answered1. N. C. Kandaiya Pillai, M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Maraimalai Adigal and others have projected that they were Dravidians and appeared to oppose Aryan/Brahmin domination and so on2. But, when questions are to be answered, the available evidences have to be analyzed critically without any racial, linguistic, regional or sectarian bias, prejudice and mindset. If the word Siddha is not found in the Tamil literature, its origin has to be found out.

  1. The word, siddham denoting to knowledge is used only once in Paripadal (20:47), therefore, its occurrence in other sources are considered.
  2. According H. P. Blavatsky, Siddhas belong to Fourth root-race datable to 4000 BCE3.
  3. According to Shvetashvatara Upanishad (Ch.I, Verses, 3,5,7), the Siddhas are those who possessed from birth of “superhuman” powers, as also of “knowledge and indifference to the world”.
  4. According to occult teachings, however, the Siddhas are Nirmanakayas or the “spirits” – in thr sense of an individual or conscious spirit – of great sages from spheres on a higher plane than our own, who voluntarily incarnate in mortal bodies in order to help the human race in its upward progress. Hence, their innate knowledge, wisdom and power4.
  5. Siddhas are holy saints on the Earth as the celestial yogis in the Heaven, because, their commander is Kartikeya, who supposed to control them.
  6. Puranas also describe Siddhas grouping them with Devarishis (Vayu Purana, Ch.41:66-73). In other places, they are mentioned with Caranas. They are also grouped with Devas, Demons, Pannagas, Yakshas, powerful Gandharvas, Kinnnaras etc. They are located in Jambu Dwipa on the Jarudhi, Kumudhaprabha, Sitanta mountain peaks and caves.

The traditional Siddhas - Agastya, Tirumular, Bogar and others have come from north to south and so also others. Only, Agappei Siddhar and Pampatti Siddhar are considered Tamilians and others are non-Tamilian5. Therefore, the possibility of derivation of the Tamil Siddha tradition from the north Indian Siddha tradition has to be studied. First, the words used Siddhas, Sisshar, Sittar and Cittar are taken up.

Siddhas, Siddhar, Sittar and Cittar

The words variously used in English by the Western and as well as Indian scholars are Siddhas, Siddhar, Sittar and Cittar, but each as specific connotation in Tamil. Siddhas means the refined monotheistic creed existed. Siddhar means perfected or realized saints. Sittar implies an expert in occultism, alchemy and so on with magic or superstitious power. Cittar also connotes the same however exhibiting such powers with mind. It may be noted that the differentiation arises due to the understanding and interpretation of the Tamil words siddhu (miracle, supernatural performance, etc) and cittu (connected with mind and mental powers). Here, the word Siddhas is used for the group, which flourished during 16th to 19th century period. Incidentally, they coincide with Sanskrit counterparts6:

Cit = the principle of universal intelligence or consciousness

Citta = mind-stuff; sub-conscious mind.

Siddh = realised, perfected, thus, Siddha is a perfected yogi.

Siddhi = perfection, attainment, psychic power.

Siddhanta = established tenet or doctrine.

In Tamil, as there is only one letter used for sa/ca, different words are used. Following the tradition Nava Siddhar of north India, South Indian Padinen Siddhar tradition might have been created. In fact, the available Siddha literature duly acknowledges it.

The Difficulties Encountered in the Determination and Fixation of Dates of Siddhars

  1. Followers of Siddhars assert that Siddhars cannot be brought into the framework of time and place and hence chronology.
  2. Tradition and mouth to mouth propagation of information about them vary from person to person and authority to authority.
  3. Followers generally assign ancient dates to their Siddhars and believe that they still live even today.
  4. The hagiographical, apocryphal and mythological type of legends, incidences and other details prevalent about the Siddhas and recorded in the literature mar the critical study of their lives.
  5. The mystical, transcendental, spiritual, miraculous and other narratives attributed to and associated with the Siddhas also do not help. Even demythologization could not help to bring them in historical setting.
  6. Except, the peculiar, mysterious, puzzling, obscure, esoteric Siddhar literature, the other evidences available are scanty and they do not support to decide their chronology.
  7. The movements of Siddhas from one country to another, particularly, that of Bogar, Punaikannar, Romamuni, Cattaiyar, Ramanandar and others are recorded only in the literature and not in other sources for cross verification.
  8. Even the available literature is shroudded with mystery, as different versions give different narratives and incidences.
  9. The Siddha literature is not placed within the accepted or standards Tamil literature and patronized by Kings, elites and others.
  10. Contemporary, archaeological, numismatic, epigraphical evidences are also scanty.

References about Siddha-like persons and personalities during Sanga period

One Tamil poet says that his hair did not become grey, because he was so happy with his life, even though he is an old man. There were several rishi like persons existed without caring for others engulfed in their penance in forests and other remote places. Later Imberumkappyangal vividly describe different types of monks, sages, saints etc. As they were engaged in different activities and the Sanga poets were mostly interested in praising the kings, feudatories and others, they might not been noticed by them. In the ritual of Veriyadal, the arrangement of rice in the form of geometrical figures remind tantric figures. Many rock paintings found in Tamilagam have been dated to 2000-1500 BCE contain many geometrical figures. In fact, Tiruvalluvar himself can be considered a Siddhar of the ancient period. However, the Siddha works circulated in his name have not been written by him and they are of later period.

