Geographical footprints of Agastya Sidhar

Apart from this vast treasure of knowledge, what else is Agastya known for?

Apart from the stories and literature attributed to Agastya, or about him, we see Agastya has been honoured to have places named after him. We see temples for Agastya and images in temples that are said to have been consecrated by him. We also see him featured in many Shaivite temples across India and Southeast Asia.

Agastya malai

What about Agastya gave him so much importance in literature, in stories, and in places? First, let us take a look at the geographical footprint of the Agastya legend. One of the most important places associated with Agastya is deep in the forests of Western Ghats. Agastya Malai or Agasthyakoodam is located at the border of the Southern state of Kerala in India. 

Agastya is still said to remain in this thick tropical forest famed for hundreds of varieties of medicinal plants, rare orchids, and wildlife. For me, this is an incredibly special place. 

Papanasam

It is also in this mountain range that three rivers originate. They are the Karamanaar, Neyyar that flow towards the state of Kerala and the Tamiraparani river that flows down towards the neighbouring state of Tamilnadu. In about 155 km the river descends in waterfalls, which is also named after this great sage. The Agasthiyar Falls near Papanasam is also said to be the location where Shiva appeared with Parvati to Agastya in his wedding attire.

TalaCauvery

From Kerala, as you journey further north, you will arrive at TalaCauvery, the birthplace of the River Cauvery in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. Here too, Agastya is a household name. Legends state that Agastya used to turn his wife Cauvery into  water and carry her in his kamandalu to keep her safe in the forest while he meditated. The Gods however had other plans. Feeling sorry for the parched lands, they prayed to Lord Ganesha for help. Taking the form of a crow, Lord Ganesha toppled the kamandalu, and hence flows Cauvery giving much-needed water to the states around her.

In case, if there is any confusion on Agastya’s wife, the story goes that Lopamudra died and came back as Cauvery. 

Champa tree

From there, if you make a small digression and go towards the southeast for about 250km, you will come to an old gnarled Champa tree (its botanical name is Plumeria). This tree, which is said to be over 1500 years old, is said to have been planted by Agastya himself. Again, we are looking at an incredible time and geographical range! 

Agastya Teertha

Then as we traverse back north towards Badami, also in Karnataka, for another 560 km, we come across the Agastya Teertha Lake.

The lake is said to be the location of the story of Vatapi and Ilvala.  The story goes that Vatapi would turn into a goat and Ilvala would cook him and feed to travellers. Once they ate the food, Ilvala would say, “ Vatapi come out” and out came Vatapi, ripping the person’s stomach. The two demon brothers would then feast on the poor travellers. However, Agastya with his yogic powers, knew what these brothers were up to. After finishing eating, he rubbed his stomach and said, “Vatapi jeernobhava” and that was the end of Vatapi!

Five hundred miles from there is the Godavari River where Agastya is said to have had an ashram according to the Mahabharata. 

Ashrams

Agastya, being a rishi and a guru, is said to have had many ashrams in the length and breadth of India. Ashrams of Agastya are mentioned in both the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The locations in northern India range from the banks of River Godavari in Maharashtra to Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, Agustamuni village in Rudraprayag. In the south, they are said to be in Tirunelveli, Podigai hills, and Thanjavur in South India.