Friday, June 18, 2010

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Regency of Queen Mangammal, Madurai

The Regency of Queen Mangammal.

“The Audience Hall of Rani Mangammal of the Naik dynasty who ruled Madura country, circa 1700,” says the plaque at the entrance. The Mangammal Mahal is located near the magnificent Rock Fort in Tiruchi. Historian F.R.Hemingway referred to it as “a robust structure with beautiful pillars.”
The Audience Hall or Kolu Mandapam functioned as the meeting place for the Town Hall Committee from the 19th to the 20th centuries and the fa├žade contains a tablet commemorating its centenary celebrations in 1982. The Mahal now houses a museum of the State Department of Museums.
Rani Mangammal who wielded power from 1689-1706 was one of the few women rulers the Tamil region has had. She left her imprint on both Madurai and Tiruchi. The widow of Chokkanatha Naik, grandson of the great Tirumalai Naik, was known for her administrative acumen and initiated many development and charitable works.
When her husband died in 1682, he was succeeded by Muthu Veerappa Naik. But he soon succumbed to an attack of small pox and Mangammal became the regent for her infant grandson and spent the greater part of her reign in Tiruchi. Chokkanatha had shifted his capital from Madurai to Tiruchi fearing invaders from the North.
Those who have visited the awe inspiring Tirumalai Naik Mahal in Madurai may feel angered when Chokkanatha’s name is mentioned. For he dismantled portions of the beautiful Mahal to enable him to construct the palace in Tiruchi. You feel slightly pacified when P. Raja Mohan, Curator of the museum, says that Chokkanatha did this because Tiruchi was then in the grip of a severe famine and he wanted to avoid levying taxes on his people to build the palace. The Mangammal Mahal is a part of this palace which Chokkanatha built in 1666.
Assortment of objects
The Mahal today houses an assortment of objects. “This is an offspring of the Madras Museum which is a multipurpose museum; it is not an archaeological museum. We get around 30 visitors a day,” says the curator.
Stuffed animals, shards of pottery, household and agricultural implements, valuable bronzes, Theru-k-koothu costumes, musical instruments, duplicate coins belonging to various eras and contemporary paintings make up the medley; labels and information are rather scarce. Inside the building, the beauty of the multiple arches is marred by wires crisscrossing between the fans.
The building provides a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The dome resembles a multi-petal flower and on the pillars and cornices are birds in stucco with wings poised for flight. Mellow vegetable paintings are visible everywhere. The Mahal however is not very presentable. “This is because we are in the midst of renovation,” says the official.
“If we were not occupying the building, it would have been in a worse state. Multistoreyed buildings have come up where Mangammal’s beautiful park once stood and there are Naik buildings nearby which are being used as various government offices. If they are handed over to us, we can maintain them well. In fact it was because of former Collector K. Rajaraman that the Mahal is now in our possession. It was handed over by the Revenue Department to the Department of Museums in 1998.We are now in the midst of a crisis. We are paying Rs.7The history of Madurai will not be complete without mentioning the name of Rani Mangammal, the woman of great skill and sagacity. History does not provide many instances of ruling queens in Tamillnadu. Though it was considered that women were not suited to succeed the throne of a kingdom, Rani Mangammal, however,shines in almost solitary eminence as an able and powerful ruler in Tamilnadu. It was sheer circumstances that forced Mangammal to take up the reins of administering the Madurai Nayaka kingdom about the close of the 17th century. She ruled it for about eighteen years during an exceptionally troublesome period with great skill and boldness. The general of Mughal emperor Aurangazeb was at the gate of the Gingee fort and he was bent upon attacking Thanjavur and Madurai at any cost. Mysore in the west, had embarked on a campaign of territorial expansion by including Madurai even during the time when her husband was alive. In the south, the Raja of Travancore, who was an overlord of Madurai, had stopped paying the tribute. In the east, the powerful ruler of Ramanad, Raghunatha Thevar also known as Kilavan Sethupathi had risen in revolt in a bid for independence.It was in this state that Rani Mangammal had to face almost without any help from outside. With her political wisdom, diplomatic skill, administrative ability and cool courage in facing danger, she was able to maintain the prestige of Madurai and regain for it much of the position it had held during the days of Tirumala Nayaka. Mangammal was the daughter of Lingama Nayaka, a general of Chokkanatha Nayaka
