Interesting Kasi Viswanathar temple, Sivakasi

Kasi Viswanatha Swamy Thiru

The very mention of Sivakasi town in Virudhunagar district of Southern Tamil Nadu is synonymous with a few things - large printing industries for printing of calendar, etc, fire crackers, diaries match boxes and some complementary gift items.  First established during the early 15th century, it was once ruled by the Pandya dynasty between 1428 and 1460 of Madurai and later by the Nayas of Madurai  who became independent from Vijayanagar Empire in 1559.  Under the Nayaks, the Shiva temple received lots of gifts, endowments, etc. During the Muslim rule in the mid 1740s and later ( several times by Chanda Sahib (1740 – 1754), Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764) in the middle of 18th century), the temple was managed by the natives. After 1800, this area came under the British East India company rule.

 Located in the busy part of the town, Kasi Viswanathar temple  has a  three-tiered gopuram (temple tower) at the entrance that is a landmark here. This old  temple is surrounded by sturdy granite wall around it.  Here the presiding deity Kasi Viswanathar is in the form of lingam in the sanctum (Garbagraha), that is  accessed through a big mantap (hall)  supported by a number of pillars. The dwajasthambam - flagstaff near the mantap  is installed in such a way  the sanctum is located axial to the entrance facing east. Yet another interesting feature in this temple is the presence of another flag staff that is installed axial the Sivakami (Lord's consort) shrine   and perpendicular to the flagstaff facing Viswanathar shrine. There  are shrines for Vinayaka and Subramanya in the main mantap. Also present are  smaller shrines of Ayyappa, Dakshinamurthy, Arumugar, Durga, Navagrahas and Nataraja in the temple  around the shrines of Kasi Viswanatha and Visalakshi.

Kasi Viswanatha Swamy Thiru Koil,ivakasi. Wikipedia

This temple, as other temples, has an interesting  legend behind it. The Pandya ruler Harikesari Parakkirama Pandian had been planning to have a Shiva temple built in Tenkasi town and for this purpose he went on a pilgrimage to Kasi (Varanasi) to procure a lingam (a form of Lord Shiva) and bring it back to his kingdom. Having got the lingam of his liking in Kasi, he reached a spot near his destination  and took rest under the shadow of  a Vilva tree - the favorite of Lord Shiva.  When he resumed his onward journey, the cow that was carrying the linga, refused to move from that spot. His efforts to get the cow moving, having failed, he felt that there was something divine about the spot and it was of the wish of the God to stay there for good.  The place where the "Shiva lingam brought from Kasi" was installed by the king, later  came to be known as Sivakasi. Since the lingam came from  from Kasi, it was called Sivakasi.

Puja protocols, etc are based on Saivite tradition.The main festival - the Brahmostavam is held  during the Tamil month of Vaiakasi (May - June). It is the most prominent festival at this temple. The other festivals are : Nataraja Thirumanjanam  in Aani (June - July), Visalakshi Tapas festival in Aadi (July - August), Navarathri, Soorasamharam during Aipassi (October - November), etc. Karthikai Deepam festival, Thiruvathirai, Thaipoosam, Sivarathri, Panguni Uthiram are the other festivals celebrated here


Once this town witnessed a pitched battle between  two caste-based communities - Nadar community who dominated the business and dominant Maravar community who refused the entry of Nadars into the temple. In 1899, it became a big issue that resulted in riots. The British rulers somehow managed to suppress the riots.