Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Thirumalai Nayak: ruled Madurai between 1623 to 1659 CE. He was the most notable of the thirteen Madurai Nayak rulers in the 17th century. His contributions are found in the many splendid buildings and temples of Madurai. His kingdom was under constant threat from the armies of Delhi Sultanate and the other neighbouring Muslim kingdoms, which he managed to repulse successfully. His territories comprised much of the old Pandya territories which included Coimbatore, Tirunelveli, Madurai districts, Aragalur in southern Tamil Nadu and some territories of territories of the Travancore kingdom
Thirumalai Nayak was a great patron of art and architecture and the Dravidian
Koil architecture evolved into the Madurai style. He rebuilt and renovated a number of old temples of the Pandya period. His palace known as the Thirumalai Nayak Palace is a notable an architectural masterpiece.
Tirumala Nayak succeeded Muttu Virappa Nayak on the Madurai throne in 1623 CE. The political situation in south Tamil Nadu was confused with the decline of the Vijayanagar empire, and the once feudatory Nayak governors of Madurai,
Thanjavur, Gingee and Mysore were quarrelling to divide the dissolving Vijayanagara Empire. The Muslim kingdoms in the Deccan began to press southwards. Immediately after becoming king, Tirumala Nayak withheld the payment of tributes to the Vijayanargara kings. He also gathered a large army in Thiruchirapalli and strengthened its fortifications.
Around 1638, the Vijayanagara King Ranga, succeeded to the throne of
Chandragiri and he soon resolved to put an end to the independence of Thirumalai and prepared to march southwards. Thirumalai had meanwhile persuaded the Vijayanagar governors of Tanjore and Gingee (in south Arcot) to join him in his defiance of their mutual suzerain, and thus Ranga was left with only Mysore, of all his feudatories, to support him. The Nayak governor of Thanjavur eventually left his allies, sent in his submission, and betrayed the other Nayaks
Ranga advanced upon
Gingee Fort and laid siege to it. Thirumalai requested the Bijapur Sultan to send assistance. However the Bijapur toops defeated the Vijayanaraga army and turned on the Nayak armies by attacking the Gingee fort themselves. Gingee soon fell to the Bijapur troops. Thirumalai retreated in dismay of Madurai, and the Bijapur army advanced southwards, defeated the Thanjavur Nayak, and proceeded to lay waste the Madurai country. Thirumalai then submitted, apparently without striking a blow, paid a large ransom to the invaders, and agreed to send an annual tribute to the Sultan of Bijapur.
The Vijayanagar ruler had taken refuge with the king of Mysore, and now these two monarchs combined to endeavour to recover those portions of the Vijayanagara territories, which had recently been captured by
Golconda. Thirumalai, making use of the opportunity to settle a long-standing quarrel with the kingdom of Mysore, persuaded the Sultans of Golconda and Bijapur to help him attack Mysore from the south. The Sultan of Golconda accepted and attacked Mysore and extinguished the Vijayanagara Empire and humbled the kingdom of Mysore. In return Thirumalai Nayak the Thanjavur Nayak and paid large amounts as tribute to the Golconda Sultan.
Thirumalai had another conflict with Mysore towards the end of his reign. The battles began with an invasion of Coimbatore by the Mysore king apparently in revenge for Thirumalai’s contribution to his defeat at the hands of the Golconda Sultanate. Coimbatore was occupied by the Mysore armies with ease, and Madurai itself was threatened. The Mysore troops were however repulsed from the town by the assistance of the Setupati of Ramnad. This campaign was known as the ‘hunt for noses’ because under the orders of the Mysore king, the invaders cut off the noses of all their prisoners and sent them in sacks to Seringapatam as trophies.
A counter invasion of Mysore was undertaken shortly afterwards by Thirumalai under the command of Kumara Muttu Nayak, his younger brother, and was a success, in which the king of Mysore himself was captured and his nose was cut off and sent to Madurai.
