Madras (India : State).

Madura (Volume 1) online

. (page 34 of 40)
Online LibraryMadras (India : State)Madura (Volume 1) → online text (page 34 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

district, standing 1 ,068 feet above the sea on the edge of the great
Vydpuri tank and looking across this towards the mouths of the two
largest valleys in the Palnis and the bold cliffs which separate them.
Framing the eastern side of this beautiful prospect, rises the steep?
rocky hill (450 feet high) on the top of whi(!h is built the famous
temple to Subrahmanya in his form Dandayudhapani, or ' the
bearer of the baton.' Round this hill runs a sandy road adorned
at intervals with many mantapams, several of which contain great
stone images of the peacock, the favourite vehicle of Subrahmanya.
Up it, is built a winding flight of stone steps on which are cut the
names and footprints of many devotees, and which is flanked at
frequent intervals by mantapams and lesser shrines, and crowded in
typically oriental fashion with pilgrims passing up and down to the
temple, beggiug ascetics smeared with holy ash, a few gorgeous
peacocks and many most impudent monkeys. A story is told^
about Queen Mangammdl of Aladura and these steps. One day
when she was going up them, she came upon a young man who,
perceiving her, retreated in confusion. She called out graciously to
him Zrunkol ! or '' Pray wait !' and he and his sons' sons thereafter
always took this word as their name. At night the path is lighted
at intervals with lamps (a favourite form of showing devotion to
the god is to maintain one of these for a certain period) and the
effect from below is most picturesque.

^ Indian Antiquary, x, 365.


Arcliitecturally, tlie building on the top of the rock is not CHAP. XT.
noteworthy, there being no sculpture in it which is above the Palni.
ordinary. It consists of the usual outer wall enclosing a central
shrine surrounded by smaller buildings and entered from the west
by a gateway beneath a brick and plaster gopuram. The best
reward for the climb is the view of the great Palni Hills and the
rich cultivation

Spread like a praying-carpet at the foot

Of those divinest altars.
The fading of the evening light of a quiet October day across
the green rice-fields, the groves of palms and the vast, silent range
beyond is a memorable sight. The belt below the hills, though very
fair to the eye, is exceedingly malarious; and Aiyampalle (which
of old gave its name to this taluk) and Balasamudram (once the
fort and residence of the poligar of Palni referred to later) are now
entirely deserted, their fields being tilled by people who live in
Palni and return home every evening.

The sthala furdna of Palni gives the widely known legend
regarding the founding of this temple : Agastya, the famous rishi,
created the hill Sivagiri on which the shrine stands and the neigh-
bouring, slightly lower, eminence now called Idumbanmalai ; did
penance on them for some time ; and then went to Mount Kail^sa
to visit Siva. On his return to his home at the southern end of
the Western Grhats, he sent his demon-servant Idumban to bring
these two hills thither. Idumban fixed them to either end of a
Ixdoadi (the pole by which burdens are slung the shoulder)
but when he began to lift them he found that Idumbanmalai went
up in the air while Sivagiri remained immovable. Tliinking the
latter must be too heavy lie put two big boulders (still to be seen)
on the top of the former to make the balance better. Sivagiri,
however, was still immovable, so he went to it to see what was
the matter.

Meanwhile, on Mount Kailasa, Siva had offered a pomegranate
to whichever of his two sons, Subrahmanya and Ganesa, could
travel round the world the quicker. Subrahmanya mounted his
peacock and set olf at a great pace, bnt Ganesa (whose elephant-
head and portly figure handicapped him heavily in euch a contest) '
took thought and then walked slowly round his father and claimed
that as Siva was all-in-all he had by so doing travelled round the
world and won the fruit. Siva admitted his contention and gave
him the pomegranate. Subrahmanya eventually completed his
journey and was very wroth when he heard how he had been
outwitted. His father attempted to console him l»y saying Palani



CHAP. XV ' thou art thyself a fruit,' (whence the name of this town)^ tut he
Palni. went angrilj away to Tiruvavinangudi (near the foot of Sivagiri,
where there is now a considerable temple) and later on to Sivagiri

When Idumban went to this hill to see why it would not move,
Subrahmanya was there and was much annoyed at being disturbed.
He accordingly slew Idumban. Agastya, however, hurried up and
at his intercession the god restored the demon-servant to life and
promised that in future the first worship on the Jiill should always
be performed to him. This is still done — at the little temple to
Idumban which stands about half way up the steps leading to the
top of Sivagiri.

