Palayamkottai (Palamcottah Tamil: பாளையங்கோட்டை), known as the “Oxford of South India”, is a town in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. It is part of the Tirunelveli city corporation. It is on the eastern bank of the Thamirabarani river, while its twin city Tirunelveli is on the western bank.
The archaic word Palayamkottai in Tamil means a small administrative region or district. A Kottai is a fort. The portmanteau Tamil word Palayamkottai was hence derived historically from an ancient fort that was in the centre of the region. Today, the fort lies in ruins and is almost camouflaged by its surrounding old residential edifices. To anyone who reads about Palayamkottai for the first time, it may be surprising to see that atlases and other books refer to the city with both, an M or an N (Palayamkottai or Palayankottai). This uncertainty is because the actual Tamil word for the city uses an alphabet that is phonetically between M and N, and sometimes even completely substituted by G (pronounced Palayangkottai in colloquial Tamil). Natively speaking, it is hence correctly pronounced as Palayamnkottai. Historically during the British Raj, the area was referred to as Palancottah and also Palamkottah. The anglicization of the word was dropped by the locals immediately after independence, and the city is now called both Palayankottai and Palayamkottai according to official government documents and records. For disambiguation, the city is referred to as Palayamkottai in this article.
Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai called as Twin city. Palayamkottai is situated on the eastern bank of the perennial Thamirabarani river. The region is very fertile and supports a thriving agrarian community in the midst of many urbanized areas. Regular monsoon rains coupled with the Thamirabarani water, support the purely agricultural villages around the city. Palayamkottai is located on the National Highway in close proximity to many bigger cities (international seaport: Tuticorin – 45 km; international airport: Trivandrum – 140 km; domestic airports: Madurai – 150 km, Tuticorin – 25 km) hence supporting trade and commerce.
Growth of the City
Palayamkottai has always been a rather laid-back little city. Among the elite population, it is sometimes called as a Pensioner’s Paradise. However, in recent years, businesses are rapidly developing and local businessmen are opening up major outlets in capital cities in response to their regional successes. However, it was only in late 2004 when the first ATM was installed in Palayamkottai and it was an instant success. In 2005, the government project of Underground drainage was undertaken and finished in about mid 2006. Similarly it was only in early 2006 that the city had its first traffic lights. In 2007, the city had a popular landmark – the district Police Headquarters, a remarkable purple building in the city centre. Close to it, is also one of the first Ladies’ Police stations in the southern districts. Although broadband (256 kbit/s) was introduced in 2005, it was only on New Year’s Day 2007, that BSNL announced 2 Mbit/s broadband access in the city commercially.
Major suburbs in Palayamkottai are Vannarapettai, Murugankuruchi, Market, Samathanapuram,Rahmathnagar, Perumalpuram, Maharaja nagar, High Grounds and KTC nagar, out of which Vannarpettai, Murugankurichi and Market are concentrated with largely commercial activities. There are also several other minor suburban areas which collectively contribute to the overall cityscape of Palayamkottai.
Government Museum, Science Centre and Geomagnetic Research Centre
The little city also has a Government Museum with a huge and realistic fibreglass Tyrannosaurus rex which is very popular among the young people of Palayamkottai. The museum houses a small collection of ancient artifacts found in the areas surrounding the city. Some of its literary collections include ancient Tamil inscriptions in palm leaves. Although the museum is well known locally, it is rarely crowded and somewhat badly maintained.
Palayamkottai also has one of the most popular Science Centres in South India, a satellite unit of Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, Bangalore. Since the Science Centre lies between Palayamkottai and Tirunelveli (the twin cities) and as it is difficult to mark a border between the two, it is often called as the Tirunelveli District Science Centre (by the district’s name). It is a popular hangout area for young people, and is frequently visited by teams of school students to explore and learn the principles of science through the centre’s interesting outdoor equipment and experiments.
In the outskirts of Palayamkottai near Krishnapuram on the Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur State Highway, one of the premier research organizations of the country, the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), whose Headquarters is at Navi Mumbai, operates its regional centre, the Equatorial Geophysical Research Laboratory (EGRL). IIG is fully supported and funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India and functions as an autonomous research institute. The equatorial observatory of IIG located near Tirunelveli pursues state-of-the-art research in the areas of geomagnetism and atmospheric and space sciences with well-equipped library and excellent infrastructure for research. With its state-of-the-art instruments, the centre finds a prominent place in the global networks of geomagnetic observatories and atmospheric radars.
