|Municipal Chairman||Mr.Asokan Solomon, B.Sc, D.Tech|
• 9,813 /km2 (25,416 /sq mi)
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
(7 sq mi)
• 13 m (43 ft)
Nagercoil (Tamil: நாகர்கோவில்) [] is the 12th largest city in the Southernmost Indian state of Tamil Nadu and a municipality and administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari District. The city is situated close to the tip of the Indian peninsula is the southernmost city in the Indian mainland.
The town was a part of the erstwhile Travancore state, or later Travancore-Cochin state, till almost a decade after the Indian independence in 1947. In 1956, the city and the District were merged with Tamil Nadu. In its earlier days, the town and its surroundings were known as Nanjilnadu.
Nagercoil derives its name from a famous old temple called the Naga Raja Temple (temple of the serpent king) [] which still exists in the central part of the town. It has been an important temple for Hindus for centuries, and it also is a tourist attraction. According to certain accounts, it may once have been a Jain temple, as icons of the Jain Tirthankaras -- Mahavira and Parsvanatha -- are found on the pillars of the temple.
Nagercoil came under the rule of various kingdoms, notably the Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms, at various points in time; historical records reveal that these kingdoms fought over the control of the fertile area of Nanjilnadu and Kottar, a town mentioned in old Tamil writings and maps of ancient India. Archaeological records also show Jain influences in ancient times. Also the literatures reveal the fact that the Nanjil Nadu and Kottar were ruled by Kurunji Nattan (Kuravars) and a naga tribe with pandyan origin called Bharathars (Paravars, ancient rulers of Bharatha Varsha), who were called Chandravanshi in North India.
The modern history of the town is interwoven with the history of Travancore state. The modern town of Nagercoil grew around Kottar, now a locality within the municipal limits. The town came to prominence during and after the reign of Maharaja Marthanda Varma, the king of Travancore, the capital of which was Padmanabhapuram, about 20 km to the north of Nagercoil. The capital was later shifted to Trivandrum, now Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala state, about 65 km to the north of Nagercoil. In the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, Nagercoil was the second most important town after the capital Trivandrum.
Maharaja Marthanda Varma's successors continued the land, revenue and social reforms he instituted. Although Travancore was considered by many to be a "Hindu" administration, the rulers generally showed religious tolerance, and were not hostile to European educators, missionaries and traders. Until the 19th century, the coffers of Travancore were greatly helped by revenues from the trade of pepper and other spices, with the European powers.
Irrigation systems (an excellent system is still found around Nagercoil), dams, roads, schools etc. developed under the able administration of the Travancore royals and their Dewans. The British in India considered Travancore a "model native state". At the time, Travancore was the most socially developed, and one of the most economically developed states under the British Raj. During the British Raj, Travancore was essentially a vassal-state to the British, but the British never interfered in the general administration of the state.
At the time of India's independence from Britain, the Dewan of Travancore, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyer, preferred Travancore to be a sovereign country, but he eventually gave up after a tough stand by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, India’s federal minister in charge of home affairs, who wanted the princely state annexed to India. The late Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyer is still held in high esteem in Nagercoil, for the many development projects he undertook in South Travancore, of which the town was a part.
After a political fight in the 1950s led by Marshal A. Nesamony Nadar, the Government of Travancore-Cochin gave part of South Travancore (present day Kanyakumari District) to Tamil Nadu, because a majority of the population spoke Tamil in the district. This was enacted in the Indian States Reorganisation Act of 1956.
Nagercoil has generally been a peaceful place, although there was some tension and violence between the Christian and Hindu communities in the 1980s. Since then, inter-religious meetings organised by various faiths and by District Collectors (local administrators) have helped develop good understanding among the various sections of the population.
Disaster struck on the 26th of December, 2004, when the Indian Ocean Tsunami brought shock, surprise and havoc for people living in the coastal areas of Kanyakumari District. Over a thousand people were either dead or missing in the tragedy, with many thousands displaced. Worst-hit were the coastal areas like Manakudy,[] near the town, and Colachel.[]
Nagercoil is located at eco-system influenced by this mountain range.at the southern tip of peninsular India. Because of its close proximity to the Western Ghats, the topography of the town and its surroundings is generally hilly. The Western Ghats are the lifeline of the town, providing water sources for drinking, temperate climate, irrigation around the city, and a general
Sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, the town has some breathtaking scenery, with the surrounding hills (the Western Ghats), lush green paddy fields, and sandy palm-fringed beaches on the western side. Farther east of Nagercoil, on the Western Ghats are plantations of rubber, cloves and cardamom. Many of these plantations were developed by British planters—planters' names like Simpson and Balamore are still household names in the town. The rubber plant was introduced by the English missionaries in the 18th century. Some of these plantations are still owned by the descendants of these British planters ; however, a majority of the estates are now owned by the rich and influential moplah (Syrian Christians) community of Kerala.