This story in the sthala purdna explains why pilgrims to this
Palni temple very generally bring with them a Mvadi on their
shoulders. The custom has since, however, been copied at many
other shrines to Subrahmanya. The tale also shows, what is in
other ways clear, that the Tiruvavinangudi temple is older than
that on Sivagiri. This latter is, indeed, a comparatively
modern erection. A MS. in the Mackenzie collection, which is
confirmed by local accounts, states that a Canarese non-Brahman
Udaiyar first set up a small shrine on Sivagiri, and that for some
time he conducted the worship in it. Eventually, in the time
of Tirumala Nayakkan, he was induced by that ruler's general
Ramappayya, who visited this town, to hand over to the Brahmans
the actual performance of the puja, and was given in return certain
duties of superintendence and a right to receive certain annual
presents and to shoot off, at the Dasara festival, the arrow which
symbolises Subrahmanya' s victory over Idumban. His descendants
have ever since performed this rite. Many of them are buried at
the foot of the steps leading up to the hill. The present heir of
the family, Bhoganatha Pulippani Patra Udaiyar, is a minor.

The Tiruvavinangudi shrine is now being completely rebuilt
by the Chettis, and the new sculpture in it, executed in the fine-
grained granite quarried on Idumbanmalai, is excellent. There is
also good modern stone-work in the Siva temple in the middle of
the town itself, but much of this has been pitiably defaced by the
greasy oblations which have been poured over it.

Pilgrims come to the shrine on Sivagiri from all over the
Presidency and especially from the West Coast. As has been
said, they usually bring kdvadis with them. Milk and other offer-
ings are carried in sealed vessels on either end of these, and the
former is duly poured over the god's image. Fanciful stories are
current telling how the milk keeps sweet for days and weeks on the



journey when "brought for this sacred purpose, and how fish cooked OflAP. XV.

for the god when the pilgrim sets out leap alive from the sealed Palni.

vessels when thej are opened for the first time before the shrine.

Messrs. Turnbull and Keys' Survey Account of 1815-16 says

that in those days if by any chance the T»iilk and so on brought up

in the sealed kdradts were foundlnot to be fresh, it was held to be

a sign of the impiety of the pilgrim, who was expected to atone by

severe bodily penance. Penances are still in fashion at the shrine.

Pilgrims occasionally take a vow to wear a ' mouth-lock ' for

several days before going to the temple. This instrument consists

of a piece of silver wire which is driven through both cheeks,

passes through the mouth and is fastened outside, in fi-ont of the

face. Another similar ordeal consists in passing a small skewer

through the tip of the tongue.

Curiously enough, Musalmans also believe in the eflScacy of
prayer to this shrine. Kavutans go to the little door at the
back (east) of it and make their intercessions and offer sugar in
the mantapam immediately inside this. They explain their action
by saying that a Musalman fakir, called Palni Bava, is buried
within the shrine.

Palni was formerly the capital of an extensive estate of the
same name which was one of the 26 palaiyams included in the
Dindigul province at the time of its acquisition by the Com-
pany in 1790. According to one of the Mackenzie MSS.,^ the
original founder of the family was a relation of the ancestor
of the Ayakkudi poligar and came with him from Ahobilam
in Anantapur. ' Sinnoba ' (/.e., Chinna Ahobilam) is a name of
frequent occurrence in the family. He was given an estate by
Visvanatha Nayakkan and put in charge of one of the 72 bastions
of Madura. He founded the fort of B^lasamudram, just south of
Palni, which was thereafter the residence of the family, and he and
his successors did much for the extension of the Palni temple and
the improvement of the country. The more recent history of
the palaiyam has already been referred to on pp. 70 and 183
above. During his expedition of 1755 Haidar Ali plundered
it of everything valuable and compelled its owner (who had fled)
to agree to pay a fine of 1,75,000 chakrams. After the British
took the country the then poligar, Velayudha Nayakkan, gave a
great deal of trouble. In 1792 he was plundering in the Coimbatore
district ; in 1794 he was engaged in open hostilities with his
neighbour Ayakkudi, who was in some way dependent upon him ;
and in the next year he took umbrage at a proposal of Government

^ Local }tecoid8, vol. 42, 499, aud Wilson, 417.


