Tirunelveli - Places near Madurai

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Tirunelveli (Tamil: திருநெல்வேலி About this sound pronunciation (help·info)), also known as Nellai (Tamil: நெல்லை), and historically (during British rule) as Tinnevelly, is a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the headquarters of the Tirunelveli District. It is the third biggest city in Tamil Nadu in terms of size after Chennai and Tiruchirappalli. The city is spread over an area of 108.65 sq.kms. In terms of population, it ranks 6th in the state after Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy and Salem. It is situated 700 kilometres (435 mi) southwest of the state capital Chennai and 140 kilometres (87 mi) east of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the neighboring state of Kerala.

Tirunelveli is an ancient city and is home to many temples and shrines, including the largest Shiva temple in Tamil Nadu, the Nellaiappar Temple. The city has a history that dates back to 1000 BC. It is located on the western side of the perennial Thamirabarani river, whereas its twin municipal city Palayamkottai, is located on the eastern side.


Tirunelveli is an ancient city, as evidenced by findings at the nearby archaeological site of Adichanallur that include an urn which could date back to 500 BC. This urn contained a complete human skeleton and clay vessels with some rudimentary Tamil Brahmi script inscribed on it.[1] Other urns, in which the elderly were buried, and also husks, grains of rice, charred rice and celts have also been found in the same area.[2][3] Excavations at this site around 2005 discovered of an Neolithic Iron Age habitation, believed to be 3,000–3,800 years old.[4][5]

The history of Tirunelveli was researched by Robert Caldwell, one of the Christian missionaries who visited the area in the nineteenth century for the purpose of both promoting their religious beliefs and educating the people.[6][7][8]

Tirunelveli had been under the prominence of the Pandya kings,[9] serving as their secondary capital while Madurai remained its primary capital. It was an important city of the Chola kingdom (c.900–1200)[10] and of the Vijayanagar empire. The city was the chief commercial town in the period of Arcot Nawabs and Nayaks. They were among the various ruling dynasties of Tamil Nadu. In fact, they called the city “Nellai Cheemai”, with cheemai meaning a developed foreign town.[11] It was the Nayaks who, in 1781, granted its revenues and local administration to the British. In 1801, it was annexed by the British, who governed it until India achieved independence in 1947.

On acquisition from the Nawab of Arcot in 1801, the British anglicized its name as Tinnevelly and made it the headquarters of Tirunelveli district. This happened despite the fact that their administrative and military headquarters was located in Palayamkottai (which was also anglicized as Palankottah), during their operations against the Palayakars. Post-independence, both towns reverted to their original names



Panoramic view of Tirunelveli as viewed from the Palayamkottai bank of river Thamirabarani. Sulochana Mudaliar bridge, the 12-arch link between both cities, is on the far right of this Deepavali 2009 image.


Tirunelveli is also called Nellai. The translation in Tamil for paddy (rice fields) is “Nell”. Both the names, Tirunelveli and Nellai, directly associate it to rice fields. Even on satellite imagery, it can be seen that the city is surrounded by fertile paddy fields, enriched by the perennial river Tamirabarani. The river has a wide network of canals and waterways which irrigate numerous rice fields and support the villages around the district which primarily thrive on cultivating rice. The region is also heavily dependent on the monsoon rains.

The etymology of Tirunelveli has a Puranic association also. It is said that a devotee was invited by God in his dream to settle with his family near the Tamirabarani river. There was a famine in the region for a long time, and the man had to beg and collect paddy from other people. He spread out the paddy to dry under the sunlight and went for his ritual ablution in the river. He then continued to pray to the Lord for rain. Suddenly a thunderstorm broke out and it rained heavily. Although his prayer was answered, he was worried about the paddy he had spread out to dry in the sun. So he ran to collect it but what he saw was nothing short of a miracle. Not a drop of rain had fallen on the paddy he had laid out to dry. Since then, the city has been called Tirunelveli — ‘Tiru’ meaning respectable, ‘Nel’ meaning paddy, and ‘Veli’ meaning a protective fence. In other words, the etymology relates to the city having paddy fields as a protective fence.

The name Halwa City is the a more contemporary nickname of Tirunelveli. A wheat-based sweet called halwa has brought it fame across the southern Indian states.


Tirunelveli is located at 8.73°N 77.7°E.[12] It has an average elevation of 47 metres msl(154 ft). It is located in the southern-most tip of the Deccan plateau. Tirunelveli is an important junction in the National Highway No 7 connecting India from the North to South (Kashmir to Kanyakumari). The nearest pivotal towns are: Gangaikondan in the north, Tuticorin in the east, Tenkasi and Alangulam in the west, Kalakkad in the southwest and Nanguneri in the south. It is also flanked by the state of Kerala to the west, Gulf of Mannar and the districts of Virudhunagar, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari.[13] Thamiraparani river roughly divides the city into the Tirunelveli quarter and the Palayamkottai area. The major lakes in the city are Nainar lake and Udayarpetti lake. Three rivers (Chitraru, Thamirabarani and Kothandarama river) converge at a place called Sivalai, making the area very fertile. The closest town to this location is Alangaraperi.