Siddhas and Tantras

There is a possibility that Siddhas might have been associated with Tantras. The tantric worship and practices definitely originated in India and spread to China through Tibet and other countries7. Siddhas played a role in such propagation. As several Siddhas had contacts with China and Tirumular came from Kashmir, Siddhas actively worked for the development of Sakti cult connected with Tantraism. Incidentally, Kashmir acted as a route to China and also a place for the development of Kasmira Saivism. One group of scholars trace the origin of Agamas to Kashmir. The contents of Tirumular are evidently tantra oriented, describing different cakras in yogic approach. However, the Sakti worhip is predominantly noted in his work. Because of the similarity found in Tirumanthiram and Saundarya Lahari attributed to Adi Sankara, it is evident that Adi Sankara is predated to Tirumular. Moreover, Adi Sankara had to encounter with Sakti worshippers and compromise to bring them into the fold of Shanmata. The later Siddhas too have extensively dealt with cakras of temple and as well as human body (plexus, centre of energy).

Siddhas, Yantras and Temple worship

Siddhas have dealt with mantras, tantras and yantras. In fact all are related to and connected with each other.

  1. Mantras are the representation of subject matter in sound form.
  2. Tantras are two dimensional representation of certain mantras and
  3. Yantras in three dimensional figure form.

Thus, many mantras are converted into tantras in the form of Cakras. Later, the Cakras are used for the development of three-dimensional figures translating to temple construction, worship and related rites, rituals and ceremonies. That each temple has been associated with or constructed over the tomb of a Siddha after his / her samathi (the voluntary leaving away of mortal coil) of reveal the fact of Siddhas’ contribution to or the connection with the development of temples and temple worship. The perfect Cakra in two dimensions to be obtained is Sri Cakra and its three dimensional representation is Mount Maha Meru, which are fundamental for all Indian arts and sciences. In the Tamil Siddha literature, however, tantras are interpreted as supernatural feats / prestidigitations / miracles performed.

The Date of Tirumular and Tirumanthiram

The date of Tirumular has been fixed at two extremities ranging from 3000 BCE to 4th / 5th / 6th century CE. The later syncronism is based on the interpretation that Tirumular might be one of the nayanmars as Tirumula nayanmar. Thus, his date is also fixed with the period of nayanmars. But, it is not sustainable, as now, it is well known that Tirumular had come from Kashmir and settled in the Tamilagam. Moreover, his work is a clear adoption of some Tantric work. Many verses remind Saundaryalahhari. In his work, he claims that he was contemporary of Patanjali and Yagbathar. None of the Nayanmars mention him as his contemporary. Therefore, definitely, he must have preceded them. Then, how the Sanga poets should have missed him is a question. Had he been so popular during the period, at least one of the poets would have encountered with him. But, none mentions his name or work. The much-antiquated date of 3000 BCE could not sustain with the archaeological evidences. However, the tradition of precedence of his work cannot be ruled out. Specifically, the language, syntax and vocabulary used by Tirumular prove that he was ancient than other Siddhas. Therefore, his date can be placed before the Sangam period i.e, 300 BCE or 500 BCE. This coincides with the contemproneity of Patanjali. However, based on internal evidences, his date is fixed during the 4th, 5th or 6th century8.

The Tradition of Siddhas and their Alchemy

It is well known that the Siddha literature is replete with methods and techniques of converting lead to silver, silver to brass, brass to gold and so on with the herbal extracts and mercury. Mercury is characteristically mentioned as padarasam or padaradham in Tamil. Padam is the four rigorous religious rites of Saivism and they are cariyai, kriyai, yogam and Jnanam. Therefore, padarasam could be construed as the essence, result or finality of such rites. Rasavadham or rasavadha viddhai - the technique of conversion of base elements into gold with mercury or simply the art of gold making is one of the traditional 64 arts of India. The conversion of Mercury into mani, a diamond like stone, which prevents all diseases when worn is also mentioned. Rasa bashpam = Calcinated mercury is very often used to cure many diseases.

The Siddhas deal with rasavadam and kayakalpam, medicinal preparations made of mercury and herbs respectively used to rejuvenate the aging body or keeping the body without aging, which has been unique in the Siddha literature. In any case, it is evident that his tradition is the ancient in India, which specifically talks about the elixir for human beings, if they follow certain code of conduct accompanied with disciplined life, strict food and practice of yoga. The Siddhas have contacts with many countries and their impact was significant. As many Siddhas used to sojourn to other countries, either they settled there itself or returned to India after many years. Thus, the middle-eastern literature is hagiographed with legends of such Siddhas. As they are Indians and Hindus, the westerners did not want to give prominence and hence kept dark about their details.

The Language used by Siddhas

The language, phraseology, jargon, etc., used by the Siddhas other than Tirumular, Sivavakkiyar, Pattinattar, Ramalinga Adigal are marked with slang words, double entendre and colloquial terminology. Their language is simple understandable to commoners and villagers. Thus, it casts a doubt that such poems might have been composed during 16th century onwards and attributed to different authorities. However, the substance and subject dealt with in poems are of high standard of philosophy, medicine and even technology. As they had been moving with rural, common and village people, they might be using such terminology, but, they have succeeded in their attempt of masquerading valuable subjects under such simple and common language. Because of the language, their works might have been treated as unorthodox or apocryphal. Or the authors themselves would have kept their works secret without publicity because of the subject context and topics dealt with.

