HISTORICAL OUTLINE OF KANNIYAKUMARI DISTRICT
CHAPTER - I
Kanniyakumari District came into existence on 01-11-1956, after a prolonged struggle by the people and on the recommendation of the States Re-organisation Commission. The geographical area of the four taluks vis. Vilavankodu, Kalkulam,Agasteeswaram and Thovali was ceded from the erstwhile Travancore –Kochi State and merged with Tamilnadu State.
Pre-history in Kanniyakumari district has some foot prints. The microlithic evidences are available in and around Muttom; People living with hunting, gathering and fishing economy before 10,000B.C. as per latest evidences. Neolithic evidences are obtained in Poromkodu, Thotriyodu, and Mylaudi. The burial urns have been located in and around Vellimalai and in the rigion between Vaniyakudi to Thengapattinam which relates to the Megalithic age(1200-100 AD.)
The early political history of this area was related to the Ceranaadu, Aye-Vels and Venadu. The Ayes were tributary chieftains of the Sangam period(Age of Anthology). Some of the chieftains acted as Commanders to the Cera Kings; Aye Andiran was the famous Commander of Nanmudiceral(276-261 BC). Thithiyan and Athiyan were also reputed chieftains. Ptolemy who visited South India recorded in 140AD that the region west of Capecomerin was Aye-country. Sadayan, Karunanden and Karunandakkan ruled Aye country during 8th and 9th centuries AD.Ayes had a westward expansion during the time of Karunandakkan. He was succeeded by Vikramadhithya Varagunan. From the 8th to the 11th Centuries there had been repeated invasions by the Pandiyas and Cholas and the control of the areas of Thovalai taluk and eastern portion of Agasteeswaram taluk were changing to different regimes. During the early 10th Century AD, the Aye Kingdom under Vikramadhithya Varaguna faced military threats from the Pandiyas and Cholas. Repeated invasions forced him to give away large tracts of land to Temples and Samana Pallies and caused the termination of the Aye Kingdom. Venadu expanded their territory upto Capecomerin.
Second Cera Empire: History of the Cera empire, after Seran Senkuttuvan, is termed as “dark age”. Yet the history of Ceras had not extinguished totally. It seemed to have some continuity of “Porayar line of Ceras”. The copper plate containing land grant to a Portughese traveller Thomas Cana, refers to one Kocerakon reigning in the 4th centuryAD (Kerala Society Papers, Series-4). Periyapuranam refers to two Cera kings, one Senkorporayan and his successor as Kothai Perumal. Later rulers had ‘Perumal’ titles. William Logon in his ‘Malabar’ manual names thirteen of them who ruled from Vanchi/Mahodhayapuram.
Kulasekara Perumal established the second Cera Empire during the 8th century AD. His successor Ceraman Perumal(789-825AD) defeated Varaguna Pandiya and asserted the Cera superemacy. In a congregation of Tamil scholars at Kollam, he arranged for a new Calendar for Tamils, in 825AD, the Kollam Era,which has been adopted as Malayalam Calendar in the later period. One line of Ceraman Perumal ruled from Eraniel during this period.
With the sudden disappearance of Ceraman Perumal during 825AD under mysterious circumstances, Ceranadu got disintegrated into several divisions. People were told that the king had gone to Mecca; Some were made to believe that he went for ‘Kailash’. However the subordinate rulers -sitrarasarkal- continued to invoke the superiority of the Cera Emperor in their inscriptions for long. Venadu king Ayyanadikal Thiruvadi(840-860AD) issued a copper plate for land grant to Therasapalli in 849AD in the name of Ceraman Perumal.
After the shock treatment given by Aryapadaikadantha Nrdumchezhian, to the Perum Cellur militia of (Aryan)Vedic Colonists around 100AD, they belived to have regrouped around 8th Century AD and created ‘Parasurama Story’ to occupy Malabar and succeeded. To fill the political vacuum, they imported ‘political agents’ and appointed them as ‘kings’ without the power of Sovereignty and handled them as servants and established their rule under Manudharmashastra. Scholers lik Nagam Ayya and Willam Logan link them to the Nevaris of Nepal, who were later called as Nairs.