Thirumalai’s capital was Madurai. The royal residence had been moved from there to Thiruchirapalli by his predecessor, but Thirumalai moved it back to Madurai again, notwithstanding the strategic importance of Thiruchirapallai, with its almost impregnable rock, its never failing Cauvery river and its healthy climate, was by nature far superior to Madurai, where the fort was on level ground, the Vaigai was usually dry and fever was almost endemic. The reason for this move is claimed to be due to a dream Thirumalai had.
Thirumalai is best remembered for the many splendid public buildings he built in Madurai. Despite so many upheavals, Thirumalai Nayak's reign is famous for the legacy he left behind in numerous constructions. He added a tower to the Meenakshi temple, the unfinished tower called the Raja Gopuram and added a hall. He is credited for excavating the huge artificial pond, or Teppakulam.
He also built the beautiful palace called
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal a.k.a Thirumalai Nayak Palace. The palace was divided into two major parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa. The royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden were situated in these two portions. The courtyard and the dancing hall are the major centre of attractions of the palace.
Thirumalaii Nayak took great personal interest in the erection of the Pudumandapa at the Madurai temple. There are some account which recount that on one occasion, Sumandramurti Achari, the principal architect, was so deeply engrossed in sculpting a relief of the stone elephant eating sugarcane, an incident in the temple's puranic history, that he did not notice the Nayak standing by him. The Nayak rolled some
betel leaves and areca nuts and handed them to him. Thinking that it was an assistant who had done so, he took them and began to chew them without looking around. When he realised that it was the Nayak himself, he was so much affected that he damaged the two fingers of his that had taken the betel leaves. Moved by his devotion to duty, the Nayak gave him many gifts.[citation needed]
On another occasion a son of an artist pestered him for a mango when that fruit was not in season. He would not take no for an answer. The Nayak ordered that gold mangoes be brought from the palace. The boy was content and allowed his father to continue the work undisturbed. From this incident the family came to be called the "Mampazham" family.
When, on yet another occasion, an artist was making a sculpture of a consort of the Nayak's and a chip broke off from the thigh. By curious coincidence, the queen actually had a scar in the same place as the chip. The artist started work on another image, but a chip again appeared at the same place. A minister of the Nayak advised the artist to finish the statue with the chip. When the Nayak saw the image, he was angry, wondering how the minister knew that his queen had a scar on her thigh. He sent for him. The minister knew that the Nayak was angry and might punish him. So he put out his eyes. At this the Nayak was filled with remorse. Thereupon the minister composed a poem in the praise of the Goddess, beseeching her to give him back his eyesight if he was innocent. She restored it. The minister was a famous Sanskrit poet ,named Sri. Nilakanta Diksihtar. Among his works are the "Shivalilamava", on the traditions of Lord Shiva in Madurai, and the "Gangavatarana", on the descent of the Ganga to the earth. After this incident the minister took leave of the King and was endowed with a village called Palamadai (Neelakanta Samudram) East of present-day Sankarnagar, in Tirunelveli. Sri. Nilakanta Diksihthar was the grand nephew of Appaya Diksihtar and this family clan has a rich tradition of intellectuals.
Another anecdote tells us that Thirumalai first brought his queen to the Thirumalai Nayak palace after it was completed. She commented that the giant pillars and arches reminded her of a stable for elephants, sending the king into such a rage that he had her confined for the rest of her life. And he took another wife.
Thirumalai Naik died in 1659. He was between sixty-five and seventy years of age at the time and had reigned for thirty-six years. His territories at his death comprised the present districts of Madurai (including the territories of Ramnad and Sivaganga), Thirunelveli, Coimbatore, Salem and Thiruchirapalli, with Pudukkotai and parts of Travancore. Another story states that he had an intrigue with the wife of a priest and that as he was returning from visiting her one dark night he fell into a well and was killed. Thirumalai was succeeded by his son Muttu Alakadri Nayak in 1659. A letter written by one of the Jesuit priests just after his death states:It is impossible to refuse him credit for great qualities, but he tarnished his glory at the end of his life by follies and vices which nothing could justify. He was called to render account to God for the evils which his political treachery had brought upon his own people and the neighbouring kingdoms. His reign was rendered illustrious by works of really royal magnificence. Among these are the pagoda of Madura, several public buildings, and above all the royal palace the colossal proportions and astonishing boldness of which recall the ancient monuments of Thebes.

