Nayaks - Madurai Nayak Dynasty

  • 18 Feb 2008 21:55:36 GMT

    [Introduction of the polygar (palayakkarar) system

    In his administrative improvements Viswanatha was ably seconded by his prime minister Aryanatha Mudaliar (or, as he is still commonly called, Aryanatha), a man born of peasant Vellala parents who had won his way by sheer ability to a high position in the Vijayanagar court.

    This officer is supposed to have been the founder of `the polygar (palayakkarar) system`, under which the Madurai country was apportioned among 72 chieftains, some of them locals and others of detachments which had accompanied Vishvanatha from Vijayanagar. Each was placed in charge of one of the 72 bastions of the Madurai fortifications. They were responsible for the immediate control of their estates. They paid a fixed tribute to the Nayaka kings and maintained a quota of troops ready for immediate service.

    These men did much for the country in those days, founding villages, building dams, constructing tanks and erecting temples. Many of them bore the title of Nayakkan, and hence the common `nayakkanur` as a termination to the place names in this district. They also brought with them the gods of the Deccan, and thus we find in Madurai many shrines to Ahobilam and other deities who rarely are worshipped in the Tamil country. Their successors, the present zamindars of the district, still look upon Aryanatha as a sort of patron saint.

    Aryanatha also is credited with having constructed the great thousand-pillared mantapam in the Madurai temple. He is commemorated by an equestrian statue which flanks one side of the entrance to the temple. The statue is still periodically crowned with garlands by modern worshippers. He lived until 1600 and had great influence upon the fate of the Nayaka dynasty until his death.

    Visvanatha added the fort of Trichinopoly to his possessions. The Vijayanagar viceroy who governed the Tanjore country had failed to police the pilgrim roads which ran through Trichinopoly, to the shrines at Srirangam and Ramesvaram, and devotees were afraid to visit those holy places. Visvanatha exchanged that town for his fort at Vallam, in Tanjore. He then improved the fortifications and town of Trichinopoly, and the temple of Srirangam, and he cleared the banks of the Cauvery river of robbers.

    Visvanatha had difficulty with some of the local chieftains, who resisted his authority in Tinnevelly, but after vanquishing them he improved that town and district. Visvanatha died aged and honoured in 1563. He still is affectionately remembered as having been a great benefactor of his country.


    Kumara Krishnappa (1563 1573)

    Viswanatha Nayaka was succeeded by his son Kumara Krishnappa (1563-73), who is remembered as having been a brave and politic ruler. A revolt occurred among the polygars, during his reign, but its leader was captured and the trouble was quenched.


    Joint Rulers

    Kumara Krishnappa was succeeded in 1573 by his two sons, who ruled jointly and uneventfully until 1595, when they in turn were succeeded by their two sons, one of whom ruled until 1602.


    Muttu Krishnappa (1602 1609)

    These were followed by Muttu Krishnappa. He is credited with having founded the dynasty of the Setupatis of Ramnad, the ancestors of the present Raja of that place, who were given a considerable slice of territory in the Maravar country on condition that they suppress crime and protect pilgrims journeying to Rameswaram. These were the beginnings of Ramnad zamindari.


    Muttu Virappa (1609 1623)

    Muttu Krishnappa was succeeded by Muttu Virappa. He began the construction of the Dindigul Fort at Dindigul on the Hill, along with the Temple on it, which later was completed by Tirumalai Nayak.


    Fall of the Vijayanagar Kingdom, 1565

    In 1565 the Muslim rulers of the Deccan defeated Vijayanagar, the suzerain of the Nayaks, at the battle of Talikota. Vijayanagar had to abandon Bellary and Anantapur, flee their capital, and take refuge at Penukonda in Anantapur, then at Vellore, and then at Chandragiri near Tirupathi, which later granted land to the British East India Company to build a fort at the present day Chennai. Finally they settled at Vellore in North Arcot. Their governors at Madurai, Gingee and Tanjore still paid them tribute and other marks of respect but in later years, when their suzerainty became weak, the Nayaks ruled independently.