, who ruled Madurai from 1659 to 1682 A.D. Though Chokkanatha married Mangammal early, she became the principal queen only later on when all his efforts to wed the daughter of the Thanjavur ruler Vijayaraghava Nayaka had failed. Chokkanatha died in 1682 A.D., but his Queen Mangammal did not commit sati as she was a politically minded woman to whom affairs of the state was more important.Rengakrishna Muthu Veerappa, who succeeded Chokkanatha was a spirited youth. He tried to retrieve to some extent the diminished fortunes of the kingdom. He made a name for himself by ignoring Aurangazeb with courage. When Rengakrishna died in 1689 A.D., his queen was pregnant. After she gave birth to a son, Vijayaranga Chokkanatha, she ended herself by saying that she could not live after the death of her husband. Under suchcircumstances, Mangammal was forced to become regent on behalf of her infant grandson, who was crowned when he was three months old. The first problem which Mangammal had to face was the threat from the Mughals. Zulfikhar Ali Khan, the general of Aurangazeb, who was engaged in the siege of Gingee, where Rajaram, son of Shivaji had entrenched himself, sent an army to the south to demand submission from Thanjavur which had gone into the hands of the Marathas, even during the time of her husband.After careful deliberation, Mangammal sent her tribute and later with the help of Zulfikhar Ali, she was able to recover some portions of the kingdom lost to Thanjavur in the past. In this policy, Mangammal showed great prudence and wisdom, by skillfully bowing before the enemy. Mangammal had to face an invasion of Tiruchi by Chikkadevaraya of Mysore who sent his famous Dalavoy Kumariyya, but an attack by the Marathas on Mysore led to his recall.In 1697 A.D., Mangammal sent an expedition to Travancore to punish its ruler, Ravi Varma, who had attacked and destroyed an army sent from Madurai to Travancore, as in the previous years, to collect the annual tribute which the king had not been paying. Mangammal's next war was against Shaji, the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur. In 1700 A.D., Dalavoy Narasappiah defeated the Thanjavur forces. For some time afterwards, friendly relations existed between the two kingdoms. They even united and proceeded against Chikkadeval.aya of Mysore who had built an anicut across the river Cauvery and prevented adequate supply of water for the irrigation of land in Thanjavur district. But by that time, heavy rains had washed off this anicut at the site of which the present Kannambadi dam stands.Mangammal's greatest trial and serious failure was her expedition against Raghunatha Sethupathi. This ended in a defeat for the Madurai and the death of Dalavoy Narasappiah in the battle. This was a serious blow to Madurai from which it never recovered again. Mangammal died in about 1706 A.D. and was succeeded by her grandson Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayaka. Mangammal did not neglect civil administration, trade and industry. She paid special attention to irrigation and communications. Many irrigation channels were repaired, new roads were constructed and avenue trees planted. The highway from Cape Comorin was originally formed during the time of Mangammal and it was known as 'Mangammal Salai'. She built many works of public utility of which the Chatram in Madurai near the railway station is a standing monument. Her own original palace in Madurai now houses the Mahatma Gandhi Museum although modified several times.Though Mangammal was devout Hindu, she showed tolerance in religious matters. She endowed temples and mosques alike with property and was friendly to the Christian missionaries and their converts. Mangammal was an efficient and popular ruler and her memory is cherished even today in the rural areas of the district.Rani Mangammal instituted the famous Unjal (swing) festival in the temple of Meenakshi to be performed in the month of Ani. It will be interesting that her contemporary portrait is found in the Unjal Mandapam. It may also be mentioned that Hindu kings ruled their kingdoms as the servants of God. The land was ruled in the name of the presiding God of the country. Tirumala Nayaka was ruling Madurai in a similar manner. On all celebrations, the royal sceptre (sengol) used to be placed before the Meenakshi deity and then placed on the thTone for the whole day. This symbolised that the rule of land was by the Goddess. This old practice continued even during the period of Rani Mangammal, as evidenced by a painting in the Meenakshi temple. It shows the priest of Meenakshi temple handing over the royal sceptre to the Queen
lakhs as Corporation tax and have already paid Rs.60 lakhs in seven years. They refused exemption saying this is not an educational institution.”
Despite the feeling of let down at the neglect of a rich heritage building, your spirits are lifted when you meet a member of the staff. “See that container in that corner? It was used to make idlis centuries ago,” he says. Sure enough, the terracotta container has scoops of regular sizes very similar to the stainless steel idli containers of today. “By the way, I’m the taxidermist who has stuffed all the birds and animals displayed here. I am very interested in archaeology and artefacts. I collect them from the villages around. I have donated this terracotta artefact to the museum,” Kamaraj says in an offhand fashion.
You gape at him with a mixture of admiration and disbelief. Instances like these restore your faith as passion for the past lurks in the most unlikely places. If only the same passion drove all those concerned with preserving our heritage…

