Salem – History
The Date of human civilization in this district reaches far back to the stone ages. The existence of prehistoric culture in Salem is evident from the discovery of Paleolithic and Neolithic stone implements and dung ash heaps in and around Salem. The culture of this region dates back to 3rd century B.C. and the ancient Chola Nadu. Discovery of silver coins of the Roman Emperor Tiberices Claudices Nero (37-68 A.D.) in Koneripatti of Salem in 1987 attests the historical activities during the beginning of the Christian era. Salem was the largest district of Tamilnadu; it was bifurcated into Salem – Dharmapuri districts in 1965 and Namakkal district in 1997.
Cheralam, Shalya, Kurukshetra, Sayilam and Sailam are found on inscriptions referring to the country around the hills: Nagarmalai in the north, Jarugumalai in the south, Kanjamalai in the west and Godumalai in the east. Salem is claimed as the birthplace of the Tamil Avvaiyar poets. It and the surrounding hilly regions were part of the Chera dynasty, and the city was ruled by kings known as the Kurunila Mannargal. Salem was later ruled by Gatti Mudalis, Poligars who built temples and forts in and around the city.
During the early 18th century, after the Mysore-Madurai war, the region was ruled by Hyder Ali. Salem was taken from Hyder Ali by a Colonel Wood at the beginning of 1768, and recaptured by Ali in late 1772. Under Robert Clive it was occupied by a detachment of a regiment stationed at Sankagiri Durg, remaining a military station until 1861. Salem and Sankagiri were the sites of battles between Kongu Nadu soldiers led by Dheeran Chinnamalai and the British.
Chinnamalai was hanged in the Sankagiri fort, which became the British army headquarters. According to volume five of Edgar Thurston's Castes and Tribes of Southern India, the Chola Nadu region was ruled by a series of twenty-eight kings before being conquered by the Cholas of Tanjore.