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carved in most intricate and minute designs.

Of late years, under the present energetic executive, much has
been done to bring the Alagar temple and its surroundings into the
state of re]iair which its considerable wealtli (its income is some
Rs. 16,000) demands. The quadrangle has been cleared of rubbish
and earth, the inner rjopurain above the entrance to the shrine has
been repaired, the main cfopuy^am is shortly to be similarly treated,
the fort wall is being patched and a big teppakulam near the main
gate through this is being rebuilt.

On the hill above the temple, to the north and perhaps two
miles away, is a clear and cool natural stream, called the Nupura
Gangai, which Hows over a little waterfall into a reservoir sur-
rounded by a vamnta mantnpam and thence down the mountain
side to the temple. I'ipes have recently been laid to bring this to
the different parts of the building and its surroundings and this
is a great boon to the pilgrims at festivals. No other water is
ever used for bathing the god (who is said to turn black with dis-
pleasure if such an innovation is attempted) and when he makes his
annual journey to Madura this water is always carried with him.

This journey takes place at the time of th^-> Chittrai (April-
May) festival at Madura, when Siva is married to Minakshi.
Alagar is carried in state in a great palanquin, halts at each of the
numerous mantapams whicli line the 12 miles of road to tlie
town, and eventually stays for the festival at Tallakulam, the
village just north-east of the Yaigai l)ridge. Before he starts, liis
palanquin is halted at the gate of KaruppanasvamI, who is held to
be in some way his servant, and S list of the jewels he is taking
with him is publicly recited. When he grts back, tlu^ same list
is re-read in the same place in token of the safe return of tliese
valuables. Tho religious enthusiasm exhibited throughout the
whole of this state progress needs to be seen to be believed.

The popular story accounting for tho visit says that Alagar is
the brother of Minakshi, comes to her wedding, arrives too late
for the ceremony, and so returns home in dudgeon without entering


CHAP. XV. the town. This has no canonical autliority. There is no real
Met-uk. connection between Alagar's journey ond the wedding ; and before
Tirumala Nayakkan's reign they took place at different times, the
former occurring in the month Ohittrai (April-May) and the latter
in Masi (February-March). Tirumala combined the two for the
convenience of the numerous pilgrims by fixing the wedding
festival in Chittrai, in which month it still occurs.

Alagarsvami is held in special veneration by the Kalians wlio
are so numerous in the neighbouring villages and is often popularly
called the Kallar-Alagar. The men of this caste have the right to
drag his car at the car-festival and when he goes on his visit to
Madura he is dress^^d as a Kalian, exhibits the long ear lobes charac-
teristic 'of that caste, and carries the boomerang and club which
were of old their favourite weapons. It is whispered that Kalian
dacoits invoke his aid when they are setting out on marauding
expeditions and, if they are successful therein, put part of their
iU-gotten gains into the offertory {undt'al) box which is kept at his

Arittdpatti : About midway between Melur and Alagar-
kovil and a mile south of the road connecting them. Population
1.654. One of the many villages which have been transformed
by the Periydr water-channels, paddy-fields now occupying what
a few years ago was all dry land.

Hidden away in a solitary spot in the long, low line of bare,
broken, hills which lies to the west of the village site and is called
tlae Perunialmalai, is a neat little rock-cut Siva temple which faces
west. It consists of an inner shrine about 8 feet square and
7 high containing a lingam; a little porch in front of this
measuring some 9 feet by 5 and including, on either side of
the entrance to the shrine, a dvdrapdhka (door-keeper) carved in
high relief, standing in an aggressive attitude and armed with a
formidable club ; and on either side of this porch, less deeply
recessed, two niches containing figures, again in high relief, of
Ganesa and of some individual bearing a big club round which
twines a cobra. The whole affair — shrine, lingam, dvdrcipdiakas
and images — is all cut out of the solid rock, and the sculpture is
much better than in the usual run of this class of temple. In
front, stands a detached nandi (Siva's bull) of more modern date.
There appear to be no inscriptions in the immediate neiglibourhood.