CHAP. XV. to detacli this latter estate and assess it separately, and was reported to have armed 1,000 men and to be marching on Bodinayakkanur.
On the 7th October 1795 Captain Oliver surprised and captured
him in his fort at Balasamudram ; and the achievement was con-
sidered of such importance that Oliver and his detachment were
thanked in general orders and the jemadar of the party was
promoted and given a gold medal inscribed ' Courage and Fidelity.
By Grovernment, 7th October 1795.' ^

A week later the poligar, nothing abashed, wrote the Collector
an indignant letter complaining that Captain Oliver had attacked,
wounded and confined him, just because he wouldn't pay his
reshkash. In November, however, the Collector was warned that
a plan was afoot to kidnap him and keep him in confinement as
9. hostage for Yelayudha's release ; in December Captain Oliver
reported that the poligar's Aiyangar ' pradhani ' (chief minister)
had attacked him in Palni with 800 men ; and in the next month
this man had to be driven off by a force from Dindigul under
Colonel Cnppage. In 1796 the estate was forfeited for this rebel-
lion, and Vela yudha was confined on the Dindigul rock and
subsequently deported to Madras, where he eventually died. But
as late as 1799 Yirupakshi, Kannivadi and other poligars were
conspiring to reinstate his son, Yyapuri, as chief of Palni.

Kettayambadi : A zamindari lying to the west of Palni
town and including a considerable area on the slopes of Palni hills.
According to one of the Mackenzie MSS.^, the original founder
of the family (who were Tottiyans by caste) fled (with the ancestors
of the Palui and Ayakkudi poligars) from the Musalmans of the
north, because these wanted to marry the girls of his caste, and
took service under the Vijayanagar kings. Like the founders of
other zamindaris in this district, he afterwards accompanied Vis-
vanatha on his expedition against Madura and for his services was
granted an estate. Plis son did much for the temple on Aivarmalai
above mentioned^ clearing the way up to it, establishing a water-
pandal for the refreshment of pilgrims and granting the inam
(still in existence) for the upkeep of the worship in it. His
successors built Old Eettayambadi and New Hettayambadi (to
the south of Pappanpatti), both of which have now disappeared.
The later history of the estate has [already been referred to on
p. 183. It was in some way dependent upon the Palni palaiyam
and in 1795 it was paying an annual tribute to the poligar
thereof. When Palni was forfeited for rebellion in 1796, it was

^ Wilson's History of the Madras Army, ii, 249.
^ No. 17-5-52.


accordingly placed under ilie nianageniont ot' tlie Collector. Ten cilAT. X'
years later it escheated for failure of heirs (other accounts say Palni.
it was resumed for arrears) and was sold. It was hought by the
then poligar of Ayakkudi and still belong's to his descendants.
But, like the rest of his property, it has now been leased to the
Ohettis. A permanent sanad for it was granted in 1873.

V61lir : A village of 4,224 inhabitants lying about ten miles
east of Palni, which gives its name to a small zamindari which
was granted a permanent sanad in November 1871 but, since it
was not in existence prior to the passing of Regulation XXY of
1802, has not been scheduled as impartible and inalienable in the
Madras Impartible Estates Act, 1904. The present owner of the
estate, whose name is Pcrumal Nayakkan, lives in Sattirapatti (a
hamlet of Velur which contains a sub-registrar's office, a chattram
and a bungalow belonging to the zamindar in which travellers
are permitted to halt) and is commonly known in consequence as
' the Sattirapatti zamindar.' The history of the property lias
already been referred to on pp. 195-6. In 1806 it was sold
for arrears and was bought by tlie ancestor of the present

Virupakshi : Lies 13 miles east ot Palni on tlie bank of
the Nangdnji ; population 1,911. It possesses the biggest
weekly market in the district, people from the adjoining Lower
Palnis flocking to it in large numbers and exchanging the produce
of their villages for the necessaries whicli the hill country does
not provide. Adjoining the market is the Forest rest-house, and
in front of this stands a shrine to Karuppan which is equipped
with even more than the usual number of pottery horses, etc., and
of wooden swings. Close by, a road two miles long leads to the foot
of the Palnis and from the end of this a much-used path runs up
the slopes to Pachalur and other hill villages. Another path
branches oft' to tlie two falls of the Nauganji [Kil tahkuttu and
Mel tahkuttu, as they arc called) the upper of which is so promi-
nent from the main road to Palni. They are worth seeing. The
lower one is only some 30 feet high, but the force of the water
flowing over it is strikingly indicated by the big pot-holes on its
brow and the deep pool below. Eound about it are several little
ruined temples to the seveu Kannimdr (virgin goddesses) and
other deities, which are almost overgrown, now, with jungle.
Above it, the river is turned into a channel ingeniously carried,
by blasting and walling, along the steep side of the hill and
thence to the Perumalkulam. Alongside this cliaunel runs the
path to the higher fall. This is a wild spot. The river winds


