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Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu, India

Pudukkottai District is a district of Tamil Nadu state in southern India. The city of Pudukkottai is the district headquarters. It is also known colloquially as Pudhugai.

Pudukkottai district is bounded on the northeast and east by Thanjavur District, on the southeast by the Palk Strait, on the southwest by Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga districts, and on the west and northwest by Tiruchirappalli District.

The district has an area of 4663 km² with a coastline of 39 km. The district lies between 78° 25' and 79° 15' east longitude and between 9° 50' and 10° 40' of the north latitude.



On 14 January 1974, Pudukkottai was organised as a separate district comprising the former Pudukkottai Division of Tiruchirappalli district with some additions from Thanjavur district. At present, this district is composed of two Revenue Divisions, namely, Pudukkottai and Aranthangi and eleven Taluks, namely, Kulathur, Illuppur, Alangudi Pudukkottai, Gandarvakottai, Thirumayam, Aranthangi, Ponnamaravathi, Karambakudi, Avudaiyarkoil and Manamelkudi. There are 762 Revenue Villages.

The population of the district is 1,459,601 (as per Census 2001). It is 17.02% urbanised.[1] The district depends a great deal on the monsoon for its water supply. The district has a literacy of 71.96%, slightly below the average for the state.


Many of the villages in the district are of ancient origin. The district was one of the homes of pre-historic man. The very large number of burial sites found in the northern and western parts of the district attest to this fact.

The history of Pudukkottai is an epitome of the history of South India. In and around Pudukkottai there are many vestiges of the oldest habitations of man and some of the lithic records known in the south. The Pandyas, Cholas, Pallavas, Haysalas, Vijaynagar and Madurai Nayaks ruled over this part of the country and fostered its communual organisations, trade and industries. They embellished it with temples and monuments of outstanding merit.

Augustus coin found in the Pudukottai Hoard

Sangam Tamil literature mentions some place names of the district. Oliyamangalam (Thirumayam Taluk) is called as Ollaiyur in Purananuru. It was the birthplace of the poet Ollaiyur Kilan Makan Perumchattan and Ollaiyur Thantha Budha Pandyan. Agananuru also mentions Ollaiyur. It seems to have been an important city of the Pandyas. Four other places also are found in the Sangam classics. They are Ambukkovil, the ancient Alumbil, referred to in Agananuru; Avur, the home of the poets Avurkilar, Avur Mulamkilar; Erichi, the ancient Erichalur which had been identified with Erichi Village in Pudukkottai - Aranthangi road (but, according to recent researches, a village near Illupur). It was probably the home of the poet Madalan Madurai Kumaranar. Avayapatti is traditionally associated with Avvaiyar, who is believed to have lived here for some time.[citation needed]


Sangam period

This district was ruled by the Pandyas of the first empire during the Sangam period, but some part of its northern boundary area had been under the influence of the Cholas of Urayur. Some of the village names have prefixes like "killi" and "valavan", both of which are the titles of the Cholas.

The district shared the prosperity of the maritime trade of the Tamils. At Karukkakurichi was found a treasure trove of more than 500 Imperial Roman gold and silver coins, the largest ever recorded from a single hoard. This place lies in Alangudi taluk, a short distance north of Aranthangi and the adjoining old ports of Mimisal and Saliyur in the same area and Tondi further south. The Karukkakurichi hoard contained the issues of the Roman emperors and their queens, successively from Augustus (29 BCE - 14 CE) up to Vespasian (69-79).

The Karukkakurichi find would mark an important Indo-Roman trading centre, through which the inland trade route ran between the western and eastern ports during that time. This is indicated by a chain of such Roman coin hoard sites such as Korkai, Kilakkarai, and Alagankulam, all on the eastern sea coast. While Karukkakuruchi is a bit inland, it is not far away from ports like Mimisal. There are also few other sites of such finds in the east coast. While pointing out the exchanges of the exportable products for Roman gold and silver currency these would also indicate the places mentioned to have been active trade centres.

Kalabhras rule

From about the end of the 4th century until about the last quarter of the 6th, the district, like many other parts of Tamil Nadu, was under the Kalabhras. It must have come under the King Kurran, an inscription of whom has been found in Pulankurichi near Ponnamaravathi in the district.

