Sivaganga – History
During the 17th century, Sivaganga was ruled by the Kingdom of Ramnad, which had its boundary spreading across modern day Sivaganga, Pudukkottai and Ramanathapuram. The seventh king of the empire, Ragunatha Sethupathy (also called Kilavan Sethupathy) ruled from 1674 to 1710 and was succeeded by his sister's son Vijaya Regunatha Sethupathy. He was succeeded by his son-in-law Sundareswara Regunatha Sethupathy in 1726. Bhavani Sankara Thevan, the illegitimate son of Regunatha Sethupathy aligned with the Rajah of Tanjore to attack Ramnad.
Though Bhavani won, he did not honour the earlier decision to cede some portions of the empire to the King of Tanjore. He quarreled with Sasivarna Periya Woodaya Thevar and sent him out of his province. Both Sasivarna and Kattaya Thevar, the brother of Sundareswara, aligned with the Rajah of Tanjore. Both of them conquered Bhavani in 1730 with the help of the army of Tanjore. Kattaya Thevar divided the kingdom into five provinces and gave two to Sasivarna, who became the first king of Sivaganga.
As per legend, Sasivarna built the Theppakulam and fort around the spring "Sivaganga", where he met his spiritual guru Sathappier. As per another account, Sasivarna was appointed as the king by the Nawab of Carnatic. Sasivarna died at around 1750 and his son Muthu Vaduganatha Periya Udaya Thevar took over the reign. He was shot dead in 1780 by Nawab's troops. His widow Velu Nachiyar and infant Vellachi fled the region and were aided by two Maruthu brothers namely Periya Maruthu and Chinna Maruthu.
Velu Nachiyar ruled the region till 1790, when her daughter succeeded her. The brothers still continued the support the new queen. The brothers rebelled against the British East India Company and Nawab of Carnatic, who was supporting the Company. The brothers were later captured and hanged in Tirupathur. The Company appointed Gowry Vallaba Periya Woodaya Thevar as the Zamindar of Sivaganga in 1801.
Sivaganga District has been carved out from composite Ramnad District (G.O. MS. No. 1122 Rev. Dept. Dated. 6.7.84) and the District was functioning from 15.3.85 (G.O MS.No. 346 Rev. dept. Dated: 8.3.85).
Rulers of Sivagangai
The Kingdom of Ramnad originally comprised the territories of Ramnad, Sivaganga and Pudukottai of today. Regunatha Sethupathy, or Kilavan Sethupathy, was the 7th King of Ramnad reigned between 1674 and 1710. He came to know of the bravery and valor of Peria Woodaya Thevar of Nalukottai, located 4 kilometres from Sholapuram near Sivaganga. As a result, the King assigned Thevar or Nalukottai a portion of land sufficient to maintain 1,000 armed men.
Vijaya Regunatha Sethupathy became the 8th King of Ramnad in 1710 after the death of Kilavan Sethupathy. The King, then, gave his daughter Akilandeswari Nachiar, in marriage to Sasivarna Thevar, the son of Nalukottai Peria Woodaya Thevar. Afterwards, the King gave Thevar lands as dowry, free of taxation, sufficient to maintain 1,000 men. He also placed him in charge of the fortresses of Piranmalai, Tiruppathur, Sholapuram and Tiruppuvanam, as well as the harbour of Thondi.
Meanwhile, Bhavani Sankaran, the son of Kilavan Sethupathy conquered Ramnad territory and arrested Sundareswara Regunatha Sethupathy, the 9th King of Ramnad. Bhavani Sankaran, then, proclaimed himself as the Rajah of Ramnad. He became the 10th king of Ramnad and he reigned from 1726 to 1729. During his reign, he quarreled with Sasivarna Peria Woodaya Thevar of Nalukottai and drove him out of his Nalukottai Palayam.
Consequently, Thevan, the brother of the late Sundareswara Regunatha Sethupathy fled from Ramnad and sought refuge with the Rajah of Tanjore Tuljaji. While Sasivarna Thevar was passing through the jungles of Kalaiyarkoil, he met a Gnani (sage) named Sattappiah, who was performing Thapas (meditation) under a jam bool tree near a spring called 'Sivaganga'. The deposed king prostrated himself before him and narrated all the previous incidents of his life.
In response, the Gnani whispered a certain mantra in his ears (Mantra Upadesam) and advised him to go to Tanjore and kill a ferocious tiger which was kept by the Rajah especially to test the bravery of men. Henceforth, Sasivarna Thevar went to Tanjore. There, he became acquainted with Kattaya Thevan a refugee like himself. Satisfied with the good behaviour of Sasivarna Thevar and Kattaya Thevan, wanting to help them to regain the states again, the Rajah of Tanjore ordered his Dalavoi to go with a large army to invade Bhavani Sankaran.
Sasivarna Thevar and Kattaya Thevan at once proceeded to Ramnad with a large army furnished by the king of Tanjore. There, they defeated Bhavani Sankaran at the battle of Uraiyur and captured Ramnad in 1730. Thus, Kattaya Thevan became the 11th King of Ramnad.
1st Rajah Sasivarna Thevar (1730–1750):
After becoming the 11th King of Ramnad, Kattaya Thevan divided Ramnad into five parts and retained three for himself. He granted the two parts to Sasivarna Thevar of Nalukottai conferring on him the title of Rajah Muthu Vijaya Regunatha Peria Woodaya Thevar.
2nd Rajah — Muthu Vaduganatha Peria Woodaya Thevar (1750 –1772):
Sasivarna Peria Woodaya Thevar died in or about the year 1750. He was succeeded by his only son, Muthu Vaduganatha Peria Woodaya Thevar, who was the second Rajah of Sivaganga. His wife, Rani Velu Nachiar acted as a friend, a philosopher, and a guide to him. In his reign, Muthu Vaduganatha Peria Woodaya Thevar granted commercial facilities to the Dutch only after the English rejected a similar offer, made to Colonel Heron.
