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The States Re-organisation on linguistic basis led to the emergence of the present Kanniyakumari district in 1956 which area was part and parcel of the erstwhile Travancore-Cochin State or to be more specific, part and parcel of the then Trivandrum district till 1956. The areas referred to as Nanjilnadu and Edanadu in Tamil and Malayalam literature form the present Kanniyakumari district.

Kanniyakumari district is comprised of four taluks, viz., Agasthiswaram, Thovalai, Kalkulam and Vilavancode. The area comprising Agasthiswaram and Thovalai taluks was known as Nanjilnadu and the area comprising the remaining two taluks was known as Edanadu. Though this area formed part of the Travancore State first and the Kerala State later, it maintained its own identity in its cultural as well as social and economic status.

The present district of Kanniyakumari, except during the time of the Ayis, was not a kingdom as such. Areas or pockets of the present Kanniyakumari district were at different times under the control of several Kings and chieftains.

An attempt has been made to present the history of the district by culling out the relevant events (to the present Kanniyakumari district area) from the history of the various dynasties (i.e) the Pandyas, Cholas, Nayaks and the Venad rulers, who, at one time or another had ruled the present Kanniyakumari district area or a part of it. Sources for this chapter have been mainly collected from the Travancore State Manuals of Nagam Aiya and T.K.V. Pillai, the History of Travancore of Shangunny Menon, the ‘Sucindram Temple’, of KKPillay and the Cholas, the Pandyan Kingdom and A History of South India of K.A.N. Sastri and other relevant works of the historians on South India.

As to the origin of Nanjilnadu, there are legendary accounts in ‘Keralopatti’, a Malayalam work, and ‘Kerala-Mahatmiyam\ a Sanskrit work, which say that the present Kanniyakumari was well under the sea and that it was by the hard penance of Parasu Rama, one of the incarnations of Maha Vishnu, the sea water receded thus making the land available. This version runs contrary to the accounts found in Tamil literature which say, that the southern border of Tamilagam was still farther south and it had closed into the north subsequently due to erosion. But confirming the legends, the geologists also say that it might have been possible that the land was once under the sea water. So, these legends may as well be taken as an allegoric representation of the intrusion of the Aryans into the south.

PRE-HISTORY: Detailed researches and excavations are yet to be commissioned in Kanniyakumari district to bring to light the pre-historic civilization. However, researches and excavations done in the adjoining districts (i.e.) Tirunelveli Kattabomman, V.O. Chidambaranar and Madurai, confirm that there were pre- historic men 4000 years ago. So, the same situation might have prevailed in Kanniyakumari district also.

In 1945, the State Department of Archaeology, Travancore State, experimented an excavation at Vellimalai in Kalkulam taluk during which they came up with ancient urns used for burying the dead. Similar urns were also unearthed at Adhichanallur of Tirunelveli Kattabomman District, containing broken pieces of pottery and rusty iron pieces, called as ‘Kudus’, which means “bent-backs” They believed that in the olden days people lived upto a ripe age and as a result their backs became bent and after death their mortal remains were placed in the urns along with some of their personal belongings such as pots, grains, iron weapons and then buried. However, a section of the Archaeologists are of the view that the urns might have been used for post-cremation burial which was practised by the Megalithic folk during the 3rd century B.C. to 1st Century A.D.. In Sangam works like “Purananuru” mention has also been made about Muthu Makkal Thazhi which means the urns of the fore-fathers.

In Poromcode, near Kaliyakkavilai, a neolithic celt was discovered which may roughly be dated to 1500 to 1000 B.C. (period of neolithic civilisation in Tamil Nadu).

A hand made coarse earthern jar and other relics were found near Thoothur village in Kanniyakumari district. The shape, fabric and the decorations indicate that they are probably of the megalithic or early historic period.

From the legends and traditions existing in these regions, it has to be believed, beyond doubt, that a great city flourished in these regions during the megalithic or early historic period and that it might have been similar to the one which existed in Mohanjadaro and Harappa. Since, the relics of this period remained in the sea bed, it has to be believed that this civilisation was wiped out due to sea erosion.

Archaeology: The Archaeological features of the district are separately dealt below under the heads; Architecture, Sculpture and Inscriptions. Most of the archeological finds are similar to those discovered in the neighbouring districts of Tirunelveli Kattabomman and Madurai.

Architecture: The roots of the architectural style in the district can be traced to Dravidian Architecture. There are several ancient temples in the district where the style and carvings are marvellous. The outstanding examples are:

(1)        The temple at Sucindram, the Gopuram of which is magnificent. The consecration of the temple took place during the reign of Maran Chadayan, an early Pandya ruler (765 AD to 815 AD.) 2

(2)        The temple dedicated to Virgin Goddess Kanniyakumari Amman, at Kanniyakumari constructed during the reign of Kochchadayan, an early Pandya ruler in the 16th year (726 AD) of his reign wields a prime importance.

The ancient temples at Cholapuram, Krishnankoil, and Thiruvattar also seem to have been influenced by the Dravidian style of Architecture.

Besides, some Jain Monuments are also found at Chitaral, near Kuzhithurai in Vilavankodu taluk and the Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil. There is a small exquisite Jain temple carved out of a rock on the Thirucharanattumalai near Chitaral which has lost its Jain influence and today it has become a shrine frequented by the Hindus.

In the Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil, there is a pleasant combination of Jain Kerala and Dravidian style, of architecture. This remained as Jain temple until 1522 AD and later it was consecrated as a Hindu temple.

Sculpture: There are two schools of sculpture in the District, viz., the Jain and the Brahminical. Most of the Jain sculptures are in the form of bas-reliefs. The twenty four Thirthankaras of Jainism are seen represented by way of bas-reliefs in temples, the notable ones being the sculptures at the Bagawathi Amman Temple of Thirucharanattumalai where the Jain iconography features are very distinct.

The Brahmanical school of sculptures are rich in the Hindu temples of the district e.g. the temple at Sucindram is a fine specimen.

Inscriptions:    Many inscriptions of historical value have been discovered in the district especially in temples, which date back to the Eighth Century AD. The inscriptions are mostly in Tamil and the script employed is either the Vatteluttu or the old Tamil Alphabet.

BEGINNING OF THE HISTORY: The accounts left by the foreign travellers in India and the Sangam works throw light on the ancient history of the present Kanniyakumari district area. The Phoenicians who were some time the masters of the Mediterranean were attracted by the sandal wood and spices available in this region (i.e) Kanniyakumari district area and its surroundings. Therefore, they extensively travelled in this part of this land and they were the first among the foreigners to mention about the present Kanniyakumari district area. In the accounts of Eratosthenes 4 who visited India in about 276 B.C. Kanniyakumari is mentioned. An anonymous author in his book named “Periplus of Erythrean Sea” (81-96 AD) refers to Kanniyakumari. In this ‘Komari’ is mentioned as a harbour and the land to the South of ‘Nelcynda’ upto Komari is said to be part of the Pandyan Kingdom.5 Nelcynda has been identified with Kallada by Col. Yule and with Nindakara near Quilon by K.G. Sesha Aiyar. But according to K.K. Pillay, neither seems to be correct, because as per Periplus, Nelcynda is at a distance of 500 “stadil’ from Mouzirs, while both Kallada and Nindakara are more than 800 stadii away from Kumari. However, Kanakasabhai Pillai identifies it with Nirkundram near Minacil and which is in agreement with the opinion of K.K. Pillay.

Ptolemy was the next European visitor who had referred to this region in his book ‘Geography’ which was compiled about 140 A.D. According to him, the Kingdom of the Ayis flourished to the South of the Chera Kingdom and it extended from Nelcynda (obviously identical to Nelcynda of the Periplus) to ‘Komari’. The ‘Komari’ referred to by him was nothing but the past ‘Komaria’ mentioned by the Periplus, which was under the Pandyas. This leads us to conclude that the Ayis had conquered the territory from the Pandyas.

The period of the conquest of the Ayis is said to be between 96 A.D. and 140 A.D, but other details about them are not dealt with.

NANJIL NADU AND THE AYI DYNASTY: The earliest known rulers of this region belonged to the Ayi dynasty, whose remote ancestors are referred to as the ‘Hida Raja’ in the Asokan Rock Edicts II and XIV. The term ‘Hida’ is the variation of ‘Ida’ or ‘Idaya’ a synonym of ‘Ayar’ which takes its singlular form as ‘AYI’. Probably the region around ‘Pothiyil’ mountains was ruled by them. Thus the antiquity of the ‘Ayis’ dates back to 250 B.C. and possibly still earlier. The mention of them in the Asokan Edicts along with the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras and Sathiyaputras as independent rulers outside the Mauryan dominion, enhanced their importance.

As mentioned earlier, the Periplus of Erythrean Sea (81-96 AD) refers to the region extending from Nelcynda to Kanniyakumari being ruled by the Pandyas. Ptolemy (140 AD), a Greek Geographer says that one “Aioi” was ruling this country which comprised of Cape Comorin and Mount Bettigo (Mount Pothiyil?), which gives a clue that the Ayis were the vassals to the Pandyas during the period of Periplus and only later, they would have asserted their independence. During the period of Ptolemy Nanjil Nadu as was seen remained as buffer state between the Cheras and the Pandyas.

Ayi Andiran : He was one of the many Vei Chieftains who ruled over several parts of the Tamil country. Legends are many about the ancestry of the Vel Cheiftains. To mention one, they are said to have issued from a ’Homakundam’.6 Domain of Ayi Andiran was the area around the Pothiyil Hill which is the Southern most section of the Western Ghats.

Elusive as they are, the information available in the Sangam Works, do not help in concluding definitely about the Ayis and their rule. ‘Purananuru’ speaks of one Ayi Andiran who is also known as Vel Ayi and Mavel Ayi.

According to V.V. Swaminatha Iyer, Ayikudi, then a principal town, (now a hamlet near Shenkottai) was presumably the capital of the Ayis. But Gopinatha Rao7 disagrees with Swaminatha Iyer for the reason that in Ayikudi, no traces of either palaces or forts could be seen and so it could never have been a capital8. His argument, however, is weak since the absence of structures does not preclude one to come to the

conclusion that the place could not have been a capital. For example Puhar and Karur have no old monuments or structures, yet they are accepted as capitals taking into account of the other factors which lend conclusive proof to the issue.

Ayi Andiran was a powerful sovereign among the Ayars (Shepherd tribe). He patronised Tamil poets especially Mudamosiyar, Kuttuvan Kiranar and Odaikiiar, who have sung his praises. Another poet Karaikannanar of the same period also refers to him in “NarrinaT. Mudamosiar who has also sung about the Chola King Mudittalai-Ko-Perunarkilli and the Chera Sovereign Antuvan Cheral, serves as a link to establish the contemporaneity of Ayi Andiran with the Chola and Chera Kings of the same period9. According to com| station reckoned on tfie basis of the Gajabhahu-Senguttuvan Synchronism,  which is the ‘Sheet anchor* to the history of Tamil Nadu, there is an indication about the period of Antuvan Cheral which is about 100 to 120 AD. approximately. This leads to conclude that Andiran also ruled more or less during the same period (i.e.) AD 100 to 120. But, according to K.N. Sivarajapillai, the probable date is AD I to AD 25.11

Titlyan I The successor of Ayi Andiran could not be well established still. But in Sangam literature one Titiyan is referred to as ‘Pothiyirchelvan’ by the poet king Bhuthapandyan. However, K.N. Sivarajapillai considers Titiyan I as the successor to Ayi Andiran.1 But, the undisputable fact is that Titiyan was one of the successors of Ayi Andiran.13

In one of his poems, King Bhutha-Pandyan acknowledges the supremacy of Titiyan, as a ruler of an extensive mountain dominion.

Inspite of Titiyan’s supremacy, Bhuthapandyan, his contemporary, was able to penetrate into Titiyan’s territory and also named a village after him viz.,Bhuthapandi and which name the village still goes to be called so and also constructed a temple in this village. Perhaps, these led to an understanding between Titiyan and the Pandyan, fixing Bhuthapandy as the western limit of the Pandyan Kingdom.17 Attempts to determine the period of Bhuthapandyan and that of Titiyan, have proved futile. However, K.N. Sivaraja Pillai18 assigns the date of Titiyan between AD 25 to 50.

Atlyan : According to K.N. Sivaraja Pillai, Atiyan succeeded Titiyan who ruled between AD 50 to AD 75 19 He has ascribed this date drawing support from ‘Purananuru’ in which there is a reference to the victory of 20 Pasumpon Pandyan against one Atiyan. He further says that in Neyyattinkara Taluk there is a village named Atiyanur and so also Azhakiya Pandiyapuram in Tovala Taluk was known as Atiyanur and that these villages owe their names to Atiyan. But, K.K. Pillay disputes this view and says, “Lacking in conclusive evidence these surmises are nothing, if not venturesome. It is true that a village in Neyyatinkara Taluk, bears the name Atiyanur and that the older name of Azhakiapandiyapuram in Tovala Taluk, was Atiyanur. But these etymological data cannot lead us far, especially when neither in ‘Ahananuru’ nor anywhere else is any reference to show that Atiyan wasa ruler of Pothiyil Hills or that he belonged to the Ayi dynasty. On the other hand, Atiyan may plausibily be identified with Atiyaman of Tagadur.

Titiyan II: During the period of Atiyan, the Ayis struggled hard to become independent of the Pandyas.Titiyan – II probably had succeded.