CHAP. XV. down a deep wooded cleft in the great hills and at length tumbles
Palni. over a sheer cliff of solid rock 150 feet high into a very deep
rock pool. The cliff consists of a black stone which is oddly
marbled with white streaks, has been curiously chiselled in several
places by the great force of the water, and the clefts in which are
tenanted- by many wild bees and blue pigeons. Beneath it, are
more rocks, marbled in several colours and worn to a glassy
smoothness by the river. Even when little water is passing over
it, this fall is worth a visit and when the Nanganji is in flood the
scene must be most impressive. As the only good path leads up
the bed of the river, it would not then however, be an easy place
to approach.

Virupakshi was once the chief village of one of the 26 palaiyams
which made up the Dindigul province when it came into the
possession of the Company in 1790. The ruins of the ' palace ' of
the old poligars may still be seen to the east of the road already
mentioned which runs to the foot of the hills. Captain Ward's
Survey Account and one of the Mackenzie MSS.^ give the early
history of their family. The founder of it was one of the Tottiyans
who fled to Vijayauagar in the circumstances already narrated on
p. 106 above, came to Madura with Visvanatha's expedition, and
was granted an estate for his services. A later head of the family
assisted Tirumala Nayakkan of Madura against the Musalmans
and was granted the following assortment of rewards, which
compares oddly with the unsubstantial honours accorded to
present-day warriors : ' An ornament for the turban ; a single-
leaved golden torie or diadem ; a necklace worn by warriors ;
a golden bangle for the right leg ; a chain of gold ; a toe-ring of
gold ; a palanquin with a lion's face in front ; an elephant with
a howdah or castle ; a camel with a pair of naggars of metal ; a
horse with all its caparisons ; a day torch ; a white ensign ; a
white umbrella ; an ensign with the representation of a boar ; a
green parasol ; white handkerchiefs to be waved ; white fleecy
flapping sticks/

Another of the line had a vision telling him that the pool
below the Kil talakuitu was a favourite bathing-place of the
seven Kannimar, and so he bailt the shi'ine to them there.
He also made the Perumalkulam^ and doubtless the ingenious
channel to it already mentioned. His descendants founded
Pachalur and other villages on the hills and effected many similar

^ Local Records, vol. 42, 495, and Wilson, 417.


[n 1755 Haidar attacked the place because the poligar was CHAP. XV.
in arrears with his tribute, and imposed a fine of 75,000 chak- Palni.
rams upon it. The later liistorj of the estate has already been
referred to on pp. 70 and 183. Narrated in detail, it would
be found to consist chiefly of resistance to the authorities and
quarrels with the neighbouring palaiyams. After the Company
obtained the country the poligar, Kuppala Nayakkan, grew
particularly contumacious. In 1795 he claimed possession of
Kannivadi, the owner of which had just then died, and rejected
the Collector's customary presents and barred his march into this
part of the country. The next year he annexed 22 villages to which
he had no right. With the weakness which characterised its deal-
ings with the poligars in those days. Government not only did not
punish him for this, but actually said he might keep the mesne
profits up to the date when he (at last) handed them back. This
leniency did not cause him to mend his ways and in 1801 Colonel
Innes, who then commanded at Dindigul, had to march against
him in force.^ On the 21st March Virupakshi and two adjoining
strongholds were taken without loss and the poligar fled. On
the 27th his horses, baggage and elephants were seized at Vada-
kadu (on the hills to tlie east of Virupakshi) and on the 4th
May he himself was captured. Ward's Survey Account says
that he and his accomplices were hanged on a low hill near Deva-
danapatti (7 miles east of Periyakulam) on gibbets the remains of
which were still visible at the time when he wrote (1821). The
Mackenzie MSS. say the hanging took place in Virupakshi
and that 22 members of the family were confined on the
Dindigul rock. The palaiyam was forfeited. Some descendants
of the poligar still draw an allowance from Grovernment.

' History of Madras Army, Hi, 30-2.




