Vangaru Thirumala

Meenakshi (Nayak queen)

Meenakshi (ruled 1734-1735) was the last ruler in the Madurai Nayaks line. She was the daughter-in-law of Rani Mangammal. Vijaya Ranga Chokkanatha died in 1731, and was succeeded by his widow Meenakshi, who acted as Queen-Regent on behalf of a young boy she had adopted as the heir of her dead husband. She had only ruled a year or two when an insurrection was raised against her by Vangaru Tirumala, the father of her adopted son, who pretended to have claims of his own to the throne of Madurai. At this juncture representatives of the Mughals appeared on the scene and took an important part in the struggle.

Since 1693, Madurai nominally had been the feudatory of the emperor of Delhi, and since 1698 the Carnatic region north of the Coleroon (Kollidam) river had been under direct Muslim rule. The local representative of the Mughal was the Nawab of Arcot, and an intermediate authority was held by the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was in theory both a subordinate of the emperor, and the superior of the Nawab.

How regularly the kings of Tanjore and Madura paid their tribute is not clear, but in 1734 — about the time, in fact, that Meenakshi and Vangaru Thirumala were fighting for the crown — an expedition was sent by the then-Nawab of Arcot to exact tribute and submission from the kingdoms of the south. The leaders of this expedition were the Nawab’s son, Safdar Ali Khan, and his nephew and confidential adviser, the well-known Chanda Sahib.

The invaders took Tanjore by storm and, leaving the stronghold of Trichinopoly untouched, swept across Madurai and Tinnevelly and into Travancore. On their return from this expedition they took part in the quarrel between Meenakshi and Vangaru Tirumala. The latter approached Safdar Ali Khan with an offer of three million rupees if he would oust the queen in favour of himself. Unwilling to attack Trichinopoly, the Muslim prince contented himself with solemnly declaring Vangaru Thirumala to be king and taking the bond for the three millions. He then marched away, leaving Chanda Sahib to enforce his award as best he could. The queen, alarmed at the turn affairs now had taken, had little difficulty in persuading that facile politician to accept her bond for a crore of rupees (ten million) and declare her duly entitled to the throne.

Queen Meenakshi required him to swear on the Koran that he would adhere faithfully to his engagement, and he accordingly took an oath on a brick wrapped up in the spledid covering usually reserved for that holy book. He was admitted into the Trichinopoly fort and Vangaru Thirumala — apparently with the good will of the queen, who, strangely enough, does not seem to have wished him any harm — went off to Madurai, to rule over that country and Tinnevelly.

Chanda Sahib accepted the crore of rupees and departed to Arcot. Two years later, in 1736 he returned, again was admitted into the fort, and proceeded to make himself master of the kingdom. Meenakshi soon was little but a puppet: she had fallen in love with Chanda Sahib and so let him have his own way unhindered.

Chanda Sahib eventually marched against Vangaru Thirumala, who still was ruling in the south, defeated him at Ammaya Nayakkanur and Dindigul, drove him to take refuge in Sivaganga, and occupied the southern provinces of the Madurai kingdom. Having now made himself master of all of the unfortunate Meenakshi’s realms, he threw off the mask, ceased to treat her with the consideration he hitherto had extended to her, locked her up in her palace, and proclaimed himself ruler of her kingdom. The hapless lady took poison and ended her life shortly afterwards

See also

Bibliography

  • Rao, Velcheru Narayana, and David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Symbols of substance : court and state in Nayaka period Tamilnadu (Delhi ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1998) ; xix, 349 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 22 cm. ; Oxford India paperbacks ; Includes bibliographical references and index ; ISBN 0-19-564399-2.
  • Devakunjari, D., 1921-. Madurai through the ages : from the earliest times to 1801 A.D. general editor, R. Nagaswamy (Madras : Society for Archaeological, Historical, and Epigraphical Research, [1979]) ; 336 p., [26] leaves of plates : ill. ; 22 cm. ; SAHER publication no. 8. ; "Thesis submitted to the University of Madras for the award of Ph.D. degree in the year 1957"--T.p. verso. ; bibliography: p. 334-336.
  • Rajaram, K. (Kumarasamy), 1940-. History of Thirumalai Nayak (Madurai : Ennes Publications, 1982) ; 128 p., [1] leaf of plates : ill., maps ; 23 cm. ; revision of the author's thesis (M. Phil.--Madurai-Kamaraj University, 1978) Includes index ; bibliography p. 119-125 ; on the achievements of Tirumala Nayaka, fl. 1623-1659, Madurai ruler.
  • Balendu Sekaram, Kandavalli, 1909-. The Nayaks of Madura by Khandavalli Balendusekharam (Hyderabad : Andhra Pradesh Sahithya Akademi, 1975) ; 30 p. ; 22 cm. ; "World Telugu Conference publication." ; History of the Telugu speaking Nayaka kings of Pandyan Kingdom, Madurai, 16th-18th century.
  • Sathianathaier, R. History of the Nayaks of Madura [microform] by R. Sathyanatha Aiyar ; edited for the University, with introduction and notes by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar ([Madras] : Oxford University Press, 1924) ; see also ([London] : H. Milford, Oxford university press, 1924) ; xvi, 403 p. ; 21 cm. ; SAMP early 20th-century Indian books project item 10819.

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