Nagappattinam town was known from very early times as a trading centre and even today, it is a minor port. It was the headquarters of a region during the Chola period and was a pride of the Cholamandalam coast. The other name of this place is Cholakula Vallippattinam. The Burmese historical text of 3rd century B.C. mentions this place and gives evidence of a Buddha vihar built here by the emperor Ashoka the Great. The Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang also mentions it in his travel accounts. The ancient Buddhist literature names it as 'padarithitha'. Avurithidal, the name of a part of Nagappattinam might have been derived from padarithitha, the name of a fruit tree common in this region.
Buddhist monks of Sri Lanka had close connection with this place. Anaimangalam copper plates of Kulothunga Chola mentions that 'Kasiba-thera', a Buddhist monk renovated this Buddhist temple in 6th century A.D. Pallava king Rajasimha (695-722 A.D.) permitted a Chinese king to be buried in a Buddha vihar in Nagappattinam. The Anaimangalam copper plate also reveals that Vijayathunga Varman of Sri Vijaya kingdom built two Buddha vihars in the names of Rajaraja and Rajendra named respectively Rajarajapperumpalli and Rajendrapperumpalli. The latter was also called Soodamani Vihar. Excavations by the Archaeological Department at Velippalayam in Nagappattinam unearthed more than 300 Buddha statues. They are kept in the Govt. Museum at Chennai. Kayaroganam Shiva temple here existed in the 6th century and was sanctified by the hymns of three Nayanmars. The Vishnu temple here has been sung by Thirumangai Alwar of 9th century. This town was famous trading centre during the Vijayanagar period. The Portuguese settled here in 1554 during Thanjavur Nayaka rule. Then Christianity began to take root and the famous Velankanni church came into existence.
In 1658, the Dutch supremacy prevailed and they built ten Christian churches and a hospital. They also released coins with the name 'Nagappattinam' engraved on them. The British were the last owners of this place after a prolonged struggle in 1781. Gold coins bearing the name of East India Company were issued from here. They were called 'Nagappattinam Sornam' and were in circulation during the Thanjavur Maratha rule. Nagappattinam has thus a vast history of over 2000 years. Today, it is the headquarter s of Nagappattinam district.
Places to see in Nagappattinam
Harbor, Lighthouse and Beach
Nagappattinam is a minor port of India today. Hence, the harbor which was once a maritime pride is busy even today. The lighthouse is nearby and could be climbed. The beach, a fine stretch of sand is worth visiting. Sea bathing could also be done.
Kaayaroganam Siva Temple
The three Nayanmars, Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar have sung the hymns in praise of this temple. It is an old temple existing from 6th century AD. This is a Karonam and one of the Vidanga Sthalams. A cult called Lakulisa the mendicant aspect of Siva spread from Karonam in Gujarat to all parts of India. In South India, two temples of this cult came into being, one at Kanchipuram and the other here. The Thyagaraja here is known as Sundaravidangar. It is made up of a precious stone Komedhagam (lapis lazuli). The Nagabarana Vinayagar and the bronze Panchamuga (five headed) Vinayagar on a lion mount are of exquisite workmanship in this temple.
The image of Thyagaraja in a niche of Thyagaraja Sabha is of excellent craftsmanship.
Neelayadakshi Amman Temple is more familiar to devotees than Kaayaroganam.
Soundararaja Perumal temple is the Vishnu temple glorified by Thirumangai Alwar of the 9th century. This temple has a unique bronze of Narasimha slaying Hiranya, the demon and blessing his son Prahalada the devotee, of Narayana.
Places around Nagappattinam
Nagore is 5km north of Nagappattinam. The Durgah of Saint Hazareth Syed Shahul Hamid Quadir Wali is here. He is believed to shower His grace without distinction of caste, creed, color or class. People of all faiths flock here to get solace. Hindus call him Nagoor Andavar. The Kanduri festival during October and November is very famous. Four minarets serve landmark to this durgah and the biggest one of them was built by Pratap Singh, the Thanjavur ruler and his son Tulajaji endowed it richly. The tomb of the saint in the centre is approached by seven silver-plated doors.
