Indo-Roman trade and relations

Roman trade with India (see also the spice trade and incense road) through the overland caravan routes viaAnatolia and Persia, though at a relative trickle compared to later times, antedated the southern trade route via the Red Sea and monsoons which started around the beginning of the Common Era (CE) following the reign ofAugustus and his conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE. 
The route so helped enhance trade between ancient states of India and Rome, that Roman politicians and historians are on record decrying the loss of silver and gold to buy silk to pamper Roman wives, and the southern route grew to eclipse and then totally supplant the overland trade route. 
Roman and Greek traders frequented the ancient Tamil country (present day Southern India) and Sri Lanka, securing trade with the seafaring Tamil states of the CholaPandyan and Chera dynasties and establishing trading settlements which secured trade with India by the Greco-Roman world since the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty  a few decades before the start of the Common Era and remained long after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.  They also outlasted Byzantium's loss of the ports of Egypt and the Red Sea  (ca. 639-645 CE) under the pressure of the Muslim conquests. Sometime after the sundering of communications between the Axum and Eastern Roman Empire in the 7th century, the Christian kingdom of Axum fell into a slow decline, fading into obscurity in western sources. It survived, despite pressure from Islamic forces, until the 11th century, when it was reconfigured in a dynastic squabble.
The Seleucid dynasty controlled a developed network of trade with India which had previously existed under the influence of the Parthian Empire. The Greek Ptolemaic dynasty, controlling the western and northern end of other trade routes to Southern Arabia and India,  had begun to exploit trading opportunities with India prior to the Roman involvement but, according to the historian Strabo, the volume of commerce between India and Greece was not comparable to that of later Indian-Roman trade. 
The Periplus Maris Erythraei mentions a time when sea trade between India and Egypt did not involve direct sailings. The cargo under these situations was shipped to Aden: 
 Aden - Arabia Eudaimon was called the fortunate, being once a city, when, because ships neither came from India to Egypt nor did those from Egypt dare to go further but only came as far as this place, it received the cargoes from both, just asAlexandria receives goods brought from outside and from Egypt.
The Ptolemaic dynasty had developed trade with India using the Red Sea ports.  With the establishment of Roman Egypt, the Romans took over and further developed the already existing trade using these ports. 
Prior to Roman expansion, India had established strong maritime trade with other countries. The dramatic increase in Indian ports, however, did not occur until the opening of the Red Sea by the Greeks and the Romans and the attainment of geographical knowledge concerning India’s seasonal monsoons. In fact, the first two centuries of the Common era indicate this increase in trade between western India and Rome. This expansion of trade was due to the comparative peace established by the Roman Empire during the time of Augustus (23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14), which allowed for new explorations. Thus, archeologists, with evidence from artifacts and ancient literature, suggest that a significant commercial relationship existed between ancient western India and Rome.
The west coast of India has been mentioned frequently in foreign literature, such as the Periplus Maris Erythraei. The area was noted for its severe tidal currents, turbulent waves, and rocky sea-beds. Although many ships have attempted to sail outside it in order to prevent shipwrecks, many ships were still drawn inside the gulf. As a result of the difficulties, the entrance and departure of ships were dangerous for those who possessed little sea experience. The anchors of the ship would be caught by the waves and quickly cut off, which could overturn the ship or ultimately cause a wreck. Stone anchors have been observed near Bet Dwarka, an island situated in the Gulf of Kachchh, due to these frequent shipwrecks. More importantly, the number of discovered anchors and numerous artifacts suggest that Indo-Roman trade and commerce was significant during the early centuries of the Common era.
Onshore and offshore explorations have been carried out around Bet Dwarka Island since 1983.The finds discovered include lead and stone objects buried in sediment and considered to be anchors due to their axial holes. Though it is unlikely that the remains of the shipwreck’s hull survived, offshore explorations in 2000 and 2001 have yielded seven differently-sized amphoras, two lead anchors, forty-two stone anchors of different types, a supply of potsherds, and a circular lead ingot. The remains of the seven amphoras were of a thick, coarse fabric with a rough surface, which was used for exporting wine and olive oil from the Roman Empire. Archeologists have concluded that most of these were wine amphoras, since olive oil was in less demand in India.
Since the discoveries at Bet Dwarka are significant for the maritime history of India, archeologists have researched the resources in India. Despite the unfavorable conditions the island is situated in, the following items have made Bet Dwarka as well as the rest of western India an important place for trade. From Latin literature, Rome imported Indian tigers, rhinoceros, elephants, and serpents to use for circus shows - a method employed as entertainment to prevent riots in Rome. It has been noted in the Periplus that Roman women also wore Indian pearls and used a supply of herbs, spices, pepper, lyceum, costus, sesame oil and sugar for food. Indigo was used as a color while cotton cloth was used as articles of clothing, Furthermore, India exported ebony for fashioned furniture in Rome. The Roman Empire also imported Indian lime, peach, and various other fruits for medicine. Western India, as a result, was the recipient of large amounts of Roman gold during this time.
Since one must sail against the narrow gulfs of western India, special large boats were used and ship development was demanded. At the entrance of the gulf, large ships called trappaga and cotymba helped guide foreign vessels safely to the harbor. These ships were capable of relatively long coastal cruises, and several seals have depicted this type of ship. In each seal, parallel bands were suggested to represent the beams of the ship. In the center of the vessel is a single mast with a tripod base.
Apart from the recent explorations, close trade relations as well as the development of ship building were supported by the discovery of several Roman coins. On these coins were depictions of two strongly constructed masted ships. Thus, these depictions of Indian ships, originating from both coins and literature (Pliny and Pluriplus), indicate India’s development in seafaring due to the increase in Indo-Roman commerce. In addition, the silver Roman coins discovered in western India primarily come from the 1st, 2nd, and 5th centuries. These Roman coins also suggest that India possessed a stable sea borne trade with Rome during 1st and 2nd century AD. Land routes, during the time of Augustus, were also used for Indian embassies to reach Rome.
The discoveries found on Bet Dwarka and on other areas on the western coast of India strongly indicate that there were strong Indo-Roman trade relations during the first two centuries of the Common era. The 3rd century, however, was the demise of the Indo-Roman trade. The sea-route between Rome and India was shut down, and as a result, the trading reverted back to the time prior to Roman expansion and exploration.
The replacement of Greece by the Roman empire as the administrator of the Mediterranean basin led to the strengthening of direct maritime trade with the east and the elimination of the taxes extracted previously by the middlemen of various land based trading routes.  Strabo's mention of the vast increase in trade following the Roman annexation of Egypt indicates that monsoon was known and manipulated for trade in his time. 
 The trade started by Eudoxus of Cyzicus in 130 BCE kept increasing, and according to Strabo  
"At any rate, when Gallus was prefect of Egypt, I accompanied him and ascended the Nile as far as Syene and the frontiers ofKingdom of Aksum (Ethiopia), and I learned that as many as one hundred and twenty vessels were sailing from Myos Hormos to India, whereas formerly, under the Ptolemies, only a very few ventured to undertake the voyage and to carry on traffic in Indian merchandise."
By the time of Augustus up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos to India.  So much gold was used for this trade, and apparently recycled by the Kushan Empire (Kushans) for their own coinage, that Pliny the Elder (NH VI.101) complained about the drain of specie to India: 
"minimaque computatione miliens centena milia sestertium annis omnibus India et Seres et paeninsula illa imperio nostro adimunt: tanti nobis deliciae et feminae constant. quota enim portio ex illis ad deos, quaeso, iam vel ad inferos pertinet?"
"India, China and the Arabian peninsula take one hundred million sesterces from our empire per annum at a conservative estimate: that is what our luxuries and women cost us. For what fraction of these imports is intended for sacrifices to the gods or the spirits of the dead?" - Pliny, Historia Naturae  
There existed an exotic animal trade between India Ocean harbours and Mediterranean harbours. The evidence of this we can to find in the mosaics and frescoes of the remains of Roman villas inItaly. For example Villa del Casale has mosaics depicting the capture of exotic animals in IndiaIndonesia and in Africa. The intercontinental trade of exotic animals was one of the sources of richness of the owners of the villa. In the Ambulacro della Grande Caccia, the hunting scenes and capture of live animals is well represented by such details that it is possible to identify the species. There is a scene that shows a technique to distract a mother Tiger in order to take her cubs by using a shimmering ball of glass or mirror. It is also represented the hunt of Tiger with red ribbons serving as a distraction. In the mosaic there are also numerous other animals such as a Rhinoceros, an Indian Elephant (recognized from the ears) with his Indian conductor and theIndian Peafowl, along with other exotic birds. There are also numerous animal from Africa. We know from sources that lot of TigersPantheras as well as the Asian and African Lion were used in the arenas or in circuses. The European Lion was already extinct. Probably the last that lived in Balkan Peninsula were hunted to stock arenas. The birds and monkeys entertained the guests of many villas. Also in Villa del Tellaro there is a mosaic with tiger in a jungle that is attacking a man with roman clothes, probably a careless hunter. The animals were transported in cages and loaded in a ship arrived to Alexandria harbour, all that is represented in the mosaic. 
The three main Roman ports involved with eastern trade were ArsinoeBerenice and Myos Hormos. Arsinoe was one of the early trading centers but was soon overshadowed by the more easily accessible Myos Hormos and Berenice.