Atiyan to the throne and was responsible for the formation of a confederacy against the Pandiya ruler Nedunchezhiyan-lll, which ultimately culminated in the famous battle of Talayalanganam. Titiyan-ll took advantage of the confedaracy to eschew the Pandya yoke, but his efforts were fruitless since Nedunchezhiyan-lll was so formidable a foe. The Talayalanganam battle appears to have sealed the fate of the once powerful Ayi Kingdom. The reign of Titiyan II according to K.N. Sivaraja Pillai was from AD 75 to AD 125 but according to K.A.N Sastri ,22 it was about AD 210.

As a result of this battle, the Pothiyil country was fragmented into petty chieftaincies like Vattaru and Nanjilnadu, which Elini Atan and one Valluvan Kandan ruled respectively. They are referred to in literature which relate to the period immediately after the battle of Talayalanganam. Ptolemy (AD 140) refers to the regions comprised of the middle and south Travancore (the present area of Kanniyakumari District) as the Aioi (Ayi) country. In all probability, the name Ayi lingered for a considerable period even after their complete wipe out from Talayalanganam. This would have perhaps prompted Ptolemy to mention the region as the Ayi Country. But, if the date of the battle assigned by K.A.N. Sastri is accepted, then Ptolemy’s account has to be construed to have been written earlier.

K.K. Pillay is of the view that there is a gap in the history of Ayis after Titiyan -1 (Pothiyir Chelvan). 23 But since they reappear in the history of the 8th century AD it is likely that during the intervening period, the Ayis had been reduced, to the position of local Chieftains by the Cheras in the North. The fact, that the Ayis of the 8th century were the rulers of Kurunadu (the area surrounding Tiruvidaikkodu), indicates that they had no place in the Pothiyil Hills.

Nanjil Porunan : The impression we gain from the songs in praise of one Nanjil Porunan, by the Sangam poets, Marudan llanaganar, Awaiyar, Oruchirai Periyanar and Karuvur Kadapillai, is that he ruled over a part of Nanjilnadu. He is described as ‘Nanjil Valluvan’ by a commentator of ‘Purananuru’, while his original name was Kandan. The term ‘Porunan’ stands for king. But as, it appears it is the family name of the Chieftain.

He was a vassal ruler and whether he owed allegiance to the Cheras or the Pandyas is a subject of controversy. Swaminatha Aiyar is of the view that he was a vassal of the Cheras, while K.K Pillay opines that his suzerain must have been the Pandya.24

On the basis of the Senguttuvan – Gajabhahu Synchronism,2 the date of Nanjil Porunan is fixed as the 3rd Century AD and more particularly the latter half. But, according to the Synchronistic Tables of K.N. Sivaraja Pillai, the period of Nanjil Porunan is between AD 150 and 175.

Information about the successor of Nanjil Porunan is not available. Atikanur, a village located at the foot of the Nanjil Hill came to be called as Azhakiapandiyapuram. As to who brought about the change in the name is a matter of controversy. According to K K. Pillay, it is not improbable that Pasumponpandiyan who conquered northern Nanjilnadu might have renamed Atikanur as Azhakiyapandiyapuram, since, “Azhakiya ” may be taken as an equivalent to Pasumpon.

NANJILNADU UNDER EARLY PANDYAS : An opinion afloat is that the term Then Pandinadu’ could only be Nanjilnadu, which was the then Tamil speaking area of South Travancore lying to the south west of Tirunelveli and to the north west of Kanniyakumari27 There are ample evidences in literature and inscriptions to show that Pandyas were always in contact with Nanjilnadu. For instance, Kanniyakumari, the holy town at the ‘Land’s End’ of India, was part of the Pandyan Empire for a long time. ‘Divakaram’ a Tamil lexicon, speaks of a Pandya King as the Lord of Kanniyakumari (<&LLrfl G&rjum ). Maduraikanchi, a literary work lends support to the view that Kanniyakumari was in possession of the Pandyas. ‘Purananuru’ mentions the Pandya ruler as the lord of the Pahruli river which had its confluence with the sea at Kanniyakumari. Besides early inscriptions also mention Nanjilnadu as part of the Pandya Empire. Vadimbalambaninra Pandyan, it is said, by his engineering skill harnessed the course of this river. The Goddess Kanniyakumari was regarded as the family deity of the Pandyas.

So, it has to be put forward that extension of the domain of the Pandyas upto Nanjilnadu could have been after Ptolemy’s visit (AD 140) to this part of our country.

It is also certain that the supremacy of the reign north of Kanniyakumari was contested by the mighty Pandyas and the Chieftains belonging to the Ayi Family, which fact the frequent wars in the area between the Pandyas and the Ayi Chieftains testify.

It is true that right from the age of Tamil Sangam, Nanjilnadu was the cockpit. The Aralvoimozhi pass was the entry point of the invading

Pandyas. Ollaiyur Bhuthapandyan was known to be the earliest Pandya ruler to invade Nanjilnadu. In Keralotpatti, a Malayalam literature, this has been mentioned. However, it is not known how far he invaded into Nanjilnadu but upto Bhoothapandi seems indisputable, as this village was named after him to mark his conquest.

NANJILNADU AND THE FIRST PANDYA EMPIRE

The First Empire of the Pandyas held a paramount position in the South from the 7th to the early part of the 10th centuries AD. The history of the First Pandya Empire was written with the help of Velvikkudi Grant of Paranthaka Nedum Sadayan, the larger and smaller Sinnamanur plates of Rajasimha, the Madras Museum plates of Jatilavarman and other inscriptions of the Pandya kings.31 The ephigraphical sources available for this period in Nanjilnadu are very little and the available few speak only of the Pandya invasions, and therefore, they are not much helpful. Though, the chronology of the first Pandya Empire is not unanimously accepted, K.A.N. Sastri presents the following Chronology:

  1. Kadungon                                                 AD 560-590
  2. Maravarman Avani Sulamani                         AD 590-620
  3. Sendan                                                             AD 620-650
  4. Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman             AD 650-700
  5. Koccadaiyan                                                 AD 700-730
  6. Maravarma Rajasimha             AD 730-765

7          Jatila Parantaka Nedum Sadayan                   AD 765-815

  1. Sri Mara Sri vallabha                                     AD 815-862
  2. Varaguna-ll                                                 AD 862-885
  3. Paranthaka Viranarayanan                         AD 860-905
  4. Maravarman Rajasimha-ll                         AD 905-920

 

Sendan: Among the kings mentioned in the Velvikkudi Grant, the earliest king to pass through Nanjilnadu to invade Kerala is the Pandya King Sendan or Jayantavarman. Since he had taken the title Vanavan’ which was the distinctive application of the Cheras, it is inferred that he had his supremacy over the Cheras. There is a temple dedicated to Sendayiswaramudaiyar connecting the name of the Pandya ruler at Talakudy near Sucindram. There is a temple near Azhakiapandiapuram known as Jayandanar Koil and a village near Sucindram called Sendanpudur which name can be correlated to the Pandya ruler.

Arlkesarl Mara var man : Arikesari Maravarman was identified with Kun or Sundarapandyan who was otherwise as per Tamil Literature, known as Ninrasir Nedumaran. He was said to have been converted by Saint Sambandar from a Jina to Saiva. He is mentioned in the Velvikkudi and larger Sinnamanur plates. He invaded Nanjilnadu and emerged victorious at Pali, Nelveli, Sennilam and Puliyur.

His invasion against the Paravas and Kurunadu turned favourable to him. Nelveli is identified with Tirunelveli by Dr. Hultzh and Venkayya. However, it may be more appropriately identified with Nelveli in Kurunadu, the stronghold of the Ayis. It is seen in the commentary of Irayanar Ahapporal that Vilinam and Kottai besides several other places, were captured by him. The significance of his conquest lies in the fact that he had annexed portions of Nanjilnadu which his predecessor could not.

Kocchadayan: Kocchadayan otherwise known as Ranadhira the son and successor of Arikesarimaravarman, was a famous warrior. The titles Vanavan, Sembiyan, Kongarkon and Cholan were the exclusive adornments of the Cheras and Cholas respectively. But since this ruler held these titles it implies his conquest over the Cheras and Cholas. Velvikkudi Grant mentions about a victory against his Ayi Vel contemporary and rival at Marudur. Many writers identifies Marudur as Tiruppudai Marudur near Ambasamudram. However, it appears not probable for this brave Pandya ruler to allow an enemy to advance into the heart of his empire (i.e.) Ambasamudram. So, it is but appropriate that this Marudur is identified with Marudattur in Kurunadu.36

Velvikkuddi plates also refer to other victories of Kocchadaiyan over Ayivel at Sengodi and at Pudankodu. But, Krishna Sastri is of the view that these two names denote only the regalia of the Ayi king and not the battle fields which view is acceptable to K.A.N. Sastri.37 But, K.K pillay says that Sengodi and Pudankodu are really two villages in Kurunadu. Though no battle is specified to have been fought on the soil of Nanjilnadu, the defeat of this Ayi ruler must have meant the triumph to the Pandyas over Nanjilnadu as well. There is also an inscription of this Pandya king dated the 16th regnal year in the temple at Kanniyakumari.

Jatilaparantaka: Jatilaparantaka, the grandson of Kocchadaiyan was also known as Maran Chadayan as seen in the Anamaiai inscriptions. He organised invasions against the Ayi Chieftain “the Ayi Vel” and the chieftains who had joined hands with him. The Velvikkudi Plates refer to his victory at Nattukkurumbu against an ‘Ayivel’ and his associates. The Madras Museum Plates specifically mention that the Pandya ruler defeated Ayivel and did him to death, destroyed Vilinam his capital (probably in 773 AD) and captured the elephants, horses, family members, treasure etc.,

During the 23rd regnal year of the Pandya, a descendent of the Ayis, one Chadayan Karunandan started a rebellion in a bid to win back the prestige of his clan but his attempt failed as he was defeated by the Pandya at Ariviyurkottai which is identified as Aruvikkarai in Kurunadu.

Jatilaparantaka still not satisfied with his conquests, set out to annex Malainadu to his empire. As is seen from the Trivandrum stone inscriptions, the Pandya did not succeed in his attempt. Probably, the Cheras who had come to the rescue of the Ayis were able to hold back the Pandyas at Karaikkottai which now goes by the name of Aralvoimozhi.

Sri Mara Srivallabha Pandya : Sri Mara Sri Vallabha succeeded Jatilaparantaka. He nurtured an aggressive policy against the Cheras and the Ayis at whose hand his predecessor Jatilaparantaka met defeat. Sri Mara Srivallabha led an expedition against the Cheras and he penetrated into the Chera country as far as Kunnur and Vilinam without any encounter in Nanjilnadu which amounts to the recognition of the Pandya supremacy by the Ayis, tacitly. 41 This is highlighted in the larger Sinnamanur plates.

The decline of the Pandyas : Varakunavarman succeeded Sri Mara Srivallabha and in turn he was succeeded, by his brother Viranarayana Chadayan (about 880 AD). The numerous inscriptions of this ruler in Kanniyakumari district speak to the fact that it was under the sway of the Pandyas, despite the feeble resistance offered by the Ayi Chieftains.

Pandya Viranarayanan was actively associated with Sucindram as is seen from the early inscriptions in the Sucindram temple. The two villages near Sucindram, Viranarayanaseri and

Veeranarayanamangalam, perhaps owe their names to this Pandya ruler. Vanavan Mahadevi, a Chera princess was his consort and this suggests his close ties with Kerala.4

Rajasimha, the illustrious donor of the large Sinnamanur plates, succeeded Vira Narayana by 900 AD. It is evident that he ruled over the Nanjilnadu for 16 years. In 920 AD, Parantaka Chola-I defeated this Pandya ruler, who took refuge in Srilanka and thus the eclipse of the supremacy could be seen.

Later Ayis: Subsequent to the Sangam age, the first reference about the Ayi ruler that we come across, is about Sadayan. 43

During the rule of the later Ayis, the Pandyas formed themselves into a formidable power on the eastern borders of Ayi kingdom. In the North, the domain of the Ayis was bordered by the kingdom of the Cheras. Tiruvattar and several other places in the south was under the Ayis. The Ayi territory therefore, formed an effective buffer state between the Pandyas and the Cheras. The decline of the Ayis made it possible for the Pandyas to launch an attack against the Cheras and the Cholas followed suit. But, the Pandyas were firm in their resolve to engulf the Ayi territory. However, their victory against the Ayis was short lived, as seen from the instances of renewal of hostility which go to show that the Ayis also stuggled much to remain independent.

Sadayan and Karunandan. Kazhukumalai inscription speaks of Sadayan and his son Karunandan as the Ayi rulers of the second half of the eighth century. They were contemporary of the Pandya ruler Jatilaparantakah (vide-accQunt under the heading “Jatilaparantaka”).

Karunandakkan: According to P.N. Kunjanpillai, Karunandakkan ascended the Ayi throne in 857 AD and his kingdom extending approximately from Tiruppappur in the North upto Nagercoil in the South 44 While Kanniyakumari, Sucindram. Kottar and Nagercoil were under the Pandyas Colachel Munchirai and Tiruvattar, formed the Ayi Kingdom. Villinan served as the capital of the Ayi Kingdom45. Some of the inscriptions of this ruler have been unearthed at Thiruvidaikkoddu. K.K. Pillay says that Thiruvidaikkodu was once the seat of the Ayis who were considered to have built the Vishnu temple at Parthivapuram at Vilavankodu Taluk. According to an inscription, Karunandakkan had acquired a place called Ulacjudivilai from the sabha of Munichirai, built a Vishnu temple there and named the place as Parthlvapuram. He also started a vedic school (Salai) and made provisions for imparting free education, free boarding and lodging for about 96 students.

