Ariyalur district has a very rich and glorious past. Its antiquity dates back to the period of Prehistoric Civilization which flourished about 2 lakh years ago.
ARIYALUR UNDER THE SEA
Before the advent of the human activities in the area covered by the district, it was submerged under the Sea. Later, due to the changes in climatic conditions, the sea water receded towards the east and thus emerged the present land made metamorphic rocks belonging to the gneiss family. This rocky soil is made up of sedimentary and gypsum rocks that belong to different geological periods. These changes took place around 15 million years ago in what is termed by geologists as the Cretaceous age.
Following the changes including the receding of the sea, various species that lived in the sea and the sea shore that were submerged under the gutter and swamp became fossils. Thus Ariyalur district is a veritable Palaeo-Zoological Garden and is often nick named as the ‘Mecca of the Geological Researchers’. Various types of fossils of wood, animal and plant species have been unearthed in the District. Dinosaur eggs have been discovered at Kallakurichi mines and Ninniyur and thus the district is a treasure house of fossils of ancient species.
PREHISTORIC PERIOD (B.C.200000 TO A.D 300)
The people of prehistoric period lived in the area covered under the District. Traces of their culture in the form of Paleolithic and Neolithic tools and the megalithic urns and potteries have been discovered from Ninniyur, Ottakovil, Vilangudi, Vikkiramangalam, Ariyalur, Kilakulathur, Elakurichi, Tirumalapadi, Pottakollai-Thathanur , Gunamangalam , Melapaluvur, Kandiraitheertham and Thular.
SANGAM PERIOD(B.C. 500 TO A.D. 300)
During the Sangam period, Ariyalur was under the rule of the Cholas of Uraiyur and the Malavar Chief of Kollimalai which was ruled by Ori, who was famous for his prowess in archery. The people of Malavar clan lived in Thirumalapadi region and it also served as an army camp of the Malavar Chief. Thirumalapadi and Oriyur owe their existence to the rule of the Malavas over Ariyalur. Copper coins of the Sangam Cholas have been found at Ariyalur. Vilandai in Udaiyarpalayam taluk was the Capital of the chief Vilandai Vel who was defeated by Kochenganan, the last ruler of the Sangam Age. It was also the Head Quarters of Vilandaikurram which formed a part of Irungolappadi region which was ruled by Irungovel of Pidavur who was a contemporary of Karikalachola.
PALLAVA PERIOD(6-9’TH CENTURY A.D)
The present day Ariyalur district formed a part of the Pallava Empire. Coins of Mahendravarma Pallava were found at Govindapuram near Ariyalur. A stone sculpture of Srivatsam (Lakshmi) of the period of the Pallavas is preserved in the Kodandaramasamy temple in Ariyalur and this sculpture attests the existence of the temple during the Pallava period. The Devaram trios Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar who lived during the periods of Mahendravarma, Narasimhavarma visited the temples in Kilapaluvur, Thirumalapadi and Govindaputtur and praised the Deities of the temples in their Devaram hymns.
THE IMPERIAL CHOLA PERIOD (A.D. 850-1279)
The area comprising of the present day Ariyalur district remained under the rule of the Imperial Cholas from the beginning of their rule to the end. More than 450 inscriptions of the Chola Kings from Aditya-I (871-907) to Rajendra-III (1246-1279) are available in this district. They throw flight into the political, social, economic, and religious and cultural life of this region under the Cholas. Melapaluvur was the capital of the Paluvettaraiyar Chiefs who ruled Ariyalur region as the feudatories of the Cholas from Aditya-I to Rajendra-I. Gangaikondacholapuram in Udaiyarpalayam taluk became the capital of the Chola empire from the period of Rajendra-I. From 1027 to 1279 it was the imperial capital of the Cholas for the entire South India and from Rajendra-I to Rajendra-III 16 Chola Kings ruled from this city. Tirumalapadi and Vikaramcholapuram (modern Vikkiramangalam) became the palace resorts for the Cholas. Many mercantile towns such as Rajagambiracholapuram (modern Rayampuram), Jayankondacholapuram , Kollapuram, Avanikandarvapuram (modern Kilaiyur) and Madurantakapuram(modern Periyathirukonam) came into existence in this district. These towns became the centre for itinerant trade merchant guilds of Manigramam, Ainnurruvar, Valanjiyar and Anjuvannam. Many temples were built in this district during the Chola period. Beautiful examples are in Tirumalapadi and Kilaiyur (Aditya-I), Kilapaluvur (Parantaka-I), Kamarasavalli (Sundara Chola), Govindaputtur (Uttamachola), Sendurai (Rajaraja -I), Sennivanam , Periyatirukonam , Gangaikondacholapuram (Rajendra-I) and Sripurandan (Rajaraja-III ).