The Ptolemaic dynasty exploited the strategic position of Alexandria to secure trade with India.  The course of trade with the east then seems to have been first through the harbor of Arsinoe, the present day Suez. The goods from the East African trade were landed at one of the three main Roman ports, Arsinoe, Berenice or Myos Hormos.  The Romans repaired and cleared out the silted up canal from the Nile to harbor center of Arsinoe on the Red Sea.  This was one of the many efforts the Roman administration had to undertake to divert as much of the trade to the maritime routes as possible. 
Arsinoe was eventually overshadowed by the rising prominence of Myos Hermos. The navigation to the northern ports, such as Arsinoe-Clysma, became difficult in comparison to Myos Hermos due to the northern winds in the Gulf of Suez.  Venturing to these northern ports presented additional difficulties such as shoalsreefs and treacherous currents. 
Myos Hormos and Berenice appear to have been important ancient trading ports, possibly used by the Pharaonic traders of ancient Egypt and the Ptolemaic dynasty before falling into Roman control. 
The site of Berenice, since its discovery by Belzoni (1818), has been equated with the ruins near Ras Banas in Southern Egypt.  However, the precise location of Myos Hormos is disputed with the latitude and longitude given in Ptolemy's Geography favoring Abu Sha'ar and the accounts given in classical literature and satellite images indicating a probable identification with Quesir el-Quadim at the end of a fortified road fromKoptos on the Nile.  The Quesir el-Quadim site has further been associated with Myos Hormos following the excavations at el-Zerqa, halfway along the route, which have revealed ostraca leading to the conclusion that the port at the end of this road may have been Myos Hormos. 

