• By Dr Ketu Ramachandrasekhar
  • December 1, 2022
Left Kashi Ghats, Right Rameshwaram JyotirlingMandir
  • Know about the deep connect between Kashi and Tamilagam. Cultural influences and two way movement of the learned between Kashi and modern day Tamil Nadu for e.g. Rajaraja Chola-I and Rajendra Chola, had their Shiva Diksha from their Rajagurus Ishana Shiva Pandita and Sarva Shiva Pandita, who hailed from Malawa (MP) and Vanga (Bengal).

Kashi, the city of light, as it is most commonly known in Tamilagam has been the epicenter of spiritual wisdom, sadhana and various expressions of bhakti.


Every practicing Sanatani, especially the follower of the Shaiva Marga, has a unique encounter and take away from the experience of Kashi. Kashi-yatra is not a mere journey to a holy city, it is the consummation of one’s lifelong Tapasya, the very goal of his human existence.


In Kashi one finds a sacred geography, built environment; sacred routes; and a pointer to the journey to another life. Like any other Kshetra, Kashi too comprises of divine, natural and human-made assemblages of sacred symbols. Kashi was also recognised as one of the foremost centres of learning, thereby facilitating the exchange of students from various parts of the Bharat who would converge to Kashi.


Puranic lore establishes the connection between the two centres of knowledge, Kashi and Tamilagam in more than one way. While Kashi Vishvanatha and Rameshvara are a part of the Dvadasha Jyotirlinga circuit, Kashi and Kanchipuram are also considered part of seven cities that bestow liberation (Mokshapuri). Another set of temples which confer liberation owing to different causative factors also include Kashi. The rest being Chidambaram, Thiruvannamalai and Tiruvarur, all located in Tamilagam.


Darshanaat Abhrasadasi Jananaat Kamalaalaye |

Kaashyaam tu maranaat muktiH smaranaat arunaachale ||


In Kanchi, one can find ample evidences for the close ties between the two cities. According to the Kamakshivilasa section of Markandeya Purana, which glorifies the sacred temple of Kamakshi in Kanchi, Kashi is said to one of the eyes of Mahadeva, the other being Kanchi:


netradvayam maheshasya kashikanchipuradvayam |


It is described in the Sthalapurana of Ekamreshvara that, Goddess Uma on her travel from Badarikashrama, first reached Kashi and assumed the form of Annapurna to relieve the people of their hunger due to a famine, and later continued her journey south and finally reached Kanchi. Hence Kashi has always been on the travel path to South of India, a tradition which continues till today.


Many temples in Kanchi such as Saptarishi Lingas, Piravadishvara, Iravadishvara, Makaleshvara have legends connected with Kashi.


Rameshvaram and Kashi also form part of the Char Dham Yatra, popular amongst the devotees, especially from the north of Vindhyas. Whereas for those from the Dakshina Bharat (South India), the Kashi yatra commences with the darshan of Rameshvaram. The Yatrika would gather the holy sand from Setu and divide it into three portions. One portion would be worshipped as Setu Madhava in Rameshwaram itself and ceremonially disposed. He would then proceed first to Prayagaraj and worship Veni Madhava and ceremoniously immerse the second portion in the holy confluence of the three rivers- Ganga, Yamuna and Guptasarasvati. Proceeding further to Kashi, the third would be immersed near Dashashvamedhaghat in honour of Bindu Madhava. Holy waters from mother Ganga would be collected and brought back again to Rameshvara and offered for abhisheka of Ramanatha Swami. This marked the completion of Kashi Yatra. 

Those who are eligible would also offer Shraddha in Prayagraj and Kashi in addition to Gaya. 


To commemorate the connection between the two Dhams, Kashi Vishvanath and Rameshvara Suprabhatam sung by MS Subbulakshmi was released in 1977 in a grand manner. The Suprabhata used to be broadcasted from Baba Vishvanath Dham in the initial years, but stopped somewhere in 1983. But, with the recent inauguration of Vishvanath Corridor, the broadcast of the Suprabhatam has commenced again.


The revival of Shaiva Bhakti in the seventh through ninth centuries in Tamilagam, by the various Nayanmars (saints) incited a revival, a reassertion of distinctively Sanatana elements that were dormant during a period of Jain and Buddhist cultural hegemony in Tamilagm.


The Pashupata schools were active and found many royal supporters. In places like Chidambaram and Thiruvarur, branches of Shaiva Mathas such as Golaki were opened. Rajaraja Chola-I and Rajendra Chola, had their Shiva Diksha from their Rajagurus Ishana Shiva Pandita and Sarva Shiva Pandita, who belonged to the Siddhanta Shaiva and hailed from Malawa (MP) and Vanga (Bengal). There were many Mathas of the same Siddhanta-marga in Kashi, as evident from many inscriptional evidences.


There was a reverse migration of Siddhanta Shaiva scholars too. Kumaraguruparar (founded Kumaraswamy Mutt), born in Thirunelveli region, was blessed with exceptional wisdom by the grace of Lord Jayantinatha of Thiruchendur. He was initiated into Shaiva path by Gurumahsannidhanam Sri Masilamani Desigar of Dharmapura Adheenam, a Shaiva Mutt.

Kumaraswamy Mutt, Kashi. 