Karungdlakudi : Eight miles north of Meliir on the Trichi-
nopoly road ; population 2,075. About a mile to the south of the
viUago are still left a few dolmens. Tliey were formerly numerous.
To the south-east of it, on the floor of a natural shelter made by an


overhanging rock, are cut out some Panclia Pdndava paclukkai, or CHAP. XV,

' "beds of the five Pandavas ' (see p. 75). Others, it may here be Mf l6r.

mentioned, are to be seen to the north-west of Kilavalavu, seven

miles south by east on the M^Kir-Tiruppattur road. Karungalakudi

also contains one of the oddest of tlie many curious solid granite

hills which abound in this part of the district — a huge sugar-loaf

peak, the western side of which is one smooth, unbroken, bare slope

of sheet rock. Nearly due west of the village site, on tlie opposite

side of the road and on the top of a low hummock of rock, stands

the prominent temple of 'J'iruehunai, an old Saivite shrine which

contains ten or a dozen inscriptions of Pand) a timos.

Kottampatti : Fourteen miles north of Melur on the Trichi-
nopoly road ; population 2,126 ; police-station, local fund chattram
and an ancient travellers' bungalow (it was in existence in 1817)
in a pleasant compound. Tlie village was formerly a jilace of
importance owing to its being one of the stages on the ]algrim road
to E^mesvaram, but the railway has now diverte(i tliis and other
traffic and the trunk road which runs past the place from Madura to
Trichinopoly is full of i-uts and hok'S which would disgrace a village

Iron ore is moi-e pli^ntiful in this neighbourhood than jierliaps
anywhere in the district. A mile east of the travellers' bungalow
it crops out in the form of silicate in a hill of quartz, the whole of
which is coloured by it.^ It is seen again in a tank three-quarters
of a mile west of the bungalow, and again four miles still farther
west it forms a hill of ironstone some 50 feet liigh and nearly half
a mile long. It then vanishes, Init reapjiears about a mile to the
westward again, where it rises into a ridge in a small hill, forms
several prominent points, again vanishes, reappears once more about
a mile still west in long ridges, and forms the topmost peak of a
hill some 600 feet liigh. The whole line of the outcro]i is thus
eight miles long, in which distance it forms an important jiart of
seven considerable hills and, where it has been excavated, strews
much of the low ground with its fragments. In 1855 se\'erai native
blast furnaces were at work in this part of the taluk extracting the
metal from iron ore and iron- sand.

About a mile to the north-east of Kottampatti, through dense
groves of cocoanut and other fruit trees, runs the Polar, a jungle
stream of some local im})ortance. Four miles beyond it, a striking-
object from the village, rises the steep scarp of Pirdniualai hill in
the Sivaganga zamindari. At the foot of this is a well-known

' The account which follows is basod on pp. 119-20 of Dr. Balfour's Report
on Iron ores (Madras, 1855) which in its turn was founded on material contributed
b^ th» R«T. C, F. Muzrj of th« American MiBBion ftt Madura,


CHAP. XV. temple to Subrahmanya and two other shrines, all of which contain
MiLUR. ancient inscriptions, and also a rich math in charg-e of a non-Brahman
Fanddra-sannadhi ; and on the top of it are five or six sacred pools,
a stone niantapam, a Alusahnan place of worship strongly built
of big bricks, the ruins of masonry fortifications and a long iron
cannon of curious design.

M61ur : Eigliteen miles north-east of Madura on the road to
Trichinopoly ; population 10,100 ; union ; head-quarters of the
taluk and so the station of the tahsildar and stationary sub-
magistrate and of a sub-registrar ; a centre of the American
Mission ; weekly market ; travellers' bungalow, police-station,
local fund chattram. The Periyar project has brought new life to
the town, which is now a rising agricultural and commercial

It is known to history as the head-quarters of the turbulent
Kalians of the ' Melur-nad,' whose exploits are referred to in the
account of the caste on p. 93 above, and Muhammad Ylisuf Khan
established a fort there to overawe them. All trace of this has now
vanished, bat AVard's Survey Account shows that it stood round
about the present travellers' bungalow, to the north-east of the
village. After the English took control of the district, a detachment
of native infantry was kept in Melur for some years, and perhaps
the bombproof buildings there and at Kottampatti which are now
used as travellers' bungalows are relics of this occupation. In the
compound of the former stands the finest banyan in the district — ■
perhaps in the Presidency — a huge tree which shades a roughly
circular space some 75 yards in diameter and which has a much
taller and thicker top than its well-known rival in Madura.

