From the Books

The first book on prints to come out about Nagarathar history is in 1894 called Thanavaisya Nattukottai Nagarathar. With the help of scriptures from Poongondrai Velangudi at Thulavoor Mutt, the book was requested and examined by VR.L.Chinniah Chettiar of Devakottai. The permission was granted by imminent persons such as M.AL.AR. Ramanathan Chettiar and AL.AR.RM.Arunachalam Chettiar and the edition was printed by Sadavadanam Subramania Iyer of Tanjore at the Desabimani Press in Tanjore. The second edition came in 1904. In 1953, the compilation by A.Ramanathan Chettiar of Vayinagaram and the edition of that by Pandithamani was called Nattukottai Varalaru (history). In 1970 A.Shesadiri of Varagur wrote Nattukottai Nagarathar Varalaru, which came out in the form of a book. After this many researchers on Nagarathars have written many research essays on the past history. Certain notable essays are those written by Kamban Adipodi Sa. Ganesan, Dr.V.SP.Manickanar, Dr.SP.Annamalai and Dr.T.Chockalingam.

Based on these books we can classify the old history of the Nagarathars as below: .

1. Till 2898 BC

Initially the Vaishyas lived in Sandhyapuri of the Sambu Islands in Naganadu. This borders the present state of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. They were of Chandrakula Gothiram. Later they embraced Saivism. There is actually a question over when the Nagarathars joined Saivism and when they would renounce Saivism. When the sun and the moon were born on this earth the Nagarathars became Saivaites and when they are no more they would renounce Saivism. v According to Pandit Kathiresan Chettiar. At that time they were saivaites, praying to Maragatha Vinayagar, doing trade in precious stones and having the equal respect like the king. Naganadu is near Andhra. Later, an earthquake, according to DR. V.SP.Manickanar destroyed this Naganadu.

2. From 2897 BC to 790 BC

During the Kaliyuga year 204 (2897 BC) the Vaishyas could not bear the harassment of the Naga king and they came down to Thondaimandalam, namely Kanchipuram. At Kanchipuram the king welcomed them with a warm heart and royalty. He gave them land to build temples and mutts, They continued their devotion towards Maragatha Vinayagar and continued their trade with gems till the Kaliyuga year 2311 (790 BC) and lived happily.

3. From 789 BC to 706 AD

During the Kaliyuga year 2312 (789 BC), Prathaparasa the king who ruled Kanchipuram imposed unjustified severe fines and punishments. Hence, the Vaishyas from there moved to Cholanadu. They settled along the banks of river Cauvery at Kaveripoompattinam. Manuneedhicholan, the king of that time requested the Vaishyas to live in three streets, East, West and South streets. He gave the Vaishyas three honourable rights. One was the coronation of the king, the second was to have an independent lion flag of their own and the third was to have golden kalasams in the bungalows they lived in. When they got these rights the Nagarathars were called Rathina Maguda Thanavaisyar. They continued their prayers towards Maragatha Vinayagar.

In the Kaliyuga year 3775 (674 BC) Poovanthicholan who was ruling at that time harassed and imprisoned all the womenfolk. Hence, the 8000 Vaishyas leaving behind all their assets, 1502 boys and the Maragatha Vinayagar under the custody of their guru Atmananda Sastri to do pooja and look after, they all committed suicide. The guru Atmananda Sastri taught them the five-letter panchatara mantra for upadesam, till to this date they remember it with the help of the Patharakkudi Madam.

In the Kaliyuga year 3784 (683 BC) the old aged Poovanthicholan requested the Vaishya youngsters to do the coronation ceremony for his son Rajaboosanacholan. The youngsters said that they were incapable of doing the coronation since they were all bachelors and there were no eligible girls in the community to get married to. The king consulted with Esana sivachariar and pronounced that Vaishyas can marry Vellala caste girls. The Vaishya youngsters said that they would marry the girls from the Vellala caste, but they would not marry their girls by birthto the Vellala caste. The king requested the Vellala community to accept this. The Vellala community accepted on the condition that their community guru would perform the dhikshai for their girls and the girls born to them. The East Street, which was divided into seven branches, had 502 Vaishya youngsters married to Solliya Vellala girls. For these girls their guru was Alagiya Gurukkal from Srivanjiyam.