Being the southernmost municipal area of the country, and situated close to Kanyakumari, or Cape Comorin, [] the southernmost point of peninsular India, the town is essentially an intersecting point of culture, tradition and trade of the western and eastern coasts. The town connects two major eastern and western lines of the Indian Railways, with one line leading through Kerala, called the Konkan route, and the other through the eastern part of India, through Tirunelveli of Tamil Nadu. Nagercoil is 65 km from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala state, connected by National Highway 47, and 65 km from Tirunelveli.
Nagercoil has a pleasant, though humid, climate for a major part of the year. The maximum temperature during the summer hovers around 86°F or 30°C with extremely high humidity at times. Nagercoil receives both the north-east monsoon and the south-west monsoon. It rains more often in Kanyakumari district than in any other part of Tamil Nadu, with the exception of the Nilgiris. Due to geographical conditions, the southern tip of Kanyakumari is generally 2°C to 3°C warmer than Nagercoil during the daytime, though Kanyakumari is only 20 km away.
As of 2001 India census, Nagercoil had a population of 208,149. Males constitute 50% of the population and females 50%. Nagercoil has an average literacy rate of 100% and is the only Indian city to produce this figure. In Nagercoil, 9% of the population is between the age group of 0 – 6 years.
Though the official population count (for the municipal area) is close to 2.25 lakhs, a significant population lives outside the municipal limits, in the suburbs.
The greatest concentration of the population of the town and the District is along the coastal belt, on the western side, while the largely forested areas on the eastern side of the district (along the Western Ghats) are sparsely populated.
Tamil and Malayalam are widely spoken by the people. These two languages along with English are used as a medium of teaching in all major schools. The Tamil spoken here is a mix of Malayalam and Tamil, sometimes uninteligible to the people of North Tamil Nadu.
The culture is a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam culture and traditions. Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are the major religions in the town and district. Food prepared here is also a mix of Kerala/Tamil Nadu traditions. Puttu, Appam, Idiappam are very popular food items here and so are rice murukku, achchappam, etc. Even curries here are made with coconut and coconut oil which is now considered Kerala style cooking.
Some of the prominent festivals that are celebrated here are Onam, Suchindrum "Ther Festival", Ayya Vaikunda Avataram, Deepavali, Easter, Christmas, New Year, St. Francis Xavier's feast, Bhagavathy Amman Temple festival, Ramzan (Eid ul fitr) and Bakrid (Eid ul alha).
The foundation of several educational institutions by English, German and other Western Christian missionaries in the 19th century and the development of social infrastructure by the Travancore administration raised the social status and literacy of the people, ahead of many other urban centres in Southern India. Today, one finds a number of streets, schools and colleges in the town named after these European missionaries ; many of these missionaries also being noted educationists and scholars.
The European missionaries converted a section of the people to Protestant Christianity. Roman Catholicism had been introduced earlier by St. Francis Xavier in the 16th century and later by other Jesuits.
St. Francis Xavier, the Roman Catholic missionary, made Kottar locality in the town his principal residence for a period of two years in the 16th century, while preaching around the town and in neighbouring Tirunelveli district.
Of the Protestant missionaries, the services of two European missionaries are particularly laudable. One is C. Mead, who after arriving in 1817 in Nagercoil, as a missionary of the London Missionary Society (LMS), made immense contributions to the cause of education in the town and in Travancore. In 1818, he founded the Nagercoil Seminary, which became one of the first regular institutes to impart English education in Travancore state and also in Southern India. In 1855, in recognition of his contributions to the cause of education, the Travancore Government appointed him Superintendent of Schools, and while in this office he also encouraged women's education in Nagercoil and in the state of Travancore. He also started the Nagercoil Mission Press, the first printing press in the state of Travancore. Mead also fought to abolish forms of indentured labour rampant at that time.
The other great missionary was William Tobias Ringeltaube, a native of the then Prussia (present Germany), who established a number of schools and worked among the poor and downtrodden around the town. He started one of the first regular schools in Travancore at Mylaudy, near Nagercoil which is still active.
Like the London Missionary Society (LMS), another organisation that rendered valuable services to the cause of education and upliftment of the socially downtrodden has been the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Both these societies still have a presence in Nagercoil (nearly two centuries after inception).
The Salvation Army is known in the town for their pioneering medical services in and around the town. Their Catherine Booth Hospital ([]in the Vadasery [] locality of the town was established in the 19th century and is still active.
Nagercoil is the headquarters of the state owned Arasu Rubber Corporation and the regional office of the Central Rubber Board. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has a major testing facility for Cryogenic and Liquid Propulsion rocket engines on the Mahendragiri hills [] (on the Western Ghats) off Nagercoil. Rocket scientists and engineers from all over India work at this facility, called the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Mahendragiri.
The town also serves as a centre for the Koodankulam [] Nuclear Power Plant reactors, being built with Russian assistance, which is situated in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, but is the closest major town to the facility. The public sector Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IRE), also has a major facility at Manavaalakurichy, near the town.