Nattam : Twenty-three miles north-north-east of Madura by a
road which in bygone years was the main route to Trichinopoly
but is now in very second-rate order. Population 7,796; union;
station of a sub-registrar who is also a special magistrate under the
Towns Nuisances Act ; travellers' bungalow (at Velampatti, half a
mile to the west) ; police-station. In the eighteenth century the
village possessed a fort and was a regular halting-place between
Trichinopoly and Madura, and it appears frequently in the histories
of the wars of that period. It was then the head-quarters of a
zamin estate. This escheated to Government at the beginning of
the last century for lack of legal heirs. There are ruins of old
wells and buildings to the west of the village. The place used to
be notorious for its fever, but is now healthy enough and boasts a
thriving manufacture of oil (some of it made in iron mills of
European pattern) from ground-nut and gingelly seed.


The village gives its name to the scattered, stony ' Nattam CHAP. XV,
hills ' which surround it, and to the ' Nattam pass ' which leads to MiLtJB.
Madura hetween the Alagarmalais and the eastern spurs of the
Sirumalais. Both these were formerly great strongholds of the
' Nattam Colleries' (Kalians) who figure so prominently in Orme's
history. In 1755 the expedition under Col. Heron which had
been sent to quiet Madura and Tinnevelly (see p. 62) met on its
return with a most serious reverse in this Nattam pass. Orme
describes the place as ' one of the most difficult and dangerous
defiles in the peninsula ' as it ' continues for six miles through a
wood, impenetrable everywhere else to all excepting the wild
beasts and Colleries to whom it belongs.' The advance party of
-the expedition saw no enemy in this pass and so went on and halted
at Nattam. The main body followed and had got well within the
defile when one of the gun tumbrils stuck in the mud. This
blocked the other tumbrils, the three guns of the rear detachment
of artillery and all the baggage, which was at the tail of the
column. Col. Heron foolishly allowed the rest of his men to
proceed, and they were soon two miles ahead of the blocked
portion. This latter was guarded by only 100 men, of whom only
25 were Europeans.

The Kalians now burst upon this small body from all sides.
The guns opened fire on them, but they ' nevertheless maintained
the attack for some time with courage and with a variety of
weapons ; arrows, matchlocks, rockets, javelins and pikes ; every
one accompanying his efforts with horrible screams and howlings.'
EventuaUy they pushed right down to the road, stabbed the
bullocks which drew the tumbrils and broke open these vehicles.

In them they found what was probably the cause of the whole
attack — some little brazen idols which the expedition had taken from
the temple at KovUkudi, six miles east of Madura. ' The confused
outcries of the enemy were on a sudden changed to one voice, and
nothing was heard on all sides but continual repetitions of the word
steamy, meaning gods, which expression they accompanied with
violent gesticulations and antic postures, like men frantic with joy.'
Bat the recovery of the idols did not end the fight, and it was not
until dark that the section got through the pass to the main body
of the detachment ; and then only with the loss of many men and
more followers and the whole of its baggage and stores. Col.
Heron was recalled to Madras, court-martiaUed, and cashiered.

Tiruvadur : Six miles south of Melur; population 2,499.
Picturesquely situated on a fine tank, across which is a beautiful
view of the Alagar hills. The road runs along the embankment of
this. On top of one of the sluices stands an unusual stone image



CHAP. XV. of a centanr-like being wliicli is supposed to protect tlie tank.
Uiitvi. Close und^r the embankment, beliind a slirine to Pid^ri, is a small
building made of old stones bearing fragments of inscriptions,
wliicli marks tlie place wbere one Venkammal committed sati on
the pyre of lier murdered husband. This meritorious deed, say
the people, has ever since brought prosperity to Tiruvddur.

The tank flanks the north and west sides of the village and these

were further strengthened in former days, by a stone-faced rampart

topped with a red brick parapet similar to that at Alagarkovil

(p. 283) and protected by semi-circular bastions. Extensive

remains of these are still standing. AVithin these fortifications is

the village and its old Siva temple. This latter contains an

architectural freak which is not uncommon in this district but is ,

nowhere carried out in so bold a manner. The wide stone eaves

of the imposing ruined mantapam just within the gateway (the

sculpture throughout which is unusually good) are made of hugo

blocks of granite, some six feet long, the upper sides of which are

fashioned into a most graceful double curve while the under

portions are carved, at immense expense of time and energy, to

represent long, thin wooden rafters radiating from a central

point above the building and strengthened by purlins executed in

complete relief. Similar eaves surround the porch to the south of

the inner shrine of this temple and (until it was recently repaired)

were also to be seen in another mantapam in the north-east corner

of the inner enclosure. The remains of these last are lying about

the temple courtyard.

