Nagarathar History

The first book about Nagarathar history " Thanavaishyiar Nattukottai Nagarathar Sarithiram " in Tamil  was published in 1894. After detailed study on various records and findings, its obvious that Nagarathar have a long tradition and culture to treasure. The history can be classified with time to scale. 

Pre Historic Era :

Nagarathar in the pre historic days were in  Sandhiyapuri of Naga Nadu ( Part of north east Tamilnadu ). Actively involved with trading of precious stones, worshipped Vinayagar and practiced Vegetarianism.  

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Historic Era :

Around BC 2900, Nagarathars sensed a great deal of insecurity in Naga Nadu as the ruler at that time was a autocratic hardliner. Hence they gradually migrated to Kanchi Nadu and with the support from the Kanchi kindom, they started their business again from scratch. 

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Ancient Era :

Nagarathars had a very successful and happy living in Kanci Nadu till BC 790. During this time, the king of Kanchi Nadu " Prathaba Raja " imposed heavy taxes and duties for business establishments. This had an adverse impact on the Nagarathars as most of them are involved with business activities, resulting in look out  for place to make their living. They Finally decided and migrated to Chola Nadu and made "Pughar" (now known as Kaveri Poompattinam or Poombugar) as their home town. Apart from trading precious stones, they actively took part with overseas trading. Their business acumen coupled with commitment and sincerity rewarded them with various privileges and honors.  In BC 674, the Chola king " Poovandhi Chola " imprisioned some Nagarathar women. This had a disastrous impact on the community, everyone handed over all their belongings and their 1502 young boys to Athmanadha Sasthrigal, requesting him to be their guardian and  committed suicide to show their protest. These young boys in Athmanadha Sasthrugal custody were taken care off and had proper education. Poovandhi Cholan was disturbed by this incident and in his final years as king decided to make one of these Nagarathar boys as the next king, as a compensation. None of the 1502 grownups were married because there were no women left behind in the community. Hence they were not eligible to rule the kingdom. The king consulted his ministers and these men married girls from three different Vellala communities. These Nagarathar men decided that their weddings will be the first and last to marry someone from the other community and the next generations will marry among themselves. As these men married women from three different Vellala community, they moved to the downtown side of the city "Puhar" and lived in three streets ( West, South, East).

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Medieval Era :

By AD 707, the Pandiya King " Soundara Pandiyan " visited Chola Nadu. Pandiya Kingdom during his predecessors days faced severe natural calamities, there were not many business communities in Pandiya Nadu. With due acceptance from the Chola King, Soundara Pandiyan invited the Nagarathar and other business communities to migrate. Pressure mounted on the Nagarathars to let go some of their men to Pandiaya Nadu, but they decided to stay united where ever they live. The Pandiya king offered to give them "Ariyur"   city, "Piran Malay" temple, "Sundara Patinam" city and temple, "Ellayathan Kudi" city and temple. Nagarathars moved to "Ariyur" City, in the hot and high deccan plateau of the Pandiya Nadu ( "Chettinadu" district ), where the king built and temple and allocated land for Nagarathars to get on with their trade. They liven in three lanes, similar to how they were in Chola Nadu. But as days past, they could not coexist. The nagarathars of the West street decided to stay back in "Ariyur", residents of the South street decided to move to "Sundara Patinam" city and the the East street Nagarathar moved to "EllayathanKudi" city. They agreed that  "Maragatha Vinayagar" temple at "Ariyur" will me managed by the the West street Nagarathars and its a shared property of all the three groups. 

After few years, the Nagarathars of "Sundara Patinam" could not live together. They met the Pandiya King and explained their views and concerns. They requested the king to accept and allow them to break up into eight groups and move to eight small towns namely "Mathur", "Pilliyarpatti", "Eraniyur", "Vairavanpatti", "Ellupakudi", "Suraikudi", "Velankudi" and  "Nemamkovi". Along with the "Elayathankudi" they are now made up of nine towns. And this is how all the nine temple groups of Nagarathars emerged. 

In AD 1161, the Pandiya king "Karuniya Pandiyan" kidnapped the five year old daughter of Muthuveerappan Arunachalam. The king was on a hunting mission when this girl "Muthu Meenal" got kidnapped.  Learning this, the Nagarathar of  "Velangudi" discussed and decided to meet up with the king. Only then the king came to know that the kid belongs to Nagarathar and he agreed to release the girl on condition. The kind came to know  that the Nagarathars follow very strict rules and hence they would kill the girl once she is back, because the girl was away from Nagarathar community for some time ( thought she is a infant ). The King condition for the release was " if the girl is killed, he would punish the Nagarathar community by hanging 8 men and penalizing them with eight thousand gold coins". Nagarathars agreed on the deal and got the girl freed. Nagarathar, on their way back home, they killed the girl to keep up with their rules of the community. Though they know that the king take action on them, they started to prepare and face the charges. They had one member nominated from each of their seven subgroups (that was involved with this crime) and collected eight thousand gold coins. They had to decide on who's going to be the the eight person and from which sub group. "Elayathankudi" group has few subgroups in it  came up with the eight member who was a part of a "Okkurudaiyur" subgroup, in return this sub group will be give the first right and honor at "Elaythankudi" temple. All the eight men met the king and told him that they have come prepared to face the punishment. They king regretted for the death of the young girl and pardoned these men. 

In AD 1543, "Ariyur" city was destroyed by natural disaster and all the 64 families fled to "Malayala" Nadu. They build the "Maragatha Vinayar" temple and continued to worship. Late in AD 1564, violance broke out in one of the Nagarathar towns and eight Nagarathar women were raped. As per the community law they have to be killed, but the Gurus ( Holy men) were reluctant to award the order. They gave in to the pressure and ordered to execute them, and the Gurus left for "Kasi" ( A holy town in the banks of rive Ganga, also known as Varnasi).                                                                                                 

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Modern Era :

The present area of Chettinad thus formed part of Pandya Kingdom until the advent of the Nayak rulers of Madurai, who held sway over the territory during the 16th century. At the beginning of the 18th century, Raghunatha Sethupathy (1674 1710), the ruler of Ramnad defeated the Nayak army of Princess Mangammal in 1702 and secured complete freedom for his little kingdom. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, there were periodical incursions by Muslim chieftains, both from the north and the south, as well as petty feuds between Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga principalities. The consequent insecurity as well as growth of the Chettiar population led to their gradual dispersal into nearby villages and thus the 96 villages came into existence.

By 1800 the British had established their rule in South India and restored relatively peaceful conditions. The Chettiars then moved closer to the centre of their settlement from the relatively far off villages, and the number of Nagarathar villages shrank to the present 78.

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