Indian ports

In India, the ports of Barbaricum (modern Karachi), Barygaza, Muziris in Kerala, KorkaiKaveripattinam and Arikamedu on the southern tip of India were the main centers of this trade, along with Kodumanal, an inland city. The Periplus Maris Erythraei describes Greco-Roman merchants selling in Barbaricum "thin clothing, figured linens, topazcoralstoraxfrankincense, vessels of glass, silver and gold plate, and a little wine" in exchange for "costusbdelliumlyciumnardturquoiselapis lazuli, Seric skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, and indigo". In Barygaza, they would buy wheat, rice, sesame oil, cotton and cloth. 
Trade with Barigaza, under the control of the Indo-Scythian Western Satrap Nahapana ("Nambanus"), was especially flourishing: 
There are imported into this market-town (Barigaza), wine, Italian preferred, also Laodicean and Arabian; copper, tin, and lead; coral and topaz; thin clothing and inferior sorts of all kinds; bright-colored girdles a cubit wide; storax, sweet clover, flint glass, realgar, antimony, gold and silver coin, on which there is a profit when exchanged for the money of the country; and ointment, but not very costly and not much. And for the King there are brought into those places very costly vessels of silver, singing boys, beautiful maidens for the harem, fine wines, thin clothing of the finest weaves, and the choicest ointments. There are exported from these places spikenard, costus, bdellium, ivory, agate and carnelian, lycium, cotton cloth of all kinds, silk cloth, mallow cloth, yarn, long pepper and such other things as are brought here from the various market-towns. Those bound for this market-town from Egypt make the voyage favorably about the month of July, that is Epiphi. - Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, paragraph 49.


Muziris is a lost port city in the South Indian state of Kerala which was a major center of trade in Tamilakkam between the Chera Empireand the Roman Empire. Large hoards of coins and innumerable shards of amphorae found in the town of Pattanam have elicited recent archeological interest in finding a probable location of this port city. 
According to the Periplus, numerous Greek seamen managed an intense trade with Muziris: 
"Then come Naura and Tyndis, the first markets of Damirica (Limyrike), and then Muziris and Nelcynda, which are now of leading importance. Tyndis is of the Kingdom of Cerobothra; it is a village in plain sight by the sea. Muziris, of the same Kingdom, abounds in ships sent there with cargoes from Arabia, and by the Greeks; it is located on a river, distant from Tyndis by river and sea five hundred stadia, and up the river from the shore twenty stadia" - The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, 53-54


The Periplus Maris Erythraei mentions a marketplace named Poduke (ch. 60), which G.W.B. Huntingford identified as possibly beingArikamedu in Tamil Nadu, a centre of early Chola trade (now part of Ariyankuppam), about 2 miles from the modern Pondicherry.  Huntingford further notes that Roman pottery was found at Arikamedu in 1937, and archeological excavations between 1944 and 1949 showed that it was "a trading station to which goods of Roman manufacture were imported during the first half of the 1st century AD". 