Vikramaditya Varaguna (AD 885 to 925) : Another noteworthly ruler of the latter Ayis was Vikramaditya Varaguna, successor of Karunandakkan. He is the donor of the famous Palliam copper plates. His rule came to an end by AD 295 and with him the glory of the Ayis doused since after him there is no reference about the independent Ayis in History. It was during his period, the Pandya ruler Rajasimha-ll was defeated by Parantaka Chola and therefore, Nanijilnadu fell into the hands of the Cholas. His period witnessed the rising paramountcy of the Cholas.

The important characteristics of his reign was marked by his religious tolerance. A Hindu by himself his tolerance towards the other religions knew no bounds. Buddhism flourished simultaneously. The Pallipalayam copper plates have recorded his gift to the famous Buddhist temple at Thirunullapadam (Kerala). The inscriptions of this ruler found at Chitral (Vilavankodu Taluk) record his gifts to a Jain temple at Thirucharanattumalai in Kanniyakumari district is ascribed to his period.

Administration of the Ayis: As it was the order of the day, monarchy was the form of the Ayis rule. The eldest son succeeded to the throne. The Ayi Kingdom was divided into Nadus which were further sub-divided into Desams and each Nadu was put under the control of an officer designated as “Kizhavan” (Able bodied man) whose main responsilbilty was maintenance of law and order in their respective regions.

For crimes committed, the common punishment was imposition of fines, which were of gold occasionally. The fines collected were remitted into the Royal treasuries. There were Sabhas probably meant for the administration of temples and for local administration. As regards education, it was not confined to the Pandya and Chola dominions alone which was something remarkable. However, it was the Brahmin community which stood benefited mostly. Sucindram and Nanjilnadu, which flourished under the Ayis were equally famous for running such institutions (e.g.) the salai of Munchirai, the Srivallabhaperumchalai at Kanniyakumari and the celebrated Kandalur Salai.

Apart from the salais or schools, there was also scope for popular education side by side. The spacious Mandapams or halls of the temples served as class rooms where religious instructions were imparted. In the temple of Sucindram, Mahabharatha Kazhakam was said to have functioned.

THE CHOLAS

Paranthaka Chola I defeated the Pandyas. Though there are no reference about these battles at Nanjilnadu, during the 10th century AD, the inscriptions of Paranthaka I (AD 907 to 953) at Sucindram temple, however lends support to this presumption.

The rise of the Cholas was not sudden and eventless. There was the Rashtrakuta invasion which resulted in the historic battle fought at Takkolam in which the Cholas had to suffer humiliation. This state of affairs in the Chola territory was cashed in on by one Virapandya, a Pandya scion, to re-establish the Pandya supremacy in the South, and acclaim himself as “Cholan Thalaikonda Virapandya” meaning one who had taken the head of the Chola, But the identity of the Chola ruler who was beheaded remains unestablished.

His was a meteoric rise, but at the sametime his monarchy did not last long since Aditya, the son of Paranthaka Chola captured Virapandya and executed him.

Raja Raja the Great: The organised Chola invasion against Nanjilnadu took place only during the reign of Raja Raja. He began his military exploits from his 4th regnal year. He succeeded in subduing the whole of Tamil Nadu, even parts of Deccan and the neighbouring Islamic kingdoms.

A controversy still lingers on the question of the first conquest of Raja Raja whether it is Vilinam pr Madurai.

  1. K. Pillay is of the view that his first attack was against Madurai and his view bears testimony to the attack in the Tiruvalangadu Plates.

A third view that Raja Raja attacked Kandalursalai (Kerala) first and later Madurai, is supported by the Prasastis Ghptu of         Raja Raja.

The appearance of the inscriptions of Raja Raja in Kanniyakumari District which are dated two years earlier than those in Tirunelveli Kattabomman and Ramanathapuram Districts lends support to this view.

K.A.N. Sastri is of the view that it is possible that the Thiruvalangadu plates and other Prasastis of Raja Raja had mixed up facts relating to several district campaigns against the southern country.47 However, one fact emerges clearly (i.e) that Raja Raja led more than one expedition against the Pandya and his ally the Chera of which especially one seems to have been directed against Kollam. It is seen from the Tanjore inscription that this is an altogether different campaign and bears no reference to Kandalur and Vilinam battles.

The earliest inscription of Raja Raja discovered at Darsanampoke in the district relates to his 8th regnal year. This was followed by the discovery of the inscriptions in the Sucindram temple which relate to his 10th and 14th regnal years. The fact to be noted is that in the inscriptions of the 10th regnal year, Sucindram is mentioned as Nanjilnattu Tiruchivindram whereas in the inscriptions of the 14th regnal year, it has been mentioned as “Raja Raja Valanattu Tiruchivindram”. Taking note of these K.K. Pillay views, that Nanjilnadu was brought under the Chola supremacy gradually between the 10th and 14th regnal years of Raja Raja48. In the later Chola inscriptions, Nanjilnadu is mentioned as a sub-division of “Uttama Chola Valanadu” which was a district comprised in Raja Raja Pandinadu, which suggests the complete colonization of Najilnadu by the Cholas.

The celebrated Raja Raja, besides his territorial ambitions set his mind to earn the good will of the people of the lands, which he conquered; and so set about introducing welfare measures such as improving the positions of the temples and making them pivot of the social and religious life. He showered gifts on the temples, and made provisions for feeding the Brahmins. He established the Devadasi system. It was instituted with the noble intention of serving God. But, later, it lost its originality and began to be frowned upon and at last it was abolished in the present century. He encouraged recitation of devotional hymns of Devaram and Thiruvasakam in temples and popularised religious festival and ceremories. An inscription at Kanniyakumari relating to the 34th year of his reign records the erection of a shed for supplying drinking water by one Jayamkondacholan which name Raja Raja earned in the later years of his reign.

Rajaraja’s God abiding nature is regarded as a master builder of temples and the colossal Brahadiswara temple at Tanjore is an outstanding monumental proof and in Kanniyakumari District the Sucindram pagoda received touches.

Rajendra Chola: Rajendra Chola, the worthy son of Raja Raja strengthened the Chola authority in Nanjilnadu. A Siva temple at Cholapuram, 5 km. east of Sucindram built by one of the officials of Rajendra was christened as Rajendra Cholesewaram. His epigraphs have been discovered at Kanniyakumari and Therur.

Simultaneously, the Sucindram temple also received his patronage. There is also an inscription of his period here. The rechristening of Vilinam as Rajendracholapattinam bears testimony that his supremacy was acknowledged even beyond the south of Nanjilnadu.

Chola pandya Vice regal system: Rajendra was not only a warrior but also an efficient administrator. Very early in his reign, hd appointed his son Rajadhiraja as ‘Yuvaraja’ to assist him in the work of the State. Adopted in the first instance, possibly as a device to obviate disputed succession, the system of choosing a successor in the life time of the ruling king and associating him, after a formal installation, in the discharge of important public duties pointed the way under the stress of empire to a more deliberate and extensive-application of the principles to the administrative arrangements of the empire. The princes of the blood royal who had come of age were appointed to positions of authority in the different provinces of the empire, care being taken to give to each, the position suited to his capacity and talent.

In the early years of his reign, Rajendra seems to have been assisted only by one such subordinate ruler with jurisdiction over the Pandya and Kerala countries. This wise system initiated by Rajendra-I, by finding suitable occupation for the energies of restless princes of the royal family, doubtless allayed their discontent, diminished the chances of palace intrigues and revolutions and at the same time brought new strength to the administration of an evergrown empire which was called upon to face many difficult problems, domestic and foreign.

The effective retainment of the territories conquered in the South by Rajaraja is proved by the inscriptions in Pandya country. The Thiruvalangadu plates, though the statement is vague-say that Rajendra appointed his own son at Madurai as his Viceroy, with the title Chola pandya. The same inscriptions reveal that the Chola Pandyan Viceroy who was soon after placed incharge of the Kerala country as well was Jata Varma Sundara Chola Pandya to whose time belong the largest number of the Chola Pandya inscriptions so far known.

For nearly half a century, the Southern part of the Pandya Kingdom including Nanjilnadu was governed by the Chola-Pandya Viceroys, with Maduri as their headquaters.51 Inscriptions say so, about four of such viceroys.

Jatavarma Sundara Chola Pandya: The first Chola Pandya Viceroy in the South was Jatavarma Sundara Chola, the son of Rajendra. He was appointed in AD 1018 (according to some, in AD 1019). Inscriptions bearing his name are seen in Tiruvidhankodu, Cholapuram, and Sucindram. Besides, there are also inscriptions in the neighbouring district of Tirunelveli. The inscriptions at Tiruvidhankodu speak of his authority which extended upto Kurunadu.

The Sucindram inscription is particularly important as the village itself was described as Sundarachola Chathurvedhi Mangalam, obviously, named after the Viceroy himself.

The curious fact, not easy to explain, is the record of a grant at Kottar (Near Nagercoil) by an Eastern Chalukya prince, who called himself Sarvalokasraya Sri Vishnu Varthana Maharaja alias Chalukya Vijayaditya Vikkiyannan. The inscription is dated the 11th year of Sundarachola’s Viceroyalty (1029 AD). Kottar in those days was a fortress with a strong garrison of strategic importance. K.A.N. Sastri, says that it is possible that an Eastern Chalukya prince who held an important role in the army lived in Kottar for some years. However, the identity of the Prince, is yet to be established.

Jatavarman Udaiyar Sri Chola Pandya: Jattavarma Udaiyar Sri Chola Pandya was another Viceroy in the south representing the Chola Empire. He is probably identical with the prince, Gangaikonda Chola appointed as Viceroy by Vira Rajendara. There are two stone inscriptions of this ruler in Sucindram temple, of which the latest relates to his 25th regnal year which is ultimate evidence for his long period of viceroyalty.

liact dikHi of IK# riHo of the tater two Viceroys h«vt not yet boon aoftnitofy attested Howtvor, Norflnodu woo under 9o Chola Pondyo Vtowyi between toil ond 1070 AO

Kulottungo tried to give a froth impetus to tho Cholo imperialism. Mo undertook several expeditions, but ho tost Vemji in Iho north So, without wasting timo to reconquer it. ho concentrated on consottdeting his position in the south ond the west.

There ore sourcet. both epigraphic ond litemry. which furnish details about his campaign in the south For example the inscriptions at Tirukkazhukkundram describes how he defeated the “five Pandyas* seized the “pearl fisheries” and the Pothyil regions and reduced Kottar to ashes The “Vikramacholanuia” corroborates the events. The “Kalingathuparani” elaborates tike how the post Vilinam and KandaJursaiai were razed down .

He devised a method of consolidation of the conquered territories He garrisoned the strategic points of his dominion of which Kottar wot one, which he himself burnt down, during the conquest. But the garrisons functioned with a difference, (i.e.) it was set up for the coMecbon of the tribute due to him, but not to interfere in the aflairt of (he local administration Inscriptions belonging to his period are found at Cholapuram. Agasthiswaram, Sucindram Vanyur. Kanniyakumari and Kottar.

The end of Kulottunga’s reign witnessed the beginning of the disintegration of the mighty Chola Empire, due to the infringement of the Western Chalukyas in the north and the Hoysalas in the west. One Parantaka Pandya the son and successor of Maravarman Parakrama Pandya acclaimed himself as the ruler, which information we got from the inscriptions found at Kanniyakumari. In his epigraph, he has recorded the caputure of Kulam of Telinga Bhima and subjugation of South Kalinga, both identical with those subdued by Vikrama Chola, son of Kulottungal.

It is probable that as the feudatory of the Chola Empire, Parantaka Pandya helped Vikrama Chola in this expedition. The inscriptions of Parantaka Pandya State that he had defeated the Chera and Kupaka rujers and captured Vilinam and Kandalur Salai. They also speak Df his administrative reforms such as introduction of new weights and measures and his efficient administration. He gifted beautiful golden lamps to the God of Anandapuram. Above all, it is stated that he had ruled over all the quarters of the globe. But K.K Pillay says that the “Wild exaggeration” vitiates the reliability as well as the credibility of the inscription and perhaps he undertook only a march from Kanniyakumari towards Trivandrum and won triumphs at Villinam and Kandalur salai.

VENAD KINGS

Kulottungas reign in Nanjilnadu witnessed the reemergence of the Venad power over a sizeable portion of Nanjilnadu, due to the feeble Chola authority in the south. So far the identity of the Venad king who had accomplished this task has not been satisfactorily established. However, K. K. pillay says that it is not unlikely that the Venad ruler who had completed the task was Vira Kerala Verma 61. Many legends afloat refer to the establishment of Venad Supremacy in the first quarter of 12th Century AD.

It is said that there is an inscription engraved on tne granite base of the Pandyan Anai (dam) of the Paralai, which records this achievement. That epigraph is said to state that in AD 1116, a Kupaka King conquered Kottar and the whole of Nanjilnadu from the Pandyan King Rajasimha. A popular ballad current in Nanjilnadu corroborates this event.

According to Nagam Aiya64 the Manuscript records in Padmanabhaswamy temple adverts to this incident, although the date of the event entered therein is 282 M.E., which probably is a mistake for 292 ME (AD 1116)65.