Velankanni is on the coast of the Bay of Bengal 14km south of Nagappattinam. The shrine basilica of Our Lady of Velankanni here on the shore is popularly called 'Sacred Arokkia Madha Church'. The church is dedicated to Virgin Mary and has an imposing facade with tall spires and the wings present the shaped of a cross. In a niche in the altar is enshrined the statue of Our Lady of Health. Numerous legends prevail of the miraculous power of this lady, and lakhs of people converge here during the 'Feast' festival occurring in August. The greatest of miracles is the offerings thrown into the sea by devotees in Myanmar, Malaya and South Africa reaching this churches safely being picked and conveyed by fishermen. Such articles are exhibited in hall here.
This place is on the bus route from Nagappattinam to Thiruvarur. Here is an age old Siva temple in which the Sikkal Singaravelar bronze idol is so beautiful that it spellbinds the onlooker with rare craftsmanship and grace. This deity, Lord Muruga attracts crowds from far and near. The presiding deity of this temple is Naveneethes-warar. The festival in Chitthirai (April-May) is most famous. In the car festival, the bejewelled idol of Singaravelar receives the Vel (spear) from Parvathi Vel Nedum Kanni (Long spear-like eyed) Amman to destroy the demon Surapadman. It is said that the idol profusely perspires at that time.
The most ancient temple patronized by almost all the kings reigning the south is the Thyagarajaswami shrine of Thiruvaur. This temple is associated with the legend of Sundarar to whom the God served as a messenger of love and arranged his marriage with Parvai and Sangili Nachiars. Thyagaraja like Nataraja dances He performs the Ajapa dance here. Hence, He is known as 'Ajaba Natesar'. However, the presiding deity is Lord Vanmikanatha.
The temple complex is spread over 20 acres with the eastern gopuram dominating. In front of the western gopuram is the Kamalalaya Tank covering an area of 25 acres with an island temple in the centre. Vanmikanatha shrine is the earliest edifice Akileswari a coming next and Thyagaraja the last. Many mandapams crowd the temple. The biggest one is the Devasiriya Mandapam. The Akileswara shrine contains beautiful sculptures of Ardhanareeswara, Durga, Karkalamurthi and Agastya in its niches. Paintings of Vijayanagar period adorn the ceiling of Devasiriya mandapam.
Outside the temple is his son, caught under the chariot, killed a beautiful sculptural representation of Manuneedhi Chola who ran his chariot on his own son to mete out justice to the cow whose calf.
The temple car here is a beautiful structure and the biggest on which model is the Valluvar Kottam in Chennai built. The car festival is famous and attracts large crowd. The original car was burnt in 1922 in an accident and is now replaced in all its original grandeur. As in Srirangam, here the goddess Piriyavidai Amman is called 'Padi Thandal' (one who never goes out of the portals) and is never taken out in procession.
The Nandhi in this temple, unlike the other Nandhis in sitting pose, is seen standing before Thyagaraja. The deity is on Ratna Simhasana (throne made of precious stones). In the southwest corner of the inner prakara Nilotpalambigai is seen blessing her child Muruga sitting on a maid's shoulder. Goddess Kamalambigai is in yogasana pose during penance in another sanctum. Navagrahas are not as usual in a circle around the sun but standing in a row.
Thiruvarur is the birthplace of musical trinity Thyagaiah, Shyama Sastri and Muthusamy Dikshithar. Rare musical instruments Panchamuga vadyam with five heads representing the five heads of Siva and a nadaswaram called Barinayanam could also be seen in this temple.
A mile from Keevalur station on the Tiruvarur Nagore line is a temple of Agastyalinga. The Nataraja image here is unique having ten heads, all armed with trident, round, shield, mazhu, noose, club etc. a craftsmanship of inimitable intricacy. There is a separate sanctum here for Kubera the God of fortune, rare indeed in the south.
Ettukkudi is about 28km away from Nagappattinam this temple is famous for Lord Muruga. Saint Arunagiri nathar has sung hymns on the Lord here.
Vedaranyam (Thirumaraikkadu forest of Vedas)
This place is 58km from Nagappattinam. The author of Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam Paranjothi Munivar (13th century AD) was born here. It is an ancient temple and the earliest inscription dates back to Parantaka Chola (905-945 AD). The presiding deity is Vedaranyaswara and it is one of the 'Saptha Vidanga Sthalams'. The miracle of this place is that the Vedas after worshipping the Lord had locked the main gates of this temple and worship had to e conducted through another passage. When Appar and Sambandar came here, the former sang hymns at the request of the latter to open the gates and thus the gates were automatically opened.