The Rome-India trade also saw several cultural exchanges which had lasting effect for both the civilizations and others involved in the trade. TheEthiopian kingdom of Aksum was involved in the Indian Ocean trade network and was influenced by Roman culture and Indian architecture. Traces of Indian influences are visible in Roman works of silver and ivory, or in Egyptian cotton and silk fabrics used for sale in Europe.  The Indian presence in Alexandria may have influenced the culture but little is known about the manner of this influence. Clement of Alexandria mentions the Buddha in his writings and other Indian religions find mentions in other texts of the period. 
Even China was involved in the Roman trade with eastern Asia:
During the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, traders reached Siam (now Thailand), Cambodia, Sumatra, Java, and a few seem to have penetrated northward to the coast of China. In AD 161, according to Chinese records, an "embassy" came from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to the emperor Huan-ti, bearing goods that Huan-ti gratefully received as "tribute". 
Christian and Jewish settlers from Rome continued to live in India long after the decline in bilateral trade. Large hoards of Roman coins have been found throughout India, and especially in the busy maritime trading centers of the south. The Tamilakkam kings reissued Roman coinage in their own name after defacing the coins in order to signify their sovereignty.  Mentions of the traders are recorded in the Tamil Sangam literature of India. One such mention reads: "The beautiful warships of the Yavanas came to the prosperous and beautiful Muchiri (Muziris) breaking the white foams of 'Chulli', the big river, and returned with 'curry' (kari, the black pepper) paying for it in gold.(from poem no. 149 of 'Akananuru' of Sangam Literature)" 
Following the Roman-Persian Wars, the areas under the Roman Byzantine Empire were captured by Khosrow II of the PersianSassanian Dynasty,  but the Byzantine emperor Heraclius reconquered them (628). The Arabs, led by 'Amr ibn al-'As, crossed into Egypt in late 639 or early 640 CE. This advance marked the beginning of the Islamic conquest of Egypt  and the fall of ports such as Alexandria,  used to secure trade with India by the Roman world since the Ptolemaic dynasty. 
The decline in trade saw the ancient Tamil country turn to Southeast Asia for international trade, where it influenced the native culture to a greater degree than the impressions made on Rome. However, knowledge of India and it's trade was preserved in Byzantine books and it is likely that the court of the emperor still maintained some form of diplomatic relation to India up until at least the time of Constantine VII, seeking an ally against the rising influence of the Islamic states in the Middle East and Persia, appearing in a work on ceremonies called De Ceremoniis. 
The Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in the 15th century (1453), marking the beginning of Turkish control over the most direct trade routes between Europe and Asia. The Ottomans initially cut off eastern trade with Europe, leading in turn to the attempt by Europeans to find a sea route around Africa, spurring the Age of Discovery, and the eventual rise ofMercantilism and Colonialism.

Kashi Math

 Kashi Math is one of the four spiritual schools followed by Goud Saraswat Brahmins or Gowda Saraswat Brahmins (GSB). Members of the Goud Saraswat community predominantly live along the west coast of India, from Mumbai in the north to Kerala in the south. It is one of the 24 mathas of the Dvaita order. Headquartered in Brahma Ghat, Varanasi, Kashi Math has followers all over the Konkan belt, prominently inUdupiMangaloreKochiAlappuzha and other parts of Kerala and Karnataka.