But, when we consider all these things, many doubts remain uncleared. The identities of the Kupaka ruler and the Pandya King mentioned in the Padmanabhapuram temple records and the ballad are not traceable. T.K. Velu Pillai says that Venad Kings are often described as belonging to the Kupaka dynasty. If it is true, says K.K. Pillay., it may tentatively be accepted that in the war between the Venad rulers and the Pandyas, Vira Kerala was the victor. But, the difficulty is in identifying the Pandya king (Rajasimha), since there is no source to back up this argument. It also should be mentioned that Parantaka Pandya who ruled about this time (i.e.) AD 1120 claimed to have conquered the Kupakas. Having regard to all these arguments, the stand to be taken remains inconclusive.

Nanjil Kuravan Episode. Another controversial issue in the history of Kanniyakumari District is that of Nanjil Kuravan. Shangoonny Menon writes that during the half a century of the Muslim rule over the Pandya Kingdom, one Nanjil Kuravan, a feudatory chief under Travancore, obtained possession of Nanjilnadu and became its ruler. He adds that Nanjilkuravan and his men were driven away by the king of Travancore during the Kollam Era 290 (AD 1117).

Nagam Aiya while agreeing with the above further eloborates the episode of Nanjilkuravan.68 His account on the episode goes further by recounting a legend narrated to him by one Sivan Pillay of Padmanabhapuram, which describes, how one Konanki Kuravan, the founder of the dynasty was an alchemist, how he established his position in Kottar, Sucindram and other places and how his successors helped away over these regions for centuries after him. With regard to the expulsion of the last member of the Kurava chief more than one view is prevalent.

Shangoonny Menon says that the last Kurava Chief was expelled by the Travancore Sovereign in 292 ME, which according to Nagam Aiya is not so. He says that it was the Mudaliar Steward of the last Kurava Chief who usurped the kuravas.

But K.K. Pillay,69 argues that Mackenzie, while drawing conclusions has relied upon the legendary account of one Annavi of Kottar and that from all these, one cannot stop wondering about the legend mongers ingenuity.

The possibility that the story was originally floated by some member of the “Periya Veetu Mudaliyar” family, cannot be altogether ruled out. Having migrated beyond the ghats at an early date, the ancestor of the family attained an eminent position and ultimately became the leader of Nanjilnadu. A later member of the family might have tried to invent a mythical association for his ancestors with an imaginary ruler (i.e.) Nanjil Kuravan. This view is supported by an evidence in the Mudaliyar manuscripts No. 63 of 10th Ani of 1004 M.E. 70.

The myth of Nanjilkuravan developed out of the accounts given in Tamil literature on Nanjil Porunan and Nanjilvalluvan is equivocal. The fact that Porunan had his seat of power near Azhahiyapandiapuram provides evidence that Porunan may be related to Nanjilkuravan. Here it is pertinent to observe4hat the name of Kurattiyarai, a village near Azhahiyapandiapuram, is associated with the mythological perversion to the village referred to as Kusathiyarai. This is referred to in a palm leaf document belonging to AD 1476.

j The narrations of the Nanjilkuravan episode by Shangoonny Menon as well as Nagam Aiya are anachronistic. It is stated that it was during the period when the Mohammedans ruled the Pandya Kingdom, Nanjilkuravan carved out his kingdom. But to speak of any Muslim invasion against South India, it could not be earlier than AD 1310 and hence, Jthe assumption seems baseless. Hence, once again according to K.K.Pillay, the authenticity of the Nanjilkuravan episode is extremely doubtful.

VENAD SUPREMACY

During the first quarter of the 12th century AD, certain pockets in Kanniyakumari district was brought under the fold of Venad Kings. Vira Kerala Varma, who ruled over Venad till about 1140 AD., is said to have defeated Nanjilkuravan, 1 whether the Nanjilkuravan episode is historical or not, it cannot be denied that Venad ruled supreme over portions of Nanjilnadu in the first quarter of the 12th century AD. “The Cholapuram inscription of Kollam Era 302 (AD 1127) which registers the assignment by the Venad king, of certain revenues arising from the devadana lands at Vadaseri to Rajendra Choleswaranudaya Mahadeva temple at Kottar 2 lends credibility to this fact.

As regards this inscription, Prof.P.Sundaram Pillai writes, ‘The circumstances under which Sri Vira Kerala of Venad was prompted to dedicate so piously a portion of his revenue to a temple founded by a foreign monarch are, of course, now, difficult to determine, but if I am at liberty to venture a hypothesis, I suspect the grant was meant, in all probability as a political peace offering to the representatives of the Chola Power in the land.” 73 But Sundaram Pillai’s far fetched’ interpretation, according to K.K. Pillai seems to overrate the real position of the Cholas at the time.

Further, an inscription of 301 M.E. (AD 1126) at Sucindram, though silent about the then ruling sovereign or his regnal year, furnishes for the first time the date in terms of the Kollam Era which leads to presume the dominance of the Venad ruler over the area. Moreover, Sucindram is described in the inscription as Vira Kerala Chathurvedhimangalam. Perhaps the author refers to the surname Vira Kerala of the 12th century.

A Vira Kerala’s inscription of 319 M.E. (A.D. 1144) discovered in Tiruvallam is an added proof about the continuance of his rule. There is also an epigraph in Sucindram which speaks of a Pandya king Maravarman Srivallabha, of the same period. Discovery of certain inscriptions- at Puravaseri and Kallidaikurichi reveal that they are of Maravarma Srivallabha. But, their exact dates are yet to be established. However, on Palaeographic grounds and on the basis of the pattern of the introduction adopted in his inscriptions, the king’s rule may be ascribed to the 12th century AD.75 Nagam Aiya is of the view76 that Maravarman Srivallabha ruled over Tirunelveli as well as North Travancore, identifying these places mentioned in the inscriptions as Kil-Vempanadu as well as the Mel Vempanadu. What made him to arrive at this conclusion was, that Tirunelveli was known as Kil-Vempanadu. But K.K. Pillay ’says that Nagam Aiya’s view was unsustainable, since North Travancore was not known as Mel-Vempanadu. He agrees that Tirunelveli was Kil-Vempanadu and to him Mel-Vempanadu was the place just west of Kil-Vempanadu, but not North Travancore.

Because it is seen in another South Indian inscription, that a place. Kodalur, immediately to the west of Tirunelveli is spoken of, as a part of Melvempanadu. (Melvempanattu Kodalurana Kulasekara Chaturvedimangalam). So, Kodalur is none other than Kodakanallur, west of Tirunelveli. Accordingly, K.K. Pillay says that the available data do not warrant the conclusion, that Srivallabha had supremacy over Venad or Najilnadu.

Koda Kerala Varma (AD 1140 to 1155): The first inscription of Koda Kerala Varma was dated back to 320 M.E. (AD 1145). Hence, the rule of Vira Kerala Varma might have terminated before 320 M.E. Another inscription of this ruler relating to the first year of his reign which was found in Sucindram indicates that his sway extended over South Nanjilnadu. He was one among the earliest patrons of the Sucindram temple and he bestowed extensive lands on the temple.

Sri Vlra Ravi Varma (AD 1151-1164) : Sri Vira Ravi Varma, succeeded Koda Kerala Varma. His authority extended upto the eastern part of Nanjilnadu, as is seen from the inscription of 336 M.E. (AD 1161) which speaks of his gifts of lands in Talakudy to the Puravaseri temple.

It also speaks about the administration of Nanjilnadu by a triumvirate of royal officers. The village organisation speaks of the rights of the people of Talakudy, to execute and ratify the royal grants and also the local administration.

According to K.A.N. Sastri, Vira Ravi Varma was not an independent ruler of Venad, but was a feudatory of the Pandya ruler, Maravarman Sri Vallabha. The discovery of Srivallabha’s inscription in Nanjilnadu probably prompted these historians to view as above. The available data regarding the supremacy of Sri Vallabha over Venad or Nanjilnadu are very slender to conclude as above, since the grants of lands referred to, do not lie in Venad, but in the Pandyan Kingdom. Moreover, the dates of these inscriptions have not been well established. But, as per Palaeographic calculations these inscriptions may be of the 12th Century AD, which all the more makes the regnal period of Sri Vallabha doubtful. Moreover, it is accepted by the historians that Srivallabha was the Pandya contemporary of Udaya Marthanda Varma, as is evidenced from the fact that he married Tirubhuvana Devi the daughter of Udaya Marthanda Varma. There are also evidences that Nanjilnadu continued to be under the domain of Venad Kings.

Udaya Marthanda Varma: The next Venad ruler connected with the history of the present Kanniyakumari district area was Udaya Marthanda Varma of the 4th Century M.E. or 12th Century AD. The date of his accession however is still a matter of dispute among the scholars. According to Nagam Aiya, his accession was in 348 Kollam Era. (AD 1173). His authority is based on Prof. P. Sundaram Pillay’s account on the Tiruvattar inscriptions of Marthandavarma. But, according to K.K. Pillay, the Tiruvattar inscriptions is illegible and hence the date of his accession is doubtful. Sundaram Pillay says that the date of accession (i.e) 348 M.E. which is countered by Gopinatha Rao,79 according to whom, it was 398

M.E. But the present view is in agreement to Sundaram Pillay’s reading, since the discovery of an inscription of Aditya Varma, belonging to 368 M.E. lends support to it. The successor of Udaya Marthanda Varma is said to have actively associated with the construction of the Arthamandapa of the temple at Sucindram.

The 13th and 14th centuries witnessed the rise of notable monarchs in succession. A peculiar feature which incidentally, presents serious difficulties to historians is the system of co-partnership or the practice of junior members of the royal family being associated with the ruling sovereigns. Nagam Aiya says, ‘Two or more kings of the same dynasty are mentioned as ruling at one and the same time. It may be that both were independent chiefs over small tracts, or it may be that the senior associated with the junior in Governmental affairs”. This makes history at this juncture distressingly complex.

At the beginning of the 14th century AD, Ravivarman Kulasekaran who ruled from Quilon had established himself as a great conqueror of the Coromandal coast. It is therefore likely that he marched to the other side of the ghat through the Aralvoimozhi pass, but whether he had any specific contact with Kanniyakumari or not is not known.

Parakrama Pandya : The hold of the Venad rulers over Nanjilnadu is certain. But, Nagam Aiya has put forth a theory that Parakrama Pandya of the Second Pandya Empire reigned from AD 1357 had captured Nanjilnadu and brought it under his rule. This hint would have been taken from the inscriptions of Parakrama Pandya at Sucindram and Cholapuram.

But, Gopinatha Rao does not approve of the contemporaneity of the inscription and the period of Parakrama Pandya (AD 1372 to 1385). He says that the inscriptions must belong to a later date (i.e.) the 15th century.

About this, KK.Pillay says that the Cholapuram inscription of Parakrama is silent about the political supremacy of the Pandyas and moreover the epigraph is not even dated. He further states that the benefactions to the temples of a neighbouring country by a ruler was regarded above dynastic disputes and belligerent enterprises. Therefore the mere discovery of the inscription of Parakrama, in this context the Cholapuram inscription, is not an evidence enough to conclude that Parakrama ruled supreme over this part of Tamilnadu.

Nagam Aiya further says that Parakrama ruled Nanjilnadu from AD 1372 to 1385 and Vira Ravi Varma a Venad ruler recovered Nanjilnadu from the Pandya. K.K Pillay says that neither the first conquest nor the re-conquest is definitely proved. True, the Chronicle of the Padmanabhaswamy temple mentions that Ravi Varma made certain gifts to the temple in 592 M.E. (AD 1416) as atonement for the havoc caused in the war at Karuvelankulam. But this war was probably an aggressive exploit on the part of the Venad ruler. With the enfeebled position of the Pandyas, instead of Nanjilnadu, the region of the east of Aralvoimozhi happened to be the centre of interest. But, the fact remains that for several succeeding centuries Venad kings held sway over Valliyur and Nanguneri.

In the later part of the 14th century also there were mentions about the patronage received by the temples in Nanjilnadu from the Pandyas. The inscriptions of Maravarman Vira pandya and Ari Kesari Parakrama are available in Sucindram temple. Though they relate to their respective regnal years, yet there are no positive proofs of their political supremacy over the region.

MEDIEVAL HISTORY

Ravi Varma Kulasekara (1299 -1313 AD) : The medieval history of Venad may be said to have commenced with the reign of Ravi Varma Kulasekara. He married the daughter of his Pandya contemporary, Maravarman Kulasekaran and ruled as a feudatory to him till 1310 A.D., in  which year the Pandya king died and after that he became independent

He was a great conqueror. He was called ’Sangramathira’, which would mean firm in battle. He raised the position of Venad as a powerful military state, by his conquests.

Ravi Varma Kulasekara was succeeded by Vira Udaya Marthanda Varma. There are differences of opinion among the historians in the identification and determination* of the period of this ruler. However,

  1. Sreedhara Menon, the Editor of Trivandrum District Gazetteer says that perhaps ‘Udhaya Marthanda Varma ruled from 1313 to 1350 AD. His opinion is based on the records of Padmanabhaswami temple.

He was succeeded by Ravi Varma. The period between AD 1350 and 1384 was an epoch of radiant glory in the history of the Venad Royal House.