Knowing the greatness of his disciple and also realising the need for learned scholars in Shaiva Siddhanta in Kashi, Mahasannidhanam directed Kumaraguruparar to go to Kashi. He displayed exceptional polemical skills in the learned assembly of Kashi and soon was accepted as one of the foremost scholars of Shaiva Siddhanta. The Kashi was under the control of Dara Shikoh, the tolerant and learned son of Shah Jahan.


Still, to gain an easy access, using his yogic siddhis, Kumaraguruparar reached the assembly called upon by Dara, riding on a tiger. He also made a deep impact by his powerful arguments and knowledge of multiple systems of philosophies. Dara venerated the saint after the speech and granted him permission and land to build a Shaiva Mutt and funds required for the renovation of Kedareshvara Temple.

Vijayanagar Ghat /Kedar Ghat. 2013. 

Same ghats early morning on Kartik Purnima. 2013.

Sri Kumaraguruparar renovated the Kedar Ghat, rebuilt the Kedareshvara temple on the ghat, which is incidentally the southernmost fork of the trishula, the form in which Kashi was in Krta Yuga. The three forks of trident were represented by the three Shiva lingas, i.e. Omkareshvara in the north, Vishveshvara in the centre, and Kedareshvara in the south. (Kashi is said to be in the form of trishula in krta Yuga, Disk in Teta Yuga, chariot in Dvapara Yuga and a conch in Kali Yuga, where in each of the points are the forms marked by a sacred shrine located in Kashi.


Temples in Kashi were destroyed by the Islamic rulers many times-in 1194, by Muhammad Ghori's general Qutb-ud-din Aibak, in 1300s by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in1400s by the Sharqi kings of Jaunpur and finally in 1669 by Aurangzeb. Kashi has managed to resurrect itself every time it has come under attack, but it did not resurface in Kashi alone, but it did so in countless places all over India. There are more than hundred temples in Tamilagam alone which are designated as Kashi Vishvanatha temple. 

Kashi Vishwanathat Mandir, Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu. 2016. 

The inscription of Jatilavarama parakrama Pandya in Tenkasi narrates the legend behind the construction the Kashi Vishvanathar temple in Tenkasi, a town deep south of Tamil Nadu.


Pandyas were sufficiently weakened due to the Muslim invasion and the subsequent shift of power in the hands of Nayakas. They had to leave their traditional capital, Madurai, and were forced to rule over a small principality in Thirunelveli region. There was a King named Jatilavarma Parakrama Pandya, who ruled the Shenbagapozhil area. Once, he had a strange dream in which Lord Shiva reminded him of a Shivalinga which was worshiped by the Pandya's ancestors which now laid in the Shenbaga (Magnolia) forest. 


As a marker he indicated that if the king would follow the ants crawling out of the fort they would converge in the place wherein the Shivalinga was buried. The Lord also directed the king to build a temple, since due to the distance and many other social factors, His devotees were unable to visit Kashi to have His darshan. To give them the merits equal to that of visiting Kashi, the King had to build a temple and establish a city around it.

Pic (Jatilavarma Parakrama Pandyan)

The inscription from the Tenkashi (Ten-South, Kashi) temple belonging to Parakrama Pandya reads thus - “As the shrine of Shiva Vishwanatha at Uttara Kashi was demolished, Shiva commanded our King, Perumal Arikesari Thevar alias Ponnin Perumal Parakrama Pandya Thevar, in his dream, to construct a temple for him at Thennari Nadu, on the banks of Chitra river and consider it as Dakshina Kashi ...


As a mark of respect for the divine grace, all the Kings in the line were crowned only in the Adhina Mandapa of the Tenkashi temple. There are similar legends which are related regarding the construction of Shivakashi temple and many more in the region.

Tamil boys in Rameshwaram enjoying Gol Guppas. Store owned by a man from Rajasthan. 


Also read

1. What is the ancient connect between Kashi and Tamil land

2. Album of Kashi Vishwanathar Temple, Tenkasi

3. Album of Rameshwaram Temple

4. Album of Dhanushkodi Island

5. Album Ramayana around Rameshwaram

6. Why Kashi is a pilgrimage destination

7. Album of Kanchi Kailasanathat Temple

8. Album of temple at Thiruvannamalai

9. Album of Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

10. Album of Thiyagaraja Temple, Tiruvarur

 Author Dr Ketu Ramachandrasekhar is Program Manager at Bharatiya Samskriti Trust, a Non-Profitable Organisation dedicated towards the dissemination of Indic Knowledge Systems and resurgence of the Oldest Living Cultural way of life i.e. Sanatana Dharma. He has his Doctorate in Indian Epistemology and was selected as a Fellow from hundred young scholars across India for Studies in Neuro Aesthetics and Indian Rhetoric by Ministry of Culture, GOI. He was a part of Academic Team of scholars across Europe on discussion of Natya Texts. His expertise in Shaiva Pratyabhijna School is well recognised by scholars of Kashmir Shaivism and he has been a regular contributor to their Journals on the works and contributions of Acharya Abhinavagupta. He has several research articles and books to his credit which includes a detailed study of Abhinayadarpana of Nandikeshvara, Devi Mahatmya and others. His advice is also sought in matters relating to prayoga aspect of Tantra Shastra by established centers of Shakti worship like Kollur and Kanchipura.


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