Tirunelveli Details

Origin of the name:

Tirunelveli is also called Nellai. The translation in Tamil for paddy (rice fields) is "Nell". Both the names, Tirunelveli and Nellai, directly associate it to rice fields. Even on satellite imagery, it can be seen that the city is surrounded by fertile paddy fields, enriched by the perennial river "Tamirabarani". The river has a wide network of canals and waterways which irrigate numerous rice fields and support the villages around the district which primarily thrive on cultivating rice.

Population: As of 2001 India census  Tirunelveli had a population of 411,298. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%

Climate: The climate of Tirunelveli is usually tropical- generally hot and humid. The average temperature during summer (March to June) ranges from 23 to 36 Celsius and 18 to 30C during the rest of the year. The average annual rainfall is 680 mm, most of which occurs during the northeast monsoon(October-December). Since the economy of the district is primarily based on agriculture, fluctuations in the monsoon rains or flooding of the Thamarabarani river has an immediate impact of livelihood in the area.

Economy: The economy of Tirunelveli district is chiefly agrarian in nature and people are engaged in the cultivation of spices and condiments (like cumbu, ragi) groundnut, pulses, gingelly, coconut, chillies, indigo and cotton. It is rich in mineral resources like limestone, sulphides and ilmenite-garnet sand.] The city of Tirunelveli has quite a number of industries in its area  like cement factories, cotton textile mills, spinning and weaving mills, beedi (tobacco) companies, steel products and so on. A large number of small scale industries supported by NELSIA (Nellai Small Scale Industries Association) are active. Tannery industries in small scale are also found here. In addition to these industries, a few small scale units of brick kilns and oil mills exist in the industrial area.



Tirunelveli district, or more specifically, Palayamkottai, is called the Oxford of South India as the city has excellent educational institutions. The Manonmaniam Sundaranar University is named after the famous poet who penned the Tamil Thai Vazhthu, the official song of the state. This University has more than 24 departments, and offers some unique courses in Tamil Nadu, like Criminology and Criminal justice. Prof.R.T.Sabapathy Mohan is the current vice Chancellor.

In view of improving the quality of technical education in the southern parts of Tamil Nadu, Anna University Tirunelveli was established in 2007. The University offers a variety of engineering and technology courses in both undergraduate and postgraduate streams. Research facilities are being established in a start-of-the-art campus near Palayamkottai. Einstein College of Engineering at Sir.C.V.Raman Nagar, in Tirunelveli.

The city has many prestigious old government and private colleges in the medical, legal, engineering, arts, pharmaceutical and physiotherapic fields. Tirunelveli Medical College and theGovernment College of Engineering, Tirunelveli[ are professional colleges run by the government of Tamil Nadu. St.Xavier's College run by Jesuits, St. John's College and Sarah Tucker College run by CSI Diocese, MDT Hindu College and Sadakathulla Appa College are well-known arts colleges. St.Xavier's College Palayamkotai is one of the few colleges which became autonomous very early. The college takes pride in having amongst its large alumni, eminent people like the politician Vaiko, Peter Alphonse and Arunachalam (former cabinet minister).

Popular higher secondary schools in Tirunelveli are Jayendra Golden jubilee,Jayendra silver jubilee, Pushpalatha School, Rose Mary Schools, Bell School, MDT Hindu College School (where the eminent Tamil poet Barathiyaar studied and worked as teacher), Schafter School, St.Xavier's School, St.John's School, Little Flower School, Chinmaya Vidhyalaya, Sarah Tucker School and St.Ignatius Convent. Some schools like Bell School, Jeyandra golden jubilee school and Sarah Tucker have managed to make international connections with foreign schools and run active student exchange projects.Jayendra golden jubilee school have regular interactions with "Mill Hill" school in London,UK. Educational activities of this kind, make learning in Tirunelveli a unique experience for the local students.



The commercial activity of this urban complex (Tirunelveli) serves the needs of the   major part of the district. At present, the major industrial developments are the cement factory, chemical carbide, modern rice mill and four cotton mills situated along Madurai road and in Pettai. There are no appreciable developments within the town, except some agro industries, service industries including automobile repairs and the small scale industrial units at Pettai. 

                Industrial Units are springing up in the Industrial Estate, located at Pettai.  The 'TANSI' is located within the premises of the Industrial Estate.  Automobile and other service industries are located very densely along the Nellaiyappar High road in Tirunelveli town. Cottage industries are also predominant in Tirunelveli.  Beedi making, Mat weaving are the major cottage industries.  Tannery industries in small scale are also found in this town.  In addition to these industries, a few small scale units of brick kilns and oil mills exist in the industrial area of this town. 


Movie Theatre:

         Arunagiri Cinema Hall

         Central Theatre



         Bombay Theatre

         Sri Poornakala

Geography : Tirunelveli is located at 8.73N 77.7E.It has an average elevation of 47 metres msl(154 ft). 



Kanthimathi - Nellaiyapper Temple

This temple is situated in the heart of the city. This is a twin temple dedicated to Parvathi and Siva. Rare Jewels, the Golden Lily Tank, Musical Pillars, the hall of thousand pillars are worth seeing.

Papanasam (42 Kms)

This holy place is on the western ghat of Pothigai Hills. It is close to the Papanasam Falls, on the banks of the Thamiraparani river where Siva and Parvathi appeared before the great saint Agasthiya.Hence the falls is popularly called the "Agasthiya Falls". To commemorate the visit of the divine couple, the Agasthiya temple was built there.