In fact, the English' aim was to let the ruler of Sivaganga serve the Nawab, to pay tribute to him, and to dissuade them from establishing relations with foreign powers like the Dutch. However, a two pronged offensive was made by the English. Joseph Smith from the East and Benjour from the West invaded Sivaganga Palayam in June 1772. The country was full of bushes of cockspur thorn, though there were villages and open spaces here and there.
Rajah Muthu Vaduganatha Thevar, in anticipation of the invasion, erected barriers on the roads, dug trenches and established posts in the woods of Kalaiyarkoil. In the same way on 21 June 1772, the detachment of Smith and Benjour effected a junction and occupied the town of Sivaganga. The next day, the English forces marched to Kalaiyarkoil and captured the posts of Keeranoor and Sholapuram.
Now, Benjour, who is continuing the operations, came into conflict with the main body of the troops of Sivaganga on 25 June 1772. Muthu Vaduganatha Rajah with many of his followers fell dead in that heroic battle. As a result, the heroic activities shown in the battle field by Velu Nachiar is praised by the historians. The widow queen Velu Nachiar and daughter Vellachi Nachiar with Thandavaraya Pillai fled to Virupakshi in Dindigul.
Later they were joined by the two able Servaigarars Periya Marudu and Chinna Marudhu. Rani Velu Nachiar and her daughter Vellachi Nachiar lived under the protection of Hyder Ali at Virupakshi near Dindigul. Her husband and his second wife were killed by a few British soldiers and the son of the Nawab of Arcot. She escaped with her daughter, lived under the protection of Hyder Ali at Virupachi near Dindigul for eight years.
During this period she formed an army and sought an alliance with Gopala Nayakar and Hyder Ali with the aim of attacking the British. In 1780 Rani Velu Nachiyar fought the British and won the battle. When Velu Nachiyar finds the place where the British stock their ammunition, she builds the first human bomb. A faithful follower, Kuyili douses herself in oil, lights herself and walks into the storehouse.
Rani Velu Nachiyar formed a woman's army named “Udaiyal” in honour of her adopted daughter — Udaiyal, who died detonating a British arsenal. Nachiar was one of the few rulers who regained her kingdom and ruled it for 10 more years. The Queen Velu Nachiar granted powers to Marudhu Brothers to administer the country in 1780. Velu Nachiar died a few years later, but the exact date of her death is not known (it was about 1790).
Marudhu brothers (1783-1801):
Marudu brothers are the sons of Udayar Servai alias Mookiah Palaniappan Servai and Anandayer alias Ponnathal. They are native of Kongulu street of Ramnad and neither belonged to the family of the ancient poligars, nor to their division of the caste. Servaikaran was the caste title and Marudu the family name. The Marudu Brothers served under Muthu Vaduganatha Thevar.
Later they were elevated to the position of Commanders. Boomerangs are peculiar to India and two forms of these weapons are used in India. One of the weapons is commonly made of wood, commonly known as Valari stick in Tamil. It is a crescent-shaped on end being heavier than the other, while the outer edge is sharpened. It is said that Marudu Brothers were experts in the art of throwing the Valari stick, and they used it in the Poligar wars against the English.
One time, the Marudu brothers, with 12,000 armed men, surrounded Sivaganga and plundered the Nawab's territories. Consequently, the Nawab appealed to the Madras Council for aid on 10 March 1789. In the same way on 29 April 1789, the British forces attacked Kollangudi, but it was defeated by a large body of Marudu's troops. On the other hand, the Marudhu Brothers were in close association with Veera Pandiya Kattabomman of Panchalankuruchi as Kattabomman held frequent consultations with the Marudhus.
After the execution of Kattabomman on 17 October 1799 at Kayattar, Chinna Marudhu gave asylum to Kattabomman's brother Oomathurai. One time, they issued an epoch-making Jumboo Deweepa proclamation to the people in the island of Jamboo, the peninsular South India, to fight against the English whether they were Hindus, Mussalamans or Christians. At last, the Marudhu Pandiyars fell a victim to the cause of liberating the motherland from the English supremacy.
Consequently, Marudu Pandiyan, the popular leader of the rebels, together with his gallant brother Vellai Marudu was executed on the ruins of fort at Tiruppathur in Sivaganga District on 24 October 1801. Marudu brothers were not only warriors who are noted for bravery, but they were very great administrators. During the period from 1783 to 1801, they worked for the welfare of the people and the Sivaganga Seemai was reported as fertile. They constructed many notable temples (i.e. Kalaiyarkoil) Ooranis and Tanks.
After the many successions of legal heirs ruling the estate, Sri D.S. Karthikeya Venkatachalapathy Rajah succeeded to the estate of late Sri. D. Shanmuga Rajah. He was the former Hereditary Trustee of Sivaganga, Devasthanam and Chatrams consisting of 108 temples, 22 Kattalais and 20 Chatrams. Sri. D.S. Karthikeya Venkatachalapathy Rajah died on 30 August 1986, leaving a daughter named Tmt. Maduranthagi Nachiyar as his heir.
At present, Tmt. Maduranthagi Nachiyar is administering the Sivaganga Estate, Sivaganga Devasthanam, and Chatram of Sivaganga Royal Family. Based on the District Gazette 1990 of Ramanathapuram, and the history of Sivaganga maintained by Samasthanam, Sivaganga District has been formed mostly with an area of entire Sivaganga Zamin and part of Ramnad Zamin.