Thiruvannamalai – History
Thiruvannamalai is one of the most venerated places in Tamilnadu. In ancient times, the term "Annamalai" meant an inaccessible mountain. The word "Thiru" was prefixed to signify its greatness, and coupled with the two terms, it was called Thiruvannamalai. Thiru means 'holy' or 'sacred' and is traditionally used in front of names in many parts of Tamilnadu. The temple town of Tiruvannamalai is one of the most ancient heritage sites of India and is a centre of the Saiva religion. The Arunachala hill and its environs have been held in great regard by the Tamils for centuries.
The temple is grand in conception and architecture and is rich in tradition, history and festivals. The main Deepam festival attracts devotees from far and wide throughout South India. It has historic places besides Tiruvannamalai like Arni, Vandavasi, Devikapuram connected to East India and French companies. In the late Chola period the district was ruled by the Sambuvarayar Kings having Padavedu near Arni as HQ. Remnants of the fort can be seen along with a Shiva temple namely Kailasanathar in Arni town. The history of Tiruvannamalai revolves around the Annamalaiyar Temple.
The recorded history of the town dates back to the ninth century, as seen from a Chola inscriptions in the temple. Further inscriptions made before ninth century indicate the rule of Pallava kings, whose capital was Kanchipuram. The seventh century Nayanmars saints Sambandar and Appar praised this temple in their Thevaram hymns. Sekkizhar, the author of the Periyapuranam records both Appar and Sambandar worshiped Annamalaiyar in the temple. The Chola Kings ruled over the region for more than four centuries, from 850 to 1280, and were temple patrons. The inscriptions from the Chola king record various gifts like land, sheep, cow and oil to the temple commemorating various victories of the dynasty.
The history of Tiruvannamalai dates from the early Chola period, the period of Aditya I and Parantaka I (871-955 AD) when the Chola Empire had expanded northwards to include practically the whole of Thondaimandalam. After Parantaka I till the reign of Parantaka II, the rule of the Chola Empire is not confirmed by inscriptions inside the Arunachaleswarar Temple. It might be because of the Rashtrakuta invasions and occupation of this area by Krishna III. This is perhaps indicated by a single inscription of Kannaradeva (Krishna III) found in the Temple.
The recovery of the region by the Cholas was a slow process and reached its successful conclusion only towards the close of the reign of Rajaraja I approximately. AD 1014, but even Rajaraja is conspicuously absent in the inscriptions of Tiruvannamalai. While the rule of Rajendra I and Rajadhiraja I over this area is attested by their inscriptions, once again a fairly long gap of over a hundred years is indicated by the absence of any Chola inscriptions till the beginning of Kulottunga III's region (AD 1183).
Large scales activities in the period of Kulottunga III and Rajaraja III are indicated by a number of records in the Temple. Further, the frequent references to a number of Chola feudatories of this period would also show a gradual ascendancy in their power and importance till the final establishment of independence by the Kadavaraya chieftains in the second quarter of the 13th century AD.
In this connection mention may be made of an interesting inscription at Tiruvannamalai, which records an agreement entered into by a number of feudatory chieftains to support one another and swearing allegiance to the ruling Chola king (Kulottunga III of AD 1210), pointing to a period of great political tension under the late Cholas.
The inscriptions of Kopperunjinga clearly show that by the second quarter of the 13th century, the Kadavarayas had established complete mastery over this region leading to the final decline of Chola power.
A brief period of Pandya supremacy over this region is indicated by the inscriptions of the Pandyas of the second empire such as Jatavaraman Srivallabha and Tribhuvanachakravartin Kulasekhara in the 13th century AD.
The Hoysalas under Vira Vallaladeva (Ballala III) of around AD 1340 also exercised sway over this area which indicates that the Hoysalas continued to influence Tamil politics even after the Muslim invasions of Malik Kafur. The Hoysala kings used Tiruvannamalai as their capital beginning in 1328.