It was the period of the sway of the two illustrious brothers, Ravi Varman and Aditya Varman. It was during their rule, the southern part of their kingdom (present Kanniyakumari District) witnessed the frequent Muslim invasions. The rulers established a strong and well-equipped army in the south to combat the invasion of the Muslims. New palaces were constructed at Kottar (located in the present Nagercoil) and Amaravathi by the rulers. Ravi Varman is the author of the historic Thiruvithankodu inscription which registers a gift of land for feeding twelve Brahmins in the Thiruvithankodu temple during the Vaisakam annual festival. Ravi Varman was also a patron of arts and letters.

After Ravi Varman passed away, his brother as well as co-ruler Aditya Varman became the sole ruler of Venad in AD 1376. He himself was a scholar and poet. He also patronised arts and letters. He was figured in many Malayalam literature as a famous war hero. Even when he was Trippaur Mooppan, he earned a high reputation, as a military hero, by defeating the Muslim raiders, who frequently harassed the frontiers of Venad. It has been mentioned in an inscription at Krishnan Koil, Vadaseri, (Nagercoil) which suggests that the ’Krishnan Koil’ was built by the king. This inscription enumerated the intellectual attainment of the king, as a well-versed grammarian and also proficient in science. He is also described as capable of handling  kinds of weapons.

Chera Udaya Marthanda Varma (AD 1383 – 1444) : Shankunny Menon states that the rule of Chera Udaya Marthanda Varma from AD 1383 to 1444 (ME 558 – 619) was the largest in Travancore history. This, T.K.Velu Pillai confirms on the basis of the temple records and goes further to say that Vira Ravivarma who is spoken of during this period, was only a junior prince. The domain of Chera Udaya Marthanda Varma extended over the territories, which lie on both sides of the Ghats and there was no other ruler of Malabar who, during the said period, had much more extensive possession.85

This ruler himself had associated with the Sucindram temple in Kanniyakumari District, and it was he who designed the sabha Mandapa of the temple. The temple inscriptions speak to the benefaction which has earned him, the name “Keralalakshmapatindra” (The great emperor of Kerala).

Among the successors of Chera Udaya Marthanda Varma were Aditya Varma, his younger brother, Rama Varma another member of the family, who were all ruling co-partners in the later half of the 15th century. They continued certain embellishments of the Sucindram pagoda. Thus, their own inscriptions speak of 86‘

During the last quarter of the 15th Century Jayasimha Deva II (who ruled about AD 1486) and his successor Sakalakala Marthandavarma (ruled about 1495 AD) figure in the history of the present Kanniyakumari district. It is said that Jayasimha Deva II, had once freed the weavers of Talakudy from the local oppression. His celebrated pillar inscription of Parasurama Perumteru in Kottar reveals that the king toured Vadasery and gave a patient hearing to the representations of the migrant residents. Their source of living was dyeing cloth, their grievance was that, they were subjected to various hardships by the people of the higher castes like Brahmins and Pillamars 87 To put an end to this, he promulgated an ordinance by which such oppression preventing them from using water from public wells and tanks was punishable severely.

Sakalakala Marthanda Varma: Sakalakala Marthanda Varma ruled about AD 1495. He constructed a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesa at Marugur, a Village near Sucindram. His approach towards settlement of social disputes was much the same as that of his predecessors and he went a step forward and promulgated “certain Rules regulating the conduct of the ‘Right and Left’ hand castes towards each other”

Bhoothala Sri Vira Udaya Marthanda: Inscriptional evidences are there to show that the next Venad Sovereign who played a prominent role in Kanniyakumari district was Boothala Sri Vira Udaya Marthanda. His administration of the country in AD 1495 (670ME) was notable even though he ascended the throne only in 691 ME (AD 1516). He made large conquests and advanced in the north-east as far as Tirunelveli. In commemoration of his victory, he assumed the title, Mankonda Bhoothala Vira. The inscriptions at Brahmadesam, Seramadevi, Ambasamudram and Kalakadu bear testimony to his victories. He patronised the temples in the district. He gifted some lands in Talakudi to the Sucindram temple. It is said that it is he who was responsible for the installation of the idol of Udaya Marthanda Vinayagar at the entrance of the Sucindram temple. Jayantiswara temple at Talakudi and Krishnaswamy temple at Thovalai also received his patronage. His religious tolerance can be well understood by the fact that he made liberal gifts by way of lands to the Jain temple at Nagercoil. He helped the paravas at Kumari Muttam who were Christians by releasing them from the stronghold of the local Hindus and relieving them of the offensive taxes levied upon them.

Therefore, the image of Udayamarthanda Varma as a brilliant soldier, and a fine administrator is very well reflected in the history of Nanjilnadu.89

NANJILNADU AND VIJAYANAGAR

The historians generally view that the Venad ruler was subjected to accept the suzerainty of Vijayanagar. But T.K. Velu Pillai, the author of the revised State Manual of Travancore has viewed otherwise which is rather a futile controversy over the issue; hence, the necessity arises to delve deep in the matter. The first Venad invasion took place in AD 1532 during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya, for the reason that the Pandya ruler who had accepted the overlordship of the Vijayanagar kingdom was harassed by his neighbour, the Venad ruler. It is therefore, natural that the Vijayanagar ruler came to the rescue of the Pandya ruler. There was also another score for the Vijayanagar ruler to settle with the Venad ruler for having harboured a Chola ruler, who broke his allegiance to Krishna Deva Raya. These two causes were enough for the Vijayanagar ruler to launch an offensive attack against Venad, which, he unfortunately, did not live to see. His successor Achutha Raya pursued the invasion and the troops reached Srirangam. He commissioned his brother-in- law Salaka Timma to lead the troops in the battle against Venad, which took place on the banks of the river Tamaraparani, in which he defeated his enemies and reinstated the Pandya ruler.

The “Achutharaya Bhyudayam”, a literary work and an inscription of Achutharaya in Kanchipuram speak to the victory of the Vijayanagar in the battle and a victory pillar installed by Achutharaya in commemoration of his victory. It is also seen that the Venad ruler not only surrendered, but also came up with presents like elephants, horses and valuables to be showered on the conquerer. However, the Vijayanagar general took the

Venad ruler to Srirangam, where the Vijayanagara ruler stayed and got him punished tor his commissions and omissions, against the Pandyas.

This literary and epigraphic account has been contradicted by T.K. Velupillai who contends that the “Achutaraya Bhyudayam” is a panegyric work and hence, it cannot be relied upon. Regarding the epigraphical evidence, he is of the view that it is not in Travancore but in a far away place (i.e.) Kanchipuram, and hence is unreliable. K.K. Pillay is not in agreement with this view, as is seen below.

“It seems far-fetched to suggest as is done by T.K. Velupillai, that with a view to white-washing the defeat sustained by Vijayanagar, the ‘Achutaraya Bhyudayam’ has invented the story of Salaka Timma’s pilgrimage to Trivandrum, accompanied by the Tiruvadi. Veluppillai makes capital out of the circumstances that the ‘Achutarayabhyudayam’ makes no mention of Padmanabhapuram, which is an important place on the way frqm Tamaraparani to Trivandrum. Clearly this piece of negative testimony cannot be exploited for the purpose of discrediting the entire reference to the pilgrimage as a figment of the poets imagination”.

‘The most important objection to T.K.V. Pillai’s view is provided by epigraphic testimony. His argument based on the provenance of the inscription, is hardly convincing. The Emperor was not present at the battle of Tamaraparani, and the General could not have recorded his victory at Tirunelveli. It is true that, so late as AD 1541, a Travancore king instituted a Nandhi in the temple of Pallikkai (Tirunelveli District) and renamed the temple after himself. But, that does not, by any means, disprove the triumph of Vijayanagar”.

“On the other hand, the positive data furnished by epigraphs cannot be brushed aside. The coper plate of the reign of Muthu Krishnappa corroborates the defeat of Tiruvadi. The plate records a gift of the village of Puliurkurchi in Tiruvadidesam by the son of Annan Basavanu Nayakar, who was an Officer of Rajathiraja Vithalaraja. The plate is dated Saka 1459 and Kollam 713 which correspond to the year AD 1537. How could this have occured, if the supremacy of Vijayanagar had not been recognised by the Tiruvadi? Moreover, the inscription at Elavanasur of Saka 1453 (AD 1532) includes, among the birudas of Achutha, the title of ‘Tiruvadi Saptangaharana” viz., he, who captured the seven emblems of Tiruvadi’s royalty. In the face of the overwhelming testimony, the triumph of Vijayanagar in the conflict of AD 1532 by no means open to doubt.

The Second Invasion of Vijayanagar and Virakerala Varma: Unni Kerala Varma, otherwise known as Bhuthala Vira Sri Kerala, succeeded to the Venad throne in AD 1535, due to the death of Udhayamarthanda Varma. This period witnessed the second invasion of the Vijayanagar, which was because of the repeated incursions of the Venad King into the territory of the Pandyas, who were the vassals to the Vijayanagar rulers and simultaneously to secure allegiance of the Paravas in the West Coast. The invasion was significant because of the scene of conflicts existed within the present Kanniyakumari District. The Paravas, who were being proselytized to Christianity by the Portugese, were loyal to them. Though these were the causes for invasion, the immediate cause was said to be the default of the Venad ruler to pay tribute to the Vijayanagar ruler.

The expedition was finally led by Ramaraya Vithala, the Vijayanagar Viceroy at Madurai and his brother, Chinna Timma. The invaders passed through the Aralvoimozhi pass and met the Venad forces at Kottar.

With regard to the result of this battle, there is an often repeated account that one Bishop Xavier is said to have entered into the scene of the battle holding a cross in his hands. This struck terror in the minds dt the invaders. But, it must be observed that none of the sources speaks of a pitched battle and very much less of a victory for the Venad ruler. However, it is said that Bishop Xavier could have interceded on behalf of Unnikerala and succeeded in bringing out a rapproach between the Vijayanagar rulers and the Venad Kings.

But this rapproachment angle, T.K. Velu Pillay refutes because according to him, the Vijayanagar army met an ignominious defeat at the hands of the Venad ruler at Kottar for a second time in AD 1544. But, not even a slender evidence is seen in support of his view. However he seems to draw support for his writing from two of the inscriptions at Sucindram. But, even then after a deep study of these inscriptions, one finds it difficult to uphold the view of Velu Pillay. The first inscription dated 720 ME, reveals that Vithala built the Gopura of the temples for Tiruvenkatanatha and erected the Dvajasthamba in front of the Perumal shrine. The second epigraph of 722 ME., registers a gift of lands settled by Venrumankonda Bhuthala Vira Ravi Varma for offerings to Tiruvenkata Emperuman on the birth days of Vithala.

K.K. Pillay further says that the author of the Travancore State Manual hastens to explain that the endowment of Travancore King was instituted as a token of gratitude for Vithala for having constructed the Gopura. This seems more ingenious than convincing. For one thing, if Vithala and his army had been defeated and “driven away” as has been claimed, it is incongruous to hold that he came to Sucindram and undertook the stupendous task of constructing the Gopuram. Moreover, an endowment by a monarch for his triumph against a foe would reverse the natural order of expectations. But, it must be observed that the invasion was a trial of strength between the Vijayanagar rule and the Thiruvadis and to establish his overwhelming power to the Thiruvadis, and reinstate the Pandya in his territory for whose cause, he always championed. In fine, it can be said that beyond doubt, the Venad rulers were subordinate to the Vijayanagar Kings. This epigraph is corroborated by literary sources like the “Ramarajyam” and the “Yadhavabhydya Vykya”, which have sung of the Vitala’s victory over Venad.

About the final position of the Venad rulers, K.K. Pillay writes, “in truth, it appears that the Venad King concluded a peace with Vithala through the mediation of Xavier, recognising the supremacy of Vijayanagar. The exact terms of peace are not known. There are no means of ascertaining the question whether or not, the annual payment of tribute was imposed as a condition. Perhaps, it was imposed if we are to believe the grounds put forward by the Nayaka of Madurai for their own invasion of the land”. The author95 of the Trivandrum District Gazetteer falls in line with K.K. Pillay.

The last Vijayanagar Expedition : The Vijayanagar army under Vithala attacked Travancore in AD 1558 for the third time probably for the remission in the payment of tribute by the Thiruvadi. However, this attack proved otherwise for Vithala about which Fr. Perez,the Portuguese Missionary, emissary of the Travancore King to Vithala in his account, has stated that the army fought further carrying a banner given by him and the war cry was in the name of Jesus and that this instilled fear in the minds of the opponents and led to his defeat and that he had not been heard of, since then, perhaps during this battle, he must have met with his end or during the turmoil that followed. This battle, it is needless to say, was brought to an end. Thus, Travancore became independent of Vijayanagar.

Nanjilnadu and Nayaks of Madurai: The 17th Century witnessed a period of trial and tribulations to the people of Nanjilnadu. It once again became the cockpit of Venad. The invasions of the Nayaks brought greater sufferings to the masses. Pillage and plunder invariably followed the attacks.

The Nayaka chiefs everywhere in the country gradually began to assume independence after AD 1542, (ie.) at the end of Achutha Raya’s rule. Their allegiance to the Central Government became formal.