Pandya empire

The next phase in the history of the district follows the overthrow of the Kalabharas by Kadungon in Pandya country about 590. The first Pandya empire inaugurated by Kadungon spread into the district. This is shown by the presence of inscriptions of the rulers of this dynasty in Kudumianmalai, Thirugokarnam and Sittannavasal. The poem, "Pandimandala sathakam", states that Pandya land's northern frontier was the river Vellar. The Vellar that flows north of Pudukkottai town from ancient times was the traditional boundary separating the terrains of the Cholas and Pandyas. This dividing line formed the Konadu and Kanadu, on the north and south respectively.

Thus the district became the boundary between the Pandyas and Pallavas. The Pandyas and Pallavas carried on wars by proxy through their subordinate chiefs, the Mutharayars and Velirs. Among the Velirs the best known are the Irukkuvels of Kodumbalur. The Kodumbalur Velirs became a political buffer zone between the kingdoms of the Cholas and Pandyas and formed a family of nobility from which kings and other chiefs made matrimonial alliances.

Vijayalaya Choleswaram, Pudukkottai, built c. 850 C.E.

The period of three centuries between c. 600 and c. 900 relates to the reign of the Pallavas of Kanchi and Pandyas of Madurai who ruled over the entire Tamil Nadu with the boundary between their empires oscillating on either side of the river Kaveri. The bone of contention was Cholamandalam, the home of the Cholas and the fertile Kaveri delta: the granary of the south. As such, Cholamandalam was the cynosure of all powers contending for supremacy during the entire historical period. The Cholas themselves were in eclipse and hibernating only to revive again in the ninth century. When the Pallava power came to an end, the Pandyas held on for some time, ultimately to yield place to the waxing Chola power.

Though Mahendravarma Pallava (604-630) inherited from his victorious father Simhavishnu the Pallava empire that reached up to the bank of the Kaveri, Cholamandalam could not be retained by his immediate successor. It was over-run by the Pandyas of the further south. The tract north and south of river Vellar were in the hands of the Mutharayar chieftains, who, until their annihilation by the resurgent Chola line of Vijayalaya, owed allegiance to the alternating super powers. The Irukkuvelirs eventually became the firm allies of the Cholas.

Thus, one cannot expect to find early Pallava monuments, antiquities and inscriptions in Pudukkottai region; but only those of the contemporary Pandyas along with those of Mutharaiyars and Irukkuvelirs. Later the Pallavas wrested the tract from the hands of the Pandyas. The tract came under the Pallavas from the time of Nandivarman II (730-796) when the Pallavas power reasserted itself in Cholamandalam and the tract south of Kaveri, reaching a little south beyond Vellar, comprising the northern half of the Pudukkottai district. This period is thus marked by the presence of rock cut cave temples of the Pandyas and Mutharaiyars.

The available historical evidence from the first Pandya empire is rather scanty. The best known inscriptions are found at Sittannavasal from the reign of Srimara Srivallaba (851-862) and at Kudumianmalai from the reign of Kochadayan Ranadheeran or Sadayan Maran (c. 700-730). In the reign of Maravarman Rajasimha I (c. 730-760) a number of battles were fought against the Pallavas, one of the sites being Kodumbalur. Inscriptions from the reign of Nedunchadayan (c 768-816), the greatest king of the dynasty, are found in Thirugokarnam and Nirpalani. Of the reign of three successors of Srimara Srivallaba ending with Rajasimha II (c 920), who lost his kingdom to the resurgent Cholas, there are no reference about the Pandya rulers in the district.

The Pallava references to places and incidents in the district are equally scanty. The earliest references to historical events in the district are found in the Pandya records of the Velvikudi and Sinnamanur plates which say that Maravarman Rajasimha defeated Nadhivarman Pallava Malla at Kodumbalur. The inscriptions of his successors are found in Kunnandarkoil, Malayadipatti and Rasalipatti.

The age of Pallavas and Pandyas of the first empire, the Mutharaiyars and Irukkuvelirs was the age of Tamil Bhakthi Movement. The Tevaram mentions several temples in the district. The three Nayanmars from this district were, Idangalinayanar of Kodumbalur, Perumizhalai Kurumbanayanar associated with Devarmalai and Kulachirai Nayanar of Manamelgudi.

Jainism well flourished in Pudukkottai area up to 11th century. There are a number of Jaina vestiges in the district. The Buddhist vestiges in the district come from the former Thanjavur district. Buddha idols are found at Kottaipattinam and Karur.

With the exit of Pallavas from the political scene and the subsequent elimination of the Pandya power by the Cholas who established themselves at Thanjavur as their capital at the close of 9th century. By 11th century they extended their sway even beyond, Tamilakam. Pudukkottai among many other places come under them. Their rule extended until about the middle of 13th century, when the Pandyas staged a comeback.