Rani Mangammal Mandapam On the western side of the Potramaraikulam is the small Rani Mangammal Mandapam, projecting over the steps of the tank. Rani Mangammal of the Nayak dynasty ruled over Madurai in the late 17th century, maintaining amicable relations with neighbouring sovereigns republic empires. After 15 years of tactful and diplomatic regin, she was tortured to death by her ungrateful and jealous generals. The mandapam has statues of the queen, her minister Ramappayyan & grandson, Vijayarangachochanathar. There are also several paintings dating from Rani Mangammal's time. The one on the ceiling is especially striking, depicting the scene at the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Thirukkalyanam (wedding) and capturing in paint all the gaiety which marks a South Indian wedding. Gods and goddesses, richly attired, sourround the divine couple, as Vishnu, the brother of the bride, holds here affectionately. Lord Brahma below performs the ceremony proper, uttering relevant mantras before the fire. Oonjal Mandapam Opposite the Rani Mangammal Mandapam is a black marble stone structure with an onnjal ( Swing ) hanging in the hall within. This is the Onnjal Mandapam, where the golden idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are brought every Friday for a ceremonial swing. Special offerings are made and Tamil hymns sung by priests, as Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are rocked gaily to and fro. The idols are about 45 cm and 35 cm in height. They are both pieces of classical workmanship, dating to the 16 th century, and may have, therefore, been consecrated by the great Visvanatha Nayak.Kilikoondu Mandapam Northwest of the Potramaraikulam is the Kilikoondu Mandapam ( parrot cage hall ). As the name indicates, there are caged parrots in the hall. But more interesting are its 28 huge monolithic pillars carrying life-size sculptures of various figures from the Hindu mythology-the Pandavas, Vali, Sugreeva and the inevitable yali of which the Vijayanagar kings were very fond, and which are found on at least a few pillars in almost every hall in the temple. At the southern end of this hall is the shrine of the Sthala Vigneswara.

The Palace of King Thirumalai Nayak, Madurai

Grace, Grandeur and Exquisite Palace and its Architecture
There is no other Palace in India, which better illustrates the architectural style of the Nayak Emperors. The Palace of King Tirumalai Nayak / Thirumalai Nayak is about 1 km away from the Great Meenakshi Temple. This Indo-Saracenic building was constructed in 1523 and was originally four times as large as it is today. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa which house the royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and gardens. The most remarkable part of this palace is the dome of Swarga Vilasam, which lies beyond a huge courtyard and is a magnificent example of the engineering skill of its builders, rising as it does to a height of 20m without support of any kind... Its Marvellous Arch work is exquisite and it is told as there was no other comparable palace in contemporary period.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace is a 17th century palace was built by King Thirumalai Nayak, one of the Madurai Nayak rulers in 1636 AD in the city of Madurai, India. This Palace was built with the help of an Italian Architect and is a classic fusion of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles. The building, which can be seen today, was the main Palace where the king lived. The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. In its heyday, Tirumalai Nayak's Palace at Madurai was considered to be one of the wonders of the South.