Aralvaimozhi,[] a once-impoverished village, benefited from the building of the nearby Muppandal wind farm,[] a renewable energy source, supplying the villagers with electricity for work. The surrounding area is a major centre for wind-mill renewable-energy production, and one of the biggest centres in South Asia, both in terms of electricity generated and size of wind-mills, with thousands of wind-mill electricity generators on tall towers dotting the entire area. The total power generated from these wind mills are 540 MW with each wind mill generating a power output of nearly 1.65 MW. The wind mills are erected and technically-supported by multinational majors in the field of renewable energy like Vestas, Suzlon, Micon, etc. The steady flow of wind for these wind-mills is made possible because the Muppandal Wind Farm is situated on a mountain gap (pass) in the Western Ghats, through which the wind gushes through, for a major part of the year.
There are also few software, research and development companies in Nagercoil. RedEgg InfoExpert Technologies is popular and their offering is sold in North America as MyMediaInfo, which is a media contacts database. Small Scale industries (cottage industries) include coir-making, floral trade, handloom-weaving, rubber products, fish-net manufacturing (exported on a large scale), food-processing units, lace-making (export-oriented), etc.
Being the major Tamil Nadu town closest to the Kerala capital, Thiruvananthapuram (65 km away and the closest International airport to Nagercoil), trading and sending supplies to Kerala and Thiruvananthapuram is a major activity for the bustling markets at Vadasery and Kottar - availability and many items being cheaper in Tamil Nadu than in Kerala adds to the thriving business.
Supply of marine and agricultural produce to the overseas export-markets are also important economic activities, though primarily done through exporters or agents in Kerala. Remittances to Nagercoil from overseas, from Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) hailing from the town, is also a major contributor to the local economy.
Traditionally, Nagercoil is a Congress bastion. Kamaraj, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu won from Kanyakumari constituency without even canvassing. Such is the congress-supporting nature of the Kanyakumari people, who are still emotionally attached to Kamaraja.
Some schools and colleges in Nagercoil are more than 150 years old , like the Scott Christian College, [], [] built by British missionaries. European missionaries, in the 19th century and early 20th century played a major role in imparting education to the people of the town and district.
One of the oldest regular schools in South India, Sethu Lakshmi Bai Higher Secondary School, [] is situated in the heart of town. It was established under the supervision of the Travancore administrators and named after a Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, the Queen of Travancore between 1924 to 1931. Another school which was named after a Travancore ruler is Sri Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma Higher Secondary School.
Educational institutions include many privately funded Engineering colleges, the state-run Kanyakumari Medical College (at Asaripallam near Nagercoil), and many Polytechnic colleges and Arts and Science Colleges. As in neighbouring Kerala, women's education and career-development are given importance, almost on par with men by all communities.
ST Hindu College, [] Ayappa College for Women, [] The Muslim Arts College Thiruvithancode, Noorul Islam College of Engineering at Kumaracoil, Pan India famous ICFAI has one of its affiliate ICFAI National College imparting MBA program is situated at Vadasery, SMRV higher secondary school [] etc are some of the educational institutions in Nagercoil.
Several leading Colleges and Schools are run by Christian denominations and include the St. Xavier's Catholic College of Engineering, St. Xavier's Catholic College of Nursing (Tamil Nadu's first Catholic diocesan nursing college), CSI Institute of Technology, James College of Engineering and Technology, Holy Cross College, [] Scott Christian College, [[ (Arts and Sciences College, with some specialised departments), Holy Cross College for Women, Women's Christian College Nagercoil,[] Carmel higher secondary School, Little Flower girls higher secondary school, St.Joseph's Convent Higher Secondary School, [] St.Joseph's Matric Higher Secondary School, C.S.I Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Scott Christian Higher Secondary School[] and Duthie Girls Higher secondary School[].
In the Christian theological side, the Concordia Theological Seminary established in 1924 caters to the training of Pastors of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church. One of the well reputed C.B.S.E schools in Nagercoil is the Adarsh Vidya Kendra which is situated at Vetturnimadam which is 3 km from Nagercoil.
Nagercoil enjoys a unique blend of Tamil and Keralite cuisine. Rice is the staple food. Fish is very popular and forms a part of everyday meal for many. People generally prefer marine fish to fresh water fish and is available in plenty.
The food is generally spicy with coconut an important ingredient in almost all side dishes and curry, very much like that of neighbouring Kerala. Seafood is very popular among the people, though there are also many vegetarians (like the Saiva Pillais or Vellalars) in and around the town.
Banana Chips is a popular snack commonly made and savoured by the people.
The hilly, undulating terrain in Kanyakumari District is partly forest land and the remaining is covered by rubber and other plantation plants. Elephants are very common in this area.
Nanchinadu: Harbinger of Rice and Plough Culture in the Ancient World