Kashi Math was founded in 1542 AD. Before the Kashi Math was established, most Vaishnava Gowd Saraswat Brahmins were followers of the Shri Kavindra Math of Madhvacharya. During the 15th century, Sri Ramachandra Tirtha of Moola Math (Jagadguru Sriman Madhwacharya Moola Maha Samsthana) initiated two shishyas as sannyasins: Vibhudendra Tirtha and Vidyanidhi Tirtha. The latter started a new math called Uttaradi Math and became head of the same, while Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha continued Parampara of Sri Ramachandra Tirtha, main parampara of Sriman Madhwacharya, now named Sri Raghavendra Math or RaghavendraMantralaya after Sri Raghavendra of Mantralaya. Due to their proximity to South Kanara and Kerala.
Later, when Surendra Tirtha became the head of the Math at Kumbhakonam (Mula Matha), one of his disciples, Vijayindra Tirtha undertook a Chaturmasya (a religious event lasting four months) at Kochi in 1539–1540. Here, he selected Sri Vittalacharya and was given deeksha as Yadavendra Tirtha. Yadavendra Tirtha went on to become head of the new Kashi Math at Varanasi established in 1542 AD. Kumbhakonam Math gave two idols of Vyasa and Rama (Raghupati) to Shrimat Yadavendra Tirtha along with the rights to guide the Gowd Saraswats.
Main Deities of Samsthan Kashi Math are charaprathishta (literally, a moving installation) idols of Lord Shri Veda Vyasa and Lord Shri Rama (Raghupati) also popularly known as Sree Vyasa Raghupathi.
The Kashi Math follows a Guru system, wherein the head of the Math appoints a shishya, who succeeds the Guru. According to the Math's tradition, the shishya should be unmarried, and is selected at a very young age.
Shri Kashi Math are followers of the Dwaita school of Vaishnavite philosophy founded by Maadhwacharya, but subtle differences exist between the Maadhwa Siddantha followed by Sri Kashi Math and the main-line Maadhwa followers.
The spiritual head, or the Mathadipathi is the administrative head of the math and its properties. As a math specific to the Gowd Saraswat Brahmins , the mathadhipathi seldom mingle with members of other communities. The mathadhipathi is not a mere spiritual head of the community. In the past, the mathadhipathi exercised powers over secular matters of the community too. There have been occasions when the mathadhipathi has excommunicated members for violation of his edicts.
The 20th Mathadhipathi of the Kashimath H. H. Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji enjoys iconic stature among his devotees and is a great scholar of the Vedas and ancient scriptures. He has sought to preserve protect and propagate the vedic heritage through His discourses over several years and the institutions found by Him. His illustrious predecessor Mahaswami H.H. Sukrateendra Thirtha attained Samadhi in 1949. Thereafter Shrimad Sudhindra Thirtha swamiji has been guiding the Samsthan and its devotees by travelling the width and breadth of India and beyond the Himalayas in Nepal by word and deed. There has not been a single day when the pujas to the presiding deities of Shri Vedavyasa and Shri Raghupathi [Lord Sreeram] were missed. Shri Vyasashram at Haridwar on the bank of sacred Ganga which was built in 1988 as monument to Lord Vedavyasa was dedicated by Swamiji for the welfare of the world. In 1998 at Kalpi near Kanpur (U.P) the birthplace of Vedavyasa a beautiful temple has been built to symbolise and propagate the universal philosophy of Shri Vedavyasa. 
As Per Tradition of math it was belived that the swamiji who is having paraphernalia and main deities of Sree Vyasa Raghupathi. Upto 19th Pontiff linage (ie. Up to H.H.Sukratheendra Thirtha Swamiji) of Kashi Math Guruparampara; Guru Swamiji was holding and offering Poojas & Prayer to paraphernalia and main deities of Sree Vyasa Raghupathi. Also Only After the Samadhi of Guru Swamiji, Shishya Swamiji was becoming Mathadhipathi.
But on 04-11-1994,due to heath problems, H H Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji handed over the Administrative power of math along with paraphernalia and main deities of Sree Vyasa Raghupathi to H H Raghavendra Thirtha Swamiji and left to Haridwar for Swadhyaya and for writng a few compositions in Sanskrit.
His Holiness RaghavendraThirtha Swamiji, is the 21st Pontiff of Shree Kashi Mutt Samsthan. H. H. Swamiji is the only shishya of H.H.Shrimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji and Utaradhikari of Kashi Math Samsthan.
Shrimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji used to say the following statements in many congregations: We named our able successor as Shrimad Raghavendra Thirtha Swamiji like the Manthralaya Mutt Shrimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji named their able successor as Shrimad Raghavendra Thirtha swamiji. Manthralaya Mutt Shrimad Raghavendra Thirtha Swamiji earned fame by the powers they possessed.We Forsee the same in our sucessor Srimad Raghavendra Thirtha by seeing thier Natal Charts.Earlier,In Shree Kashi Mutt Samsthan too,We had one swamiji H.H. Shrimad Raghavendra Thirtha swamiji as the 5th Matadhipathi in the pontifical lineage. Their contribution to this Samsthan and the followers is enormous.
Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha was the fourteenth Swamiji of the Kashi Matha Samsthan, initiated two shishyas into sanyasa namely Shrimad Sumateendra Tirtha & Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha. Some time after the passing away of Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha Swamiji, a difference of opinion arose between his two Shishya-Swamijis. It went to such an extent that the younger Swamiji, Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha demanded the division of all the movable and immovable properties of the Kashi Matha as well as the followers of the Matha and filed a suit in the Calicut court to that effect. The two shishyas being the official and legal heirs of the entire Kashi Matha, the court agreed with the younger Swamiji and issued the necessary decree for the division of the Math. In the mean time Shrimad Sumateendra Tirtha, selected a minor from his followers and initiated him into sanyasa on 1849 and accepted him as shishya, who was named shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha and attained samadhi in 1851. In the meantime Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha was camping in Shri Venkataramana Temple, Kundapura. He was about to get the decree enforced, thereby dividing the Matha into two Mathas and also to select a Shishya. It was at this time that news reached the Swamiji that his co-Shishya, Shrimad Sumateendra Tirtha, attained Samadhi in Alleppey. His Shishya, being a minor, a question arose as to who would be his guardian. The minor promptly and with great foresight requested Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha to be his guardian.Now the latter obliged. Further, he gave up the idea of division of the Kashi Matha and even went a step further. He voluntarily and with a broad mind delegated all his rights to his share of the property of the Kashi Matha sanctioned to him earlier by the court decree mentioned earlier, to his ward, the minor Swamiji. He did not proceed with his plans regarding the initiation of some one into sanyasa and accepting him as his shishya.
It is belived that in order to avoid similar conflict in Kashi Math in future, shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha have made an unchangeable Amendment in the constitution of Kashi Math. As per this Amendment Mathadhipathi of Kashi Math can initiate only one vatu into Sanyasa and he will be the Shishya Swamiji and the Utharadhikari of the Math. Mathadhipathi of kashi math cannot initiate more than one vatu into sanyasa.
Hence as per Guru Parampara, Constituion of Math and Amendment by shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha Swamiji , Shrimad Raghavendra Thirtha Swamiji is the Shishya Swamiji and Utharadhikari of Kashi Math.