Under Chola Vijayalaya, this district formed part of his dominion but perhaps fitfully. The notion that some temples of ninth century in the district, belong to early Chola period, is erroneous. The Pandyas still held power in the region. It was not until the reign of Parantaka-I (907-955). Vijayalay's second successor, that the Cholas conquered the entire Pandya land. The Kodumbalur chiefs helped Parantaka in his campaign and remained faithful to the Cholas thereafter.

The rule of Rajaraja Chola-I shows a brilliant part in the history of the district in common with that of Tamil Nadu. The full benefaction of the Chola rule is revealed in their inscriptions in the district. These inscriptions are of great value is showing how effectively local administration functioned in this part of Chola Kingdom.

Rajaraja-I appointed his son the viceroy of the conquered Pandya and Chera lands. The entire district formed part of the Chola kingdom until the last year of Kulothunga-III (1178-1218). At the death of Rajaraja-II and the succession of Rajadhiraja-II, the Chola power began to decline.

The Pandyas began to assert their independence from the time of Kulothunga-I. Towards the end of the reign of Raja Raja-II, Kulasekara one of the two contenders for Pandya throne pealed the Chola for help. His rival Parakrama turned towards Srilanka. Pudukkottai also become seat this civil war. Parakrama Babu the Srilanka king sent an army to assist Parakrama Pandya according to Culavamsa, the Sinhalese chronicle the Sinhalese army engaged itself in the war in the parts of the district and burnt down the three storeyed palace at Ponnamaravathi. The outcome of the civil war became disastrous to the Cholas. The history of the district after the fall of Cholas could not be told in detail for the records are comparatively minimal. The Pandyas of the second empire spread their influence in the district gradually.

The Pandya power reached its height in the district under Jatavarman Sundra Pandya-I and Jatavaraman vira Pandya-I the joint rulers. The inscription of Virapandya in Kudumianmalai, throws much light on his relationship with Srilanka and his kingdom across the seas. During the reign of Maravarman Kulasekara-I who acceded in 1268 A.D, Marcopolo the Venetian traveler visited Pandya country. Towards the end of Kulasekara's reign Jatavarman Virapandya-II and Jatavarman Sundara Pandya-II, the brothers quarreled. This led to a civil war in Pandya country resulting in political unrest and confusion.

Malikafur the general of Alaudeen Khalji the Sultan of Delhi took advantage of this and invaded Pandya country. This led to the incorporation of the Pandya country in the Delhi empire in subsequent years. A sultanate was established at Madurai. There are two inscriptions relating to the period of the Sultans of Madurai in the district, one at Rangiam (1332) and another at Panaiyur (1344).

The brief spell of Muslim rule (Sultanate of Madurai) at Madurai lasted for about 75 years and again there was political unrest and chaos and Pudukkottai region also shared the fate. Minor princes ruled small territories here and there. By about 1371. Kumarakampana, the Vijayanagar prince took over Madurai and the Sultanate came to an end. But the Pandya power did not survive on the Hindu conquest and slowly it ceased to be a historical force in the district.

The Hoysalas of Karnataka arrived in the southern part of Tamil Nadu and actively intervened Chola - Pandya feuds and soon they came to occupy the region on either banks of river Cauvery with the capital at Kannanur (modern Samayapuram). They established themselves in the area by the middle of 13th century and much of the Pudukkottai area was under their sway till the end of 13th century. The Vijayanagar Rayas centered in Hampi took over Madurai, from the Muslims when the whole of southern Karnataka, Andra and Tamilnadu came under one rule - the Vijayanagar empire.

Under the Vijayanagar Sangama dynasty (1336-1485) the inscriptions in the district refer to many local chiefs such as Suraikudi, Perambur, Sendavanmangalam, Vanadaraiyar, Gangaiaraiyar and Thondaimans of Aranthangi. During the brief Suluva rule (1485-1505 A.D) Narasimha Raya the first Suluva emperor, during a tour of his dominions passed through Pudukkottai country on his way to Madurai. Vira Narasimha Nayak, the Tuluva usurper and the general of Saluva Narasimha-I, led a campaign against the Pandya chiefs and marched through Pudukkottai.

Princely flag of Pudukkottai

A great personality of the Tuluva dynasty (1505-1570) was Krishna Deveraya (1509-1529). He had visited Brahadamba Gokarnesa temple at Thirugokarnam on his way to Rameswaram and gifted many valuable presents to the temple. Under his successor eastern part of Pudukkottai district formed part of the Thanjavur kingdom for some time and the rest was under the Madurai Nayaks. The Thondaimans of Pudukkottai rose to power by about the end of 17th century.

