The famous "Paati Vaidhiyam" (Grandma's medication), used to cure some minor ailments, is being followed in some homes even today. The practice of Paati Vaidhiyam has been passed on for generations that people are able to understand the problem of an ailment or disease and are able to diagnose and cure it correctly. They are able to do it because, they knew the characteristics of the diseases and, most importantly, the characteristics of the medicines that were used to cure them. Medicines in the sense, are nothing but herbs and other eatables that are used in the day to day life.
These substances with medicinal value are not only used on the incidence of an ailment, rather it was used regularly that prevented the incidence of that ailment, leading to a healthy and properous lives. Nowadays, only some homes are gifted with the people with the knowledge of Paati Vaidhiyam, but the rest are not, because there is no one to tell the medicinal characteristics of the things that we used and consume in our day to day life. And such treasures get lost from that generation onwards and once lost it is lost forever. Only a few people take some effort to make a note of these so that it get propagated into the future. The advantage of Paati Vaidhiyam is that it diagnoses and cures the ailment perfectly and without any side-effects
Our siddhars have took the pains to analyse the cause and treatment of the diseases and they have mentioned preparations to cure many diseases completely without any side-effects. The classification of the diseases and the treatment itself forms a great reference in the field of Medicine. Not all such references can be used by the common man, because it requires some background in medicine. However, there is one such great reference that can be used even by the common man. It is a rare treasure named "Padhartha Guna Chintamani" (Padhartham - Eatables, Gunam - Characteristic, Chintamani - The one that bestows all good things). It is one comprehensive reference that explains the medical characteristics about the food items and the utensils used to prepare those food items. It explains the medical characteristics of over 1000 items. The author of this masterpiece is a Siddhar named, Theraiyar. Theraiyar is the disciple and student of Agathiar. He is also known to be best student and has written many medical texts of which some perished and some remain.
Many legends exist about Theraiyar, let us see a few of them. The name Theraiyar is because when King of country had a severe chronic pain in his head, he treated it by opening the king's skull and removing the small toad from the King's head. Therai means Toad in Tamil. As he removed the toad from the King's head he is named after that Theraiyar It is also said that Avaiyar met Agathiar and asked him to take Theraiyar as his student. Theraiyar was the most illustrious student of Agathiar, that there is a legend that he turned a mountain into gold using herbs and got the praise of Agathiar.
Theraiyar's work, the Padhartha Guna Chintamani, is one of the masterpieces that exist even today. It is great collection and a central reference about the medical characteristics of the things that humans normally consume in their day to day life and the ones that are not normally consumed. It describes the characteristics of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. It not only describes about the items that are eaten. It also describes the characteristics of the utensils used to prepare and serve the items consumed, for example, the medicinal characteristics of stone utensils used to prepare food or medicines is described.
Let us see some of the songs from that text. I have tried to give exact meanings for these songs, but in some cases, due to the medical nature, I have tried to give approximately correct meanings. The following song describes about the various parts of the plantain tree.
"Narrkadhali Andham Anall Nalgum Thando Kudalil
Sikkum Mayir Thol Nanjum Theerthidumkaan Thokkuru Poo
Megam Ozhikkum Pinjaal Venkaduppu Yaegum Kaayaal
Dhegam Muzhukka Kaalam Thaer"
meaning, the tuber of the plantain increases the body's internal heat, the stem cures ailments in the stomach and intestines, the flower cures skin disorders, the tender fruit cures ailments due to increase in body heat. Unripe fruit cause Vaadham (The proportion of air that exists in the human body) to accumulate causing bodyaches etc.
The following songs illustrates the properties of ginger
"Injikilangukku Irumal Aiyam Okkaalam
vanjikkum Sanni Juram Vann Baedhi Vinjukindra
Soolai Arum Vaadham Pom Thoondadha Theebanamaam
Velaiarum Kannaai Vilambu"
meaning, the ginger cures the following Cough, Cold, Dense Phlegm in the chest. Delirious fever, Diarrhoea, Skin disease, Vaadham. It also makes one feel more hungry
The book even tells the properties of the various types boiled water. Water that is 100% boiled, 75%, 50% and 25% boiled. The following songs explain those
"Nenjerrippu Netrivali Neengaa Puliyaeppam
Vanjamura Vandha Vayitri Noi Vinjiyae
Veezhamal Kattodu Veppirumal Suttaneer
Azhaakku Uttkolla Arum"
meaning burning sensation in the chest due to acidity, continuing sour belch, stomach ailments and dry cough will get cured when an Azhaakku - 1/8th of padi (A utensil used to measure liquid quantities) - of boiled hot water is taken.