Guru Parampara

SL NoNamePurvashrama NameBirth (A.D)Ashrama SveekarSamadhiRef
1Yadavendra Thirtha - 1--Cochin1539-Banaras26-06-160880-90Bhatkal
2Keshavendra ThirthaRama Bhat1583--27-02-167087Basrur-
3Upendra Thirtha - 1Anantha Bhat---24-10-1674-Banaras-
4Yadavendra Thirtha - 2Hanumanta Bhat1629--15-09-171182Hemmady-
5Raghavendra Thirtha - 1Narayana Bhat1646--15-02-172579Banaras-
6Devendra Thirtha----1740-Bantwal-
7Madhavendra Thirtha----01-08-1775-Walkeshwar-
8Jnaneendra Thirtha----1760-Nasik-
9Yadavendra Thirtha - 3----10-03-1773-Honnavar-
10Upendra Thirtha - 2----02-12-1791-Banaras-
11Rajendra Thirtha----30-05-1799-Thuravur-
12Sureendra Thirtha-04-01-1778--16-06-1831-Alappuzha-
13Vishnu Thirtha------Banaras-
14Vibhudendra Thirtha-21-03-1782--27-02-183452Manjeshwar-
15Sumatheendra Thirtha-29-10-179815-03-18151631-01-185152Alappuzha-
16Vasudendra ThirthaAbbaya Bhat1832--Manjeshwar16-05-1859-Manjeshwar-
17Bhuvanendra ThirthaNarasimha Kammath21-06-1837Pallipuram25-1-185112Alappuzha26-11-188649Basrur-
18Varadendra ThirthaGiri Mallya186606-06-187610Manjeshwar24-06-191448Walkeshwar-
19Sukratheendra ThirtaSreenivasa Prabhu26-03-1897Cochin16-08-191215Tiruchirapalli10-07-194952Cochin-
20Sudhindra ThirthaSadhasiva Shenoy31-03-1926Ernakulam24-05-194518MulkiPresent Mathadipathi-
21Raghavendra Thirtha - 2Shivananda Pai05-08-1972Ernakulam07-07-198917BanarasUtharadhikari-

Internal strife in Kashi Math

1834 - 1851

Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha was the fourteenth Swamiji of the Kashi Matha Samsthan.The Swamiji had initiated a vatu into sanyasa and called him Shrimad Sumateendra Tirtha on 15 March 1815. Later when the Guru Swamiji was camping in Manjeshwara in 1834, the Shishya-Swamiji was in Kochi. The Swamiji felt that his end was near and immediately sent for his Shishya Swamiji. However, due to the non-availability of suitable, rapid transport facilities, the Shishya-Swamiji could not come to Manjeshwara in time. In order to ensure the continuity of the pujas of the deities of the Kashi Matha Samsthan, the Guru-Swamiji initiated one Abbayya (perhaps Bhat), a scholarly vaidika of the retinue of the Swamiji and named him Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha and attained Maha Samadhi on 27 February 1834. His Vridavana is in the Kashi Matha premises in Manjeshwara.
Some time after the passing away of Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha Swamiji in 1834, a difference of opinion arose between his two Shishya-Swamijis. It went to such an extent that the younger Swamiji, Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha demanded the division of all the movable and immovable properties of the Kashi Matha as well as the followers of the Matha and filed a suit in the Calicut court to that effect.
The two shishyas being the official and legal heirs of the entire Kashi Matha, the court agreed with the younger Swamiji and issued the necessary decree for the division of the Matha. But before enforcing the different provisions of the decree two events happened, which prevented the changing course of the history of the Kashi Math.
  • Firstly, the elder Swamiji, Shrimad Sumateendra Tirtha, selected a minor from his followers and initiated him into sanyasa on 1849 and accepted him as shishya, who was named shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha
  • Secondly, the elder Swamiji, Shrimad Sumateendra Tirtha, attained Samadhi on 31 st January, 1851 in Shri Venkatapati Temple, Alleppy, where his Vrindavana is situated. When this happened, Shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha was still a minor.
In the meantime Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha was camping in Shri Venkataramana Temple, Kundapura. He was about to get the decree enforced, thereby dividing the Matha into two Mathas and also to select a Shishya. It was at this time that news reached the Swamiji that his co-Shishya, Shrimad Sumateendra Tirtha, attained Samadhi in Alleppey. His Shishya, being a minor, a question arose as to who would be his guardian. The minor promptly and with great foresight requested Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha to be his guardian.
Now the latter obliged. Further, he gave up the idea of division of the Kashi Matha and even went a step further. He voluntarily and with a broad mind delegated all his rights to his share of the property of the Kashi Matha sanctioned to him earlier by the court decree mentioned earlier, to his ward, the minor Swamiji. He did not proceed with his plans regarding the initiation of some one into sanyasa and accepting him as his shishya.