4. From 707 AD to 1565 AD

During the Kaliyuga year of 3808 (707AD) Soundarapandian the Pandya king went to Chola kingdom and met Rajabooshanacholan. He stated that during Keerthibooshanapandian's period the sea came inside till Thirubhuvanam and washed away the whole area. After that, 18 successions of Pandya kings have ruled but there were no good families living there. He said that he his inviting some good families to set up a living. He requested for some good families and some Vaishya traders. The Chola king called for the Rathanamaguda Vaishyars and requested a few to go. At that time they stated that wherever they go the three streets would go together and live, and not live separately. On hearing this, the Chola king asked everyone to go to the Pandya kingdom. The Pandya king assured the Vaishyas, that he would give them a place to live, land to build temples and mutts, and took them along with him. Soundarapandian gave land demarcated, West of the sea, East of Pranmalai, North of River Vaigai and South of River Vellar (present Chettinadu), to live, build temples and mutts. The Pandya king gave Ariyur town and Pranmalai temple, Sundarapatinam and its temple and Ellayatrankudi and its temple.

The three streets Vaishya youngsters could not live together for long because of difference of opinion created since they married Vellala girls of different - different groups. Hence therefore, those who lived in the West street in six branches at Kaveripoompatinam were given Ariyur and Pranmalai temple, South street in four branches were given Sundarapattinam and its temple, East street by seven branches were given Ellayatrankudi and its temple. The Maragatha Vinayagar was under the custody of Ariyur. They agreed upon the rituals and prayers to be common. After this the six branched were called Ariyurar, four branched as Sundarathar and the seven branched as Ellayatrankudi Nagarathar also Nattukottai Nagarathar. As the days went by there was difference opinion amongst the Ellayatrankudiyars' and they separated branch wise and met Soundarapandian and requested for different temples. Pandian agreed, the temples given were Mathur, Vairavanpatti (712 AD) Iraniyur, Pillaiyarpatti, Nemankovil, Ellupakkudi (714 AD) and Soorakkudi, Velangudi (718 AD). Henceforth the creation of the nine temples took place. When the population increased there were many branches with in the temples. This is the only community in the world to be divided on the basis of Sivan temples.

During the Kaliyuga year 4262 (1161 AD) Nemankovil's Arunachalam's five year old daughter Muthumeenal was taken to the capital by Karunyapandian in the chariot when he was hunting over there. The Nagarathars on knowing this grouped together and decided that the girl should get justice according to the caste practise and they met the Pandya king and asked him to release the girl. The Pandya king said that if he had known it was their girl he would not have brought the girl over to the capital. He said that, he had heard that if he handed over the girl, the girl would be killed. He also said that if at all he heard that the girl was killed, they would have to pay eight heads and eight hundred sovereigns of gold and he handed the girl. The Nagarathars took leave of the king and killed the girl on the way according to the caste regulations. Then they prepared themselves for the punishment ordered by the king. For the seven branches seven heads were ready and there was a question mark over the one remaining head. At that time among the seven branches, Ellayatrankudi, Eraniyur and Pillaiyarpatti were as one branch though they had different temples, it was decided that this branch give an extra head. Henceforth Okkurudayar a branch of Ellayatrankudi came forward to give the extra head. The condition put was that they get the first honour in the temples and mutts including the Viputhi. The Nagarathars accepted. Later they went to the king and stated that they have brought the eight heads and eight hundred sovereigns of gold. The king was so depressed and said, the sin of killing one girl itself is enough, you don't have to give anything and you can go. The Nagarathar's returned back.

During the Kaliyuga year 4389 (1288 AD) there was trouble and Ariyurpattinam was demolished. The sixty-four Vaishya families that stayed there escaped to the Malayala kingdom (Kerala) and started living near the River Korattar. They built a temple for Maragatha Vinayagar and continued the prayers.

