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Mannar Thirumalai Nayakkar
Tirumalai Nayakkar Photo
Thirumalai Nayak ruled Madurai between 1623 to 1659 CE. He was the most notable of the thirteen Madurai Nayak rulers in the 17th century. His contributions are found in the many splendid buildings and temples of Madurai. His kingdom was under constant threat from the armies of Delhi Sultanate and the other neighbouring Muslim kingdoms, which he managed to repulse successfully. His territories comprised much of the old Pandya territories which included Coimbatore, Thirunelveli and Madurai districts in southern Tamil Nadu and some territories of territories of the Travancore kingdom.
Thirumalai Nayak was a great patron of art and architecture and the Dravidian Koil architecture evolved into the Madurai style. He rebuilt and renovated a number of old temples of the Pandya period. His palace knopwn as the Thirumalai Nayak Palace is a notable an architectural masterpiece.
 Early yearsThirumalai Nayak succeeded Muttu Virappa Nayak on the Madurai throne in 1623 CE. The political situation in south Tamil Nadu was confused with the decline of the Vijayanagar empire, and the once feudatory Nayak governors of Madurai, Thanjavur, Gingee and Mysore were quarrelling to divide the dissolving Vijayanagara Empire. The Muslim kingdoms if the Deccan began to press southwards. Immediately after becoming king, Thirumalainayak withheld the payment of tributes to the Vijayanargara kings. He also gathered a large army in Thiruchirapalli and strengthened its fortifications.
 Thirumalai's wars
 Invasion by the Bijapur armyAround 1638, the Vijayanagara king Ranga, succeeded to the throne of Chandragiri and he soon resolved to put an end to the independence of Thirumalai and prepared to march southwards. Thirumalai had meanwhile persuaded the Vijayanagar governors of Tanjore and Gingee (in south Arcot) to join him in his defiance of their mutual suzerain, and thus Ranga was left with only Mysore, of all his feudatories, to support him. The Nayak governor of Thanjavur eventually left his allies, sent in his submission, and betrayed the other Nayaks.
Ranga advanced upon Gingee Fort and laid siege to it. Thirumalai requested the Bijapur Sultan to send assistance. However the Bijapur toops defeated the Vijayanaraga army and turned on the Nayak armies by attacking the Gingee fort themselves. Gingee soon fell to the Bijapur troops. Thirumalai retreated in dismay of Madurai, and the Bijapur army advanced southwards, defeated the Thanjavur Nayak, and proceeded to lay waste the Madurai country. Thirumalai then submitted, apparently without striking a blow, paid a large ransom to the invaders, and agreed to send an annual tribute to the Sultan of Bijapur.
 Mysore warsThe Vijayanagar ruler had taken refuge with the king of Mysore, and now these two monarchs combined to endeavour to recover those portions of the Vijayanagara territories, which had recently been captured by Golconda. Thirumalai, making use of the opportunity to settle a long-standing quarrel with the kingdom of Mysore, persuaded the Sultans of Golconda and Bijapur to help him attack Mysore from the south. The Sultan of Golconda accepted and attacked Mysore and extinguished the Vijayanagara Empire and humbled the kingdom of Mysore. In return Thirumalai Nayak the Thanjavur Nayak and paid large amounts as tribute to the Golconda Sultan.
Thirumalai had another conflict with Mysore towards the end of his reign. The battles began with an invasion of Coimbatore by the Mysore king apparently in revenge for Thirumalai’s contribution to his defeat at the hands of the Golconda Sultanate. Coimbatore was occupied by the Mysore armies with ease, and Madurai itself was threatened. The Mysore troops were however repulsed from the town by the assistance of the Setupati of Ramnad. This campaign was known as the ‘hunt for noses’ because under the orders of the Mysore king, the invaders cut off the noses of all their prisoners and sent them in sacks to Seringapatam as trophies.
A counter invasion of Mysore was undertaken shortly afterwards by Thirumalai under the command of Kumara Muttu Nayak, his younger brother, and was a success, in which the king of Mysore himself was captured and his nose was cut off and sent to Madurai.