The palace is located in the city of Madurai, in Tamil Nadu state of India. The palace is situated 2 km south east of the Meenakshi Amman Temple.


The Nayaks of Madurai ruled this former Kingdom from 1545 till 1740’s and Thirumalai Nayak(1623-1659) was one of their greatest kings that line notable for various buildings in and around Madurai. During the 17th centuries the Madurai Kingdom had Portuguese, Dutch and other Europeans as traders, missionaries and visiting travelers. Tirumala Nayak is believed to have recruited the services of an Italian architect, for the construction of his Palace.

Design and Construction

Built in 1636, as a focal point of his capital at Madurai, Thirumalai Nayak intended the palace to be one of the grandest in South India. The design and architecture is a blend of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles. It is the Interior of the Palace surpasses many of its Indian contemporaries in style and details while the exterior is minimalistic in details.


Upon entering into the gates of the palace, the visitor enters into present day’s huge central courtyard measuring 3,700 sq.m (41,979 sq.feet). The Courtyard is surrounded by massive circular pillars. Now it has a circular garden Interior The palace was divided into two major parts, namely Swarga Vilasam (Celestial Pavilion) and Ranga Vilasam. The royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armory, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden were situated in these two portions. The courtyard and the dancing hall are the major center of attractions of the palace.

The Celestial Pavilion (Swarga Vilasam) was used as the throne-room and has an arcaded octagon covered by a dome 60-70 feet high. The pointed ceiling or dome in the centre is supported by stone ribs is held up by massive circular columns topped by piers and linked by pointed scalloped arches, with an arcaded gallery opening into the nave above the side aisles.


The structure was constructed using foliated brickwork and the surface details and finish in exquisite stucco called chunnam using chunnam (shell lime) and (Mixed with egg white) to obtain a smooth and glossy texture. The steps leading up to the hall were formerly flanked by two equestrian statues of excellent workmanship. The pillars supporting the arches are 13m tall and are again joined by foliated brickwork that carries a valance and an entablature rising up to a height of 20 m. The decoration is done, (shell lime). The pavilions topped with finials that were covered with gold are on either side of the courtyard.

Present day

After independence, the King Thirumalai Palace was declared as a national monument and is now under the protection of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. The time for the visit to the palace is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the payment of the entrance fee.

Light & Sound shows The palace is well equipped to perform Light & Sound shows depicting the story of Silappathikaram in both Tamil and English languages.

Queen Mangammal Palace, Madurai.

Nayak Paintings in Meenakshi Temple, Madurai.

King Tirumalai Nayak The Great....