Siddhas and Saiva Siddhanta

Siddhas have definitely played a role in the origin, evolution and development of Saiva Siddhanta philosophy. The development and codification of Saiva Siddhanta and its codification (12th-13th centuries) to Tirumarai has been an epoch in the history of Saiva branch of Hinduism. In fact, the poems of Siddhas can be divided into three categories -

  1. one meant for the highly religious and philosophical groups,
  2. second for the elite and educated and
  3. third for common people.

Thus, there has been difference in language, terminology, syntax, prosody, etc used by each group. As pointed out by scholars, the Saiva Siddhanta profusely deal with simplified Vedic concepts, such concepts symbolised into numbers or figures, such numbers and figure symbols represented in temples in various forms, and associating them in rites, rituals and ceremonies. Thus, the scholars themselves have created a great fuss about the interpretation of Tirumandhiram and Tirumarais. Siddhanta marabhu (the tradition of Siddhanta), Siddhanta marabhu kandanam (Rebuttal of the tradition of Siddhanta), Siddhanta marabhukandana kandanam (Rebuttal of Rebuttal of tradition of Siddhanta) were the day of the order during 18th - 19th centuries among the Saivites and even the mutt heads had indulged in such philosophical musings and theological polemics9.

Siddhas and Siddha Medical System

Though the Siddhas and Siddha medical system have been conceived and considered as one, their exact relation is doubted by some scholars10. Some scholars accuse Aryans for meddling with Siddha medicine and circulating it as Ayurvedic system11. The confusion has been evidently due to the fact that there has been deviation in the methodology of Siddha medical system from Tirumular to latter-day Siddhar of 17th to 20th century period after the pursuit of alchemy. The traditional Siddhas only advocated the longevity of life through breadth control and yoga, but, the Siddhas of latter period, evidently from 17th century started attempting with kaya kalpam / elixir, and so on. The transition from the usage of herbs to different minerals / Chemicals can also be noted in their medicinal preparations. Thus, the Siddha medicinal system can be distinctly grouped / differentiated as follows:

  1. Strictly controlling the biological system of the body through mind control by breath control and yoga.
  2. Balancing of body fluids by intake of food and medicinal substitutes.
  3. Usage of herbs alone.
  4. Usage of minerals.
  5. Usage of herbs and minerals.

The Tradition of Padenin Siddhars

The traditions of Padenin Siddhar as mentioned by different Siddhars themselves vary considerably. There have been more than a dozen lists containing different names of Siddhas. Definitely, this system of expressing in 18 must have been originated after the Sanskritic mode of representation of different sages, works, puranas etc. Incidentally, it may be noted that the Tamil literature itself has been classified into two 18 number groups - as Padinen mel kanakku and Padinen kizh kanakku. As most of the works mentioned below belong to 18th-19th centuries, it has to be concluded that such tradition of 18 Siddhar or enumeration of Siddhar must have developed only in that period. Kamil V. Zvelebil12 and M. Arunachalam13 hold that the number “Eighteen” is unhistorical and that its origin is as recent as the ninteenth century. Their real names are also not known, but appear to have been derived from their works or taken as such as mentioned in the Siddha literature.

The lists of Padinen Siddhar as given by different authorities are as follows:

Sl.no Karuvurar, Manthrika Attamasittu, pp.2-3. Gnanakkovai, Nijananda bodham Siddhar padalgal R. Ramanathan Kalaikkalanjiyam, Part.4, p.645 Abidhana cintamani, p.638
1 Kumbhamun Agattiyar Nandi Nandi Agattiyar
2 Nandimuni Bogar Agattiyar Agattiyar Bogar
3 Korakkar Nadisar Mular Mular Korakkar
4 Pulippani Punnakisar Punnakisar Punnakisar Kailasanathar
5 Pusandarishi Karuvurar Pulattiyar Pulattiyar Cattaimuni
6 Tirumular Sundavanandar Punaikkannar Punaikkannar Tirumular
7 Teraiyar Anandar Idaikkadar Idaikkadar Nandi
8 Yugimuni Konganar Bogar Bogar Kunkanar
9 Maccamuni Brahmmamuni Pulikkai-isar Pulikkai-isar Konganar
10 Punnakisar Romamuni Karuvurar Karuvurar Maccamuni
11 Idaikkadar Vasamuni Konganan Konganan Vasamuni
12 Punaikannar Amalamuni Kalangi Kalangi Kurmamuni
13 Sivavakkiyar Kamalamuni Ezhukannar Ezhukannar Kamalamuni
14 Chandikesar Korakkar Agappei Agappei Idaikkadar
15 Romarishi Cattaimuni Pampatti Pampatti Punnakisar
16 Cattanathar Maccamuni Teraiyar Teraiyar Sundaranandar
17 Kalangi Idaikkadar Kuthambai Kuthambai Romarishi
18 Bogar Brahmamuni Cattainathar Cattainathar Bramhamuni
Sl.no A. Shanmuga B. velan A. V. Subramanian M. S. Purnalingam Pillai K.S. Pillai Names appearing in the most of the lists
1 Nandi Agattiyar Nandi Agattiyar Nandi
2 Tirumular Tirumular Janakar Pulattiyar Agattiyar
3 Agattiyar Bogar Sanathanar Pusundar Tirumular
4 Punnakisar Gorakkar Sananthar Nandi Bogar
5 Pulattiyar Cattaimuni Sanarkumarar Tirumular Konganar
6 Punaikkannar Nandi Tirumular Kalanginathar Romamuni
7 Idaikkadar Konganar Patanjali Bogar Teraiyar
8 Bogar Kamalamuni Agattiyar Konganar Cattaimuni
9 Pulikkai-isar Idaikkadar Pulattiyar Cattaimuni Karuvurar
10 Konganar sundaranandar Pusundar Romamuni Punaikkannar
11 Azhukani Romamuni Kalangi Machamuni Idaikkadar
12 Karuvurar Brahmamuni Bogar Karuvurarr Kunkannar
13 Kalangi Machamuni Konganar Dhanvantri Pulattiyar
14 Agappei Varahamuni Karuvurar Punnakisar Machamuni
15 Pampatti Kurmamuni Dhanvantri Gorakkar Kalangi
16 Teraiyar Punnakisar Cattaimuni Yugimuni Kurmamuni
17 Kuthambai Kailasanathar Teraiyar Teraiyar Pampbatti
18 Cattainathar Kunkannar Yugimuni Idaikkadar Punnakisar