Palayamkottai has many hospitals and other medical facilities. Among them, Our Lady’s Hospital, founded nearly 50 years ago by a Belgian nun called Sister Delphine Bruyndonx, was and still remains one of Palayamkottai’s popular hospitals for people who are poor or disadvantaged. Sister Delphine was popularly called the Teresa of Tirunelveli by all the people who knew her, because she had served this society since a time when it did not have any electricity. ” Shifa Hospital ” one of the oldest and leading centre in Tirunelveli district and popular among the locals. Government Siddha Medical College Hospital is the a leading siddha hospital, established in 1964.
CSI Bell Pins Mission Hospital and the recently renovated CSI Jeyaraj Annapackiam Hospital in Palayamkottai provide free and reduced cost medical services to the local community. Dental clinics like Captain Manickam, Doss,Charli dental and Raakshak are popular among the locals. The Tirunelveli Medical college Hospital – a tertiary referral center, located in the High Grounds provides free services to poor people. Many nursing homes like Annai Velankani, Kartheek, Pushpalatha, Lakshmi Hospital and Celin hospital are famous for their maternity care with all the latest medical equipment. Other eminent hospitals in the region are Rosemary, Shifa Hospital, Galaxy, Devi and Sudharsanam hospital. Muthu Damian Hospital near the Palayamkottai bus depot offers both traditional Siddha treatment and modern medicine.Angel Heart centre is one of the leading heart speciality hospital.Palayamkottai also has a specialized kidney care centre and heart surgery centre. The city also has four blood banks: Shifa hospitals, Aarthi, Bethel and at Government Medical college hospital. For Paediatrics Krishna children,s Hospital and Maternity Home serves as a private referral Hospital since 1983 and one of the most popular hospitals for maternity.Also we have Agnes hospital for Maternity and Dr Sundarajans hospital one of the oldest and popular place for general practise
Being a student city, Palayamkottai has many playgrounds filled with hyperactive young cricketers. Palayamkottai has two major public playgrounds: the “VOC maithanam” and the “Anna Stadium”. Grand celebrations during the Republic day and Independence day are conducted by various schools in the VOC ground. State Level Hockey tournaments sponsored by Bell Pins are held in VOC grounds annually. A beautiful park and an Indoor Stadium has been built here in this ground, in order to cover the small children and youngsters. The Anna Stadium holds field hockey and Kabbadi matches at both district and state level. The stadium has an excellent professional German Hockey Turf, which trains a lot of young and energetic teams and Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT)has recently released tenders for installation of synthetic athletic track in it’ Anna stadium also has a very good public swimming pool.
Markets, Shops and Supermarkets
There is a big market in central Palayamkottai, serviced by many bus routes. Also very popular among locals, is the Ulavar Santhai where farmers sell their products directly. The produce is very fresh and very cheap, and the market is usually very crowded in the morning with eager housewives excersing their haggling skills with the illiterate farmers. The success of the Ulavar Santhai market in Palayamkottai was under a deep speculation during the changing of governments. Now, with the ruling party DMK back in power, (which originally introduced the concept) the Ulavar Santhai is maintained well and is a popular grocery market for the locals.
Supermarkets like Aryaas and Spencer’s Daily Supermarket have revolutionized shopping in Palayamkottai by bringing all homeneeds into a common commercial zone. Although there are not many supermarkets in Palayamkottai, there are practically all kinds of shops catering to the local people’s needs. For example, electronic superstores like Viveks, Sathya and Vasant&Co are prime hotspots for the digital lifestyle. Eagle Book Centre, Shyamala book centre and Velavan are exclusive choices for good books and stationery. This scene in the retail sector is soon expected to change with the entry of big players like Big Bazaar and Reliance Hypermall which have their constructions at finishing stage. Palayamkottai being a small city, brings a visitor back to square one in terms of shopping for quality goods.
Palaymakottai is also a very clean city with beautiful trees situated in the bank of thamirabarani river.
Palayamkottai has excellent schools for the blind, deaf and mentally handicapped children. These organizations are predominantly run by the Tirunelveli Diocese of Church of South India(CSI), they are
- Askwith School for the Visually Handicapped
- Florence Swainson School for the Hearing Impaired
- Bishop Sargent School for the Mentally Retarded
- Shalom Home for the Aged and the Needy
Leprosy missions, orphanages and medical missions are also very active organizations in Palayamkottai
Palayamkottai also has an efficient fire-fighting service which conducts camps in local schools annually. The postal service is also a reputed and historic department with its statues of Nandhis (mascot of the Indian Postal department) at the facade. it also has the post offices,police stations,big malls,markets,etc.