3rd century BC
Greek ambassidor Megasthanes visited Madurai and made outstanding remarks about Madurai
27 BC
Pandya kings constructed Romans neighborhood in Madurai with the relationship of roman emperor - Augustus Ceaser
140 AD
Ptolemy called Madurai as "Mediterranean Emporium of the South"
2nd Century AD
Kadaichangam ended in Madurai
3rd Century AD
Pandya kings established Tamil Sangam in Madurai
3rd to 6th Century AD
Madurai was under the rule of Kalar-Pirar
470 AD
Vasindranandhi (Samana Periyar) established Dhravidar Sangam
7th Century AD
Thirugnana Sambandar did Tamil literary work in Madurai
9th Century AD
Manikkavasagar did Tamil literary work in Madurai
575 to1310 AD
Pandya Kings took back the rule of Madurai.
1268 to 1310 AD
Venice traveller Marco-polo visited Madurai during this reign of Maravarman Kulasekaran
1311 AD
Malik Kapoor and Kushrukan captured Madurai
1328 AD
Madurai became the part of Muhamad-bin Tuklak empire
1330 AD
Jallaudin Hansha was appointed as Madurai's first collector
1377 AD
Delhi sultan's rule came to an end
14th Century AD
Vijayanagar emperor Hariharar appointed a new collector for Madurai
1529 to 1564 AD
Visuvanatha Nayakar ruled Madurai
1623 to 1659 AD
Thirumalai Nayakar ruled Madurai
1645 AD
Vandiyoor Teppakulam was built by Thirumalai Nayakar
1689 to 1706 AD
Rani Mangammal ruled Madurai
1707 to 1736 AD
Namaha Nayakar ruled Madurai under the kingdom of Krishna Deverayar.
17th Century AD
Robert-de Nobili did Tamil literary work in Madurai
1736 AD
Arcot Navab captured Madurai
1759 to 1764 AD
Khan Sahib ruled Madurai
1790 AD
British's East India company took over Madurai
1790 AD
Madurai got a new English collector Alexander Macliot
1840 AD
Collector Black Burne demolished the fort and the moth around old Madurai and expanded the city.
1851 AD
Dr. R.Graul, Director of Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Lepsic stated that "Madurai is the Athens of the east"
1857 AD
English rule started officially
1869 AD
Central Jail was built in Madurai
1873 AD
District Court was built in Madurai
1875 AD
Railway transportation system was introduced in Madurai
1914 AD
Underground sewage system was constructed in Madurai
1947 AD
English rule came to an end

When Krishna Devaraya was the King of Vijayanagar, he sent one general Nagama Naick to Madurai to control the internal confusion in the Madurai regional politics. Nagama Naick controled the waring groups and restored peace, but declared himself as an independant ruler. This act provoked the King Krishna Devaraya and he sent Viswanatha Naick, the son of the revolutionary Nagama, to arrest and produce his father in the royal court. Viswanatha fulfilled the order of the King, but justified his father's act and explained the real condition of the region. King, being convinced by the explanation of Viswanatha, released his father and crowned Viswanatha as the ruler of Madurai as a reward to his loyalty. Thus the Madurai Naick Principality was established about 1530 A.D. This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect. The building we see today was the main Palace where the King lived. The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa. In these two parts, there are royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. King Thirumalai Nayak celebrated festivals like Sceptre festival, Navarathri, Chithirai festival, Masi festival and the Float festival.He conducted daily dance and music performances in the palace. This palace was destroyed by his grandson Chokkanatha Nayak and the valuables were transferred to other places.During 19th century, Lord Napier, governor of Madras between 1866 and 1872 made several renovation works. Today, only the spacious rectangular courtyard called the swarga Vilasam and a few adjoining biuldings survive, their awesome scale evoking the grandeur of a vanished era. The courtyard measures 3,900 sq.m and is surrounded by massive circular pillars. To its west lies the Throne Chamber, a vast room with a raised, octagonal dome. This room leads to the Dance Hall. Then the palace was utilized to house some officials of the judiciary and district administration. After independence, this palace was declared as a national monument