Dates of Siddhas given by different scholars

The date of Siddhas determined by different modern and western scholars are tabulated below for comparison and study.
Author Reference Date / period fixed
T. V. Sadasivapandarattar Tamil Ilakkiya Varalaru (250-611), Annamalai University, 1963, p.83. 5th-6th centuries
M. Arunachalam Tamil Ilakkiya Varalaru-14th Century, Gandhi Vidhyalayam, Mayuram, p.340. 5th-6th centuries
V. Selvanayagam, Tamil Ilakkiya Varalaru, Yazhpanam, Sri Lanka,, 1965, p.125. 6th - 9th centuries
M. S. Purnalingam Pillai Tamil Literature, 8th- 14th centuries
R. Manickavacagam Namnattu Siddhargal, Madras, 1982, p.234. 5th century
M. Radhakrishna Pillai Munnim, Pinnum, p.56. 14th cent.CE
T. P. Meenakshi Sundaram Tamil Plutarch, p.4, in footnote. 15th cent.CE
K.A.Nilakanta Sastri Culture and History of Tamils, p.119. 16th / 17th centuries CE.
W.H. Hunter Tamil Studies, quoted by M. Srinivasa Iyengar, p.305. 16th / 17th centuries CE.
Bishop Robert Caldwell Dravidian Comparative Grammar, p.305. 16th / 17th centuries CE.

They have determined the dates, particularly that of modern group existed from 16th to 19th centuries, based on certain synchronisms and extraneous evidences without considering or going into the details of the Siddha literature.

Islamic influence on Siddhar / Siddha literature

Some scholars opine about the Islamic influence on Siddhar / Siddha literature. It is analyzed as follows:

  1. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri (Development of Religion in South India, Orient Longman, Madras, 1963, p.95): He opines that the teaching of Siddhas may well have been the outcome of Muslim and Christian influence on Hindu thought and practice. As he himself mentioned before that the “monotheistic puritan creed” flourished prominently in the 16th and 17th centuries, the so-called influence is explicable. The Siddha literature amply proves that it follows the Indian tradition.
  2. Dr. R. Venkatraman opines this based on J.N. Farquarar: The views of Siddhas resemble the medieval sufi principles. Venkatraman’s reliance is based on the secondary source. The influence could be found only in the literature of 17th – 19th centuries, because Muslims had written such literature. Moreover, the Indian influence on Sufis is more in many aspects.
  3. J.N. Farquarar: This (Tamil Siddha) movement might have been reflection of Islamic influence. This is only comparative statement. Therefore, the other way is also possible.
  4. O. P. Jaggi: Arabs know the method of diagnosing diseases based on pulse well before Indians, therefore the Arab sojourn Indian doctors might have brought this practice to India. Tamil Siddha medicinal system thus knew the method only between 13th – 17th cent. Period. The “nadi vaidhyam” – diagnosis by pulse beats is no doubt part of Siddha system, but it was practiced even during Sangam period.
  5. T. P. Meenakshisundaram: Taking clue from the expressions like “….the salt brought by sonagar”, it is opined that the Tamil Siddha medicinal system has been influenced by the Arabs extensively. Much of Indian medicine had gone to Arabia during Arun al Rashid period. Therefore, coming of certain salt is not strange. The import of raw materials is different from that of Medicinal system, as it is a normal trade practice.
  6. S. P. Annamalai: Kunangudi mastan’s poems formed the back ground of Ramalingam’s literature. The writer is a contemporary and M. Mohammed Uwais and P.M. Ajmal Khan themselves have noted that authoritative biographies of Ramalingam do not contain these stories. While the life history of Ramalinga Adigal has been well documented, the life history of Kunangudi Mastan is scarcely available. Even available sketch portrays him as an Arabic scholar and not Tamil scholar, then, it ios not known as to how he composed in Tamil.
  7. S. P. Annamalai opines based on Meivazhi Andavar, a cult leader of 20th century: Ramalingam was third disciple of one Arab sufi-poet Tanigai Manipiran. Meivazhi Andavar was a controversial figure and he did not mention the authority or source which proves that Ramalingam was a disciple of so and so. In fact, one Muslim disciple was with Ramalingam to know the rasavada from him, but could not succeed.