Emergence of Venadu as a Soverign State:
After Cheraman Perumal, Ceranadu got divided into several domains such as Musika Desam(Kulathu Nadu)(Kulathu Nadu), Kupaka Desam - Thiruvadi Desam - Thirupappur swarupam,- Chiravayee Desam ( Venadu) .
Venadu was ruled by Ayyanadigal Thiruvadi(840-860).He belonged to the Thirupapur Family. He gave an identity for Venadu. Kollam was his capital and the territory covered major portion of the present Kanniyakumari District. He has avoided the ‘Swastishree’ symbol, the tradition of ‘Ritual Politics’ prevailing then in India. This will stand testimony that he had not accepted the Varnasrama Dharma or the superiority of the Brahmans. Venadu came under attack from the Pandiyas as well as Chola kings.The invasion by successive Monarchs of Pandiyas and Cholas will prove that the Venadu kings could consolidate their rule every time. Chozhas, who occupied for a longer time, had created administrative divisions like Nanchilnadu, Mudalanadu, Kurunadu, Thenganadu, Padappanadu/Valluvanadu,Edanadu, etc. This became a living threat to the existence of Venadu.
Hence, Ramar Thiruvadi(1104 – 1126AD) and the heroic people of Venadu created “Chaverrupadai” or ‘suiside squads’ under Kalari Asans. Thekkan Kalari was under Chantrors(Nadars) and Vadakkan Kalari was under Ezhavas, which formed a formidable force against the Cholas and got them driven away. The Asan families of Venadu carried forward the tradition of Kalari and Varmasastram. Ramar Thiruvadi helped to create Venadu a militarist state.
Thiruvadi Ravivarman Kulasekara Perumal(1299-1314AD): The Pandiya house of Madurai and Venattu Kollam-Panamkavu palace had matrimonial alliances. ‘Ravivarman’Kulasekaraperumal Thiruvadi married the daughter of Maravarman Kulasekara Pandiyan.The Muslim General, Malikafur invaded Tamilakam during 1310AD. As there were internal struggle for the throne between Sundara Pandian and Veera Pandian, Malik Kafur attacked Madurai. Sundara Pandiyan fell in the battle and Veerapandian fled. Next legitimate claimant Kulasekarapermal Thiruvadi of Venadu rushed to Madurai. He defeated Malik Kafur and chased him beyond Vekavathi river off Kanchipuram. Cholamandalam was already under the Pandiyas; The Thiruvadi was designated as “Mummandalathipathi” and ruled from Madurai till his death in 1314AD. Venadu reached its glory under Kulasekaraperumal Thiruvadi.
During 14th Century AD Venadu had its territory from Thiruvanchikkulam to Capecomerin; But the northern region got divided into small principalities.
Puli Boothala Veera Udhaya Marthandan(1522-1544): He conducted war expeditions towards east, inside ‘Pandiya kingdom’ which was under the rule of Telugu Nayaks. He annexed places of Cheranmadhevi -Ambasamudram- -Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi. He built the Temple at Kalakkadu. He gave protection and help for all religious faiths.
During the regime of Adhithyavarman(1660-1677), Nambudri Brahmans and Nairs formed ‘Ettarai Yogam’, a body to said to govern the affairs of Padmanabasamy Temple. The King and his five children were treacherously murdered. Umayammai Rani(1677-1684),however undisturbed over this, took over the country and maintained order.
Veera Keralavarman (1685-1718): He defeated and killed the Mukilan, the Commander of Moghalaya forces in a fight near Thruvattaru. He promulgated an order in 1696AD banning ‘Pulappedi’, an infamous practice in which the Nair women were subjected to cruelties by the members of the Pulaya, Mannan and Kavathy communities.
Bala Marthandavarman(1729-1758): He came to the throne after subduing his rivals, Thanbimar who had the support of Ettarai Yogam. Marthandavarman was backed by Thachanvilai Anandan alias Ananthapadmanabha Nadar and Kalari Asans. He embarked a carrier of conquest towards north. He succeeded in annexing the kingdoms of Kollam, Kayankulam,and proceeded upto Kochi.During his regime the Dutches attacked Colachael, but they were decimated. Kannanur copper plate (1748) says that the seat of the King was at Kalkulam.