CHAP, XV. This was once called tlie Tenkarai taluk. It is the "biggest in
Periya- Madura, Lut much of it consists of hill and forest and more than
half (a higher proportion than in any other taluk) is made up of
zamindaris. It lies in the south-western corner of the district and
its limits correspond with those of the beautiful Kambam and
Varushanad valleys referred to on page 6 above. A long, narrow
strip of country, running north-east and south-west, is completely
shut in by the Pahiis and the Travancore hills on the north and
west, and by the Varuslianad and Andipatti range on the east.
Down the centre of this run the Suruli and the Vaigai, and the
Periyar water which now flows into the former of these has
conferred great prosperity upon the southern part of the taluk,
much fresh land being brought under wet cultivation and two crops
being grown on existing rice-land where only one was forjnerly
possible. Over two-fifths of Periyakulam (a higher proportion
than in any other taluk except Tirumangalam) is covered with
black soil, but the land rises rapidly away from the rivers in the
centre of the taluk and these higher portions consist of red land
which can only be irrigated from wells. Some of this (that round
about Andipatti, for example) is dotted with boulder-strewn
granite hills rising out of wide expanses of dry crops, and bears
the most striking resemblance to parts of the Mysore plateau. At
present cholam occupies a larger area than paddy, and over a fifth
of the assessed land (a higher percentage than in any other taluk)
is unoccupied. The density of the population is also lower than
anywhere else, but this is largely due to the existence within the
taluk of so much hill and forest, and the proportional increase in
the number of the inhabitants both in the decade 1891-1901 and
in the thirty years ending with 1901 was higher than in any other
part of the district. The recent opening out of the neighbouring
"^Cravancore hills to the cultivation of tea, coffee and cardamoms
has doubtless had much to do with this growth, as the estates
export their produce through this taluk and draw most of their
labour and supplies from it.

Statistics regarding Periyakulam aj)pear in the separate
Appendix to this book. The more interesting places in it are the
following .• —



Allinagaram : Eight miles south-west of Periyakulam on CHAP. XV.
the road to Uttamapalaiyam ; population 6,430. Less than two Pkrita-
miles south of it the Teniyar and Suruli meet, and, after flowing
together another two miles, join the Vaigai. ALout a mile south
of the village, at the junction of the main road with the lesser lines
leading to Bodinayakkaiiiir and Usilampatti, is the rapidly rising
village of Teni, which ten years ago consisted of little besides the
chattram originated by the Tevaram zamindar which is still its
principal building, but now possesses the biggest weekly market
in all the taluk.

Andipatti : Ten miles in a direct line south-east from Periya-
kulam on the road from Teni to Usilampatti ; population 7,899 ;
contains a chattram, a dispensary and a Siva temple of some
celebrity in which are inscriptions. It has given its name to the
range of hills to the east of it, but otherwise is not interesting.
The land on all sides of it is under dry cultivation, a paddy-field
being a rarity.

Anumandanpatti : Two miles south-west of Uttamap£aiyam,
on the road to the Periyar ; population 2,692. About a quarter
of a mile south-east of tlio village and east of the read, in the
middle of a small grove, stands a sculptured stone slab which is
called annamdrhal, or 'the brothers' stone.' It is between three
and four feet high and bears a representation of two armed men.
Facing it is a second stone on which are a few Tamil letters,
almost obliterated. The villagers say that the brothers were two
Maravans. They found out that their sister was carrying on an
intrigue with a man of another caste, lay in wait for her as she
was coming back from visiting him, and slew first her and then
themselves. The stone facing the sculptured slab is supposed to
represent the sister. The stones are now regularly worshipped
and on the trees around tliem are hung bundles of paddy placed
there by grateful ryots as a thanksgiving for good harvests.

Bodinayakkanur : Lies fifteen miles in a straight line
south-west of Periyakulam at the mouth of a deep valley between
the Palnis and the Travancore Jlills clown which flows ihe almost
perennial Teniyar. It is a union of 22,209 inhabitants and the
head-quarters of a sub-registrar (who is also a magistrate under the
Towns Nuisances Act) and of the zamindari of the same name.
The town is a rapidly-growing place, the population having
increased by 20 per cent, in the decade 1891-1901 and by 69 per
cent, in the thirty years following 1871. This is due to the fact
that through it passes the track which goes north-westwards up
the narrow valley of Kottakudi to the foot of the Travancore




CHAP. XV. hills and to tlie bottom of the wire ropeway wliicli has been erected
Perita- ]^y f,he important company which has opened out so much land

'^^' for tea, coffee, and cardamoms on the Kannan Devan hills in

Travancore. All the produce of these estates passes down the

Online LibraryMadras (India : State)Madura (Volume 1) → online text (page 34 of 40)