During the independence struggle this place attained fame because of Gandhiji's Salt Satyagraha. Sardar Vadaratnam Pillai and Rajaji took part in the Satyagraha (1930-32) and courted arrest. A memorial has been erected to commemorate the event.
Kodikkarai (Point Calimere)
Kodikkarai is about 10km from Vedaranyam and 68km from Nagappattinam is this sanctuary famous for birds. Black bucks, spotted deer, wild pigs and vast flocks of migratory birds like flamingoes could all be seen here, In winter, the tidal mid-flats and marshes of the backwaters are covered with fowls like teals, curlews, gulls, terns, plovers, sandpipers, shanks and herons. Most of them are sea birds. At a time, upto 30,000 flamingoes could also be seen here. In the spring, quite different set of birds like koels, mynas and barbets are attracted by the profusion of wild berries. The best time to visit is November to January April to June is the lean season with very little activity. The main rainy season is from October to December.
A forest rest house is available. You can get to Kodikkarai by bus from Nagappattinam, Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai and by train through Mayiladuthurai-Thiruthuraipoondi section.
Koothanur is about 45km from Nagappattinam is the renowned place assocaited with the Tamil poet Ottakkoothar. There is a unique temple here to Goddess of learning Saraswathi. The idol in sitting posture is elegant and artistic.
The famous Siva temple lies 5km from Karaikkal, a Pondicherry Union Territory off Tharangampadi. The Siva temple is a Dharbaranyam and the presiding deity is Dharbaranyeswara. His consort is Bhogamanantha Poornamibikai Amman. In the Prakaram niche at the entrance is Lord Saneeswarar (Saturn) and lakhs of people worship here to propitiate Him when He enters a particular constellation of the zodiac once in 21/2 years. Nala Theertham is a famous tank where the devotees take a dip smearing oil on their body. The original Nataraja idol of this temple is at Thiruchendur with the engravement Thirunallaruon it. It is said that Dutch removed this idol from here and reaching Thiruchendur, they also removed the idol of Muruga of that temple and when they set sail, a fierce storm appeared and they dropped them into the sea and escaped. Later, the idols were rescued from the sea by a miracle and both of them have been installed at Thiruchendr.
Thillai Vilagam is about 25km south of Thiruthuraipoondi. It is a famous Vaishnavaite sthalam visited by all. The image of the presiding deity Kothandarama is of intricate workmanship even the veins are beautifully exposed. There is a sanctum for Nataraja too in this Vishnu temple. There is another shrine of Kothandaramar at Vaduvur on the Mannargudi route. This village is also known as Dakshina Ayodhya.
The most important Vaishnavaite shrine is here. It has the name Raja-mannargudi as the presiding deity here is Rajagopalaswamy. The shrine is spread over 15 acres. The image of the presiding deity Rajagopalaswamy is 12 feet tall. There are 16 gopurams, 7 prakarams with 24 shrines, 7 beautiful mandapams adorning the inside and 9 scred theerthams. There is a garuda Sthamba, a monolithic pillar 50 ft. tall in the forefront with a miniature Garuda shrine on the top. The sacred waters Haridra Nadhi is only a tank but bigger than Kamalalayam at Thiruvarur. The place is also called Dakshina Dwaraka Dwaraka of the South.
Once Jainism seems to have flourished in this part as there are evidences of Jain statues in the vicinity. Mallinathaswami Jinalayam is in the middle of a Jain locality. Meru Parvatham, Padmavathi Amman, Nandiswaradeepam and Trikala Tirthankarar are worth seeing in this Jinalayam.
How to get there?
Nagappattinam is very well connected to all important places in Tamil Nadu by rail and road. Buses ply every hour from Chennai to Nagappattinam. Train facilities are also available from Nagappattinam to Thanjavur, Trichy, Nagore and Chennai. Bus services are also available for these places. Tamilnadu State Transport Corporation operates tourist buses to nearby places. Hired vehicles are also available. Cars and auto rickshaws could be hired to visit places around Nagappattinam.
The nearest airport is at Trichy, a distance of 141km. Air Lanka and Indian Airlines operate services to Sri Lanka. The Indian Airlines operates services to Chennai and Madurai from Trichy.
Nagappattinam Distance Guide
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