and is now under the care of the Tamilnadu Archaeological Department. It can be visited from 9a.m to 5 p.m on payment of the entrance fee.The thousand pillar mandapam is supposed to have been built by Arya Natha Mudaliyar, the Prime Minister of the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559-1600 A.D.) and the founder of 'Poligar System'. An equestrian statue of the Mudaliyar flanks one side of the steps leading to the 'mandapam'. Except the inner shrines, probably no part of the temple is older than the 16th century. The general plan of the sanctuary is typical of the gigantic South Indian temples with vast quadrangular enclosures and lofty 'gopurams' overlooking the central shrine. Round about the temple, outside the higher wall is, a neat garden fenced with iron railings. Even a casual visitor is fascinated by the many paintings and sculptures in this shrine. The ceilings are decorated with large paintings showing Shaivite and Vaishnavite themes. There is a beautiful painting of the marriage of Sundareswarar with Devi Meenakshi. Another beautiful painting is that of Harihara.In the outer corridor are the most popular musical pillars, five in number, each composed of twenty two slender rods carved out of a single rock of granite, which produce the 'Saptha Swaras' when gently tapped with a wooden rod. There is a spacious 'pushkarini' in front of the Meenakshi shrine called the Golden Lotus Tank or 'Ponthamaraikulam'. Beautifully paved stone steps on all the four sides are set to reach the placid water. The great tower of the south reflected in the Golden Lilly Tank is perhaps the best known view of the Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple.According to mythology, Indra from Devaloka entered this tank and it was filled with golden Lillies. It is said that the tank was also used to judge the literary merit of the manuscripts of poets and authors. When placed on the water, the manuscripts would float supported by a plank if its value was considered worthy otherwise it would sink to the bottom. This testing miraculous plank was called 'Sanga Palkki' (sanga plank) and can still be seen in the temple museum. This tradition amply substantiates the view that Madurai was once a centre of learning and erudition. The Pandyan kings were great patrons of arts and letters. One of the first monarchs of the dynasty, Ugra Paruvaludi (128-140 A.D.) is gratefully remembered for the patronage he extended to poet Tiruvalluvar.In the 14th century, Madurai aroused the cupidity of Malikkafur who invaded it and set up a Mohammadan dynasty that remained in power for nearly fifty years, at the end of which it was conquered by a General of the Vijayanagar Empire and became a feudatory. The Vijayanagar Emperor, while guarding the kingdom against the invaders, subsequently restored it to the descendants of the Pandyan kings.From the middle of the 16th century, right up to the eighth decade of the 18th century. the city retained its glory as the principal seat of the Nayakas. Although Vishwanatha Nayaka, the first and greatest of a long line of distinguished rulers, is credited with having laid the foundations of a well planned and well fortified city. Tirumala Nayaka, who ascended to throne in 1623 A.D., and ruled over Madurai for 36 years can be said to have made the largest single contribution towards the enhancement of the beauty and splendour of the town by magnificent edifices and monuments.A little away from the temple precincts in the town is the ruins of Palace of Tirumala Nayaka constructed during his reign (1623-1645 A.D.). It contains beautiful domes and arches. One of the domes stands without the support of girder -an architectural feat of everlasting wonder. They must have been an extravagance of stucco in its heyday.Tirumala Nayaka was undoubtedly the greatest of the Nayaka rulers. The Nayakas of Madurai like those of Thanjavur and gingee ruled South India as the Governors of Vijayanagar emperors and gradually became independent rulers as the empire began to decline and breakup, though they did not like to call themselves as kings due probably to their reverence to the dynasty.

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