It was one of the important centres of the Jains. The bas-relief found here are the contribution of Jains and are among the earliest of such works.The Vettuvan Koil (Siva Temple) the rock-cut cave temple is worth visiting

Srivaikuntam (37 Kms)

Srivaikuntam is famous for the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu known as Srivaikuntapathi Swami with a lofty gopuram.The Thiruvengada Mudaliyar Mandapam is rich with sculptures of Yallis, Elephants and Warriors. The Ekadasi Mandapam which is opened on Vaikunta Ekadasi days, contains exquisite sculptures. During the conflicting days between the East India Company forces and Kattabomman, this temple served as a fort. The Kailasanathaswamy temple is an another important temple. It contains six inscriptions of the times of Veera Pandiya Kattabomman.

Tenkasi (53 Kms) The name itself implies that this town is 'Kasi (Varanasi) of the South'. The flag staff of the temple is noteworthy for its sculptural beauty and is 400 years old.

Krishnapuram (13 Kms)\

The temple in Krishnapuram is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Presiding deity is Thiruvenkatanathar. There are a number of life-size sculptures in this temple with intricate workmanship.

Manapad (70 Kms)

Holy Cross Church at Manapad is an ancient one. It was built in the year 1581. Thousands congregate during the festival season from 1st to 14th September every year. The church is associated with St. Francis Xavier.

Kulasekarapattinam (68 Kms)

The Muthuraman temple 20 Kms from Tiruchendur is known for the popular 'Dasara' festival where folk dance artists from all over the state participate in the festival. It is a coastal village with a fine beach.



Tirunelveli is an ancient city, as evidenced by the findings of archaeological excavations which have been going on since 1840s, in the outskirts of the city in Adichanallur (now under Tuticorin district). At this site, the archaeologists have unearthed an urn which could date back to 500 B.C, containing a complete human skeleton and clay vessels with some rudimentary Tamil Brahmi script inscribed on them. Other ancient urns in which the elderly were buried have also been found in the same district. Along with skeletal finds, husks, grains of rice, charred rice and celts have also been found.

More recent excavations at this site has led to the discovery of a habitation site of the Iron Agepeople. Archaeologists opine that it is about 30003800 years old, from the Neolithic period This has assured us that Tirunelveli has been an abode for human habitation for 3000 years or more. Now,Adichanallur has been announced as an archaeological site for further excavation and studies.

The Pothigai Malai (hill), also known as the Agasthiyar Malai, is in the Ashambu hills, part of the Annamalai Hills in the southern part of the Western Ghats of southern India is in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Legend says that Sage Agastya (also written as Agasthiyar or Agathiyar) created the Tamil language here.. At 1,866 meters, it is the highest peak in the rugged Ashambu hills, which have one of the richest concentrations of biodiversity in the Western Ghats. The area is known for its spectacular views, beautiful forests and waterfalls, ancient temples and the river Tamirabarani, the lifeline of the region. According to the Mahābhārata, Lord Shiva sent the two saints (or sages) Vyasa and Agastya to create the divine languages Sanskrit and Tamil. Lord Murugan imparted spiritual knowledge to Agathiyar. Sage Agathiyar on the instruction of Lord Murugan originated the Tamil language. Agathiyar came to Pothigai and established the Tamil culture. The Tamil spoken in the Tirunelveli district is considered to be very pure. After establishing the Sidhar Gnana Koodam center for scientific research, and later traveling throughout the world spreading the knowledge gained, Agathiyar returned to a spot called Dashina Meru in the Pothagai hills, where he merged into the cosmos. A temple has been built for him at this spot, close to the Papanasam Falls on the banks of the Thamirabarani River. It is said that Sage Agathiyar occasionally gives appearances to sincere aspirants and devotees.

The history of Tirunelveli was extensively researched by Bishop Robert Caldwell. (Christian missions in the 19th century in Tinnevelly played a significant part in the development of education as well as religious conversion. The known history says that Tirunelveli had been under the prominence of the Pandya kings, serving as their secondary capital while Madurai remained its primary capital. It was an important city of the Chola kingdom (c.9001200)[  and of the Vijayanagar empire. The city was the chief commercial town in the period of Arcot Nawabs and Nayaks. They were among the various ruling dynasties of Tamil Nadu. In fact, they called the city "Nellai Cheemai", with cheemai meaning a developed foreign town. It was the Nayaks who, in 1781, granted its revenues and local administration to the British. In 1801, it was annexed by the British, who governed it until India achieved independence in 1947.

On acquisition from the Nawab of Arcot in 1801, the British anglicized its name as Tinnevelly and made it the headquarters of Tirunelveli district. This happened despite the fact that their administrative and military headquarters was located in Palayamkottai (which was also anglicized as Palankottah),during their operations against the Palayakars. Post-independence, both towns reverted from their anglicized names to their original names and grew together as twin cities.

The city's historic heritage includes the Swamy Nellaiappar temple and the Sri Kandimathi Ambal temple, both of which are ancient Saivite temples. It is also the site of Asia's second largest two-tiered bridge, the Tiruvalluvur Bridge, which connects Tirunelveli Town and Junction. Nellaiappar temple Car festival is conducted every year in the month of Tamil month Audi. Nellaiappar car is third largest temple car in Tamil Nadu next to Tiruvaroor and Srivilliputtur. Also, a Golden Temple car (First Inaugural run of Nellaiappar Temple Golden Car is November 2, 2009) will run during important festivals like Thirukalyanam, Kaarthigai, Aaruthra Festival etc.

The Nellaippar (sivan) sannadhi faces the swami sannadhi street. Gandhimathi amman (Parvathi) faces the amman sannadhi street. The founder of yahoo Tamil chat room belongs to this street.


K.M from Chennai


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