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Images of Nayak kings found in Sri Nellaiyappar Temple

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ROYAL MATTERS: Images of Nayak kings copied from a pillar in Sri Nellaiyappar Temple. Photo: A. Shaikmohideen
ROYAL MATTERS: Images of Nayak kings copied from a pillar in Sri Nellaiyappar Temple. Photo: A. Shaikmohideen

Staff Reporter

Identified as Nagamma Nayak and his son, Vishwanatha Nayak

TIRUNELVELI: Experts of Department of Archaeology here have discovered images of two foremost Kings of Madurai Nayaks, engraved on a pillar in the Swamy Nellaiyappar - Gandhimathi Ambal Temple here.

When a team of specialists, led by M. Senthil Selvakumaran of Department of Archaeology, Tirunelveli, examined one of the pillars of Sri Karumaari Subramaniyar Sannidhi within the temple, known for its sculpture, they found the images of Nagamma Nayak and his son, Vishwanatha Nayak, with label inscription above the figurines.

"We can see several images of Kings of Nayak Dynasty on the second `prahaaram' of the temple, but only without their names. We consider these two images as unique since they have been discovered with label inscriptions," Dr. Senthil Selvakumaran, who recently found a 400-year-old sugarcane press near Srivaikuntam, said.

According to him, the Madurai Nayaks or Nayak Dynasty of Madurai, originally governors from the Vijayanagara Empire, were rulers of southern Tamil Nadu with Madurai as their capital from 1559 until 1736.

When Nagamma Nayak, who rose to the level of a `Commandant' of Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire, was sent to the South to win the Pandya Kings of Madurai, he accomplished the mission, but failed to return to Vijayanagar, which antagonised Krishnadevaraya, who sent Nagamma Nayak's son, Vishwanatha Nayak, to arrest his father.

After arresting his father, Vishwanatha Nayak returned to the capital and explained the emperor the reason behind the delay that Nagamma Nayak was forced to stay back in Madurai to control the anti-empire agitations organised by the loyalists of Pandya Kings.

First king of Nayak Dynasty

Realising the fact, Vishwanatha Nayak was made the first king of Nayak Dynasty of Madurai that established a strong bond between the people and the rulers through local government innovations such as formation of 72 divisions or `palayams'.

The Nayak reign is remembered for its vast administrative reforms, revitalisation of temples ransacked by the Sultans of Delhi and the founding of unique architectural style.

Inference to attire

"From the images of these two kings, we can infer the dress materials and jewelleries of Nayak era, besides their close association with the temple in down south," Dr. Senthil Selvakumaran said.

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