Viswanatha Nayaka, the founder of the Madurai Nayakdom, subjected the Pandya’s in AD 1553 and reduced him to the rank of an insignificant vassal, for a small area, comprising of Tirunelveli and its suburbs. The subjugation of the Pandyas was the prelude to intrude into Nanjilnadu by the Nayak. Kanniyakumari was captured by the Nayaks in or about AD 1609, as is clear from the letter dated 20th November 1609 of Fr. A. Laerzies, which describes the Paravas of Kumari as tributaries of Madurai Nayak. 98

Thirumalai Nayak: Madurai Nayakdom gained a fresh impetus under the leadership of Thirumalai Nayak, who spared no efforts to conquer and consolidate the territory. His contemporary in Venad was Ravi Varma (AD 1611 – 63) during whose period Padmanabhapuram became the Capital of the Venad rulers. 99

The Nanjilnadu Invasion of Tlrumalal Nayak : Thirumalai Nayak organised an invasion against Nanjilnadu in AD 1634. The cause which led to this invasion is not clearly known. K.K. Pillay says that it was an act of wanton aggression on the part of Thirumalai Nayak. The pretext of the invasion was said to be the refusal of the Venad ruler to pay tributes to the Nayaks, the heirs of Vijayanagar Empire, who were authorised to collect tributes from Travancore.

Besides semi-historical works of the period, the ‘Mudaliyar Manuscripts’ recovered from the heir of the ’Periyavittu Mudaliyar’ of Azhakiyapandiyapuram throw a flood of light on the Thirumalai Nayak’s invasion and the consequent suffering of the people.100

“Ramappaiyan Ammanai”, a ballad, however gives an altogether different version about the Thirumalai’s invasion. It records not merely a conquest of the ‘Malayalam Country’. But also says that the ruler of Madurai not only conquered Malayalam Country but also made the Raja of Nanjilnadu as his vassal and assigned him the duty to guard the forts of Madurai. It also says that the king of Nanjilnadu co-operated with Thirumali Nayak in his war against the Sethupathi. About these to quote K.K. Pillay10 “that exaggeration or adulation may take the shape of an over estimation of the tributes or the grandeur of the victory but not of the fabrication that the Raja fought as a vassal of Thirumalai Nayak against the Sethupathi. The Nanjilnadu Raja mentioned in this Ammanai was none other than the then Venad ruler”.

Iravikkutti Pillai Pattu, a ballad of South Travancore, centres around the hero Iravikkutti Pillai, a General who fought valiantly against the Madurai force at Kanniyakulam and embraced death in the battle between the Thirumalai and Venad rulers.

Following Thirumalai’s invasion there had been incessant Nayak incursions into Nanjilnadu about which details are furnished in the inscriptions, and the Mudaliyar Manuscripts. The Vadasery inscription of 873 ME speaks of the frequent raids and the devastation by the Nayaks from 852 to 871 ME (AD 1677 to 1696) which made the people of Nanjilnadu, helpless. Damages to property and cultivation were immense 102 The people were in jeopardy and life insecure.

Ravi Varman who ruled Venad between 1684 and AD 1718 did practically everything to alleviate the sufferings of the people, which the Vadasery inscription registers. The Palm leaf record of 898 ME speaks of the King’s (Ravi Varma) attachment to the people, such as granting relief to the cultivators of the temple lands.

The next to come up to the throne was Unni Kerala Varma in 1788 A.D. He was very much similar to his predecessor. He was very close to his subjects. He took stern steps to expel the plunderers who beseeched the people and created a confident climate for the people to return to their soil and restore cultivation.

Invasion of Rani Mangammal: In the year AD 1697, Mangammal, the queen regent at Madurai, invaded Nanjilnadu. The cause and course of the invasion are referred to in Nelsons’ ‘Madurai Manual’ and Taylor’s Manuscript collections.

Accordingly, Ravivarman, the then ruler of Nanjilnadu, had to subdue the turbulent feudal lords, the Ettuvittil Pillamars for whose task, he sought the help of the ‘Badagas’.103 The ’Badagas’ extended their help and the task was successfully accomplished. But, Ravivarman, in a sudden move, overran the ‘Badagas’ and put them to death. It is said that Mangammal in order to punish Ravivarman for his atrocities against the ‘Badagas’, directed an invasion under Dalaway Narasappaiya against Ravivarman, which proved victorious to Mangammal and peace truce was negotiated. But, the view of T.K. Velu Pillai is quite contrary.

He denies the very fact of invasion by Narasappaiya. His main argument is as follows. Taylors104 in his accounts had mentioned many trophies which were taken away by Narasappaiya from the defeated king, which included some ordinances. They were preserved in the forts of Madurai and Tiruchirappalli. But, Nelson, in his Madura District Manual, says that he couldnot find these ordinances there, even after a through search. On the basis of Nelson’s statement, T.K. Velu Pillai does not agree the victory of Narasappaiya.

But, it should be noted that Nelson visited the forts about 1868 AD., more than 150 years after Narasappaiya’s expedition.

But K K. Pillay denies the view of T.K. Velu Pillai and says that we have no authentic or detailed record as to what had happened in these forts during this long period. He also points out the inscription engraved on a stone near a well in Vadasery (Nagercoil), which bears the name of Mangammal. The well also is locally called as “Mangammal Dharma Kinaru”. Hence, to him, T.K. Velu Pillai’s reasons to disbelieve Narasappaiya’s conquest were alleged ones and do not appear to be convincing.

THE MODERN PERIOD

Bala Marthanda Varma (AD 1729 -1758): The Modern History of the Kanniyakumari district begins with the rule of Bala Marthanda Varma who ascended the throne in the year 1729 A.D. During the time of his accession, the political conditions were unstable due to rebellions and the incessant inroads made by the Nayak forces. This unstability of the Government gave free hand to the feudal barons such as ‘Yokakkars and Ettuvittil Pillamars’ to take advantage and assert their independence. But, Marthanda Varma put a check by his determined action to subdue the rebels, by seeking the assistance of the English East India Company and the Nayaks of Madura. Meanwhile, the feudal barons took up the cause of Padmanabha Thambi and Raman Thambi, the two sons of the previous king, who conspired to capture the throne of Travancore. They were captured at Nagercoil and executed.

Having consolidated his position, Marthanda Varma started his career of conquests. In a planned manner, he conquered the neighbouring principalities like Attingal and Quilon and annexed them with his kingdom.

The king of Kayankulam formed an alliance with the king of Cochin to retrieve the ruler of Quilon from Marthanda Varma, in which attempt they succeeded. But, this success was short lived, since Marthandavarma, with the help of the English, defeated the combined forces and reconquered the territory.

The Dutch being irked by the agressions of Marthanda Varma, deputed its Governor at Srilanka, Van Imhoof, to emulate against Marthanda Varma. As a result, a battle ensued in which the Dutch met with defeat.

However, the Dutch were relentless in the pursuit and attacked Travancore from the South and captured the region extending from Colachel to Kottar. This conquest posed a threat to Kalkulam, the Southern head quarters of Marthanda Varma.

But Marthanda Varma once again proved his ability by meeting the Dutch in the battle field at Colochel on August 10th 1741, which proved to be a death knell to the Dutch and also made them revert to their original position (i.e.) as traders, and allowed them to retain the territory.1 Another feather to his cap was the conquest of Kayankulam and states of Malabar. He was a far sighted statesman and an able organiser, who consolidated his position and restructured the administrative machinery. His reign in fact, was an epoch making.

Chanda Sahib’s invasion: Just about this time, Marthanda Varma was surprised by the expedition led by Chanda Sahib, as it reached Nanjilnadu at the instance of the Nawab of Arcot (AD 1740). Marthanda Varma was thrown off balance since he had to tackle the king of Kayankulam and the Dutch. So, at the behest of Marthanda Varma, the shrewd minister, Ramayyan Dalava played an active part in bringing out a settlement with Chanda sahib, which probably contained a huge sum of money.

But, by the time the understanding could be effected, Nanjilnadu almost lost everything to the invaders “through the time honoured pass of Aralvoimozhi, the rapacious host rushed in. Marching through Kottaram and ravaging the places as they entered and reached Ittankad near Sucindram. The Royal force stationed at Kalkulam, the seat of the Venad ruler, could not be diverted to keep the invaders at bay, since their services were more urgently needed in the north”.

“Flushed with triumph, the invading horde marched straight on Sucindram. Having caused many havocs in Sucindram temple, the army

proceeded to Kottar.107 Vadasery, Tirupatiswaram and Vimanaseri and looting followed in all these places. It was early in the month of Chithirai, that Marthanda Varma sent his men to negotiate a rapproachment with Chanda Sahib through payment of money and only then, the party with drew.

Dedication of Travancore to Sri Padhmanabhaswamy: in the history of the temples of Travancore, the reign of Marthanada Varma was remarkable. He dedicated his kingdom to the Lord Padhmanabhaswamy and this dedication took place on 5th Thai 925 ME. (Jan 1750 AD). Since then, he and his successors ruled the kingdom on behalf of their tutelary deity. This stroke of policy ennobled the position of Travancore in the; eyes of the subjects. As the same time, he imposed a great responsibility | on the Sovereign, as the protector of the Hindu Dharma in the State.

Administrative set up in the reign of Marthanda Varma: For viable administration, the village was taken as a unit and put under the charge of an officer called Pravrithikar. His primary duties were collection of revenues and management of village irrigration system.He was also a Magistrate with jurisdiction to try petty criminal cases in the village.

A group of villages constituted an administrative division called uMandapathunvathukkar. It was headed by a “Kariakkar” whose functions were more or less identified that of the present day Tahsildar.

In the field of financial administration, a system of preparing budgets, “Pathivukannakku” (i.e), allocation of funds for different depeartments, was formulated. Survey and settlement of land was introduced and reorganisation of the army on the model of the British Army, was taken up. The credit for the construction of many forts (eg.) the forts at 4 Padmanabhapuram, Kanniyakumari and rebuilding of the Aralvoimozhi, goes to this king.

In the fort at Padmanabhapuram, troops were garrisoned and ammunitions stored and it was the central reserve, from where, soldiers and ammunitions were drawn.

Agriculture received great impetus during his reign. Marthandavarma executed many irrigation projects in Nanjilnadu, the important among them being the dams at Ponmani and Puthen. These dams not only served irrigation purpose but were sources for drinking water for Kalkulam, Padhmanabhapuram and other neighbouring places in Nanjilnadu. Many acres of uncultivated lands were brought under plough and the single crop pattern was made double, which greatly improved the agriculture production and the prosperity of Nanjilnadu.

Successors of Marthanda Varma: Marthanda Varma was succeedec by the following rulers under whom the then Travancore state witnessed e steady progress. Their rule is discussed in detail, in the followinc paragraphs

 

1          Rama Varma Karthigai Thirunal         1758-1798

2          Bala Rama Varma                               1798-1810

3          Rani Gowri Lakshmi Bai                    1811-1815

4          Rani Gowri Parvathi Bai                     1815-1829

5          Rama Varma Swati Thirunal               1829-1847

6          Marthanda Varma Uttaram Thirunal  1847-1660

7          Rama Varma Ayilam Thirunal            1860-1880

8          Rama Varma Visakam Thirunal          1880-1885

9          Sri Mulam Thirunal                             1885-1924

10        Regent Sethu Lakshmi Bai                 1924—1932

  1. Rama Varma Sri Chithirai Thirunal 1932 upto the end of the monarchy 1st 5

 

The important feature of the foreign policy of these rulers was that they maintained cordial relationship with the British.

Ramavarma Karthigai Thirunal (1758 – 98 AD) : Rama Varma, the nephew of Marthanda Varma was his immediate successor. He was popularly known as Dharma Raja. The important historical event in his reign was the invasion of Tipu Sultan and his defeat. Ram Varma was ably assisted by two efficient ministers. Ayyappan Marthandan Pillai and Raja Kesava Doss, who deserve to be mentioned.

Raja Kesava Doss, the Dewan of Travancore from 1788 to 1798, was born in the village of Kunrathoor of Vilavancode taluk. By dint of his ability he rose to the position of the Dewan from a mere clerk in the palace. It was during his period, the designation of “Dalawa”was re-designated as ’Dewan’. He was the first ’Dewan’ of Travancore and later honoured with the title ‘Raja’. He was an efficient General and most of the achievements of the king, were attributed to the efficiency of the Dewan. He played an important role in the conclusion of the Treaty of 1795, by which, the East India Company promised to extend its full help at times of aggression against the State. He was responsible for the over-whelming improvements in the field of Agriculture, irrigation, communication and

industries, He elevated the position of Pudhukkadai in Vilavancode taluk and Kottar in Agasthiswaram taluk, as important commercial centres.

Bala Rama Varma (1798 – 1810):       Balarama Varma succeeded Rama Varma at the age of 13. He was an inefficient ruler as could be evidenced from his age and this was taken advantage of, by one Uddiyyori Jayanthan Sankaran, a noble Namburi, who made many intrigues and became the favourite of the king and got himself appointed as Valia Sarvathikarayakkar. He was assisted by Sankaranarayana Chetty of Thakkalai and Mathu Tharakan. The entire power of the State came under the ‘Triumvirate of ignorance, profligacy and rapacity.”1 The State finance came down to the verge of bankruptcy. To set right financial imbalance, taxes were excessively levied and forcibly collected. Those who refused or could not pay the taxes were whiplashed in public places or imprisoned. This tyranicial rule made the subjects to agitate which ended in a rebellion against the State under the leadership of one Veluthambi.