Palayamkottai has an efficient bus network. Palayamkottai bus stand, or Palai Bus Stand as it is popularly called by the locals, was the major connecting hub of the bus network. In 2004, chief minister Jayalalithaa inaugurated a major new bus terminal in the highway near the Tirunelveli bypass road. The new bus terminal connects Palayamkottai and Tirunelveli in an extensive network of neighbouring towns, cities and also the major metropolitan cities of Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The Palayamkottai bus terminal is also a major stopover for all buses going to Kanyakumari and Nagercoil. There are also numerous connections between the local Palayamkottai bus-stops and Tirunelveli town.
Share-autos (autorickshaws that car-pool paying customers on a common route) ply extensively along Palayamkottai’s streets and are easy to flag down. The regular yellow-black Greaves Garuda autorickshaws, although plenty in number, are considered to be the common man’s taxis of Palayamkottai. Autorickshaw drivers are known to overcharge tourists. Cars as taxis, are generally only available in taxi stands where tourists and locals use them to travel to short distances outside of the city. As a common practise, people of Palayamkottai or Tirunelveli do not use taxis as an alternate public transportation to buses or trains.
The city has several famous Hindu temples: The Gopalaswamy Temple, Siva Temple known as Thiripuraanthakaeshwarar temple, Ramar Temple, and Amman(goddess) temples. Dasara is a popular Hindu festival in this region. The renovation of the lord Gopalaswamy temple was completed by the Government of Tamil Nadu recently. It is a Vaishvanite temple symbolizing the cultural and architectural ancestry of the city. The herbal wall paintings found inside the sanctum sanctorum are considered rare. After renovation, the Azhagiyamannar Rajagopalaswamy Temple, built in the 11th century, popularly known as Gopalasamy Temple celebrated Kumbhabhishekham on the 9th of July, 2009. Popular temples in Palayamkottai are also located in Maharajanagar, Perumalpuram and Shanthi nagar. In particular, Aayirathamman temple and Thoothuvari temple (in its vicinity) are notable temples. Aazhigudi Maradachan with a monolithic 20 ft (6.1 m) high Ayyanar statue is also popular.
A popular mosque in the city is located in old Police Hospital road, with hundreds of Islamic followers chanting their prayers regularly. Melapalayam is the exclusive Muslim quarter of the city, with numerous mosques and schools for children of Islamic parents.
The biggest and most widely recognized church in Palayamkottai is The Holy Trinity Cathedral of CSI at Murugankurichi. With its prominent centinary 35m high steeple, it is fondly called the ‘Oosi Gopuram’ (Needle Tower). Extensive renovations of the church were done during the period of Rev.Anand Asir, Rev.Dr.Joshva Raja and Rev.Vedhanbu, who worked as priests in the Trinity Cathedral in Palayamkottai and re-dedicated during the period of Bishop Jason S. Dharmarj and the Rev. V. Gandhi Selwyn, Former Bishop Commissary & Vice Chairman, CSI Tirunelveli Diocese. India’s first church, Clarinda Church was founded and consecrated in 1860 by a Brahmin lady who was the first convert in the southern districts. The periphery of this tiny church has a cemetery with wonderfully decorated tombstones from England.Also there are numbers of famous churches found around tirunelveli which are built during British period like military lines church and new built up congregations are also at perumalpuram church,shanthi nagar church and KTC nagar church.
St.Francis Xavier who was responsible for propagation of Christianity in the 16th century in Southern districts of Tamil Nadu had travelled to Palayamkottai. Fr.Joseph Constantine Beschi SJ, better known in Tamil as ‘Veeramaamunivar’, propagated Christianity in the area. St.Xaviers’ Cathedral church, situated at the heart of St. Xaviers’ College and established by Jesuit priests, now belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Palayamkottai. It is one of the earliest Catholic Churches in Palayamkottai. The St.Xaviers’ College church is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. It is an architectural amalgamation combining Christian, Hindu and Muslim architectures.
Palayamkottai is rightly called the Oxford of South India. Almost all the best schools, colleges and institutions of higher education in and around Tirunelveli district are located in Palayamkottai, some of which date back to more than a century. The architecture of many of these old institutions are said to resemble the majesty, elegance and academic fortitude of the real Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The imperialistic old stone buildings maintain their name and fame after so many years of creating dynamic young individuals. These educational precincts with large squares, verdant gardens, elaborate cathedrals, strict headmasters and white-robed fathers create the ambience of an Etonian or Harrovian education.
