- Siddha ([The] Perfected) refers to a historic group of YOGIS who achieved all of the SIDDHIS, or occult powers, and attained liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth in the body (JIVANMUKTA).The tradition of the Siddhas preserves a list of 84 masters of the lineage. Several of the names are shared in a corresponding Tibetan Buddhist Siddha tradition. The most famous Siddha master was GORAKHNATH (Gorakshanatha); his name is included in both Tibetan and Indian lists. In India he is supposed to have been born between 900 and 1200 C.E.The Siddhas practiced alchemy, ingesting poi-sonous oxides of mercury to achieve bodily immortality. They were known for their extreme asceticism, antisocial behavior, frightening appear-ance, and supernatural powers. They were often also associated with magical healing. The Siddhas were tantric and accepted membership from any caste. The modern tradition of SWAMI MUKTANANDA refers to itself as Siddha Yoga; it reveres a lineage of Siddha masters who have characteristics in common with Siddhas elsewhere, but of course also the 84 Siddhas of tradition.The Tamil Shaivite tradition has a body of litera-ture dating from as early as 600 C.E. tracing what is called a Sittar tradition (the word is from the same Sanskrit root), which resembles the larger Siddha cult. The first of these Sittars was considered to be TIRUMULAR, who wrote Tirumantiram, perhaps the first important tantric text, outlining KUNDALINI YOGA and describing other tantric practices.Further reading: George Weston Briggs, Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982); John Campbell Oman, The Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India (Delhi: Oriental, 1983); David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medi-eval India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Kamil V. Zvelebil, The Poets of the Powers (London: Rider, 1973); ———, The Siddha Quest for Immortality (Oxford: Mandrake, 1996).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.