The rise of Velu Thambi: Velu Thambi was born in AD 1765 in a respectable family in Thalaikkulam in the taluk of Kalkulam in Nanjilnadu. He became the ’Kariakkar’ of his native village at a very young age. He had been ordered by the despotic Ministry of Bala Rama Varma to collect and pay a sum of Rs. 3,000/ as taxes. But Velu Thmbi resented it. Probably he would have felt that the taxes were unjust, and so he dodged payment, by asking three days time to make the payment, which was granted. Meanwhile, he aroused the people and brought about an insurgence against the despotic rule. Being an eloquent speaker, it was quite easy for him, to consolidate the mass. On the third day, Velu Thambi besieged the fort of Trivandrum with a group of armed men. The de-jure ruler Balarama Varma was alarmed at this and offered to negotiate peace settlement with Velu Thambi, who demanded the immediate dismissal and punishment of the ministry headed by Jayanthan Sankaran Namburi and the abolition of unjust taxes. The king conceding to the demands, and dismissed the ministry and banished them. As a follow up, Velu Thambi and his associates were appointed to key posts. Chenpaka Raman Pillai became the Valia Sarvathikaryakkar (Dalawa) and Velu Thambi the Mulakumatisilla Sarvathikaryakkar (Commerce Minister). In AD 1801 Chenpaka Raman Pillai died and his functions were assigned to Velu Thambi by the king with approval of the then British Resident at the cou of Travancore, Colonel Macaulay.

Velu Thambi though a clever and efficient administrator and an ideal patriot who stood for the cause of the poor and the downtrodden, was also unscrupulous. The measures that he undertook to tone up the administration were drastic and unscrupulous, which therefore met opposition even among his close associates, who went to the extent of demanding the dismissal and arrest of Velu Thambi. However, Velu Thambi manoeuvred and got the opposition under control by imprisoning them. The opposition against Velu Thambi echoed in the army too and as a result, there was a mutiny. The mutineers marched to the capital and demanded the dismissal of Velu Thambi. But, nothing came out of it, since Col. Macaulay, the British Resident at the court, stood by Velu Thambi, and the situation was very easily brought under control.

The British interference in the internal affairs of the state resulted in the conclusion of a treaty of friendship between them and the Venad king, Bala Rama Varma. As per a provision of the treaty, the Travancore state became a protectorate and ally of the British, paying an annual tribute of Rs. 8 lakh. 12

Quite very soon the relationship between Velu Thambi and Colonel Macaulay became very much strained due to the interference of Col. Macaulay in the administration of the state. The Travancore ruler therefore appealed to the Governor of Madras Presidency to recall Col. Macaulay which naturally infuriated the Resident, and so he started pressing for the immediate payment of the arrears of tribute to the British Government. This ignited the patriotic fervour of Velu Thambi. So he took up arms against the British in order to liberate the country from foreign rule. The insurrection spread widely in the country during which, many British officers were massacred. In January 1809, Velu Thambi issued a proclamation to the public in which he requested them to join the struggle for freedom, against the British. The response was tremendous and the whole State rose against the British.113

A battle, therefore, caused between the Travancore Army and the British troops, but the British troops too were very formidable for the Travancore Army and hence the Travancore Army met with defeat at Quilon in 1809. The victorious British troops marched into Nanjilnadu and destroyed the forts at Padhmanabhapuram and Udhayagiri.114

All was now lost and Velu Thambi paid his last respects to the Maharajah and left Trivandrum, which he was not destined to see again. It is said that before his flight from the captial, Velu Thambi suggested to the Maharaja to absolve himself of all blame, by blaming the Dalawai. It is said that under the cloth of fleeing from Trivandrum, he mustered strength for yet another struggle.

The Travancore ruler appointed one Ummini Thambi in the place of Velu Thambi. A peace negotiation between the British and the Venad ruler was signed, by which the army recruited by Velu Thambi was disbanded and an arrest warrant was issued against Velu Thambi. Velu Thambi dodged arrest and at last he was arrested in his hometown, Mannodi. This disgrace he could not bear and so he requested his brother to kill him, and on his refusal to do so, Velu Thambi stabbed himself to death. His end is described by Nagam Aiya as, “discomfitted and despairing he had died in the high Roman Fashion, by his own hand”. 1 Thus ended the life of a great patriot, who unfurled the flag of opposition against the East India Company. His followers also were not spared.

Later, Lord Minto, the Governor-General condemned the English interference in the affairs of Velu Thambi and observed thus:-

“The ends of justice and purposes of public security were attained by the death of the Dewan; and prosecution of vindictive policy when the object of it ceased to exist was repugnant to the feelings of common humanity artf the principle of civilized Government”.

The Velu Thambi episode in the Travancore Government culminated in the payment of a heavy compensation to the English towards loses sustained by them in the scuffle against Velu Thambi. An English Army was to be maintained from the Travancore Exchequer, as per the provisions of the subsidiary Alliance between the Travancore king and the British. The people of Nanjilnadu were oppressed by the Minisitry of Ummini Thambi for their active role in assisting Velu Thambi in his fight against the British.

Gourl Laxml Bai: Gouri Laxmi Bai succeeded Bala Rama Varma and she continued the policy of friendly relation with the British. She dismissed Ummini Thambi and in his place appointed Colonel Munro, as her Dewan. Munro, found indiscipline and rampant corruption in the State administration. As a first step, he brought about the system of gradations

among the officers and prescribed corporal punishments against the erring officers. He undertook a state tour and personally assessed the performance of the officers. The system of recruitment to public services was improved. The economic status of the state was also improved by abolishing the sinecure establishments and expediting collections of long fallen arrears of taxes and simultaneously the oppressive taxes were abolished. An effective system of accounting and audit was introduced. Trade and Commerce received a fillip and regular Custom Houses called ‘Chokies’ were established. The temple administration was re-organised as well. The temple at Sucindram and other 347 temples in the state were brought under the management of the State. The re-organisation imposed a check of the growing power of the Yohakars, the temple trustees who exercised a sinister influence over the people and had established practically an “imperium in imperio within the State” 117 Munro’s administration was therefore a welcome relief to the people.

Gouri Laxmi Bai died and was succeeded by her sister. Gowri Bharvathi Bai (AD 1815 – 1820) during whose reign also Col. Munro continued to be the Dewan. Her period witnessed the large scale conversion to Christianity by the activities of Missionaries and as a result in 1816, the London Mission was established at Nagercoil.

Rama Varma Swathi Thirunal (1829 – 1847 AD) : Rama Varma Swathi Thirunal ascended the Travancore throne in 1829. He introduced many administrative reforms like establishment of the Munsiff Courts for trying small civil and criminal cases. Codification of Law on the British model (in 1835), introduction of Western education and the creation of separate departments for spreading European Engineering, Education and for Irrigation were some of his reformative measures. Besides a good administrator, he was also an eminent scholar in Malayalam and Tamil. He was by himself a poet, who had composed many poems. He was also one of the musical maestros of South India.

Marthanda Varma Uthram Thirunal (1847 – 1860) : Marthanda Varma succeeded Rama Varma. He improved the financial condition of the State, by introducing an effective system of collection of revenue.

It was during his reign a crisis developed in Nanjilnadu. The core of the crisis was the agitation of the ’Shanar’ (Christians) of Nanjilnadu for securing their womenfolk the right to wear the upper garments on bar with the women of the higher castes.118 The agitation took a serious turn in the taluks of Vilavancode, Kalkulam, Agasthiswaram and Thovala posing a

threat to the Law and Order. Having no alternative, the king called the army to maintain Law and Order.

Later, the ’Shanars’ sent petitions to the king as well as the Governor of the then Madras Presidency, requesting redressal of their grievances; Thereupon, the king issued a proclamation in 1859, by which, he abolished all restrictions in the mode of dressing of the Christian Shanar Women.’

An important achievement during his reign was the construction of a new irrigation canal between Trivandrum and Nanjilnadu. The canal was christened after the king as, ‘Ananda Victorial Marthanda Canal.’119

Ayilyam Thirunal (1860-1880) : Ayilyam Thirunal succeeded Marthanda Varma Utharam Thirunal in 1860. His reign witnessed certain improvements in the field of agriculture. The theory till then in practice, had been that the Government was the sole owner (Jenmi) of all the lands in the state with the right of cultivation alone left to the ryots, with no right to them either to transfer or to alienate or inherit. Ayilyam Thirunal issued a proclamation in 1865 AD., known as the ’Pandara Pattom Proclamation’. The proclamation provides the right of ownership over the ryots of the lands they held and thereby they were entitled to either transfer or Inherit the lands. In 1867, another Proclamation with regard to the rights of the tenants, was declared according to which the tenants were not liable to be ejected, so long as they paid the stipulated rent and other customary dues.

The two Proclamations mentioned above, were termed as the NMagna 120 Carta” of the Travancore ryots.

It was during his reign, separate Tamil schools were started in Nanjilnadu. The preliminary survey for the construction of Kothaiar dam was conducted during his period.

Ramavarma Visakham Thirunal: Ramavarma Visakham Thirunal (1880-1885) was a reputed scholar. He initiated some reformative measures. He condemned the old police system and reorganised it. He separated the police from the magistracy with a view to improve the administration of criminal justice. The most important measure introduced by him was the inauguration of a Revenue Survey and Settlement. He extended grant-in-aid to the elementary education. The native industries were encouraged. He improved the irrigation system of south Travancore (i.e) the present Kanniyakumari District.

Sri Moolam Thirunal (1885 -1924): Sri Moolam Thirunal succeeded Ramavarma Visakam Thirunal in the year 1885. His rule witnessed many sided development in the state.

For the first time in the history of the Travancore state, attempt was made for the people’s representation in the State legislation. A new Land Revenue Settlement was introduced in 1886, which was in tact, for 30 years.

Agriculture also received considerable attention. More irrigation facilities were introduced in Nanjilnadu and Edanadu. The taluks of Thovala, and Agasthiswaram witnessed scarcity of water and in order to tide over the situation, the ’Pandyan Kalvai’ and the river Puthanar were widened. The Kothaiar project was completed during his reign, which greatly benefited the people of the present Kanniyakumari District area. The king paved the way for the emergence of a democratic form of Government. In 1888, he inaugurated the Legislative Council and in 1904 the Assembly was named after him which afforded opportunity for the representatives of the people to have a say on matters of public interest. The members of the Assembly were first nominated by the king and subsequently they were elected by the eligible voters who were members of the public whose tax assessment was Rs.100 per annumRegency of Sethu Lakshmi Bai (1924-1931): The demise of Sri Moolam Thirunal posed a problem over the rulers since the heir apparent to the throne, Sri Chithirai Thirunal was just 12 years old. Hence Sethu Lakshmi Bai, the senior Maharani, took up as the regent. The credit of abolition of (i) the Devadasi system which was vogue in some of the temple in south Travancore (Kanniyakumari District) and (ii) putting an end to the cruel practice of animal sacrifices in the temples under the control of Devasam Department goes to this queen.

Sri Chithirai Thirunal (1932) : Sri Chithirai Thirunal ascended the throne in 1931 and thereby the regency of Sethu Lakshmi Bai came to an end. The period since 1931 was a period which witnessed many sided progress. In 1932, the king passed the Legislative Reforms Act which extended the franchise widely. He reconstituted the Legislature and it comprised of two chambers (i.e) The Sri Moolam Assembly the Lower House and the Sri Chithirai State Council the Upper House. The Sri Moolam Assembly, was constituted with 72 members while the Sri Chithirai state Council, constituted with 37 members. In the Sri Moolam Assembly, the four Taluks of Kanniyakumari district were represented by one member each. In 1936, the Temple Entry Proclamation was issued by the king at the instance of Dewan C.P.Ramaswamy Aiyar by which all temples in the present Kanniyakumari District along with other temples in the State were thrown open to all the Hindus including the Adi Dravidas. It was a reform of far reaching importance to the people of the state and was the first of its kind in India. in 1938, the trunk road connecting Trivandram and Kanniyakumari was reconstructed and paved with concrete. Struggle for a Responsible Government In Kanniyakumari District Till 1956, the Kanniyakumari District was a part of the erstwhile Travancore State. The political activities of the poeple of the State were mainly influenced and guided by the ’State People’s Conference’ convened at the initiative of the Indian National Congress. In 1919, a Committee was organised in the State to popularise the idea of Civil Disobedience and the boycott of the British goods. In 1929, a meeting of the ‘State People’s Conference’ was held &t Trivandrum, presided over by Sri M.Visveswaraiya, a veteran administrator of the Mysore State. This conference demanded the establishment of responsible Government in the State.123A In 1930, when Mahathma Gandhi undertook Salt Sathyagraha, the leading patriots of this district such as Dr.M.E.Naidu, Sri Therur Subramaniya Pillai, A.C.Sundaram Pillai and Sri M.Siva Thanu Pillai took active part in the movement.

The Travancore State Legislature passed the Legislative Reforms Act of 1932 as per which the right to vote was the prerogative of few land owners. This enabled the Nayar Community, who owned most of the lands in the State, to dominate the legislature. As a result the minority Communities, (viz.) the Ezhavars, the Muslims and certain section of Christians, who did not own much property, became politically less powerful and this led to resentment among the minority to agitate against the Act. They formed a party known as Joint Political Congress or Samyuktha Party and pressed their demands by launching agitations. The Government finally acceded to the demands, and modified the Act, so that the minority communities came to be adequately represented in the legislature.

The Travancore State Congress, which later emerged as a powerful political weapon, was an off-shoot of the Joint Political Congress.