 Rebellions by feudatoriesDuring Thirumalai's reign, two rebellions occurred amongst his feudatories. The first was by the Setupati of Ramnad. It was due to an order of Thirumalai in 1635 regarding the succession to the chief of that territory, which was resisted by the rightful claimant. Thirumalai was successful in placing his nominee on the throne and in imprisoning the rival aspirant, but he was ultimately compelled to allow the latter to succeed. He heir reciprocated this action by supporting Thirumalai in his final war with Mysore.
The other rebellion was caused by a confederacy of Poligars headed by the powerful chief of Ettaiyapuram in the Thirunelveli district. Its reason for this upraising is not clear. The Setupati of Ramnad, as chief of all the Poligars, quelled it. The leader of the rebels was put to death and the others punished.
 Thirumalai's MaduraiThirumalai’s capital was Madurai. The royal residence had been moved from there to Thiruchirapalli by his predecessor, but Thirumalai moved it back to Madurai again, notwithstanding the strategic importance of Thiruchirapallai, with its almost impregnable rock, its never failing Cauvery river and its healthy climate, was by nature far superior to Madurai, where the fort was on level ground, the Vaigai was usually dry and fever was almost endemic. The reason for this move is claimed to be due to a dream Thirumalai had.
Thirumalai is best remembered for the many splendid public buildings he built in Madurai. Despite so many upheavals, Thirumalai Nayak's reign is famous for the legacy he left behind in numerous constructions. He added a tower to the Meenakshi temple, the unfinished tower called the Raja Gopuram and added a hall. He is credited for excavating the huge artificial pond, or Teppakulam.
He also built the beautiful palace called Thirumalai Nayak Mahala.k.a Thirumalai Nayak Palace . The palace was divided into two major parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa. The royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden were situated in these two portions. The courtyard and the dancing hall are the major centre of attractions of the palace.
 Personal life
 LegendsThirumalaii Nayak took great personal interest in the erection of the Pudumandapa at the Madurai temple. There are some account which recount that on one occasion, Sumandramurti Achari, the principal architect, was so deeply engrossed in sculpting a relief of the stone elephant eating sugarcane, an incident in the temple's puranic history, that he did not notice the Nayak standing by him. The Nayak rolled some betel leaves and areca nuts and handed them to him. Thinking that it was an assistant who had done so, he took them and began to chew them without looking around. When he realised that it was the Nayak himself, he was so much affected that he damaged the two fingers of his that had taken the betel leaves. Moved by his devotion to duty, the Nayak gave him many gifts. 
On another occasion a son of an artist pestered him for a mango when that fruit was not in season. He would not take no for an answer. The Nayak ordered that gold mangoes be brought from the palace. The boy was content and allowed his father to continue the work undisturbed. From this incident the family came to be called the "Mampazham" family. 
When, on yet another occasion, the artist was making a sculpture of a consort of the Nayak's a chip broke off from the thigh, as a curious coincidence the same queen had a scar in the same place as chipped. He started work on another image, but again the chip came off from the same place. A minister of the Nayak advised the artist to leave the image as it was. When the Nayak came to know of this from the artist, he was angry, wondering how the minister could know that his queen had a scar on her thigh. He sent for him. The minister knew that the Nayak was angry and might punish him. So he put out his eyes. At this the Nayak was filled with grief. Thereupon the minister composed a poem in the praise of the Goddess, beseeching her to give him back his eyesight if he was innocent. She restored it. The minister was a famous Sanskrit poet,named Sri.Nilakanta Diksihtar. Among his works are the "Shivalilamava", on the traditions of Lord Shiva in Madurai, and the "Gangavatarana", on the descent of the Ganga to the earth. . After this incident the minister, took leave of the King and was endowed with a village called Palamadai(Neelakanta Samudram) east of The present Sankar nagar,in Tirunelveli. Sri.Nilakanta Diksihthar was the grand nephew of Appaya Diksihtar. This clan has a rich tradition of intellectuals.
Another anecdote tells us that Thirumalai first brought his queen to the Thirumalai Nayak palace after it was completed. She commented that the giant pillars and arches reminded her of a stable for elephants, sending the king into such a rage that he had her confined for the rest of her life. And he took another wife.