ARIYALUR UNDER THE PANDYAS AND HOYSALAS
Jatavarman Sundarapandya invaded the Chola country and captured it. Maravarman Kulasekara Pandya-I(1268-1318) captured the capital Gangaikondacholapuram in A. D. 1279 and brought this district under his control. 49 inscriptions of the Pandyas show their rule over this area from A.D.1255 to 1370.
Hoysala kings Viranarasimha , Virasomesvara and Ramanatha held sway over this area for some time and helped the Chola king Rajaraja-III from the attack of the Pandyas. Thirumalapadi and Kamarasavalli were the places of the army camps of the Hoysalas.
UNDER THE VIJAYANAGAR EMPIRE (A.D. 1371 – 1685) AND THE PALAYAM CHIEFS (A.D. 1550 – 1817)
More than 60 inscriptions show the rule of the Vijayanagar Kings over this area. A record of A.D. 1372 from Muttuvancheri shows the rule of the Vijayanaga king Kampana over this district. A line of more than 7 Chiefs of the Kachchiyaraya of Vilandai ruled over Ariyalur region as subordinates of the Vijayanagar kings. In A.D. 1573 one Arasunilaiyitta Krishnappa Malavarayar founded the rule of Ariyalur Palayam as a subordinate of the Gingee Nayak and Sriranga-I of the Vijayanagar. Up to A.D. 1817, 16 Chiefs ruled from Ariyalur. They built many temples and patronized art and letters.
Similarly one Chinna Nalla Kalatkal Tola Udaiyar founded the rule of the Palayakkars of Udaiyarpalayam. They also patronized art and letters and built beautiful palaces and temples in Udaiyarpalayam which still exists recalling the glorious rule of this family in this district.
UNDER THE BIJAPUR SULTANS, MARATTAS, CARNATIC NAWABS AND BRITISH
The Bijapur Sultans also held sway over this area. Sherkan Lodhi ruled this area from his capital at Valikandapuram. Later he was defeated by Mahratta King Sivaji in 1677. Sivaji camped for some time at Thirumalapadi and settled the dispute with his brother Ekoji, who was the then Ruler of Thanjavur. The Moghul King Aurangazeb captured the Carnatic from the Mahrattas and appointed Zulfikar Khan and Sadatulla Khan as Nawab of Carnatic. They invaded Ariyalur, Thanjavur and Trichy and extracted tribute from the Palayakars . Vijaya Oppilla Malavarayar accepted the suzerainty of the Nawabs. During the Carnatic wars in A. D. 1755 and 1757 the French attacked Ariyalur. But the British sent an army to protect the Ariyalur Palayakar. In A.D. 1780 the two Palayams sought the help of Hyder Ali and got rid of the yoke of the Nawabs. But later after the defeat of Hyder Ali by the British the Palayakars accepted the rule of the British and paid Peshkas to them. Lastly, when the Carnatic was made over to the British in 1801 Ariyalur and Udaiyarpalayam became the Zamindari under the British and it was also abolished in 1950 after the Independence.
In the freedom struggle also Ariyalur District has played a very significant role. Ariyalur Sabapathi Pillai, Natesa Ayyar, Ganapathi Reddiyar, Natarajan Pillai, Eravangudi Padmanathan, Ariyalur Manogirao, Kuppusamy, Abaranji, Appasamy, Virabadran, Rangarajan, Vikkiramangalam, Alagesam pillai, Manakal, Sadasivam Pillai were some of the prominent freedom fighters from this district.
Dr. L. Thyagarajan, Associate Professor of History,
Govt. Arts College, Ariyalur.