For reasons not fully known, serious differences between the Senior Pontiff Sudhindra Thirtha and the then Junior Pontiff Raghavendra Thirtha came to light around 2000-2001 amidst charges of the disciple’s insubordination and questions to his integrity for the role. On July 19 2000, the senior pontiff relinquished the junior of his position including all the rights, obligations and responsibilities of the Math through a formal proclamation based on an earlier communication from Raghavendra Thirtha in 1999 November requesting relief from the tutelage.  Thereafter the tussle among the pontiffs turned into a dispute over the control of the Kashi Math and the ownership of the ‘parikaras’ (relics) of the Kashi Math including about 234 pieces of jewellery and silver articles and 27 idols including the the deity of main idol Vyasa Raghupathi that were in the possession of junior pontiff. After prolonged judicial proceedings, the District Court in Tirupathi gave the verdict favouring the senior pontiff. The court upheld the status of the senior pontiff as the ‘Matadhipathi’, accepted the junior’s abdication and directed him to return all belongings of the Math and refrain from interfering in its affairs. A petition seeking a stay on the order was dismissed by the Andhra Pradesh high court. The Supreme Court of India also confirmed the same on December 2, 2009 and upheld the High Court order recognizing Senior Swamiji Sudheendra Theertha as the legitimate head of the Math.  The Supreme Court of India in 2010 rejected the Special Leave Petition of Kashi Math Junior Swamiji Raghavendra Theertha and upheld the High Court order recognizing Senior Swamiji Sudheendra Theertha as the legitimate head of the Math.   After months of evading multiple court orders including the order of Hon’ble District Court, Ernakulam dated 19.8.2011 to surrender the ‘parikaras’, the junior pontiff Raghavendra Theertha absconded with the relics and was finally arrested at Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh in October 2011.  Thereafter in November 2011, the ‘parikaras’ were handed over to Sudhindra Thirtha, the senior pontiff and head of the Kashi Math.   In 2012, the junior pontiff Raghavendra Theertha has again made an appeal in the Andhra Pradesh High Court challenging the Supreme Court Order.  

Branches/Ashrams under direct administration of Kashi Math

SL NoNameStateDistrictFounded
1Kashi Math - Varanasi
(Head Quarters)
Uttar PradeshVaranasiCochin GSBs
2Kashi Math - WalkeshwarMaharashtraWalkeshwar
Madhavendra Thirtha1937Sukratheendra Thirtha
3Kashi Math - Dahisar
(Vittal Rukumai Mandir)
4Kashi Math - Vashi
(Sri Balaji Mandir)
5Kashi Math - NasikMaharashtraNasik1994
6Kashi Math - NagpurMaharashtraNagpur
7Kashi Math - Khed
(Shende Wadi)
(Ratnagiri Dist.)
8Kashi Math - Banglore
(Parthasarathi Mandir)
9Kashi Math - Basrur
(Sri Venkataramana Temple)
(Udupi Dist.)
Keshavendra Thirtha
10Kashi Math -Hemmady
(Sri Gopinatha Temple)
(Udupi Dist.)
Keshavendra Thirtha
11Kashi Math - Karkala
(Sri Venkataramana Temple)
(Udupi Dist.)
12Kashi Math - Kota
(Sri Gopalakrishna Temple)
(Udupi Dist.)
13Kashi Math - Nayampalli
(Sri Gopalakrishna Temple)
(Udupi Dist.)
14Kashi Math - Hangarkatta
(Sri Ram Mandir)
(Udupi Dist.)
15Kashi Math - Shirva
(Sri Mahalasa Narayani Temple)
(Udupi Dist.)
16Kashi Math - Naravi
(Sri Venugopal Krishna Temple)
(Udupi Dist.)
17Kashi Math - BhatkalKarnatakaBhatkal
(U K Dist.)
Yadhavendra Thirtha - 1
18Kashi Math - BantwalKarnataka
(D K Dist.)
19Kashi Math - BantwalKarnataka
(D K Dist.)
20Kashi Math - SurathkalKarnatakaSurathkal
(D K Dist.)
21Kashi Math - Konchady
(Sri Venkataramana Temple)
(D K Dist.)
22Kashi Math - BhagamandalaKarnatakaBhagamandala
(Kondagu Dist.)
23Kashi Math - Ambalamedu
(Sri Kuladevata Mandir Complex)
1992Sudhindra Thirtha &
Raghavendra Thirtha - 2
24Kashi Math - PallipuramKeralaPallipuram
25Kashi Math - Manjeshwar
(Anantheswar Temple)
26Kashi Math - Alappuzha
(Old Tirumala Temple)
27Kashi Math - Calicut
(Sri Panduranga Mandir)
KeralaWest Hill
Raghavendra Thirtha - 2
28Kashi Math - Rameshwaram
(Sri Kodanda Rama Temple)
29Kashi Math - ChennaiTamilnaduChennai
30Kashi Math - Goa
(Bandora, Ponda)
GoaBandora, Ponda
31Kashi Math - TirumalaAndra PradeshTirumala
(Upper Tirupati)

