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Interview with Sri Panduranga Swamigal, a doctor of Siddha medicine, lineage of Tamil Siddha tradition

Karur, Tamil Nadu, april 2007

Questions - Ilya Zhuravlev
Translation from tamil - Dr. M.Madhavan

We have a great interest in the tradition of Tamil Siddhas. Are there yoga practices described in ancient texts still present in the tradition, or modern tradition is mainly involved in medicine now?

There are people practicing yoga, but mainly they live in the woods and prefer not to show up in the society during Kali Yuga epoch; they do not want to be disturbed by people.

Does the teaching go in line with traditional system, personally from Guru to disciple?

Yes, it is still according to Gurucula tradition, a disciple lives next to his Guru and serves to him. Sometimes you have to serve the Guru for many years before teaching yoga techniques begins. Colleges teach only Siddha medicine. Nowadays there are some people who speak on behalf of Sittars (Tamil Siddhas) and try to teach different techniques pursuing their commercial interests, but real masters usually live in countryside, secretly. They do cherish the tradition.

We know that one of six large Shaivite schools - Shaiva Siddhanta - is mainly present in the south of India in Tamil Nadu. Is it connected with Tamil Siddha tradition?

Shaiva marga and Siddha marga are different schools though Shaiva Siddhanta was influenced by Sittars. Nayanaras - Shaivite deities, being at the roots of Shaiva Siddhanta, acquired certain knowledge in Siddha tradition. But they paid lots of attention to a bhakti path - loving and worshiping Shiva - while Siddhas followed a yoga path. Nayanaras studied alchemy and Siddha medicine, how to keep the body healthy. They demonstrated supernatural abilities as well as sacred Sittars. There are 64 well-known Nayanaras; their images can be seen in many Shaivite temples in Tamil Nadu. In our tradition we revere 18 Great Tamil Siddhas - Agastya, Tirumular and others.

In Siddha tradition a lot of attention was given to rasayanas - natural preparations made of herbs, minerals and metals and used for improving and strengthening the physical body, for physical longevity and even immortality. While the majority of Indian spiritual schools say that only the soul is immortal, Atman, and the physical body is perishable. It is only a temporary cover that sometimes is considered to be the soul’s fetters, distracting and disturbing factor on a path of spiritual development. Why did Siddhas pay that much attention to the physical body? Is it true, that they were able to achieve the physical immortality?

Definitely, Sittars have perceived that the body may become an obstacle, but as Tirumular said: “at first I considered the body as a receptacle of garbage, then I realised, that we comprehend the Divine being in this body, and so I should keep Sthula sharira (gross, physical body) to achieve deeper spiritual levels”. When the man comes to a high spiritual level and does not need his body anymore, if he considers the body as a burden he can leave it. But, Tirumular said: “I’ve lived in the body for hundreds of thousands of years”. Actually, it can be called “immortality”. He also accentuated that there should be no affection to the body; this is the means for achieving a high spiritual level. So, Siddhas used many rasayanas to live long. And why did they need it was to achieve moksha – to be free of sansara’s bonds. This is the true purpose of their life. They were able to control elements - Panchamahabhutas. If they wanted, they could put atoms together and display the human body, or, if necessary, “spray” it out and disappear. They possessed a perfect self-control. If the man is able to fully control himself, he possesses the control over Panchamahabhutas.

Do Sittars have Kundalini Shakti awakening practice?

There are many techniques contributing to Kundalini awakening, but at first, in Siddha tradition, the body should be well prepared for this purpose. Kundalini energy is like the light of thousands of suns. Sometimes we can’t stand the heat of one sun; we need a fan or a conditioner to feel normal. And now imagine few thousands of suns. The body should be cleansed well at all levels, otherwise it would be destroyed. And therefore too Sittars used various rasayanas to make the body stronger and ready to start advanced yoga techniques.

The next question concerns the use of mercury in Siddha tradition. Your disciple, doctor Mohanraj, has told us, that you use specially prepared forms of mercury in the treatment of some diseases. But I’ve also heard that in antiquity Sittars used mercury for considerable prolongation of the physical body’s life. In the West mercury is considered to be a dangerous and definitely toxic substance. Could you tell us about it?

