Several explanations are offered for the word Karaikal. The imperial Gazetteer gives it the meaning 'fish pass'. According to Julien Vinson the town is said to have known as Karaigiri in Sanskrit. However, the name Karaikal is no doubt a combination of two words 'Karai' and 'Kal'. Both the words ‘Karai and 'Kal' have several meanings, of which the more acceptable ones are 'lime mix' and 'canal' respectively. Hence it has been suggested that the name may mean a canal built of lime mix.
This Karaikal area formed an integral part of the Pallava kingdom in the eighth century(C 731-796). Poet Sekkizhar (992-1042) describes the town as "vanga malik kadar karaikal", the 'Karaikal of many vessels on the coast' in his Peria puranam. In that the poet relates the life story of one Punithavathiar who abandoned the pleasures of material life and devoted herself entirely to a life of prayer and penance to signify her devotion to Lord Siva. He called her 'Karaikal Ammayar', conveniently after the town... Read More