In 1938, a conference of the Indian National Congress was convened in Travancore under the presidentship of Dr.Pattabi Seetharamaiya and it moved resolutions in support of the formation of the Unified Kerala State, by merging the petty principalities of Travancore, Cochin and the Malabar. The Travancore State Congress of which Pattom Thanu Pillai was a front line leader began to develop its activities during the Second World War and it was actively supported by the Joint Political Congress.

The formation of the State Congress, in 1938 set in motion a series of agitations in the State, demanding a responsible Government. The primary object as declared in its first meeting of the Congress, was the attainment of a responsible Government in the state by all legitimate and peaceful means with universal adult franchise and adequate safeguards for protection of the interests of the minorities.12 But the views of the State Government, under the Dewanship of Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar was different and much opposed to popular sentiment. The oppressive measures employed by the Government against the people led to the further intensification of the agitation and worsened the situation. The state congress went a step further and demanded the dismissal of Sir.C.P.Ramaswamy Aiyar. But the State Government was stem and banned all meetings of the State Congress, which culminated in the ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’ in the State. Demonstrations were continued disobeying the ban imposed. Meanwhile Sir.C.P.Ramaswamy Aiyar offered to negotiate with the leaders of the State Congress, on condition that they should withdraw their memorandum demanding his dismissal. The leaders were not for such a condition for negotiations. However on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi they withdrew, but yet, the attitude of the State Government remained unchanged, the repression continued more vigorously. The net result was a split in the State Congress, and the formation of a new party called the Youth League’ founded at Trivandrum by a band of enthusiastic and public spirited young men. It was the precursor of the present Kerala Communist party. In fine the merger of the congress party weakened since 1939.

In 1942, the Indian National Congress started the “Quit India Movement” demanding the English to get out of India immediately, which echoed in Travancore State and particularly in Kanniyakumari district where there was unrest, and as a result the leaders were arrested and jailed.128 The leaders who participated in the “Quit India Movement” and courted arrest were Dr.M.E.Naidu, Siva Muthu Karuppapillai, Sivan Pillai, P.S.Moni and others.

Aikya Kerala Agitation and its effects on the Travancore Tamilians : The period between 1945 and 1956 bears much significance as far as the modern history of Kanniyakumari district is concerned.

The Travancore State Congress, on 18th of November 1945, passed a resolution in favour of the formation of a United Kerala State by merging the states of Travancore, Cochin and the Malabar. The Tamilians,who were predominant in the southern taluks of Travancore resented the Resolution. So, the Tamil language, which was recognised as one of the State official languages of the Travancore was derecognised and Malayalam remained as the only official language in the State. This was felt as an insult to Tamils, and they came to lose their hold in social, economic and political spheres and became a discontented lot.

However, the political aspirations of the Tamilians, who numbered about 15 Lakhs in a predominantly Malayalam region did not weaken.

A conference of the Tamilians was convened on the 16th of December 1945 ajt Nagercoil in which prominent Tamil leaders like Sam Natheniel, Velayutham Pillai, K. Nagalingam, Gandhiraman, S.N. Doss, R.K. Ram, Muthaiya, V. Markandan and P.S. Moni participated.130 A resolution to form a political party to fight for the cause of the Tamilians was passed and as a result the All Travancore Tamil Congress emerged on the 30th of June 1946.

It is said the P.S. Moni was the nerve centre or the activities of the Travancore Tamilnadu Congress from its inception in 1945. Very soon the organisation became a mass movement with the entry of A. Nesamony, a native of Palliyadi whose role in expanding its activities beyond the Agasthiswaram and Thovalai Taluks into Kalkulam, Vilavankodu and Neyyattinkarai was noteworthy.131 A. Nesamony was called as ’Marshall Nesamony’ for he had led the movement for the merger of the present Kanniyakumari District with Tamil Nadu successfully.

Thiru Sam Nathenial was elected president of the party. A delegation of the party met leaders like KKamaraj and appraised them of the situation prevalent in Travancore State and the hardship faced by the Tamil speaking people.

In the meantime in 1946, Britain announced its intention of granting independence to India. As per Clause VII of the Independence Act of India, the paramountcy of the British Crown will cease to exist when India attains Independence. This led Sir. C.P. Ramasamy Aiyar, the Dewan, to declare that Travancore state would remain independent, which declaration caused unrest within the State. There was an attempt on the life of the Dewan. This led to the Maharajah Chithirai Thirunal for the accession of Travancore state to the Indian Union. A standstill agreement was signed and this resulted in Sir. C.P. Ramasamy Aiyar relinquishing his office on the 19th of August 1947.132

A mammoth public meeting of the All Travancore Tamil Congress was held on the 9th of August 1947 in the Allen Memorial Hall at Nagercoil. The meeting presided over by A. Nesamoni, resulted that the All Travancore Tamil Congress would be the only political organisation through which the Tamil population could fight for its rights and privileges.

MOVEMENT FOR THE MERGER

The All Travancore Tamil Congress, in1947 held a conference in Iraviputtur in which leaders like C. Umai Thanu, S. Thavasi, Chidhambaranathan, C. Madhavan Pillai, T.T. Daniel, T. Nagalingam, Umai Thanu Pillai and others participated. In this conference the name of the party was rechristened as ‘Travancore Tamilnad Congress” and the leaders pledged themselves to safeguard the interest of the Tamil minority in the state and to achieve the goal of the merger of the Tamil speaking taluks of the State with the then Madras State. This attitude of the Tamil leaders was the off shoot of the Travancore State neglecting the interest of the Tamil people, and it was followed by the agitation for the Aikya Kerala (United Kerala) which sowed the seeds of suspicion among the Tamils that their interests would be jeopardised in the proposed United Kerala State. The Travancore Tamilnadu Congress continued its agitation for the merger of the Tamil speaking area of the Tavancore with the then Madras State. There were a number of Tamil scholars and writers whose contributions lighted the flames in the minds of the poeple on the importance of merger of Tamil speaking area with the then Madras State. Prof. P. Sundaram pillai (1855-1897) wrote “Manonmaniam”, a drama in verse. Thiru K.N. Sivaraja Pillai who wrote the “Chronology of the Early

Tamils” was a thinker of repute, whose researches are even today held in high esteem. Shaiku Thambi Pavalar (1874-1950) a poet who is known for his concentration on many things at one time (Sadhava-thani), brought out a magazine “Muslim Mithran’. It is to be noted that during the momentous demonstration against Rowlat Act in 1919, he was very much suspected by the British Government and his activities in Madras, in colaboration with S. Subramania Aiyar, the Editor of ’Swadesa Mithran” a Tamil daily were closely watched. Thiru Kavimani Desika Vinayakan Pillai, a literary genius and noted poet who hailed from Kanniyakumari district roused the patriotism of the people by his pen. Jeevanandham, popularly known as “Jeeva” was a veterean political leader of the district. He is also a writer and orator. His writings lit the spark of nationalism in the minds of the people.133 He was jailed for writing a book on Bhavath Singh, the lion of Punjab who was hanged by the British Government for his active part in the freedom struggle.

On the eve of the 1948 General Elections, the Travancore State Government adopted a policy of repression of the Tamils. There was also an attempt on the life of the Sri Sam Natheniel, the President of the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress. The police opened fire on an election campaign organised by the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress at Monkoda and as a result, two persons lost their lives. Thiru M.P.Sivagnanam, the leader of the Tamilarasu Kazhagam took a leading part in the 1948 General Elections. He campaigned and espoused the cause of the merger of Tamil speaking area with the then Madras State. The result of the elections improved the strength of the cause for which the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress fought.- It emerged victorious in all the fourteen constituencies of the then South Travancore and it helped the party to gain recognition and to paiy a key role in the making and unmaking of the Travancore Ministry.134 The popularity of the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress Committee led to the All India Congress Committee to recognise the party.

On the 24th of March 1948, a popular ministry with Pattom Thanu Pillai as the Chief Minister was sworn in. After sometime T.KNarayana Pillai took over as Chief Minister and credit-goes to him for the union of Travancore and Cochin State^ But the Tamils of Southern Taluks were not for it, since by the merger of the two States, they feared that their representation in the legislature became insignificant, and hence, they pressed their demands for the merger of the area with the then Madras State.

Meanwhile, Sardhar Vallabhai Patel, the then Deputy Prime Minister of the Indian Union assured the Tamils of Travancore, that their demand for the merger with Madras State, would be considered while the scheme for the reorganisation of the states on the linguistic basis was taken up. On this assurance, the proposed agitations in Kanniyakumari district were suspended.

In 1948, once again attempts were made to integrate the states of Travancore and Cochin on the plea that the people of both the States were of the same stock, speaking the same language and bound together by a common culture and tradition. The Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress also for same reasons stood their stand for merger with the then Madras State. On 13th of April 1949, the party launched a demonstration against the union of the two states Travancore and Cochin. But inspite of severe opposition the union of Travancore and Cochin States was effected on the 1st of June 1949.

In the 1951 General Elections, the State Congress could gain only 44 seats out of 108 and so a coalition had to be effected with the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress party which had eight seats in the Legislature. The Coalition Ministry was headed by A.J.John. A. Chidambaranathan represented the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress in the Cabinet. But by about early 1952, the Travancore Tamil Nadu congress withdrew its support to the State congress due to a rift between the two which led to the resignation of A.Chidambaranathan from the Ministry. There were also dissentions within the State Congress which led to the withdrawal of the support to it by the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress and subsequently the Ministry fell.

Thereupon fresh elections were held in 1954 in which the State Congress could secure only 45 seats out of the 117 seats. The Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress won all the 12 seats in the Tamil speaking area, improving its strength in the new Assembly. But it did not extend its support to the State Congress. The Praja Socialist Party which acclaimed majority formed the ministry headed by Sri Pattom Thanu Pillai on the 17th of March 1954.137

In the course of time the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress became divided into two one under the leadership of A. Nesamoni and the other under Thiru P.Thanulinga Nadar. However this difference of opinion was short lived and once again on 29th March 1954 the parties were united  Ramasamy Pillai became the undisputed leader of the party. He made the party more popular among the people. Their desire for the merger with Tamil Nadu gained a fresh momentum. They staged agitations and demonstration. By 1954, inspite of the repressions the party faced, the merger movement gained momentum through out the district. Harthals, public meetings and processions became the way of life and this movement when it reached its zenith. The repressions became at the more stronger and it went to the extent of police opening fire in Thoduvetti, Pudhukkadai Marthandam, and Sucindram, resulting in the loss of many precious lives. The situation in Kanniyakumari district became more turbulent and the popular leaders N.A.Noor Mohamed, P.Thulasingam, M.William and T.T.Daniel, who were all members of Legislative Assembly were arrested, and lodged in the Thuckalay Sub-Jail. A.Nesamoni who escaped arrest, moved bail for those arrested, but it was rejected by the High Court. Therefore Nesamoni moved the supreme Court, which transferred the bail applications to the Mysore High Court. The Mysore High Court, released the leader T.S.Ramasamy Pillai, a Legislative Member of the ruling Praja Socialist Party. He resigned his membership of the party to demonstrate his sympathy to the Tamil people and moved no-confidence motion in the Assembly against the ministry. The motion was successful and the ministry fell. The Travancore State Congress then in alliance with the Travancore Tamil Nadu congress formed a ministry headed by Pahampally Govinda Menon, but this ministry too did not last long and hence President’s Rule was promulgated in Travancore-Cochin State in 1956.

  1. Nesamoni had been the President of the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress since 1955. It was during his tenure, the plea for the re-organisation of States on linguistic basis was to be considered by the Government of India. A State Reorganisation Commission was constituted in 1956 to examine “objectively and dispassionately”, the question of re-organisation of the States of India. The Commission invited representations, suggestions, ideas and views from the public on the re-organisation of the States. The Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress presented a memorandum before the Commission for the transfer of the Tamil speaking taluks of Thovala, Agasthiswaram, Kalkulam, Vilavancode Shenkottah, Neyyattinkara, Devikulam, Peermedu and Sirrur ir Travancore-Cochin State to the then Madras State. Two important facton put forward in the memorandum were the geographical and linguisti affinities of this region with that of Tamil Nadu. The Commission decide to transfer to the Madras State the five Southern taluks ot Travancore viz Thovalai, Agasthiswaram, Kalkulam, Vilavancode and Shencottah. Th< remaining four taluks, which the Travancore Tamil Nadu congress wanted to be merged with Tamil Nadu, were allowed to remain with Travancore-Cochin State. The claims of the Tamils over the taluks of Peermedu and Devikulam were ignored by the Commission as these taluks were of great economic importance to the Travancore-Cochin State.

The Indian Parliament, based on the recommendations of the State Reorganisation Commission, passed the States Reorganisation Act in March 1956. The four taluks of Agasthiswaram, Thovalai, Kalkulam and Vilavancode were grouped together to form the new district, “Kanniyakumari District” and the Senkottai taluk was merged with the then Thirunelveli District. On the 1st of November 1956, Kanniyakumari District of Tamil Nadu emerged with Nagercoil as its head quarters. The formation of this district fulfill xJ the long cherished aspirations of the people of the locality. In the first General Sections after the creation of the district, A.Nesamoni, A.Chidambaranatha Nadar, T.T.Daniel, M.William, Tmt.Simon and T.S.Ramasamy Pillai were elected as members of the Legislative Assembly. Thiru P.Thanulingam was elected as a member of Parliament. Tmt. Simon was appointed as a Minister of the Madras State.

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