About Tirunelveli


Tirunelveli or Nellai, is a 2000 year old city located on the west bank of the only perennial river of the south, the Tamirabarani. It grew into prominence during the  Pandyan Regime and served as their capital for some time. The city surrounded by paddy fields is known for its reed mats, palm handicrafts, palm sugar and temples especially the Kanthimathi Nellaiyappar Shiva temple after which the city is named. The   crawling   clouds  on the Western Ghats, the picturesque Pothigai hills and the Courtallam water falls are  the  special features which make  Tirunelveli  unique.


The puranic version goes that one Vedasarma, a staunch devotee of Shiva, on his pilgrimage from the North to the South was invited by Lord Shiva in his dream to his abode on the banks of the sacred river Tamiraparani. The delighted devotee came to 'Sindupoondhurai' on the banks of the river and stayed there with his family.  Once there was a famine which forced Vedasarma to collect paddy by way of begging and continuing his daily prayers. One day he spread out the paddy to dry under the Sun before the Lord, and went for his ablutions in Tamiraparani. He prayed to the Lord for rain which he thought  could be a remedy for the famine. His prayer was answered and when he was bathing, a thunder storm broke-out and it rained heavily. Vedasarma rushed to the place where he had spread the paddy. He witnessed a miracle. Despite rain around the area, the paddy that he had spread did not get even a single drop of rain and did not get soaked. Since then according to the purana the Town is called as “Tiru-nel-veli” (Sacred hedged paddy). (Interactive map of Tirunelveli)

The Pandyan dynasty is mentioned in many historical references and observed by Marco Polo in the 13th Century as follows:

"Let me add that in very truth these people portray and depict their gods and their idols black and their devils white as snow. For they say that God and all the saints are black and the devils are all white. That is why they portray them as I have described".

The tradition is similar to all other regions and religions of the world where local population or ruling class tends to portray God with their own skin, hair and eye colours. Pandyan rulers were a true Dravidian class having the same skin as the people they represented. They were eventually weakened and phased out of power in early 14th century after a civil war over succession.


Palayamkottai is the twin city of Tirunelveli, situated on the other side of the Tamirabarani river. Palayamkottai is known for it's education system and school children from many parts of the world come to get their education here.

Places of interest 

Kanthimathi Nellaiyappar Temple

This twin temple dedicated to Siva (Nellaiyappar) and Parvathi (Kanthimathi) is situated in the heart of the city. Built by the Pandyas in the 13C but entirely remodeled and extended in 17C - 18C , the main deity is a 'Suyambu Lingam' or a Shiva Lingam which erupted from underneath the earth. The temple is worth seeing for its beautiful sculptures, musical pillars, valuable jewels, a golden lily tank and a thousand pillared mandapam. The famous Car festival here is celebrated during June- July.


Around 60 kms from Tirunelveli, Kutrallam (Courtalam), the " Spa of the south" is situated at an elevation of about 170 m high. This is not only a tourist spot but also a health resort too and has recent additions of excellent hotel facilities. The waterfall has medicinal properties since the water runs through forests of herbs and the water has therapeutic qualities to cure physical ailments. During the season between June to September every year thousands of tourists visit this place.


See more TamilNadu Tourist spots at TTDC website



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