The District Educational Officer (DEO) and Chief Educational Officer (CEO) control the activities of all the educational institutions in the city. Their offices are in Kokarakulam (behind the District Science Centre) and in Tirunelveli town respectively.
Most schools in Palayamkottai were founded by the Christian missionaries almost a hundred years ago. Today, it is these Christian institutions that own vast areas of prime properties of Palayamkottai. Schools like St.Xavier’s Hr.Sec.School, popularly known for its discipline and good education, St. John’s Higher Secondary School, MDT Hindu College Higher Secondary School (the oldest School in Tirunelveli, of which Bharathiar, VaVu C and Pulamaipithan were eminent alumni) and Schafter High School have roughly 12,000 boys altogether, M.N. Abdur Rahman Higher Secondary School, High Ground, Cathedral Hr. Sec. School is located in the heart of the city under the shadow of the famous Holy Trinity Cathedral Church. Girls Schools like Mary Sargent Higher Secondary School, St.Ignatius’ Convent Higher Secondary School and Sarah Tucker Hr. Sec School have over 10,000 girls enrolled. These girls’ schools are very popular for their strict code of conduct and extraordinary skills level of their huge young girls’ population. It is mostly these institutions that employ the large teaching community of Palayamkottai.
In recent years, schools in Palayamkottai have gained a state-level recognition and some are even known all around South India. Rosemary matriculation higher secondary school, Pushpalatha higher secondary school (CBSE), Chinmaya vidhyalaya, Jeyandara saraswathi swamigal school at maharajanagar, Magdalene high school, Bell international school, IIPE Matric Hr.Sec. School are some schools.
Soon after completing Higher Secondary education, most young people opt for a college education right within the city. Their wide range of options include excellent medical colleges like the Tirunelveli Medical College and Govt. Siddha Medical College; engineering colleges like the Government Engineering College and Francis Xavier Engineering College; Arts and Science colleges like St. Xavier’s College, St. John’s College, Sadakathullah Appa College, MDT Hindu College and Sarah Tucker College (STC), most of these being over 100 years old.
St.Xavier’s College recently celebrated its 150th anniversary of the Jesuit Priests who founded the great institution. The college truly resembles those in Oxford and Cambridge, with huge, historic and monumental stone structures. The college has also opened up a stunning new library in 2005 with many modern amenities for the student generation of today. The campus also has halls of residences for its large number of resident students. St.Xavier’s co-education and St.John’s boys-only college with an age restriction for admission, similar to most other colleges in India.
Sarah Tucker College, established in 1895 by the Christian Missionary Society, was the first college for women in South India. It is named after Ms.Sarah Tucker, a physically challenged lady confined to her room in England, who was moved by the reports of the appalling condition of the women in this region due to their illiteracy. She stepped in with a crusading spirit to provide education and uplift them. This girls-only college has over eleven departments of education today.
The Government Siddha Medical college and Hospital is a pioneering institution in Siddha Medicine in Tamil Nadu, established in 1964. Tirunelveli Medical college, also located in Palayamkottai, is a leading institution in the field of medical studies.
There are lot of NGO’s in the City of which SARANALAYAM is for Abandoned babies, Street Children and Woman in Distress. UDAVUM KARANGAL is one among the various organizations for the poor orphan girls and boys, which has been run successfully since 1990.
Palayamkottai also has a jail, which housed several eminent people during the pre-independence era and afterwards. Tamil language poet Subramanya Bharathi spent a part of his life here. The District Central Jail is notable for its large capacity and tight security. The prison is a popular landmark along the periphery of the city. Even the present Chief Minister,J.Jayalalitha was thrice held in Palayamkottai jail.
The city is expected to grow rapidly in a few years because of the large number of professional students that it produces from its Engineering and Medical colleges. Young entrepreneurs are now abundant and the environment is rapidly modernising with huge billboards, great restaurants, popular malls and big retail shops. The city has already revamped its police headquarters, telecommunications offices, district court and many other government bodies – which are all positive signs of a modernizing metropolitan society. Residential areas in Palayamkottai are getting to have unique styles, excellent roads and public utilities, along with numerous high-rise apartments in the horizon. Beautiful villas with swimming pools are becoming commonplace, along with many gyms, modern eateries and stocked libraries.
Palayamkottai assembly constituency is a part of Tirunelveli (Lok Sabha constituency).