Except Palsantamalai datable to c.12th century (of which only few lines of poems are available quoted in later period literature), all other Tamil Islamic works belong to 15th and later period. That too most of them belong to 18th and 19th centuries. Later, it was stopped obviously because of Islamization introduced vigorously to check the Muslim poets, because orthodox Islam does not encourage the works like Andavar Pillaittamil composed by Sakkarai Pulavar etc., which purportedly project the features of Prophet Mohammed, which is anathema to Islam. As far as this literature is concerned, only Tamil influence is found on the Islamized literature than the other way. Initially, it is evident that only Tamil poets were engaged in writing such literature and later Muslim Tamil poets started composing poems. Even in the Tamil Sufi literature, it can easily be noticed, though Muslim scholars like A.M. Mohammed Sahabdeen refutes it14.

During Ummayad period, many Indian scientific, technical, medical and other works were translated into Arabic. Many Indian scholars were invited to Baghdad and other places for such work. Some Muslim Hakims, though they do want their names to be mentioned claim that they only cautiously and consciously protecting the medical practices of Adharva Veda and Sushruta, which advocate the usage of animals, insects and non-vegetarian medicinal preparations. In fact, the Sufis and Sufi literature have been enormously influenced by India in many aspects.

Imitations, Manipulations, Interpolations, and Forgeries of Siddha Literature

No other Tamil literature would have been so plagued with forgeries, interpolations, concoctions and manipulations than Siddha literature. It has been tinkered, doctored and engineered by different religious and social groups according to their vested interests. Interestingly, it can be noted that only well known person of the subject matter could do these and not by others. Therefore, the forger, interpolator or concocting person knew what and why he was doing. The reasons for such acts are analyzed as follows:

