History and Growth of the Town
Nagapattinam is an unique District with all its historical and cultural significance. Nagapattinam is one of the constituencies of Chola mandalam, acclaimed as the most prominent among the ancient Tamil Kingdoms. Its salient features, more than anything else, have contributed to the glory of the Cholamandalam.
Coastal town Nagapattinam was the Headquarters of a region during that period. This region has been named after Kshathriya Sigamani, One of the titles of Raja Raja Cholan. Nagapattinam was also known as ‘Cholakula Vallippatinam’. The heritage of the town is found in the Burmese historical text of 3rd century B.C. The same text gives evidences of a Buddha Vihar built by the great Ashoka. The Chinese Traveller Hiuen Tsang, also mentioned the Buddha Vihar in his book. Nagapattinam is mentioned as Padarithitha in ancient Buddhist literatures. According to scholars, Avurithidal the name of the part of Nagapattinam might have been derived from the word “Padarithitha”, the name of the fruit tree “Bhir tree” very common in this region.
In ancient times, “Naganadu”, “Nagapattinam” referred only to Sri Lanka. Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka had close links with this town Nagapattinam. “Animangalam Copperplate” of Kulothunga Chola notes that “Kasiba Thera” [Buddhist Monk] renovated the Buddhist temple in 6th century AD with the help of Buddhist monks of ‘Naganadu’ This ‘nagar annam vihar’ later came to be known as ‘Nagananavihar’.
Pallava King Rajasimha [690-728AD] permitted a Chinese king to build Buddha Vihar in Nagapattinam. Hence there existed a Chinese built Budha Vihar in Nagapattinam. According to Anaimangalam copper plate of Kulothunga I , Sri Vijayathunga Varman of Sri Vijaya kingdom built Raja Raja Perumpalli in the name of Raja Raja Cholan and [Rajendra Chola Perumpalli] in the name of Rajendra Chola in 1090A D. This Buddha Vihar is also called ‘Sudamani Vihar’. Excavations were conducted by the Archaeological Department at Vellipalayam in Nagapattinam and more than 300 Buddha statues were unearthed and kept at the Museum in Chennai. This dilapidated Buddist tower was razed down 200 years ago. Nagore was called so because it was inhabited by the Nagars. The Nagapattinam Kayaroganam Shiva temple existed even in the 6th century. Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar were associated with this temple; Kayaroganam Shiva temple is based on the “Laguleesa Pusuptha Cult”. Soundararaja Perumal Vaishnava Temple is one of the notable features of Nagapattinam. This favorite town of Chola Kings was also celebrated later by Vijaya Nagara kings. Portuguese had a commercial contact with this town during the Tanjore Nayakkas rule [Sevvppa Nayakkar] and [Acchuthappa Nayakkar] Portuguese commercial centre was eastablished in 1554; 10 villages were under the control of Portuguese traders. With the advent of Portuguese, Velankanni Church came into existence. Under the commercial contact Christianity began to take root.
In 1658, the Dutch tried to evict the Portugese town Nagappattinam to establish the commercial centre there under the agreement reached between King Vijaya Nayakkar of Thanjavoor and the Dutch on 05-01-1662. The following ten villages namely Nagapattinam Port;Puthur;Muttam, Poruvalancheri, Anthonippettai, Karureppankadu, AzhingiMangalam, Sangamangalam, Thiruthinamangalam, Manjakollai, Nariyankudi were transferred from the Portugese to the Dutch.
Ten Christian churches and a hosptial were built by the Dutch. They also released coins with the name Nagapattinam; engraved in Tamil letters. According to the agreement between the first Maratta King ‘Egoji’ of Tanjore and the Dutch, Nagapattinam and surrounding villages were handed over to the Dutch, on 30.12.1676. Latter this town fell into the hands of the British. In 1781 after the prolonged struggles, 277 villages with Nagur as the Headquarters were handed over to the East India company in 1779. Gold coins, bearing the names ‘Nagapattinam Varagan’ and ‘Nagapattinam chornam’ were in circulation during Tanjore Maratha Kings period. Thus the Nagappattinam has the history of over 2000 years for its credit. Today, Nagapattinam remains the Head quarters of Nagapattinam District.