 Traveller ChroniclesBaltsar Da Costa, a jesuit traveller chronicles in 1646 ‘Relacao Annual’ describing Thirumala Nayaka in more graphic still
“Almost every day he appears on the terrace surrounded by his courtiers, while in front of them his elephants are drawn up in two rows, the space between them being occupied by three or four hundred Turks (Turcos) who form his bodyguard. When he comes out of the fortress to visit some pagodes (Temple), as he is wonts to do on days of festivals, he is surrounded with great pomp. Sometimes he rides in a palanquin, at other times he mounts an enormous elephant…Next come the elephants in a long file, mounted by his nobles and chief captains, preceded by the arms and insignia(crest) of the Nāyaka.Then the cavalry and the rest of the troops follow".
 His deathThirumalai Naik died in 1659. He was between sixty-five and seventy years of age at the time and had reigned for thirty-six years. His territories at his death comprised the present districts of Madurai (including the territories of Ramnad and Sivaganga), Thirunelveli, Coimbatore, Salem and Thiruchirapalli, with Pudukkotai and parts of Travancore.
According to legends that were current regarding his death, he nearly converted to Christianity that he stopped his expenditure on the temples of the Hindu gods. This roused the Brahmins, and some of them, headed by a priest of the great temple, enticed him to the temple under the pretence that they had found a great hidden treasure in a vault there, induced him to enter the vault and then shut down its stone trap-door upon him, and gave out that the goddess Meenakshi had translated her favourite to heaven. Another story states that he had an intrigue with the wife of a priest and that as he was returning from visiting her one dark night he fell into a well and was killed. Thirumalai was succeeded by his son Muttu Alakadri Nayak in 1659.
A letter written by one of the Jesuit priests just after his death states:It is impossible to refuse him credit for great qualities, but he tarnished his glory at the end of his life by follies and vices which nothing could justify. He was called to render account to God for the evils which his political treachery had brought upon his own people and the neighbouring kingdoms. His reign was rendered illustrious by works of really royal magnificence. Among these are the pagoda of Madura, several public buildings, and above all the royal palace the colossal proportions and astonishing boldness of which recall the ancient monuments of Thebes. He loved and protected the Christian religion, the excellence of which he recongnised; but he never had the courage to accept the consequences of his conviction. The chief obstacle to his conversion came from his 200 wives, of whom the most distinguished were burnt on his pyre. 
- Rao, Velcheru Narayana, and David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Symbols of substance : court and state in Nayaka period Tamilnadu (Delhi ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1998) ; xix, 349 p.,  p. of plates : ill., maps ; 22 cm. ; Oxford India paperbacks ; Includes bibliographical references and index ; ISBN 0-19-564399-2.
- Devakunjari, D., 1921-. Madurai through the ages : from the earliest times to 1801 A.D. general editor, R. Nagaswamy (Madras : Society for Archaeological, Historical, and Epigraphical Research, ) ; 336 p.,  leaves of plates : ill. ; 22 cm. ; SAHER publication no. 8. ; "Thesis submitted to the University of Madras for the award of Ph.D. degree in the year 1957"--T.p. verso. ; bibliography: p. 334-336.
- Rajaram, K. (Kumarasamy), 1940-. History of Thirumalai Nayak (Madurai : Ennes Publications, 1982) ; 128 p.,  leaf of plates : ill., maps ; 23 cm. ; revision of the author's thesis (M. Phil.--Madurai-Kamaraj University, 1978) Includes index ; bibliography p. 119-125 ; on the achievements of Thirumalai Nayaka, fl. 1623-1659, Madurai ruler.
- Balendu Sekaram, Kandavalli, 1909-. The Nayaks of Madura by Khandavalli Balendusekharam (Hyderabad : Andhra Pradesh Sahithya Akademi, 1975) ; 30 p. ; 22 cm. ; "World Telugu Conference publication." ; History of the Telugu speaking Nayaka kings of Pandyan Kingdom, Madurai, 16th-18th century.
- Sathianathaier, R. History of the Nayaks of Madura [microform] by R. Sathyanatha Aiyar ; edited for the University, with introduction and notes by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar ([Madras] : Oxford University Press, 1924) ; see also ([London] : H. Milford, Oxford university press, 1924) ; xvi, 403 p. ; 21 cm. ; SAMP early 20th-century Indian books project item 10819.s]]
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