Virudhunagar – History
According to a local legend, a warrior who won a number of banners (called virudhu in Tamil) from his conquest of kingdoms, came to the town and challenged the residents. A resident accepted the challenge, killed the warrior, and then proceeded to seize the flags held by him. From then on, the town was known as Virudhukkalvetti.
Virudhunagar was a part of Madurai region (the region comprising all of Southern Tamilnadu beyond Trichy in modern times) during the 16th century CE. The region became independent from Vijayanagar Empire in 1559 under the Nayaks. Nayak rule ended in 1736 and the region was repeatedly captured several times by Chanda Sahib (1740 – 1754), Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764) in the middle of 18th century. In 1801, the region came under the direct control of the British East India Company and was annexed to the Madras Presidency.
By the late 19th century, all the castes, especially the Maravars (also called Thevars), were against the Nadars. Nadars were also the majority in religious conversions from Hinduism to Christianity under the influence of the European missionaries. Some of the Nadars who remained in Hinduism sought entry into the temples governed by Maravars, which was denied as Nadars were considered inferior in caste. The mutual confrontation between the two groups reached its peak in the region in 1899, leading to the Sivakasi riots. During the riots, 866 Nadar houses were burnt; seven Nadars and 14 Maravars were killed out of the 21 known deaths. The Maravar retaliated by attacking the Nadars scattered around the region killing three Nadars. Eventually the riots came to an end after the intervention of the military in mid-July 1899.
The town's name was changed to Virudhupatti in 1875 and on 6 April 1923, the town council renamed it Virudhunagar. It was an important trading centre during the British rule and the merchandise from Virudhunagar was exported overseas through the ports of Kulesakharapatnam, Thoothukudi, Vaippar and Devipattinam. The town is the birthplace of K. Kamaraj, a freedom fighter, Chief Minister of Tamilnadu from 1954 to 1963 and a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award.