The provincial viceroys of the Vijayanagar empire, the Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur asserted independence after the downfall of the empire. The Pudukkottai area thus came under the Nayaks of Madurai nominally and under the Thanjavur Nayaks frequently. The Thondaimans of Pudukkottai came to rule with full sovereignty over the Pudukkottai area from the middle of the 17th century till its amalgamation with the rest of India after Indian Independence in 1947.

The ancestors of the Pudukkottai ruling line of Thondaimans, are migrants from Thirupathi region in the Thondaimandalam, the northern stretch of the ancient Tamil Kingdom, along with the Vijaynagar army, which was in engagement in this part of territory in the early 17th century. It is probable that one among them got some lands assigned to him by the local Pallavarayar chieftain and settled down at Karambakudi and Ambukovil area, and became the chieftain of the area, later came to be called as the progenitor of Thondaimans of Pudukkottai ruling house. According to the legendary account found in a Telugu poem, Thondaiman Vamasavali, the Thondaimans belonged to Indravamsa and the first ruler was Pachai Thondaiman.

Avadi Raya Thondaiman, the successor of Pachai Thondaiman, with the favour of Venkata Raya III, the king of Vijayanagar got extended the land in his possession in the region and he was also conferred the title Raya. The Avadi Raya Thondaiman inherited Vijayanagar tradition and the Thondaimans of later period adopted it.

Thirumayam Fort

His son Ragunatha Raya Thondaiman came close to the Nayak of Thanjavur and Rangakrishna Muthuvirappa Nayak of Tiruchirappalli. He was appointed as the arasu kavalar of Tiruchirappalli. Vijaya Raghunatha Kilavan Sethupathi, the Sethupathi ruler of Ramanathapuram married Kathali Nachiar, the sister of Thondaiman. This marriage strengthened the ties between these dynasties. The Sethupathi presented the tract of land to the south of Vellar to the Thondaiman. Thus the Pudukkottai territory was enlarged. This account is called the Sethupathi origin of Pudukkottai country and expansion of Thondaiman rule. the Thondaiman's rule was established south of Vellar and Raghunatha Raya Thondaiman was in estimation to the status of a bigger territory by about 1686, and he ruled up to 1730.

About the time that Raghunatha Raya Thondaiman became the ruler of Pudukkottai, Namana Thondaiman, his brother became the chief of Kulathur Palayam (present Kulathur taluk area) with the blessings of the Nayak king Ranga Krishna Muthuvirappa of Tiruchirappalli (1682-1689) and Kulathur continued as separate "principality - with its ruler known as Kulathur Thondaiman " till about 1750 when it was annexed to Pudukkottai. Reghunatha also got some territories by victory, consolidating Pudukkottai rule roughly constituting the former Kulathur, Alangudi and Thirumayam taluks. The tract contained in these taluks, later came to be known as Pudukkottai State (Pudukkottai Samasthanam).

Todiman Raja in his Durbar, Pudukkottai, 1858

Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Thondaiman (1730-1769) was the second in the line of Thondaiman dynasty. During his period the whole of India come under the umbrella of the Mughals. The Nayakdoms of Ginjee, Thanjavur and Madurai were subjugated and became tributaries of the Mughal rule so also the smaller palayams which were under them. The Nizam of Hyderabad was appointed as the Mughal representative of South India, in turn the Nizam entrusted the Tamil Nadu region then known as Carnatic, to the Nawab of Arcot. Many of the tributory states did not remit the tributes regularly and such provinces were invaded by the Nawab's forces. Nothing like this happened in the case of Pudukkottai and was left undisturbed by the Nawab.

The war of succession to the office of Nawab of Carnatic, between Mohamad Ali and Chanda Sahib, became in due course a war of supremacy between the English and the French in South India which resulted in the Carnatic wars. The French supported the cause of Chanda Sahib and the English were on the side of Mohamed Ali. The war lasted for many years mainly around Tiruchirappalli. The Thondaiman was firmly on the side of the English at his time while the rulers like Thanjavur Marathas wavered. At last the English emerged as the masters. This firm help of the Thondaiman to the English was rewarded by the exemption of tribute by the victorious Nawab and later this was continued by the English. The Thondaiman's act of friendship towards English was continued by the next ruler Raya Raghunatha Thondaiman (1769-1789). Because of this the Thondaimans had to encounter the strong forces of Hyder Ali.

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