Branches/Ashrams under direct administration of Sri Sri Vyasa Prasana Raghavendra Charitable Trust

SL NoNameStateDistrictFounded
1Kashi Math - Elamakara
Dwaraka Kala Mandhir
KeralaErnakulam(Kochi)2004Raghavendra Thirtha - 2--

Branches/Ashrams under direct administration of Sri Vedavyasa Charitable Trust

SL NoNameStateDistrictFounded
1Kashi Math - Haridwar
Uttar PradeshHaridwarSudindra Thirtha
2Kashi Math - PrayagUttar PradeshPrayag
3Kashi Math - Kalpi
(Bala Vedavyasa Mandir)
Uttar PradeshKalpi
(Jalaun Dist,)
Sudindra Thirtha



According to a custom followed in the Kashi Math , after Swamiji passes away, the mortal remains of the departed Swamiji are buried in the earth after suitably embalming the body with preservatives - salt, camphor, heaps of Tulsi leaves etc. - usually in the Math premises or in temples associated with the Math. Subsequently, a memorial structure is constructed over the site and an idol of Lord Hanuman is installed. A sacred Tulsi plant is then planted in front of the idol, the underlying principle being that the soul of the departed Swamiji reaches Lord Hari (supposed to have his divine presence near a Tulsi plant), through Mukhya Prana (Hanuman). The entire place is known as the Vrindavana or Samadhi of the Swamiji. Arrangements are made for the daily pujas in the Vrindavana and the Punya Tithi (death anniversary) of the Swamiji is duly celebrated with special pujas and prayers and Abhishekam to the Hanuman idol for his blessing to the Matha Samsthan and its followers.

Jala Samadhi

According to a custom followed in the Kashi Matha Samsthan, whenever a Swamiji attained samadhi at Kashi, a Vrindavana was not constructed as in other places. The mortal remains of the Swamiji would be placed in a box made of rock slabs and lowered into the holy river Ganga, who was born of Lord Vishnu's toe.
Among Kashi Math pontiffs Upendra Thirtha (1) Swamiji, Raghavendra Thirtha (1) Swamiji, Upendra Thirtha (2) Swamiji & Srimad Vishnu Tirtha Swamiji had attained Jala Samadhi.

Jeeva Samadhi

Jeeva Samadhi is the tomb of a Hindu Spiritual Guru or a saint. It is believed that the saint's life force still exists in the tomb and prayers are offered to it.
In this concept, by spiritual practices, life is not allowed to go out of the body. The seed cells in the body never get damaged. Such a person stops the functions of the body after completion of his or her mission by his or her own will. Gnani will fix his or her mind with the Almighty and stop functioning. The body is then buried. That body will never decay whether it is thousand or ten thousand years, because the magnetic force in the body itself acts as a life force in the body. As "unseen masters" or "invisible helpers" they guide the human race to wisdom.
It is believed that this force remains forever and the time limit for the Samadhi status depends upon the saint's bio-magnetic strength, which may vary in terms of hundreds of years. Until then, the soul in samadhi stage will continue to bless the devotees. The place around such Jeeva Samadhi has very high spiritual magnetic force. It can be sensed by the gnana aspirant. If these places are maintained properly, they become energy banks supplying the needful.
Madhavendra Thirtha Swamiji who was the seventh head of the Kashi Matha Samsthan, who founded the Kashi Matha premises in Walkeshwar, where ultimately he entered Jeevanta Samadhi. His Vrindavana is in the Matha premises in Bombay. A few stars shine in the spiritual firmament of India, the stars which have entered Samadhi while still alive. Madhavendra Thirtha Swamiji the only swamiji in the history of kashi math who had attained Jeevanta Samadhi.