Tiruvddur was the birth-place of the famous Saivite poet-
saint Mdnikya-Vachakar (' he whose utterances are rubies '), the
author of the sacred poems known as the Tinivdchakam. The
site of his house is still pointed out and there is a shrine to him
within the temple. lie is thought by some^ to have lived as early
as the middle of the fifth century, and the current traditions
regarding his life are known and repeated throughout the Tamil
country. A Brdhman by caste, he rose, it is said, to be Prime
Minister to the Pandya king of Madura. But his mind turned
ever to higher matters and a crisis was at last reached when he
handed over to a holy guru (who was really Siva in disguise) the
whole of an immense treasure with which his royal master had
sent him out to buy horses for the cavalry. The tale was carried
to the king, who instantly summoned Mdnikya-Ydchakar to the
capital. Siva bade him go as directed and assure his master that

^ Christian College Magaaine, N.S., i, 144 ff. Dr. Pope's Tiruvaragam
(Clarendon Press, 1900) gives a translation of his jjoems and the main events of
his life.

ga7:ettrer. 291

the horses wouhl shortly arrive ; and then, in one of those fits of CHAP. XV.
playfulness which so endear him to his adherents, the deity trans- M^l^r.
formed a number of jackals into splendid horses and himself rode
at their head into the town of Madura. The Pandya king's
displeasure vanished at the sight and Mdnikja-Vachakar was
forgiven ; but the same night the supposed liorses all resumed
their original sliapes, escaped from the royal stables and ran
howling through the Madura streets back to their native jungles.
Mjinikya-Vachakar was thrown into prison, but Siva again inter-
vened and sent a mighty flood down the Vaigai which threatened
to overwhelm the capital. The whole population was turned out
to raise an embankment to keep back the waters and every man
and woman in the place was set to build a certain section of this.
One aged woman could not complete her task quickly enough, so
Siva assumed the guise of a labourer and set himself to help her.
At that moment tlie king came along to inspect the work and,
seeing this section behindhand, struck the supposed cooly with his
stick. Now Siva is the world, and when lie was struck every man
and woman in the world — tlio king liimself included — felt the blow ;
and the king thus knew that Siva was on the side of Mdnikya-
Vdchakar and at once released his minister.

Mdnikya-Yachakar thereafter renounced mundane affairs,
travelled round as an ascetic to the more famous shrines of the
south, singing their praises in the polished verses which are even
now recited in thorn, settled at length near Chidambaram, and
finally attained beatitude within the shrine of the great temple

In Madura his memory is kept green at the festivals at the
Mindkshi temple. Every year at the Avanimulam feast, the
story of the jackals is acted and a live jackal is brought into the
temple and let loose with much ceremony ; and the people go
in a body to a spot on the banlc of the Yaigai near the munici-
pal waterworks and similarly enact the story of the raising of
the dam, one of the temple priests taking the part of Siva and
shovelling earth and another representing the Pandya king and
striking him.



CHAP. XV. This new talnlc is surrounded witli liills. It is bounded on tlie
Nilakk6xtai. greater part of its northern and eastern sides hj the Siruraalais and
the Alagarnialais, and on much of its southern and western frontiers
by the Nagamalai, the end of the Andipatti range and a corner of
the Palnis. It is also well watered. The country round
Vattilagundu is irrigated by the almost perennial Manjalar, and
the Vaigai runs all along the southern part of the taluk. The
important Peranai and Chittanai dams across this latter river are
both situated within the taluk, and much of the southern part of it
is irrigated by the Periyar water which the former of them renders
available for cultivation.

Detailed statistics for Nilakkottai are not yet available. The
more interesting villages in it are the following : —

Ammayanayakkanur : Four miles east of Nilakkottai and
786 feet above the sea. Contains a chattram, a travellers' bungalow
and a railway rest-house, and is the station at which passengers
for Kodaikanal alight — bullock-tongas taking them thence to
Krishnama Na yak's tope at the foot of the ghat^ — and the point
of export for the produce of the Kannan Devan Hills in Travancore.
Tlie battle fought here in 1736 (see p. 58) decided the fate of the
Nayakkan dynasty and delivered its territories into the hands of
Chanda Sahib.

