Kumari Kandam (Tamil: குமரிக்கண்டம்) refers to a mythical lost continent with an ancient Tamil civilization, located south of present-day India, in the Indian Ocean. Alternative name and spellings include Kumarikkantam and Kumari Nadu.
In the 19th century, a section of the European and American scholars speculated the existence of a submerged continent called Lemuria, to explain geological and other similarities between Africa, India and Madagascar. A section of Tamil revivalists adapted this theory, connecting it to the Pandyan legends of lands lost to the ocean, as described in ancient Tamil and Sanskrit literature. According to these writers, an ancient Tamil civilization existed on Lemuria, before it was lost to the sea in a catastrophe. In the 20th century, the Tamil writers started using the name "Kumari Kandam" to describe this submerged continent. Although the Lemuria theory was later rendered obsolete by the continental drift (plate tectonics) theory, the concept remained popular among the Tamil revivalists of the 20th century. According to them, Kumari Kandam was the place where the first two Tamil literary academies (sangams) were organized during the Pandyan reign. They claimed Kumari Kandam as the cradle of civilization to prove the antiquity of Tamil language and culture.
Multiple ancient and medieval Tamil and Sanskrit works contain legendary accounts of lands in South India being lost to the ocean. The earliest explicit discussion of a katalkol ("seizure by ocean", possibly tsunami) of Pandyan land is found in a commentary on Iraiyanar Akapporul. This commentary, attributed to Nakkeerar, is dated to the later centuries of the 1st millennium CE. It mentions that the Pandyan kings, an early Tamil dynasty, established three literary academies (Sangams): the first Sangam flourished for 4,400 years in a city called Tenmaturai (South Madurai) attended by 549 poets (including Agastya) and presided over by gods like Shiva, Kubera and Murugan. The second Sangam lasted for 3,700 years in a city called Kapatapuram, attended by 59 poets (including Agastya, again). The commentary states that both the cities were "seized by the ocean", resulting in loss of all the works created during the first two Sangams. The third Sangam was established in Uttara (North) Madurai, where it is said to have lasted for 1,850 years.
Nakkeerar's commentary does not mention the size of the territory lost to the sea. The size is first mentioned in a 15th-century commentary on Silappatikaram. The commentator Adiyarkunallar mentions that the lost land extended from Pahruli river in the north to the Kumari river in the South. It was located to the south of Kanyakumari, and covered an area of 700 kavatam (a unit of unknown measurement). It was divided into 49 territories (natu), classified in the following seven categories:
Elu teñku natu ("Seven coconut lands")
Elu Maturai natu ("Seven mango lands")
Elu munpalai natu ("Seven front sandy lands")
Elu pinpalai natu ("Seven back sandy lands")
Elu kunra natu ("Seven hilly lands")
Elu kunakarai natu ("Seven coastal lands")
Elu kurumpanai natu ("Seven dwarf-palm lands")
Other medieval writers, such as Ilampuranar and Perasiriyar, also make stray references to the loss of antediluvian lands to the south of Kanyakumari, in their commentaries on ancient texts like Tolkappiyam. Another legend about the loss of Pandyan territory to the sea is found in scattered verses of Purananuru (dated between 1st century BCE and 5th century CE) and Kaliththokai (6th-7th century CE). According to this account, the Pandyan king compensated the loss of his land by seizing an equivalent amount of land from the neighboring kingdoms of Cheras and Cholas.
There are also several other ancient accounts of non-Pandyan land lost to the sea. Many Tamil Hindu shrines have legendary accounts of surviving the floods mentioned in Hindu mythology. These include the prominent temples of Kanyakumari, Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam, Madurai, Sirkazhi and Tiruvottiyur. There are also legends of temples submerged under the sea, such as the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram. The Puranas place the beginning of the most popular Hindu flood myth - the legend of Manu - in South India. The Sanskrit-language Bhagavata Purana (dated 500 BCE-1000 CE) describes its protagonist Manu (aka Satyavrata) as the Lord of Dravida (South India). The Matsya Purana (dated 250–500 CE) also begins with Manu practicing tapas on Mount Malaya of South India. Manimeghalai (dated around 6th century CE) mentions that the ancient Chola port city of Kaverippumpattinam (present-day Puhar) was destroyed by a flood. It states that this flood was sent by the Hindu deity Indra, because the king forgot to celebrate a festival dedicated to him.
None of these ancient texts or their medieval commentaries use the name "Kumari Kandam" or "Kumari Nadu" for the land purportedly lost to the sea. They do not state that the land lost by the sea.