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Tirunelveli and Madurai was an important city of the Pandya Kingdom as it served as their capital for sometime “If the boundary of the town is made with stone, it will not be of aesthetic beauty and therefore boundary is fenced with paddy field”, says a Tamil Poet about Tiru-nel-veli The town has been surrounded on all sides by paddy fields. As such the town was called as ‘Nelveli’ i.e., Paddy-Hedge. Since the temple in the town is dedicated to Lord Siva’, the town around the temple was called Tiru-nel-veli. Around 1560, the town was rebuilt by Viswanatha the founder of Nayak dynasty who also erected many temples in it. Tirunelveli was the earliest Pandiya’s Capital. The Nayaks ruled Tirunelveli from Madurai during the 16th, 17th and early years of 18th Century.

Tirunelveli Area

6,810 sq. km

Tirunelveli Population

2723.988 (Census 2001)

Tirunelveli Rainfall

777.7 mm Annual

Tirunelveli Climate

Max: 37.1°C Min 22°C

Tirunelveli is culturally a very old city, as evidenced by the findings of archaeological excavations that have been carried out since 1840s to till-date in the outskirts of the city in Adichanallur (now under Tuticorin district). At this site, the archaeologists have unearthed urns[1]containing human skull, skeleton and Urns and red and black clay vessels with some Tamil Brahmi script on them.[2] Along with skeletal finds, husks, grains of rice, charred rice and Neolithic Celts have also been found. More recent excavations at this site has led to the discovery of habitational site of the Iron Age people. Archaeologists opine that it as 3000-3800 years old of Neolithic period.[3][4] The same has been published in The Hindu English daily on May 26, 2004. Further, this assured that Tirunelveli has been the abode for human habitation from Neolithic period around 3,000 years old. Now, Adhichanallur has been announced as an archaeological site for further excavation and studies.[5][6] This culturally old city is called in another name also "Nellai". In fact, the exact translation in Tamil for paddy is "Nell". So, both the name Tiru[nel]veli or [Ne]llai directly associates with paddy. Just in glance even on satellite pictures, it can be seen that the city is surrounded by fertile paddy fields enriched by a perennial river "Tamirabarani[7]". It flows through out the year, which supplies water through various canals to agricultural field.

It has a deep rooted history on puranical perspective to get this name. It is said that a devotee was invited by God in his dream to settle with his family near the Tamirabarani River. He collected paddy from various other people as the way of begging due to famine. And he spread out the paddy to dry under the sunlight and went for ablution in Tamirabarani river. He prayed to Lord for rain. Suddenly a thunder strom broke out and rained heavily. Al though his prayer answered, he worried about the paddy he spread out to dry under the sun light. So he ran there and what he saw was a miracle. Despite the heavy rain, that the paddy he spread did not even get a drop of rain or even soaked. Since then the city is called as Tirunelveli, the meaning is like this - 'TIRU' means Respectable, 'NEL' means paddy and 'VELI' means Fence. As having the rain become the fence for the paddy he spread out, it is called as Tirunelveli. In other words the city is having paddy fields as fence

In the period of the Pandian Empire, the city served as the south capital for them. The city was the chief commercial town in the period of Arcot Nawabs and Nayaks. They were one of the various ruling dynasties of Tamilnadu. In fact, they called the city as "Nellai Chemmai", cheemai means foreign developed town.[8] Tirunelveli first came into prominence under the Pandya kings,[9] serving as their capital for some time. It was an important city of the Chola kingdom (c.900 1200)[10] and of the Vijayanagar empire. Thereafter, it fell under the rule of local Nayaks and of the Nawab of Arcot, who in 1781 granted its revenues and local administration to the British. In 1801 it was annexed by the British, who governed it until India achieved independence in 1947.

On acquisition from the Nawab of Arcot in 1801, the British named it as Tinnevelly district though their headquarters was first located in Palayamkottai the adjacent town, where they had their military headquarters during their operations against the Palayakars. Two reasons may be attributed for naming it after Tirunelveli. One is because, it was and is the chief town of the district and the other is that it was already called as Tirunelveli Seemai under the Nayaks and Nawabs. Both Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai grew as the twin towns of the district.

Apart from the above, it has one more name "Halwa City". A wheat based sweet Halwa is very famous in Tirunelveli, which brought this nick name . The city has Swamy Nellaiappar and Sri Kandimathi Ambal temples, which are saivites. The city has been trifurcated in to three administrative provinces such as Tirunelveli, Palayamkottai and Melapalayam.

The city has become a corporation from 1989 and possesses the title of seventh largest city in the state of Tamilnadu. Generally, the corporation status has been given to a city according to its income generation and the population. The city is well connected by roads. From Madurai it is 150 km south in NH7 and 80 km north of Kanyakumari or Cape Comerin in NH7. An NH 7A connects Tirunelveli with Tuticorin port in 47 km and a major highway connects to Quilon, Kerala in 150 km.

Tiruneveli has two tier flyover named as Tiruvalluvar Flyover, which is the second longest double-decked flyover in Asia

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