During Kaliyuga year 4644 (1543 AD) there was trouble at Nattarasankottai due to robbers and they raped some Nagarathar women. Nagarathars met their Gurus and requested them to give permission according to their custom to kill them. The gurus did not accept. On the insistence of the Nagarathars the gurus accepted and went to Kasi to have a holy dip in the Ganges. Nirambia Alagiya Gurukkal alone returned to Thulavur after three years. The Kala mutt guru did not even return after twelve years. Hence some of the Nagarathars went to Ramanathasamy of Thirupunavayil to get upadesam. After twenty-one years during the kaliyuga year 4665 (1564 AD), the guru of Kala mutt came and joined. The Nagarathars met him and explained the happenings. The guru said that those who got dhikshai from Ramanathasamy belonged to Vamisa, henceforth they and their generation have got to get dhikshai from Vamisa generations and gave a mutt at Patharakudi, which is also known as Ellanjeripattinam at Kanakapuram. From then on Nagarathar men had Kala mutt and Patharakudi mutt; the women had Thulavur mutt, which were the three Gurukulams.

5. Recent History

In 1278 AD, Eranikovil and Pillaiyarpatti the two branches of Ellayatrankudi separated completely and decided to live as separate Pangaligals. Till date the two branches have no marriage alliance among themselves. As the days went by Kala mutt and Patharakudi mutt merged together and now Patharkudi mutt alone is for Nagarathar men as the Gurupeedam. As days passed by the Nagarathar families which lived around the places of the temple spread to various places. It is described that they lived in ninety-six places and now they live only in seventy-six places.

The Vaishyas were basically traders. One of the groups of traders were called the Chetty. Later this word changed to Chettiar. One who does business is a Chetty is often referred to as a stingy person. There is no population boom for the community. They are very selfish in thinking and they think of themselves and their community. Silapathikaram, a book written by Elango Adigal, states that the main character in the book Kovalan is a Chettiar. Salt trade was famous during the Pandya regime. After going to many places to do business finally they would converge at Palani during the festival of Thaipoosam and write Magamai. Magamai is an annual tax paid to the god. According to the capital invested or profit got a percentage is calculated and the magamai is derived. Here they set right their accounts and look at there profits and accordingly write their magamai. Later they give free food to all called Annadhanam. This can be seen in Palani on a stone engraving, where it states that Kuppan Chetty's son Kumarappa Chetty of Nemam Kovil was the first to do salt trade at Palani with the help of Deivanayaga Pandaram.

Usually all Saivaites strictly follow the two beneath i.e.;

  1. Pray to Lord Ganesha, Lord Siva and Lord Muruga.
  2. No one should do anything during the stars of Karthigai and Thiruvathirai according to the Sastras. But the Nagarathars being ardent devotees of Lord Muruga and Lord Shiva they performed the Karthigai Padumai for their sons and Nataraja's Thiruvathirai for their daughters. The above went against all sastras. No other Saivaite community do these functions, hence these solely belongs to the Nagarathars.
  3. The Nagarathars consider the viputhi as a sacred and holy item. Women of the Nagarathar community put viputhi and the manjal kungumam on their forehead, while the others put manjal kungumam only. The viputhi is considered so sacred that during marriages the oldest lady of the house, even though she is a widower, holds a lamp on the left hand and puts viputhi on the groom and bride. When the Nagarathars travel anywhere they make it a point that they carry viputhi in a special bag called the viputhi pai. During death also the Nagarathars place viputhi considering it to be a sacred item. No other Saivaite gives so much importance to viputhi like the Nagarathars.
  4. The Nagarathar community also have people ordained as Nayanmars among the 63 Nayanmars. Karaikal Ammaiyar a lady was ordained as a Nayanmar and was the first person to sing Thirupathigams. Her Thirupathigams were called Mootha Thirupathigam. Before Saint Appar Swamigal and Saint Thirugnanasambandhar Swamigal could sing thirupathigams the womenfolk of the Nagarathar community sang thirupathigams. Another person to be ordained as a Nayanmar is Eyarkai Nayanar.
  5. TEMPLES (KOVIL) The Nattukottai Chettiars are divided among themselves on the basis of temples called Nagara Kovils (Temples of Lord Shiva, since they are Saivaites). They are divided on the basis of nine temples that have many sub divisions. Marriages can take place among the various divisions. One cannot enter into an alliance with in the same division, but in some temples if the sub division is different then the marriage can take place. The temples are the places for registering the marriages of Nagarathars. On the day of the marriage or earlier, the bride's and the groom's side have to go their respective temples to register their marriage. The bride would renounce her temple and would be enrolled with the groom. They become a proclaimed member of the community and they are called as a Pulli. The marriage becomes legally valid. On becoming a member, they start paying their annual subscription to the temple. From the temple on registering, the couples are blessed with the offerings from the respective temples.