The Venadu kingdom continued upto the close of 18th Century AD. After Kollam,for a brief period Thruvithankodu was their Capital. Kalkulam, the present Padmanabhapuram , became the State Capital in the 15th Century till the emergence of Travancore after 1790AD.
Transition from Venadu to Travancore:
The successor of Balamarthandavarman , Ramavarman(1758-1798AD), was inefficient in battle. Tippu Sultan attacked from north and therefore the help of the Britishers were saught for. Although the battle was won, large sum of money was to be paid as tribute, which was transformed to the people by way of heavy taxation. On the 0ther hand, the Nair-Nambudri clout under Ettarai Yogm consolidated their position in Thiruvanathapuram. According to faith, Travancore Kingdom came into existence with effect from 1790AD with Thiruvananthapuram as Capital. If we go according to Nagam Ayya, the Travancore Kingdom could have been formed under the name of one ‘Aswathi Thirunal’(1758 – 1788), born in the Kolathunadu Family. However, Kerala historians and publications of Kerala Govt are silent about the ‘change of name’ of the country and date of shifting of the capital from Kalkulam to Thiruvananthapuram. Ramavarman alias Dharmaraja, the king at Kalkulam died in 1798 at Padmanabapuram palace.
The kings of Venadu hailed from the Thirupapur family which is of Santror lenience and had adopted the title THIRUVADI. Till the last days of the last king at Kalkulam, Tamil was the language of the State and People; The State of Travancore in Thiruvananthapuram adopted Malayalam as official language. The Kings were named after their ‘birth star’.
Merger of Kanniyakumari District with Tamilnadu State:
Consequent upon the usurpation of power by Malayalees towards the end of 18th Century AD, the erstwhile ruling clan and administrators viz. Nadars and Ezhavas were subjected to manifold cruelties. Malayalam replaced Tamil in administration and education.
However, History witnessed consolidation of Tamils and spearheading of struggles under Anti-Malayalees Front(1810), Anti-Malayalam Front(1822), Tamilar Liberation Congress(1928), Tamil’s Party(1935), and Tamil Sangam(1938). Vaikundasamy(1809-1851) organised Tamil population to assert their political and social rights. Christian missionaries of London Mission Society like Charles Mead and Ringal Thoubay protected the people against State oppression.
On the political front, Britishers got greater say in administration after the Veluthambi episode(1810). Therefore, the ruling group had to yield to pressure for the democratisation process and reformed the judiciary and administration; Legislative Assembly called ‘Thirumoolam Assembly’ was formed in 1904, people’s representatives were selected through ‘limited franchise’. With the British Govt’s declaration of ‘Lapse of (British) Paramountcy’, Travancore Govt. declared Independence on 11-06-1947 and separate Constitution was promulgated. However, owing to pressure from civil society, Travancore joined with Indian Union on 04-09-1947.
In the meantime, Congressmen of Travancore, Kochi and Malabar regions worked for the formation of ‘Unified Kerala State’ under the Indian Union from Kasorgodu to Capecomorin. As this was fraught with danger for the cultural heritage of the Tamils, some academicians of South Travancore formed an organisation called All Travancore Tamilar Congress in 1945 under the leadership of Sam Nathaniel. However, a section of the party nurtured their intention of merging only the areas coming under Thovalai Taluk and a portion of the Agasteeswaram Taluk, popularly known as ‘Nanchilnadu’ with Madras State and therefore the necessity for the formation of a new political party to take care of the interest of all Tamil speaking areas under Travancore was discussed. On the invitation of Thiru A.Nesamani, prominent citizens of South Travancore cutting across caste and religious lines, assembled at Nagercoil in the Alan Memorial Hall on 9th October,1947 and formed the political organisation called ‘Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress’(TTNC). Sam Nathaniel was made the President of the Party, while Marshal A.Nesamani remained as the defacto leader.
The TTNC declared that it wanted the merger of nine taluks,viz. Neyyatrinkarai, Vilavankodu, Kalkulam, Agasteeswaram, Thovalai, Senkottai,Devikulam, Peermedu and Chittoor with Tamilnadu.