This song tells the properties of water that is boiled 25% and 50%
"Kaalkooru Kaaineeraai Kaarigaiyae Piththampom
Maelkooru Paadhi Sutta Venniraal Maelkoorum
Vaadhamodu Piththampom Vaithu Oru Naal Sendru Unn
Urodham Pom Odi Olithu"
meaning, the water that is 25% boiled cures the (Piththam) body heat, and the water that is 50% boiled cures Vaadham and Piththam. If that water is taken a day after boiling then the diseases will run away and hide.
The next song is about the most hated of vegetables, but more medicinal in value, the Sundakkai. The Sundakkai is hated because of its bitter taste. But it is dried in the sun after soaking in curd to make the sundakkai vaththal, that is fried and eaten as such or to prepare a mouth watering kulambu variety called vaththal kulambu. The property of the Sundakkai is
"Nenjin Kabam Pom Niraikirumi Noiyum Pom
Vinju Vaadhathin Vilaivu Pom Vanjiyarae
Vaayai Kasapikkum Maamaliyil Ulla Sundai
Kaayai Suvaipaarukku Kaan"
meaning Sudakkai, that grows in the mountains and tastes bitter cures dense phlegm in the chest, Diseases caused by bacteria, the effects of Vaadham
The more amazing thing about Padhartha Guna Chintamani is that it not only explains the characteristics of the food items we eat, but it also explains the characteristics of the metal and stone utensils in which food and medicines are prepared. The following songs tell that
"Karungarrkal Vuthavuzhtham Kaanil Udalkku Inbaam
Nerukiratha Kall Dhosham Neekkum Orungu Vellai
Kall Marundho Veeramodu Kaaramum Ill Manjal Ammiyin
Marundho Noi Vilakka Enn"
meaning, black stones (Ammi, Aattukall) used to prepare food and medicine are really good for health. Red stones, cure ailments. White stones reduce the impact of spicyness and potence of the food. But the yellow stone has not medicinal value.
"Thengin Kudukkai Thigirithandha Paathirathaar
Nankiraa Punmarundhum Thanmarundhaam- Venkalathaal
Mai Yiruppaal Kattaikalaal Maarkombaal Paathirangal
Seiyyin Irandaam Patcham Seppu"
meaning, the shell of the coconut, the utensils of bamboo are good for storing medicines. But utensils out of bronze, iron, wood, horns of animals stand second to them.
Let us conclude digging further into this treasure with one last song about Vilaambalam. One great fruit with a hard shell, usually mixed with Khandsari Sugar (Vellam). The taste is really out of this world. The speciality of this fruit is that the lump of fruit inside has no contact with the outer shell. If shaken, we can hear the fruit lump rolling in. One mysterious information about this fruit is that elephants like this fruit very much and are able to absorb the fruit within without breaking the outer shell, mysterious it may sound, but it is the fact that I have heard about elephants and this fruit. The song goes like this
"Eppodhum Meikidhamaam Eelai Irumal Kabamum
Veppaarum Thaagamum Pom Meipasiyaam Ippuviyil
Endrakilum Kanimael Ichchai Vaithu Thinna Enni
Thindral Vilaankaniyai Thinn"
meaning, The Vilaambalam is always good for health. It cures severe cold, cough, dense phlegm, thirst during summer. It also induces digestion. If you intend and desire to eat any fruit on this earth, then eat this Vilambalam
The book is completely amazing, because the collection and classification of so many plants, vessels and meat of animals is a herculean one. And that too prepared hundreds of years ago, when the people in most countries at that time wouldn't have even imagined of such research. We should really admire and praise Theraiyar for such an invaluable text. This one text proves, how advanced the Tamil People were during those days. But the sad part of it is that masterpieces like this are slowly disappearing because our people really don't take care of it or are in the oblivion that these texts even exist. I hunted this book for nearly a year and finally got it in the bookfair held recently in our city. Books like these are not only a great medical reference, but they stand to add to our pride as Tamilians.
More to come, until then...