Destinations from Tirunelveli
Thalaiyuthu Gangaikondan Thimmarajapuram
Tenkasi Tuticorin
Kalakkad Valliyur Palayamkottai


The Agasthiyamalai hills, cut off Tirunelveli from the southwest monsoon, creating a rainshadow region.

The climate of Tirunelveli is generally hot and humid.[14] The average temperature during summer (March to June) ranges from 23 to 36° Celsius and 18 to 30°C during the rest of the year. The average annual rainfall is 680 mm, most of which occurs during the northeast monsoon (October–December). Since the economy of the district is primarily based on agriculture, fluctuations in the monsoon rains or flooding of the Thamarabarani river has an immediate impact of livelihood in the area tirunelveli city 25 km west side alangulam.


As of 2011 census of India, Tirunelveli had a total population of 433,352 of which 214,133 were male and 219,219 were female. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%.

As of 2001 the India census,[15] Tirunelveli had a population of 411,298. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. The city has an average literacy rate of 78%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 83%, and female literacy is 73%. In Tirunelveli, 10% of the population is under six years of age. Among the Municipal Corporations, Tirunelveli has been identified with a gender ratio skewed towards males, with 1,024 females for every 1,000 males.[16] The growth rate of Urban Agglomeration is 20.22%.[17]

The city covers an area of 108.65 km² and it is the 3rd biggest city in the state. The population density of the city had increased to 3,781 persons per km² in 2001 from 2,218 persons per km² in 1971. The disabilities in the city as per the 2001 census are 1,308,246, out of which 645,142 are males and 663,104 female. Hindus are the most in urban population. They are followed by Muslims and then Christians. The main language spoken in the city is Tamil although the usage of English is relatively common. The vast majority of official dealings and the medium of instruction in most educational institutions is in English.


The economy of Tirunelveli district is chiefly agrarian in nature and people are engaged in the cultivation of spices and condiments, groundnut, pulses, gingelly, coconut, chillies, indigo and cotton. It is rich in mineral resources such as limestone, sulphides and ilmenite-garnet sand.[18]

Tirunelveli city itself has a range of large industries, including cement factories, beedi (tobacco) companies, steel products, and mills for cotton textiles, spinning and weaving.[19] There are also many small scale industries, such as tanneries and brick kilns, many of which are supported by NELSIA (Nellai Small Scale Industries Association).

In June 2007, the Tata Group signed an MOU with the Gtate Government for the opening of a titanium dioxide plant estimated at INR 2500 crore in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts. The original MOU for the techno-economic feasibility study for setting up the project was signed by Tata Group and the State Government in 2002. The project was expected to create job opportunities for over 1000 people directly and an estimated 3000 indirectly. However, the State Government put the project on hold after growing protests against the project.[20]


Tirunelveli assembly constituency is part of Tirunelveli (Lok Sabha constituency).[21] The city is a Municipal Corporation as well as the district Headquarters. The city has a Mayor, Deputy Mayor and several councillors elected by people representing administrative wards, as well as a corporation Commissioner to administer the city headed by the District Collector.


Tirunelveli, being a major city in the southern part of Tamil Nadu, has an extensive transport network. It is well-connected to other major cities cities by road, rail and air.


The city is located on NH 7, 150 km to the south of Madurai and 91;km to the north of Kanyakumari. NH 7A, an extension of NH 7, connects Palayamkottai with Tuticorin Port. Now 4 lane track has been under progress and NH 7A stretch is almost in finishing stage. Tirunelveli is accessible by road from Madurai (3 hours) or Nagercoil (1½ hours). Tirunelveli is also connected by major highways to Kollam, Tiruchendur, Rajapalayam, Sankarankovil, Ambasamudram and Nazareth.

Bus stands

The main Mofussil bus stand, popularly known as New Bus Stand (Puthiya Perunthu Nilayam) is located in Veinthaankulam. This bus stand was opened for public usage in 2003. There are regular bus services from and to the city. The other bus stands for local services within the city are the Junction Bus Stand (Nellai Santhippu Perunthu Nilayam) and the Palay Bus stand (Palay Perunthu Nilayam).

A large network of interstate and intrastate buses travel to various destinations from Tirunelveli.


Main article: Tirunelveli Junction

Tirunelveli Junction

A majestic looking structure with a high elevated façade, Tirunelveli Junction (TEN) is one of the oldest and popular railway stations in India. It is one of the busiest and important stations in Tamil Nadu.[22][23]

It is connected to major cities in all four directions, Madurai/Sankarankovil to the north, Nagercoil to the south, Tenkasi/Kollam to the west and Tiruchendur to the east.


The nearest airport is the Tuticorin Airport (TCR), located at Vaagaikulam in Thoothukkudi District, about 22 km east of Tirunelveli city. There are daily flights to Chennai provided by Kingfisher Red. The Madurai Airport(IXM) is about 150 km and Thiruvananthapuram International Airport(TRV) is about 130 km away by road. An unused runway at Gangaikondan, which is 22 km north of the city, will become operational once the IT park at Gangaikondan is set up.[24]

Media and communication

Tirunelveli being the district headquarters hosts many events pertaining to entertainment. The Government Exhibition, a popular attraction visited by thousands of people from in and around Tirunelveli takes place annually. Other major events of entertainment include an annual circus which draws huge crowds and many state and even national level sporting events in VOC ground and Anna Stadium.