Mercury is used not only for medical purposes; it is also a rasayana in yoga. It loses its toxicity after been processed together with a combination of other components in a specific way. After a long process with warming on fire it becomes solid. If you buy one liter of liquid mercury in the market, after the processing you get two hundred grams of solid mercury. The purification process is very complex. You can wear a globule of solid mercury on the chest - it is considered to radiate strong vibrations, to enhance longevity of the body, to purify it and to increase Bindu power. Siddhas call the globule of solid mercury a Bindu as well. Sometimes solid mercury is consumed internally but in very small doses.

I’ve heard that while someone is preparing solid mercury he should do Khechari Mudra.

“Kesari” Mudra, as we say in Tamil, is good during yoga practice, your attention is focused inside. But if you do it while preparing mercury, you can lose concentration on the process and be late with taking it out from fire at a certain time. You are one moment late and fire destroys the medicine.

Sri Panduranga Swamigal with his spouse

Do you personally know anyone in Siddha tradition who has lived for more than one hundred years?

Yes, I know. There are some people that nobody knows exactly how old they are.

Do Sittars worship Shiva?

For Siddhas, jiva, soul is Shiva. They do not worship Shiva in temples. We consider a human soul and Shiva being the same and single. Only yoga experience can give you the chance to comprehend it. When the drop of ocean water comes back to the ocean, it possesses the unity again. While worshiping people do not identify themselves with Shiva, they separate themselves from the God.

A question rises. Ancient texts say that great Siddhas of antiquity, such as Agastyar and Tirumular, have achieved immortality and still live on the Earth. They can disappear, leave to other dimensions, or appear again in a human body somewhere in the world, but it looks like they continue to be themselves, preserve their individuality, and did not dissolve completely, as a drop in the ocean... How can they preserve their personality if they have erased their Ego and human characteristics? 

They remain to be personalities for those whom they teach. They are able to dissolve the body and assemble it back, the same concerns the personality. Each human being possesses a huge potential inside. Even an ordinary seed that got between two stones of a building, with no soil, no one to look after it, no one to water or fertilize it, can grow into a tree - such a strong vital potential it possesses. Sittars were awakening their potential and demonstrated miracles, for example, they could resurrect the dead, as Jesus Christ. There is one insect here if you put it into a small glass jar and close it tightly, it will stay alive for one-two months without air, food or water. Then it will dry up and gradually fall to powder. You can store this powder for several years. Then in monsoon when the air is humid, you can open the jar and put it into the sunlight. In few days the insect takes his form back again and returns to life. Siddhas observed this process and thought why won’t we be able to do the same? One can comprehend such things only when he gets a high level in yoga. Siddhas have explored these things by means of their abilities. The nature, Parvati, has a huge energy. It moves the world, and it is inside the humans. If you are able to control this energy inside you then you can join Shiva and Shakti together. Everything that exists outside exists inside of you as well. When you know how to control your inner life, you will be able to control outer processes. When your mind becomes silent, you can feel how the energy is moving inside.

Dr. M.Madavan, Sri P.Swamigal, I.Zhuravlev
Padukas - wooden sandals of Sri P.Swamigal
Lord Ayappa Temple built on Sri P. Swamigal’s funds.
Ayappa (one of Shiva’s sons) is popular Devata in South India

Ilya Zhuravlev: Update from 2017

Was happy to meet again Shri Panduranga Swamigal, from Tamil siddha tradition (Tamil siddha samaj) who is 92 years old now but still active and meeting with people. Nice Dhyanalinga Shiva temple with huge mercury shivalingam was built in Karur under his patronage. I met him first time in 2006 taking interview about Tamil sittars tradition and siddha medicine for Russian "Yoga" Magazine  (1-st paper magazine about Yoga in Russia, printed in 2003-2009). And he is still remember me and found even issue of magazine in his table.

Shri Panduranga Swamigal in december 2017
Shivalingam made from hard (purified) mercury according to Tamil Siddha tradition (Dhyanalinga temple, Karur, Tamil Nadu)