The rise of the Madurai Nayaks began in 1559 A.D. with Visvanatha's victory over his rebel father on behalf of the Vijayanagar Emperor. Visvanatha's viceroyalty lasted till 1563, and under the guidance of his able minister Aryanatha, passed to his descendants. Aryanatha died in 1600 A.D. The infant Raj grew steadily in strength, and reached its zenith under The Great Tirumala Nayaka, who acceded in 1623 A.D.
King Thirumalai Nayak had a difficult
game to played it ably and unscrupulously. The empty fiction of imperial suzeraintly was no longer consistent with a strong centralised government. The Madura frontier was already in hostile contact with the growing kingdom of mysore. Chama Raja was chafing to revenge a reverse his arms had recently suffered. In the north loomed the cloud of Mughal invasion. so long as the energies of the Deccan Sultans were absorbed in the MUghal war, the Hindu kingdoms were safe from their inroads. Immediately the pressure was relaxed, the fighting sultans must inovitably seek compensation for their losses by the invasion and pillage of South India. Tirumala adopted and perfected the policy of his predecessors for the defence of his northern frontier.
The power of the Nayakas wa established in a frankly feudal basis. "There were 72 bastions to the fort of Madura, and each of them was now formally placed in charge of a particular chief, who was bound for himself and his heirs to keep his post at all times and under all circumstances. He was also bound to pay a fixed annual tribute, to supply and keep in readliness a quota of trrops for the Governor's armies, and to keep the Governor's peace over a particular tract of country; and in consideration of his promise to perform these and other services, a grant was made to him of a tract and other services, a grant was made to him of a tract of country." Among the seventy-two chief Poligars of the Madura feudal system were Ramachandra Nayaka and Gatti Mudaliyar of Kongu.
Each of these names is that of a line of Poligars, rather than of an individual. For instance Robert de Nobili found a Ramachandra Nayaka established at Senda-mangalam in 1623. The horoscope of another of these Ramachandra Nayakas came into the hands of colonel Mackenzie, from which it appears he was born in October 1652 and died in 1718. The name is associated with Talai-malai, a hill overlooking the Kaveri in the south of Nammakkal Taluk, and the Namakkal fort is said to have been built by a prince of the line.
The gatti Mudaliyars ruled in power and splendour the most dangerously exposed province of the kingdom. Kaveri-puram, on the right bank of the Kaveri, was their strategic capital, commanding, as it does, one of the principal passes to the Mysore Plateau. The centre of their power seems, however, to have, to have been Tara-mangalam, where they built a costly temple. It is said that their dominions extended as far as Talai-vasal to the east, Dharapuram in the west, and Karur in the south. the forts of greatest strategic importance held by then in salem District were omalur and Attur. A glance at the map will show that the disposition of these forts guarded against an invasion from Mysore. Kaveri-puram guarded the foot of the only ghat at which the Madura dominions touched Mysore. Omalur served as a apointed'appui against any force proceeding by the routes through Toppur or Perumalai. In this quarter the petty poligars of Denkani-kota, Ratnagiri, Alambadi, etc., intervened between the two great rivals. Attur commanded the shortest route to the coast, and guarded against any flank move on Trichinopoly by way of the Vellar valley. The Gatti Mudaliyars are also associated with Amara-kundi, samkaridrug, Trichengodu, Mecheri, Idanga-salai, and Pullapatti. SAlem itself appears, at least during part of the seventeenth century, to have been ruled by an independent Poligar, Chennappa Nayaka, whose name tradition also connects with Tenkarai-kottai.
The opening of hostilities between Mysore and Madura is obscure for want of accurate dates and synchronisms. It would appear that early in Tirumala Nayaka's reign, Coimbatore was invaded by Chama Raja, who penetrated as far as Dindigul, and was there checked by Tirumala's able general Ramappayya. The Madura army then took the offensive, and drove the Mysore troops up the Ghats, storming one of their principal fortresses. The quarrel then assumed a new aspect, with the sudden intervention of the Sultans of Bijapur and Golgonda.
Bijapur and Golconda intervene. In 1634 A.D. the Mughals (under Shah Jahan) captured Ahmadnagar and ended the dynasty of the Nizam Shahs. The sultan of Bijapur made his peace with the Mughals, and then arranged with the Sultan of Golgonda to conquer the Carnatic. They had been invited south by several hindu princes, who solicited their aid in finally throwing off the yoke of Vijayanagar. About 1635 A.D. a new Raya, Ranga, ascended the throne and determined to revive the authority of his house. Thirumalai Nayak formed a league against him, which the Nayakas of Tanjore and Ginjee joined. The only state which remained loyal to the Raya was Mysore. When the Raya marched against him,Tirumala invited the Sultan of Golconda to attack the Chandragiri territory from the north. The Raya countermarched to meet his new enemy, was routed, and took refuge with the Nayaka of Ikkeri (North Mysore). The Golconda army then marched south to reduce the rebels who had so rashly invoked its aid, and laid siege to Ginjee. Tirumala then asked the Bijapur Sultan to help him. When the Bijapur troops arrived at Ginjee, they at once joined with their fellow Muhammadans. Ginjee fell; Tirumala lost heart, and purchased peace by becoming their humble feudatory. The date of these events is uncertain. The war was apparently over by 1644 A.D.
Bijapur conquers Baramahal. Meanwhile the main army of Bijapur had been otherwise employed. In 1636 and expedition started under Randhula Khan, with Shahji (Sivaji's father) as second in command. After raiding the country near Bednur, the invaders appeared in 1638 before Seringapatam, where, after a political revolution, Kantirava Narasa Raja had been placed on the throne by the Dalavay, (Commander-in-chief). The new king was no puppet; he beat off the assaults delivered by the Muhammadans, and the siege was raised. The invaders then turned east, took Bangalore from the Poligar, Kempe Gauda, and reduced the north and east of what is now Mysore State. In the course of this campaign the Baramahal was made subject to Bijapur, and, by 1644 A.D. the new conquests were formed into two provinces (Carnatic-Balaghat and Carnatic-Payinghat) and bestowed as a Jaghir on Shahji, who fixed his head quarters at Bangalore.
Later on (the date again is uncertain) the Raya, aided by Mysore, made one last attempt to recover his authority. Thirumalai Nayak threw open to the Muhammadans the passes into Mysore which he commanded, and the last flicker of the great Hindu Empire was extinguished.
Kantiraya Narasa Raja. Kantiraya Narasa Raja adopted the policy of appropriating territory whenever he could do so with impunity. According to Wilks, he took several places in coimbatore from Gatti Mudaliyar in 1641 A.D. Six years later, he seized Ratnagiri from one Itibal Rao, and in 1652 he was strong enough to take from Bijapur the Western Baramahal, including Virabhadradrug, Pennagaram, and Dharmapuri. In the same year he took Denkani-kota from the Itibal Rao, from whom he had wrested Ratnagiri. In 1653 he again raided Coimbatore, and took several important fortresses from the Madura feudatory. In the next year, Hosur was taken from one Chandra Sankar. The reigns of Kantirava Narasa Raja and Tirumala Nayaka closed in 1659 A.D. with one of the most vindictive wars on record. The offensive was taken by the Mysoreans, who threatened Madura itself. THe invaders were then driven back, and the Madura historians claim that Mysore was invaded, its king captured and his nose cut off in revenge for the cruelty of the Mysoreans, who bad cut off the noses of all their captives.