  1. The impact of aliens on the local population resulted in many sociological problems. Particularly, the impact of Islam and Christianity had been great. Conversion, which has not spared even the Siddhas, has created a sociological divide leading to complexities in different communities. Each converted group wanted to project a Siddha like leader among them with hagiographic stories spinned around his miraculous activities and so on.
  2. The European research on caste/casta and British’ caste enumeration encouraged different caste groups produce their own histories tracing their origin to Heroes of Epics, Characters of Puranas, Rishis of Vedas and so on. Under the direction of Col.Collin Mackanzie, Vedanayagam Pillai (1774-1864) compiled Valangai Carittiram, Visuvapuranam15 etc., In the introduction of the latter, it is mentioned that Mackanzie ordered to point out the differences among various castes. Just like Sthala puranas of temples, every caste purana tried to trace their origin to ancient Gods, Goddesses, heroes and poets.
  3. The Christians and Muslims too contributed their mite to meddle with chronology and history of Siddhas. Most of the Christian priests, particularly, Robert de Nobili (1606-56?), Contantius Joseph Beschi (1680-1746) adapted and adopted Hindu ochre robes, practices to cheat Hindus. With the help of Tamil scholars, they produced Tamil literature imitating Mutt heads and Siddhars. The titles of the works produced imitate Siddha and Siddhanta works. Muslim fakirs imitated Hindu gurus and used their paraphernalia extensively.
  4. Missionaries too took away may scientific and technological manuscripts, mathematical and astronomical charts and tables. The tables that were taken from Tivalore, near Madras created storm among the leading astronomers, like Bailley, Cassini, Bentely, John Playfair and others of Europe in 18th-19th centuries16.
  5. The Christian attempt had been only to prove their antiquity in India and Indian borrowal from Christianity for every theological and philosophical musings. All Indian arts and sciences were disparaged and belittled17.
  6. As pointed out above, though the tradition of Tamil Islamic literature reportedly started in the 12th century, most of the works were compiled in 18th -19th centuries. As later Arabic words were introduced much, the transition could be easily understood and dates fixed accordingly18.
  7. The Islamic attempts to emphasis that it influenced the monotheistic philosophy. However, in the Siddha context, their interest was restricted to alchemy, particularly conversion of baser metals to Gold.
  8. The Sufi doctrine has also made them interest to study Siddha literature. They also tried to deny the link between Siddhas and Sufis and that of Siddhas connection with the Middle East, particularly, with Kaba and Arabia. However, the orthodox Islam never compromised with Sufism or Siddha tradition.
  9. More and more manuscripts, palm-leaves, charts and scrolls were collected and sent to Europe, Middle east and other places.
  10. Politicization of social processes with the blessings of the rulers led to anti-Vedic, anti-Brahmanic and later anti-Hindu literature. However, the Siddha literature has been careful in retaining the tradition of Kadavul vazhthu (Invocation of God) etc., in their renderings and compositions.
  11. The later Siddha tradition is marked with deviation to that extent that it is against Tirumular tradition, as it rejects Vedas, rituals, etc. But, Siddha and Saiva Siddhanta literature survive only with the fundamentals of Vedas. Therefore, such projection appears to be the resultant of inter-mutt rivalry and theological polemics. The Thivadurai and Dharmapura mutts had such polemics with the participation of Sivajnana Munivar.
  12. Though Bhakti movement could check the physical and psychological attacks inflicted on Indians, the lower strata of society and well as rural population could not find an alternative to vent out their feelings.
  13. Evidences were also destroyed, tampered and altered by the Missionaries. Definitely, there was opposition to the Christian priests and activities, as they were misusing Hindu Sanyasi dress and other symbols. Robert de Nobili composed “Yesur Vedam” and declared that it was the Vedam, which the Brahmins lost abroad, but he could recover. It was in circulation till 1840, however, the Protestant Missionaries exposed his fraud. The Christian priests burned the Sivaprakasr’s poetic works like “Yesumada Niragaranam” (The Refutation of Christian Religion)19. The fate of another work “Yesumadha nigragam” is not known”. The Portuguese, indeed used their force in planting the fake relics of St. Thomas in different parts of Tamilnadu.
  14. Inter-mutt, inter-religious, sectarian and other caste based organizations also aided and abetted. However, the rivalry among the Christian missionaries, particularly, Roman Catholic and Protestant exposed many details in the context.
  15. The Tamil poets, particularly, who were poor, were engaged in such activities. Some times, even reputed Tamil Pundits were engaged without allowing them to know what they were doing by paying hefty salaries. Danish Missionaries used many Tamil teachers and dubashis (interpreters or experts in two languages). Beschi exploited Supradeepa Kavirayar. Missionaries used Arumuga Navalar in the translation of Bible into Tamil, but when he realized, he quit his job.
  16. They indulged in converting high caste Hindus, Pandarams (a Saivite monk) and others strategically to increase the converts and as well as to produce Siddha-like works. Arumuka Thampiran of Dharmapuram mutt was converted in 1836 and his works produced included “Anjana kummi20.
  17. The style, language, syntax, etc., of Siddha literature hitherto maintained some standards had changed to incorporate ordinary colloquial, nomadic, bard type. Such change has been condemned by the Tamil scholars: “From literary point of view, their writings, though they in verse form, are as simple as prose in their vocabulary and syntax, and their colloqual Tamil has done great injustice to classical Tamil21. There has been blatantly mix up of historical idiosyncrasies and chronological blunders. Works like Jnanvettiyan, Jnanavetti 1500 (evidently written in 19th cent.) make Tiruvalluvar to study Islam, Christianity etc., Kalanginathar make to meet Dasavatara type Siddhars, that too with the same morphological features, at different places, which clearly prove that they are forged works.
  18. The existence of fake Siddhas, impostors, malingerers, has been recogniozed and exposed by the Siddhas, but also pointed out by many scholars. The names of the Siddhars are not real names, but taken from the expressions used in their works. Most of the original works are not available or lost and the works attributed to them and circulated today are forged ones composed by ordinary people22.
  19. Bagavathar Vedanayagam Sastri, another Christian has composed poems imitating Siddhas on which the Christian researchers have made much fuss. Agattiyar Jnanam another forged work by Christians23 (published only by the Missionaries and researched by Christians), on which V. Jnansigamani has written a book with a sole aim of blaspheming Hindu religion. Unwittingly, this work admits destruction and burning of many Siddha works by Siddha themselves!

From the above, the following conclusions can be arrived at:

  1. The targetted missionary activities, learning Tamil, translating Bible into Tamil, preaching in Tamil, engaging Tamil pundits, teachers and dubashis for their work etc., started from the 18th century.
  2. Their Tamil works also appeared in the material period.
  3. Most of the Siddha literature too datable to that period coincides with the Christian research into Saiva Siddhanta and Siddha literature.
  4. Attribution of caste to Siddhas started in that period, as revealed in the works like Bogar, Kabilaragaval etc., and it coincided with the caste interest shown by the ruling British and European researchers.
  5. From Robert de Nobili to G. U. Pope, their Christian bias towards Siddha literature has been fixed, determined and instituted.
  6. The opposition to such actitivities also started with Sivaprakasar (17th cent), Tayumanuvar (1705-1742), Arumuganavalar (1822-76), Pamban Swamigal (1853-1927?) etc., belonging to the material period24.

Chinese influence on Siddhar / Siddha literature

The Chinese rulers (626-649 CE) had been so obsessed with elixir and they called an Indian magician Na-lo-erh-so-po-mei25. The name Naloerhsopomei with all possible pronunciation does not match with any Siddha. Therefore, a thorough study of Chinese literature in this regard may throw new light on this aspect. Agastya, who came from north to south, has been depicted as Chinese in the sculptures of South East Asia. Even in Indian art, he has been depicted as a dwarf with Chinese features. Most of the Siddhars of Tirumular tradition shad reportedly either came from or gone to China. Indian Siddhas obtained Mercury from China, as it was not available in India, as without which, no alchemy preparation had been possible. The experiments of changing baser metals into Gold might have attracted Chinese counterparts. Bogar, known as Po-Yang in China, had reportedly came from China. His works are available in Chinese, as Bogar’s works in Tamil.


