Agastya in Jataka Tales and Kalidasa

Agastya Statue from Prambanan, Indonesia.

Written by London Swaminathan
Post No.1105; Dated 13th June,2014.

The Jataka Tales is a collection of tales of the numerous births of Bodhisatva, who later became the Buddha. It is a record of very old folk tales adapted by the Buddhists to suit their needs. They were current among Indians from time immemorial. Buddhists did not hesitate to distort and twist all the old tales including the popular Hindu stories for their purpose. They even used Ramayana, Mahabharata , Puranas and Panchatantra stories and ‘’Buddhaized’’ the stories. One of such stories is the story of great Agastya whom the Tamil poets celebrated as the first patron of Tamil language. Tamil language came to Agastya through Shiva and his son Lord Skanda (Muruga in Tamil).

In the Akitti (Agastya) Jataka, Bodhisattva was born as Akitti as a son of a Brahmana mahasala (Brahmin scholar) Later he became an ascetic with his sister Yasavati. He went to Damila (Tamil country) from Kasi. Agastya lived in a garden in Kaveripattana. The reason for Agastya’s southward movement was the nuisance from his admirers. But he was pestered by his admirers in the South as well. Then he went to Karadipa also called Ahidipa (May be Nagadwipa; Ahi=snake, Naga). Nagadwipa was used for Sri Lanka as well as South East Asia. Agastya attained Moksha there.

Puranas say that Agastya drank ocean to convey the message symbolically that he crossed the ocean to go to South East Asia. His statues are found in different South East Asian countries. He was worshipped throughout South East Asia.

Kalidasa who lived in the first century BCE gives us very interesting details:-

agastya in London
Agastya Statue i London V&A Museum

Kalidasa’s Amazing knowledge about South India
Kalidasa in his Raghuvamsa Kavya confirmed that Agastya was closer to the Pandyas of the South. According to Tamil literature Agastya lived in the Podiya Hills ( a part of the Western Ghats inside the Tamil territory). Kalidasa’s knowledge about India was amazing. He was the first poet to give a clear and complete picture of India. Though Arjuna’s travel in the Mahabharata and Rama’s travel in the Ramayana described South India, a lot of things were vague—mixed with myths.

Kalidasa was the first Tourist guide in the world and he was the first Travel write in the world. Kalidasa’s Meghaduta described India from the Vindhya Hills up to the Northern Himalayas. His Raghu Vamsa Kavya described a vast area from Iran to South India.

During Indumati’s Swayamvara kings from different parts of India assembled to marry Indumati. Pandya king was also there. Kalidasa never mentioned other Tamil kings Choza or Chera. Pandyas were the oldest of the three kingdoms. Chozas came from North West India where Sibi ruled (Please read my article ‘’Sibi Story in Tamil literature’’ for more details)


The Agastya story shows that the contact between South India and North India existed even before Buddha. According to the Puranas, Agastya was sent to the South by Lord Shiva to solve the population explosion in the north. Tamil commentators on a Purananuru verse (201 by Kabilar) also confirmed that he came with the Velir tribes to South India.

Following slokas from the Raghuvamsa are noteworthy:–
Raghuvamsa-4-21, 4-44,4-49; 6-60,6-61/65

4-44 South is the direction of Agastya
4-46 Malaya (Pothiya) hills, Pepper plants, Parrots
4-47- Sandal wood
4-49 even sun shines less bright because of the might of the Pandyas
4-50 pearl fisheries where River Tambraparni meets the sea
4-53, 4-59 Parasurama land between Sahya hills and the sea (Kerala)
4-54 Beautiful Kerala girls and Cosmetics
6-61 Agastya –Pandya connection, Aswamedha yagna of Pandya
6-62 Ravana- Pandya peace treaty
6-64 Malaya hills (Podiya Hills)
6-65 Pandyas are black skinned
4-21 Agastya Star (Canopus)

Pandya kings copper plates, Purananuru verse 201 by Kapilar, Pura. 2 and commentaries on several other verses confirm the link between the Pandyas and Agastya, Podiya and Himalayas, Yagas performed by the Pandyas and Agastya.

Sage Agastya was inseparable from Tamil Nadu as Parasurama was
Inseparable from Kerala.

kalidas encyclopedia
Also read my earlier posts:
Is Brahmastra a Nuclear Weapon? Sept.7, 2011

Great Engineers of Ancient India Sep.10, 2011

Did Agastya drink Ocean? (Post No.931, Dated 25-3-14)

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