Pudukkottai town was originally surrounded by an impenetrable jungle
that formed a natural defence. Parts of this old wood are still to be
seen in what are called the Kasba east 'forests'. In former times the
approaches to the town were through these jungles along three roads on
the north, south and west. On these roads stood gateways called vadi-s (வாடி)
in Tamil. Each of these was under the charge of a commander with a
detachment. These outposts are still commemorated by the place-names
Machuvadi (மச்சுவாடி), Kummandanvadi (கும்மண்டான்வாடி) and Puliyavadi (புளியவாடி).
The town is skirted on the west, along the area known as Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்),
by low rocks that supply granite.
Of the founding and early history of the town, there is very little
hard evidence. 'Pre-historic' burial sites in Sadaiyap-parai (சடையப்பாறை),
west of Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்) and on either sides of
Thirukkattalai (திருக்கட்டளை) ‘cart-track’ indicate that this region of
the town, as other parts of this tract, was the home of early men. When
and how such a megalithic settlement crystallized into a populous town (mangalam
or nagaram, மங்களம்/நகரம்) is not quite clear.
According to ‘A Manual of the Pudukkottai State (1944)’, the
megalithic settlements may have grown into a populous town of
Kalasa-mangalam (கலசமங்களம்), which became an important settlement of
the Chettiyar-s (செட்டியார்) and Karala-Vellalar (காராள வெள்ளாளர்)
communities. The mercantile part of this town grew into a nagaram (நகரம்),
called Senikula-manikka-puram (சேனிகுள மாணிக்கபுரம்) with a
merchant-guild. With the accession to power of the Pallava-rayar-s (பல்லவராயர்)
of Vaiththur (வைத்தூர்), Kalasa-mangalam (கலசமங்களம்) became the capital
of a Palayam (பாளையம்).
To the west of Kalasa-mangalam, was Singa-mangalam (சிங்க மங்கலம்).
Parts of these two mangalam-s became the eastern and western halves of
the modern Pudukkottai town. Near them grew up another nagaram,
Desabala-manikka-puram (தேசபால மாணிக்கபுரம்) by name.
How these towns mangalam-s and nagaram-s were transformed into
Pudukkottai town is not clear nor is it known when exactly the kottai (கோட்டை,
fort) after which Pudukkottai takes its name, was built. The earliest
mention of the name of Pudukkottai occurs in an inscription on the
basement of the Santha-natha Swami temple (சாந்தநாத ஸ்வாமி கோயில்) in
the town. The inscription is dated to the regime of the Chozha
king, Kulottunga III (மூன்றாம் குலோத்துங்கன்), and can be ascribed to
the 13th century. The name 'Pudukkottai' occurs in a 14th century
inscription in the temple at Thiruvarangulam (திருவரங்குளம்), a short
distance from the town. Again in the famous
temple of Gokarnesvara (கோகர்ணேஸ்வரர்)
in Thirugokarnam, a suburb of the town, two inscriptions, one belonging
to the 14th century and the other to the 15th century, refer to the name
of the town as Pudukkottai. It has been inferred that Raghunatha Raya
Tondaiman (இரகுநாத ராயத் தொண்டைமான்), who built the town in 1686, must
have also fortified parts of it within about ten years of his reign. It
is probable that the fortification was destroyed between 1732 and 1734
by Chanda-sahib or Ananda Rao or both during their invasions of the
town. This cannot, however, be maintained categorically.
It is believed that Chanda-sahib destroyed the Tondaiman's palace
that is said to have stood at the northern end of the town. After its
demolition, a new palace was built at Siva-gnana-puram, (சிவஞானபுரம்)
south-east of the town, which the then Raja used as a palace and a
hermitage and where, it is believed, the 18th century sage and composer
Sadhasiva-brahmendra (சதாசிவ பிரம்மேந்திரர்) came to initiate him.
In 1812 the town was burnt down and rebuilt, at considerable
expense, by Raja Vijaya Raghunatha (விஜய ரகுநாதத் தொண்டைமான்) at the
instance of the Resident, Major Blackburn.
The streets were laid out so as to intersect at right angles with the
Raja's palace in the centre. In 1813, the town contained three palaces,
six terraced houses, 300 tiled houses and 700 thatched houses, besides
21 tiled and 700 thatched houses at Thiruvappur (திருவப்பூர்), and 320
thatched houses at Thirugokarnam (திருக்கோகர்ணம்), the two suburbs of
the town. It is said that there were three chatram-s (சத்திரங்கள்,
choultries), one kept open only during Dassara in the town near the
Pallavan-kulam (பல்லவன் குளம், a tank), one, on the Kundaru (குண்டாறு,
about 2 km south of the present bus stand) and one at Thirugokarnam.
Even in those early days the town was attractive. Hamilton's East
India Gazetteer (1820) refers to 'its wide, regular, and clean streets
intersecting each other at right angles,' and to its stuccoed, whitened
and tiled' houses. Pharaoh's Gazetteer of Southern India (1855) speaks
of Pudukkottai as 'a populous town', and eulogizes its 'handsome
pagoda', its 'grand high mosque', its 'tanks and wells of excellent
water' and the 'large and commodious houses in the principal streets,
with tiled roofs, several of them terraced'.
The expansion of the town since its rebuilding in 1812 has been
steady and continuous, and received considerable impetus during the
administration of Sir Sashiah-sastri (சேஷையா சாஸ்திரி) (1878-1894).
During his tenure new suburbs were built, the streets were re-laid,
tanks were deepened and cleaned, and many public buildings were
MYTHOLOGICAL STORY OF ORIGIN
There is also mythological story about the origin. A General History
of the Pudukkottai state (1916) recounts the following story. According
to this, one Muchu-kunda-chakravarti (முசுகுந்த சக்கரவர்த்தி), a Chozha
king, who had his capital Thiruvarur (திருவாரூர்) in the Thanjavur (தஞ்சாவூர்)
district, in one of his tours through his dominions was so struck with
the beauty of the tract to the north of the Vellaru (வெள்ளாறு) that he
thought of building a town there. The Rishi Parasara (பராசரர்) fixed an
auspicious hour for commencing operations, and Kalasa-mangalam,
consisting of 'nine cities', (blocks) was brought into existence. The
king Muchukunda applied for inhabitants to the God Kubera (குபேரன்), who
sent him 1,500 families.
The story was probably invented, after the town had become rich and
its merchants were found to be very wealthy. In this account fact and
fiction are inextricably mixed.