The village is the chief place in the zamindari of the same
name, which pays the fourth largest peshkash in the district and
includes the plateau and the western slopes of the Sirumalai hiUs.
Family tradition ^ says that the original ancestor of the zamindar's
family was one Makkaya Nayakkan, wlio was owner of a palaiyam
in the Yijayanagar country and commanded one of the detachments
which accompanied Visvanatha's expedition thence to Madura
in 1559 (see p. 41). For his services he was granted this estate
and put in charge of one of the 72 bastions of the new Madura
fort. His property appears originally to have included villages
round Vedasandlir and some rights over the palaiyam of Palliyap-
panayakkanur (Klivakkapatti), but when the Mysoreans took

^ Full details regarding distances, cliargee, baggage and arrangements
generally, will be found in the South Indian Kailway Guide.
* In one of the Mackenzie MSS,


Dindig-ul the former were detaclaed and the latter was made CHAP. XV.
independent.^ During Ilaidar's operations of 1755 against the Nilikkottai.
Dindigul poligars (see p. 70) the owner of Ammayanayakkanur
assisted him and so escaped the punishment which overtook most of
his fellows. The estate was however sequestrated for arrears by
Tipu in 1788, but restored by the Company in 1790. In 3 796 the
poligar gave trouble, declining either to pay up his arrears of
peslikash or to keep the road to Madura free of dacoits, and the
forfeiture of his proport}- was proposed.

The subsequent history of the family has been largely a
chronicle of debt, mismanagement and litigation. In 1846 the
property was leased to M. Faure de Fondclair, who built the
bungalow the ruins of which stand a little to the north of the
railway-station, started the planting of coffee on the Sirumalais, but
(according to a report by the Collector) dealt so oppressively with
the ryots there that several of the hill villages were deserted and
much land went out of cultivation. He died in 1853 (he is buried in
the Roman Catholic church at Madura) and in 1856 his claim against
the estate was cleared oft and the property leased again to a Chetti
of Devakkottai." In 1870 another lease to one Adimulam Pillai
was executed, but this was afterwards set aside by the courts. A
permanent sanad was granted for the zamindari in 1873. A
subsequent gift of the estate to his wife made by a later zamindar
in 1891 was set aside in 1894 by the High Court, which declared
the property inalienable and impartible.^ The present proprietor,
Ramasvami Nayakkan, succeeded in 1905. A decree for ]^ lakhs
has been passed against him and a receiver has been appointed
to take charge of the estate.

' A peculiar custom called ddydiH pattam regulates the succession
to this palaiyam.* On the demise of the palaiyagar for the time
being, the estate devolves, not on his heir according to the Mitakshara
law, which, in the absence of a special custom, governs this part of
southern India, not on the eldest son according to the rule of primoge-
niture, which obtains in the other palaiyams in the district owned by
persons of the Kamblar fTottiyan) caste, but on the ddyddi, or cousin,
of the deceased palai3agar who is ponior in ago and who is descended
from one of the three brothers who originally formed a joint Hindu
family. These three brothers were named (1) Petala Nayak, (2) Cha-
kala Nayak, and (3) Chinnalu Nayak, and of the three branches

^ Historical memorandum of 1796 in thn Collector's recordB.

2 Eccords in O.S. No. 13 of 1892 on the file of the West Sub-Court of

3 T.L.R. (Madias), XVIII, 287 ff.
* Ibid., 289.



GHAP. XV. Rpringing from tlipm the second is now extinct. Thus- the class of
NiLAKKdrTAi. kindred in -which the heir has to he found is that of the descendants

of the two branches, and the person to be selected as palaiyagar from

that class is the one who is the oldest or senior in years.'

This curious custom is accounted for bv ilio following- tradition :
One of the poligars, named Ponniya Nayakkan, died, leaving a wife
Kistnammal and an infant son Lakkayya. Hearing- that her late
husband's brother, Kamayya Nayakkan, was ]ilotting to murder her
and her child and seize the estate, Kistnammal had him assassinated.
His -wife Errammal was OTorcomo with grief, committed saii on
his funeral pyre, and 2:)ronounced a hideous curse against any direct
descendant who should thenceforth succeed to the estate. The
stone slab bearing representations of a man, a woman and a child
"which stands within the little enclosure a couple of hundred yards
north-east of the railway-station, is said to mark the spot where
the sati was committed and is still paid periodical reverence by
the zamindar's family.

KulaS^kharankottai : Population 3,023. Lies nine miles
south-east of Nilakkottai at the foot of the southernmost spur of
the Sirumalais. On this spur are two curious cavities in the rocks,

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