In July,1949 Travancore and Kochi regions were unified and called as ‘Travancore-Kochi State’ with the help of AICC.This served as a green signal for the formation of the ‘Greater Keralam’. Nesamani insisted for the merger of Tamil areas with the Madras State simultaneously, but not acceded to. So the TTNC took the path of direct action. Govt. Notification for the Travancore-Kochi unification was set in fire in public meetings. Several leaders were imprisoned. Two volunteers of the party, Devasahayam of Mangadu and Chelliah of Keezhkulam were killed in police firing.
In the Assembly elections of 1948, 1952, and 1954, the nominees of TTNC party won vindicating the demand for merger with Madras State. A. Nesamani was elected to the Indian Parliament in the general elections of 1952 and he took the issue to New Delhi. Tamils’ Conference (Then Ellai Maanaadu) was conducted in Kanniyakumari, on 6th January,1950; Ma.Po.Si, Ki.Aa.Pa.Viswanathan, Krishnasamy Bharathi and many leaders of Tamilarasu Kazhagam participated in the deliberations. Observing the great success of the Conference, All India Congress Committee sent conciliation messages through Tamilnadu Chief Minister K.Kamaraj.. However, as the Govt’s proposal did not speak about Senkottai,Devikulam, Peermedu, and Chittoor, TTNC continued the path of agitation.
The kerala Govt was very keen in keeping Devikulam and PeermeduTaluks, as the place contained the big dam of Mullai-Periyaru.As the people wanted merger with Tamilnadu, the Kerala police unleashed terror and took repressive measures against the Tamil population. TTNC stepped into direct action to protect the people of Devikulam and Peermedu. 30th June,1954 was declared as “Devikulam Day” and protest meetings and mass rallies were organized throught south Travancore. Similar protests at Devikulam were slated for 4th July, 1954, and senior leaders of the party, A.Nesamani MP, Abdul Rasaak MP and A.Chithambaranathan Nadar reached Devikulam.They were arrested and imprisoned for Six Weeks and sent to Trivandrum Central Jail.
The Executive Committee of TTNC decided to continue the agitation till the Govt. withdraw 144. Volunteers were sent to Munaaru from Nagercoil in bathches for every third day and 320 of such volunteers got arrested between 10-7-1954 and 11-8-1954and imprisoned for varied periods from 6 days to 60 days. Kunchan Nadar, who was in charge of the agitation, ordered picketing Govt. offices in Nagercoil, Senkottai and other towns in Kanniyakumari District. About 900 volunteers got jail terms ranging from 6 days to 90 days. TTNK declared 11thAugust, 1954 as ‘Day of Independence’ and ‘total hartal’ and protest marches were organized. On the fateful day, Kerala police opened fire on peaceful marchers and killed 9 Tamils in Marthandam and Pudhukkadai;They are M.Muthusamy, A.Arulappan Nadar,N.Kumaran Nadar, A.Ponnaiyan Nadar,A.Beermuhamad, N.Chellappa Pillai, S.Ramaiyan Nadar, G.Pappu Panikkar and M.Palaiyan Nadar.
During the turbulent period Ma.Po.Si. of Tamilarasu Kazhagam addressed several meetings in Nagercoil and other towns.Anna of DMK addressed one meeting in Nagercoil. Yet they could not organise people for agitation in Chennai or Madurai in support of the demand for merger of Devikulam and Peermedu..
In order to highlight the brutal attack by Kerala Government, Nesamani organized protests in New Delhi in front of the house of Acharya Giribalani, the President of the Socialist Party, which was the ruling party in Thiruvananthapuram then, and in that party’s All India Conference at Nagpur. Giribalani and Ram ManoharLohia, the President and General Secretary of the Socialist Party respectively, resigned their posts, condemning the killings.
Government of India formed the State ReorganisationCommittee with Justice Fasal Ali as Chairman and K.M.Panickar and H. N.Kunsru as members. K.M.Panickar, hailing from Kerala convinced the commission to merge the four Taluks, Devikulam,Peermedu, Chittoor,and Neyyatrinkarai with Kerala State; Tamilnadu could get Senkottai taluk(which was joined with Tirunelveli District) and Vilavankodu, Kalkulam, Agasteeswaram and Thovalai taluks after a prolonged struggle from 1951 to 1954. Ultimately the Kanniyakumari Distric, comprising Vilavankodu, Kalkulam, Agasteeswaram and Thovalai taluks, was formed and merged with Tamilnadu on 1st November, 1956.