Tirumalai Nayak, who ruled the former kingdom of Madurai between 1623 and 1659, is said to have recruited the services of an Italian architect, (apparently one of the many unknown European adventurers that swarmed these parts before the advent of British colonial rule) , when he designed his royal abode.Wars and other depradations have left only a quarter of the original building standing today. But even this is enough to awe casual visitors with its massive colonnade of 250 pillars each, measuring 40 feet in height, and connected to each other by foliated arches that form a vast open courtyard. Vast domes stand at the far end of the courtyard, reaching a height of 22.32 metres and surmounting vast spaces over the 'swarga vilasam' or celestial abode, where Thirumala sat enthroned and undoubtedly impressed ambassadors from near and far with his pomp and pelf.

''The admixture of Saracenic forms, developed by the Romans and later spread by the Arabs with Hindu details, is fascinating and singularly picturesque,'' for some.But, not everyone shares this view. The distinguished late art historian Percy Brown, for example, admired the palace as a ''work of considerable magnitude'' but also found it an example of ''architectural regression''.''while the synthesis of three cultures was a unique and a laudable attempt, their individual characteristics could not be successfully assimilated at the palace.The foliated arches are Hindu in form and Mohammedan in application and the columns supporting them Christian, but the overall engineering and designing of the palace is of a high standard,''

Thirumala's grandson Chokkantha Nayak thought nothing of demolishing large portions of the palace and carting off the material to build another palace for himself in the nearby city of Trichy. The British saw fit to use the palace as a horse stable, barracks and, disastrously, as an ammunition dump.But in 1858 Lord Napier, then governor of Madras, allocated 500,000 rupees (five million dollars in today's terms) for restoration work.