From the above discussion, the chronology of Siddhas can be divided into four periods as follows:

  1. Ancient Period upto Tirumular.
  2. Period 7th to 12th Centuries.
  3. Medieval period upto 13th century.
  4. Modern period upto 19th Century.

They are discussed below.

1. Ancient Period up to Tirumular

Tirumanthiram definitely proves the existence of Siddha system, though such nomenclature was not mentioned in the then extant literature. Its relation to tantras, yoga, alchemy, medicine and other scientific fields are clearly noted. The language, syntax, morphology, etc., clearly show that it belonged to earlier period. As the work is evidently different from Tevaram, Tiruvacakam, Nalayira divya prabandam and other Bhakti form of literature, it can be safely placed before them. The Siddhas, who followed the tradition of Tirumanthiram are covered under the period.

2. Period 7th to 12th Centuries

Till the Muslim domination, the Indian arts and sciences had been at the peak and they were disseminated in other countries. Indian factors of culture, tradition, heritage and civilization could be found in many countries. However, the Indian society was slowly witnessed with the invasion of aliens from the northwest. From the Sindhu invasion of Muslims, Indians started facing with different religious and political sects, all belong to Islam. If the sojourn of Ramadeva and Yacob is considered historical, then, the link between Middle East and South India is established. The South Indian Saiva followers could find the domination of Vaishnavites and hence decided work for the elevation of Saivism. Thus, the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy started developed (13th-14th centuries) and attracting others. However, certain groups started indulging in the preparation of elixir, conversion of baser elements into gold and other activities. The movement of Chinese groups increased with trade and other contacts. In those days, mercury had to come from China.

3. Medieval period upto 13th century

This period coincided with the alchemy activities and Chinese contacts and interactions. The maritime activities of Cola kings in the South East Asian countries also gave a fillip to the activities of Siddhas and their movements. The Siddha medicinal system was distinguished, codified and institutionalized. The Saiva Siddhanta started moulding the philosophy and theology of Saivism in Tamilnadu. Agama sastras were interpreted according to Siddhanta and temples built and rebuilt reviving tradition.

4. Modern period upto 20th Century

Christianity and Islam created a great impact on Hindu religion. In fact, the missionaries of both religions worked maximum to exert their pressure on Hindus and social institutions. The literature produced by the respective groups throw much light on the material period. Interaction with Islam and Christianity, Hindu religious leaders voluntarily and otherwise started reforming their traditional practices. As explained above, the Siddhars of this period have been creation of these factors.

Suggestions for Further Reading


Notes and References

Original sources Periya Gnanakkovai, Siddhar Padalgal and individual works attributed to Padinen Siddhas have been used. There have been hundreds of such works available and surprisingly, they are produced even now with the names of Siddhas, just to get credibility.

1. K. K. Pillai, Tamizhaga varalaru-Makkalum panpadum, Tamilnadu Textbook Society, Madras, 1972, pp.409-410.

Somale, Tamizhnattu Makkalin Marabhum Panpadum, NBT, 1981, p.78.

M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Tamil University, Tanjore, 1985, pp.263.

M. P. Somu, Siddhar Ilakkiyam, Annamalai University, 1988.

S. P. Ramachandran, Siddhargal Varalaru, Tamarai Nulagam, Madras, 1999.

2. N. C. Kandaiya Pillai, Hindu Samaya Varalaru, Progressive Achagam, Madras, 1960, p.80.

Maraimalai Adigal, Saiva Samayattin Nerukkadiyana Nilaiyum, Sirturuttak Kurippugalum, 1931, Madras.

3. H. P. .Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1971, Vol.IV, p.208.

4. Ibid.

5. P. V. Namasivaya Mudaliar, Coronation Tamil Dictionary, Madras, 1911, p.629.

6.Swami Sivananda, Yoga Vedanta Dictionary, Rishikesh, 1950, p.33, 89.

7. Radhakamal Mukerjee, The March of Tantrika Art over the Pacific, pp.289-296.

8. M. V. Viswanatha Pillai, Tirumanthiram, Rippon Press, Madras, 1912. V. V. Ramasastri, in his introduction;

C. V. Narayana Iyer, Origin and Early History of Saivism in India, University of Madras, 1935, p.253.

9. Sivajnana Swami, Siddhanta marabhu, Siddhanta marabhu kandanam, Siddhanta marabhukandana kandanam, Tiruvaduthurai Adhinam, 1944.

10. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, Development of Religion in South India, Orient Longman, Madras, 1963, p.96.

11. M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, opt.cit., pp.265-266.

12. Kamil V. Zvelebil, The Poets of the Power, Rider & Co., London, 1973, p.28.

13. M. Arunachalam, Thirukkuralum, Uridhipporulkalum, Siddhar Padalgal, Madurai University, April 1978, p.4.

14. Mohamed Sahabdeen, The Sufi Doctrine in Tamil Literature, A.M.S. Foundation, Sri Lanka, 1986, pp.23-25.

15. S. Soundarapandiyan, Idangai Valangai Varalaru, Taminadu Government, Madras, 1995, p.ii, in publisher’s note.

16. Johnplayfair, Some Remarks on Astronomy of Brahmins, 1789.

17. Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, Clarendon, Oxford, 1977. It contains views of many European historians and scholars opinion disparaging Indian art and architecture.