    Tirumalai Nayak (1623 1659)

    Muttu Virappa, mentioned above, was succeeded by the great `Tirumalai Nayaka`, the most powerful and best-known member of his dynasty, who ruled for thirty-six eventful years. Please see the article devoted to him and his reign at Madurai. Tirumalai Nayak


    Muttu Alakadri (1659 1662)

    Tirumala was succeeded by his son Muttu Alakadri, whose first act was to shake off the hated Muslim yoke. He tried to induce the Nayak of Tanjore to join the enterprise, but the move backfired: the Tanjore ruler disclaimed all connection with his neighbour s aspirations and attempted to conciliate with the Muslims. The Muslim invaders moved against Trichinopoly and Madurai, spreading havoc, while Muttu Alakadri remained inactive behind the walls of the fort. Fortunately for him, the enemy soon had to retire, for their devastations produced a local famine and pestilence from which they themselves suffered terribly. They made a half-hearted attempt on Trichinopoly and then permitted themselves to be bought off for a very moderate sum. Muttu Alakadri did not long survive their departure, but gave himself over to debauchery with an abandon which soon brought him to a dishonoured grave.


    Chokkanatha (1662 1682)

    Tirumala was succeeded by his son Chokkanatha, a promising boy of sixteen. Please see the separate article devoted to him at Chokkanatha Nayak.


    Rangakrishna Muthu Virappa (1682 1689)

    Rangakrishna Muthu Virappa, who succeeded Chokkanatha was a spirited boy of fifteen. He tried to revive the diminished fortunes of the kingdom. He made a name for himself by ignoring Aurangazeb with courage, but little enough of his territories remained to him to rule. The greater part of them was held by Mysore, some by the Maravans, some by the Marathas of Gingee, and some by the Marathas of Tanjore. At first, the country was subject to anarchy and pillage, foreign enemies occupied all the forts, and robber chiefs were masters of the rural areas and carried on their brigandage there with impunity.

    Matters slowly improved, with Mysore soon distracted by a war with the Marathas of Gingee, and both the Setupathis of Ramnad and the Marathas of Tanjore occupied by wars within their own countries. Emperor Aurangzeb in 1686 1687 conquered the kingdoms of Madura s old enemies, Golconda and Bijapur, and he was for many years engaged in an exhausting war with the Marathas. Moreover the young Nayak of Madurai, though imbued with a boyish love of fun and adventure which endeared him to his countrymen, also had a stock of sound sense and ability which evoked the admiration of his ministers, and he took advantage of his improving prospects.

    Muthu Virappa recovered his capital in 1685, and he gradually reconquered large parts of the ancient kingdom of his forefathers and succeeded in restoring the power of the Nayaks of Madurai. Unfortunately he died of smallpox in 1689, at the early age of 22. His young window Muttammal the only woman, strange to say, whom he had married was inconsolable at his loss and, though she was far advanced in pregnancy, insisted upon committing sati on his funeral pyre. His mother, Rani Mangammal, with great difficulty persuaded her to wait until her child was born, solemnly swearing that she could then have her way. When the child (a son) arrived, she was put off with various excuses until, despairing of being allowed her wish, she put an end to her own life.


    Rani Mangammal (1689 1704)

    Mangammal, the mother of the late Nayak, acted for the next fifteen years as Queen-Regent on behalf of her grandson. She was the most popular of all the Nayaks. Please see the separate article on her at Rani Mangammal.


  • 18 Feb 2008 21:57:43 GMT


    Nice photos, will read the article later.

    Do you know that the 4 last Kandyan kings were Nayakkars ?

  • 18 Feb 2008 21:59:14 GMT

    Robins and Kural

    lot to read, but very interesting. I know about most Kandy people having nayake at the ned of their names and does suggest the influence of Nayaks and rule by them

  • 19 Feb 2008 00:42:23 GMT

    [-The Ranganatha temple at Srirangam for its increase in the number of enclosures]

    apparently the gopuram faces lanka. i think it has 1000 steps or something i forget.

  • 19 Feb 2008 05:52:11 GMT

    [Vishvanatha from Vijayanagar.]

    There was a historical novel called Vetrith Thirunagar based on him, by Akilan. It is a classic.

    Nice post:))

    Did the lion in AnuD`s flag originate from the Nayakkar?

  • 19 Feb 2008 17:55:09 GMT

    TCK and Aani

    thanks for the info. not sure about Nayak flag, will find out.

  • 26 Feb 2008 01:12:43 GMT

    There are Bandaranazakas and Senanazakas in SL .)

  • 10 Dec 2009 09:21:42 GMT

    Madurai Nayaks belongs to Telugu speaking `Kamma` Naidu community. Kamma Naidus are dominant caste in Madurai and Tinnelveli and Tuttukudi districts