After the Hoysalas, Tiruvannamalai passed into the hands of the Vijayanagar rulers, whose southern invasions under Kampana led to the establishment of Vijayanagar authority over practically the whole of Tamilnadu. Vijayanagar inscriptions in Arunachaleswarar Temple are large in number and range from the period of Harihara II to the late Vijayanagar ruler Venkatapatideva Maharaya dating from 14th to 17th Centuries AD. There are 48 inscriptions from the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485), two inscriptions from Saluva Dynasty, and 55 inscriptions from Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570) of the Vijayanagara Empire, reflecting gifts to the temple from their rulers.
There are also inscriptions from the rule of Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529), the most powerful Vijayanagara king, indicating further patronage. Most of the Vijayanagara inscriptions were written in Tamil, with some in Kannada and Sanskrit. The inscriptions in the temple from the Vijayanagara kings indicate emphasis on administrative matters and local concerns, which contrasts the inscriptions of the same rulers in other temples like Tirupathi.
The majority of the gift related inscriptions are for land endowments, followed by goods, cash endowments, cows and oil for lighting lamps. The town of Tiruvannamalai was at a strategic crossroads during the Vijayanagara Empire, connecting sacred centers of pilgrimage and military routes. There are inscriptions that show the area as an urban center before the pre-colonial period, with the city developing around the temple, similar to the Nayak ruled cities like Madurai.
Following them, the Nayak feudatories of Tanner, established their independent sway over this region and under Sevvappa Nayaka, carried out large scale renovation and building activities in the Temple. After Nayak rule, this region seems to have gradually passed into British hands except for a brief period of subordination to the Mysore Wodeyars (1816 AD).
During the 17th century, Tiruvannamalai came under the dominion of the Nawab of the Carnatic. As the Mughal Empire came to an end, the Nawab lost control of the town, with confusion and chaos ensuing after 1753. Subsequently, there were periods of both Hindu and Muslim stewardship of the temple, with Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan, and Burkat Ullakhan besieging the temple in succession. As European incursions progressed, Tiruvannamalai was attacked by French Soupries, Sambrinet, and the English Captain Stephen Smith. While some were repelled, others were victorious.
Under Colonial Powers:
The French occupied the town in 1757 and it came under the control of the British in 1760. In 1790, Tiruvannamalai town was captured by Tippu Sultan, who ruled from 1750–99. During the first half of the 19th century, the town came under British rule. During the British period, Dupleix followed Dumas as Governor of Pondicherry. Then, in 1748, British reinforcements, intended for the recovery of Madras, arrived with a new fleet under Boscawin, Pondicherry in its tuen was besieged, but once more French enterprise was aided by British ineptitude in securing a French success.
Due to the differences between Dupleix and the French naval head La Bourdannais in 1748, Madras was restored to the English and maintained the status quo. But the restoration revealed a profound change in the politics of South India. Three taluks adjoining Pondicherry viz., Valudavur, Villianur and Bahur were handed over to Dupleix as reward for his kind assistance during the Ambur battle in 1749.
Dupleix refused to be content and with infinite resource, continued the struggle. He even besieged Trichinopoly a second time in 1753. The British triumph of Arcot during the Carnatic wars though was followed by more victories at Arni, Kaveripakkam and Valikandapuram over the forces of Chanda Sahib and the French. So the campaigns continued throughout the year 1753.
And early in 1754, Dupleix was forced to open negotiations with the British. Meanwhile, the French company had decided upon his recall. D’ Auteuil, one of the officers of Dupleix, captured Elavanasur. The French then took Tiruvannamalai and other forts, threatened Thyaga Drug, and attacked Fort David, in spite of the fact that their fleet was defeated by the English Fleet in an action off Nagapattinam.
Under Indian Rule:
After independence Tiruvannamalai was under North Arcot District. The civil district of North Arcot was divided into Vellore District and Tiruvannamalai District in October 1989. Thiru. P.Kolappan IAS was the first Collector of Tiruvannamalai District. On the whole Tiruvannamalai is traditionally rich in Historic and spiritual values but lacks in industrial growth.