18. M. M. Vuais, Islam Valartta Tamizh, International Institute of Tamil Studies, Madras, 1984.

M. M. Vuwais, Islamiya Tamil Ilakkiya Varalaru, Madurai Kamaraj University, 1986.

19. A. Singaravelu Mudaliar, Abidhana Cintamani, AES, 1981, p.657.

Somasundara Desikar, Tamizh Pularvargal Varalaru – Padinezham Nutrandu, Madras, 1939, p.174.

20. J. Samuel Iyer, History of the Tranquebar Mission in Tamil A.D. 1706-1955, The Tranquebar Printing & Publishing House, Madras, 1955.

J. Thomas, Thirty Four Conferences Between the Danish Missionaries and Malabar Brahmans (or Heathen Priests) in the East Indies, London, 1719.

Sadhu Chellappa, OM, Indiya Suvisesha Seyarpattukkuzhu, Coimbatotre.

S. Vedanayagam Amalaguru Satakam, Tiruchendur, C.S. Thomas Publications, 1968.

Vedanayaga Sastri, Sastrira Kummi, , Tiruchendur, C.S. Thomas Publications, 1968.

Ritacker, The Arsenal for the Christian Soldiers in India, Methodist Publishing House, 1910.

21. M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, opt.cit., p.263.

22. P. V. Namasivaya Mudaliar, opt.cit, p.629;

M. P. Somu, opt.cit., Vol.I, p.255 & Vol.II, 1988, p.178.

23. V. Jnana Sigamani, Agattiyar Jnanam, Jnanodhayam, Madras, 1981.

Agattiyar Jnanam, Jnanodhayam (M.R.T & B.S in union with the C.L.S), Madras.

24. Arumuga Navalar, Saivadhushana Parikaram, Vidhyanupalana Press, Madras, 1956.

25. The Cambridge History of China, Vol.3, p.609, quoting from many Chinese sources.

Name of the Siddhar (1) Birth star, month etc (2) Contemporary (3) Date / period (4) Place / Country belonged to (5) Country visited / stayed (6) Caste (7) Samadhi / tomb at (8) Remarks about date / period by other scholars (9) Remarks (10)
Tirumular Patanjali c.150 BCE Vyakramanath c.3000 BCE c.300 BCE c.500 CE Kashmir, India. Came from north. India Chidambaram Though modern scholars assign date to 8th century, considering the contents of the work, definitely, it is datable to first century. He belongs to the ancient tradition of Siddhas.
Ramadevar Mohammed 570-632 CE 6th – 7th cent.CE 12th cent. 15th cent. 16th cent. 17th cent. Nagapattinam India, Mecca, Arabia, Egypt Vishnukulam Mecca, Arabia/ Caturagiri near Srivilliputtur R.V. Sambasiva Pillai opines that Ramadeva must have lived long back, as he is considered as one of the 18 Siddhars.
Yacob Mohammed 570-632 CE 6th – 7th cent.CE Arabia Arabia India Ramadeva, Converted Muslim 12th cent-Abdul Kadir Jayilani 15th cent – by some scholars 16th cent –other 17th cent – as a disciple of Teraiyar - Dr. Venkatraman Muslim scholars deny that he met Mohammed. Had his date is 6th-7th cent.,he could have met Mohammed, otherwise not.
Pulastiyar Sri Lanka India Sri Lanka
Korakkar Maharastra
Agappei Tamilnadu Nayanar
Kudhambai Konar
Punaikkannar Egypt India Egypt
Kalanginathar Aswini, 4th pada, Chittirai c.8th cent.CE China India China Kannar / Silpi/ blacksmith China Titukkudaiyur Tituppananthal
Bogar Disciple of Kalanginathar c.8th cent.CE 16th cent.CE Pazhani, India China India China Viswakarma/ Washerman Goldsmith Potter Tirukazhukkundram Much fuss is made about his activities in manufacturing aeroplane, submarine etc These stories must have been of later period.
Konganavar Uttirada, 1st pada, Cittirai Disciple of Boar Tirumazhisai Alwar Gautamar c.8th cent.CE 16th cent.CE India China Yadhava/ Sankarakulam
Karuvurar Astamam, 2nd pada, Cittirai Disciple of Bogar c.8th cent.CE 16th cent.CE India China Kalasthi
Idaikkadar Tiruvadhira, 2nd pada, Purattasi Disciple of Bogar c.8th cent.CE 16th cent.CE India China Idaiyar/ Yadhava/ Shepherd
Cattaimuni Mrigashirisam, 3rd pada, Avani Disciple of Bogar c.8th cent.CE 16th cent.CE Sri Lanka/ Arabia India China Arabia Sirgazhi / Srirangam
Pulippani Swati, 4th pada, Purattasi Came from China along with Bogar c.8th cent.CE 16th cent.CE India China Hunter
Kamalamuni Pusa, 2nd pada, Vaikasi India China Kuravar Madhurai
Sundarananthar Revati, 3rd pada, Avani Reddy
Damarunathar North India Maravar
Pampatti Mrigashirisa, Kartigai 18th cent Jogi Dwaraka Marudhamalai
Punnakisar 18th cent. Karnataka Kannadiga Nankanaseram / Nangunacheri, Kerala
Romarishi Fisherman
Machamuni Fisherman


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