Tirunelveli District was formed in the year 1790 by the East India Company, later came under the direct control of the British Crown Queen Victoria. The name Tirunelveli has been composed from the three Tamil words i.e. ‘Thiru – Nel – Veli’ meaning Sacred Paddy Hedge. with effect from 20.10.1986 the district was bifurcated and new Tuticorin District was formed. Tirunelveli District having geographical area of 6759 sq.kms, in the Southeastern portion of Tamil Nadu is triangular in shape. It lies between 8°.05’ and 9°.30’ of the Northern latitude and 77°.05’ and 78°.25’ of Eastern longitude. The district is located in the southern part of Tamil Nadu and surrounded by Virudhunagar District on the north, Western Ghats on the West, Kanniyakumari District on the south, Tuticorin District on the East. The lifeline of the district is Tamiraparani river which feeds the district and quenches the thirst of residents.
On acquisition from the Nawab of Arcot in1801, the British named it as Tinnevelly district though their headquarters was first located in Palayamkottai the adjacent town, where they had their military headquarters during their operations against the Palayakars. Two reasons may be attributed for naming it after Tirunelveli. One is because, it was and is the chief town of the district and the other is that it was already called as Tirunelveli Seemai under the Nayaks and Nawabs. Both Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai grew as the twin towns of the district.
The Tirunelveli Sthalapurana prescribes a tradition for the origin of the name Tirunelveli. 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).
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