Cinema Theatres

Central Theatre in Tirunelveli Town

Tirunelveli has numerous cinema theatres which are mostly constructed in the Art Deco style, and are popular landmarks in Tirunelveli with seating capacity 0f 2000 audience per show,with lifts and technology,managing director of mr.kalyana sundaram,sk firms & petroleum,ram popular transports.

Radio stations

Tirunelveli is served on the FM dial by Suryan FM, run by Sun Network (frequency 93.5 MHz), Hello FM, run by the Malai Malar Group (frequency 106.5 MHz) and Tirunelveli Vanoli Nilayam (All India Radio), by the Government of India. Tirunelveli is among the 40 cities in India to have an FM station. IGNOU has planned to air its distant education lecture (named Gyan Vani) via FM Tirunelveli.


Tirunelveli has a rich religious heritage and has places of worship for all the major Indian religions – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Jainism. Some of these are of historical importance, such as the Nellaiappar Temple and the Cathedral. Some areas of Tirunelveli have a disproportionately large religious demographic, like Melapalayam and Palayamkottai. While the former is a predominantly Muslim quarter the latter has a large proportion of Christians and Christian educational institutions. Palayamkottai was a Christian missionary hub in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Nellaiappar Temple

Nellaiappar Gopuram.

Nellaiappar Temple is one of the largest Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu[citation needed] and is in the centre of Tirunvelli city. It is a twin temple dedicated to Goddess Parvathi and Lord Shiva and has two towers (gopurams) built according to the rules laid down in the agama sastras by Rama Pandyan. The temple dates back to 700 AD and contains inscriptions made around 950 AD. The Sangili Mandapam, a big terraced hall, linking the two temples, was built in the 17th century, as were the towers.[citation needed] Vishnu and Agastya are believed to have worshipped Shiva here.[citation needed]

Golden Chariot of the Nellaiappar Temple.

The Nellaiappar temple car weighs approximately 400 tons.[citation needed] The car’s axle was fabricated in steel during the British colonial period. Recently, steel rims were also used to reinforce the ageing wooden wheels.

Nindrasir Nedumaran (நின்றசீர் நெடுமாறன்), who reigned in the seventh century AD, contributed by constructing and renovating important parts in the temple. A garden next to the Mandapam, designed by Thiruvengadakrishna Mudaliar in 1756, has many colourful and fragrant flowers. A square Vasantha Mandapam with 100 pillars is situated in this garden.

Near Tirunelveli, are the nine Vaishnavite temples dedicated to Vishnu (the Alwar Nava Tiruppatis), the Krishnapuram Venkatachalapati temple with its sculptural work, Tiruchendur with its grand and imposing temple dedicated to Subramanya, and Kutralam a popular tourist resort with its waterfalls and natural beauty.

Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple

Sri Varadharaja Perumal Kovil is situated in Tirunelveli Junction, on the banks of the perennial river Thamirabarani (தாமிரபரணி). It is an ancient and reputed Vishnu temple. tenkasi is a great city of nellai. it contains a kasiviswanathar temple.

Mela Thiruvenkatanathapuram Temple

The Mela Thiruvenkatanathapuram temple is located 7 to 10 km south west of Tirunelveli, on the banks of perennial river Thamirabarani. Also known as Thirunankovil, it has Lord Srinivasa as the deity.

Keezha Thiruvenkatanathapuram, Keezha Thirupathi

It resembles the thirupathi. Near this temple about ¼ Km., to the east lies the “taen kalahasthi” temple which crowns Lord Shiva. First Lord Shiva is prayed followed by varadharaja perumal and then the “taen thirupathi perumal”.


The Manonmaniam Sundaranar University is named after the poet who penned the Tamil Thai Vazhthu, the official song of the state.

Tirunelveli Medical College — auditorium.

To improve the quality of technical education in the southern parts of Tamil Nadu, Anna University of Technology Tirunelveli was established in 2007.[citation needed] The University offers a variety of engineering and technology courses in both undergraduate and postgraduate streams. Research facilities are being established in a start-of-the-art campus near Palayamkottai. Einstein College of Engineering at Sir C.V. Raman Nagar, in Tirunelveli.

The city has many old government and private colleges in the medical, legal, engineering, arts, pharmaceutical and physiotherapic fields. Tirunelveli Medical College[25] and the Government College of Engineering, Tirunelveli[26] are professional colleges run by the government of Tamil Nadu. St.Xavier’s College run by Jesuits, and St. John’s College run by CSI Diocese, MDT Hindu College,Sadakathulla Appa College and Sarah Tucker College are well-known arts colleges.

There are many higher secondary schools in Tirunelveli, including St. Ignatius’ Convent Higher Secondary School. Some schools like Bell School, Jeyandra golden jubilee school have managed to make international connections with foreign schools and run active student exchange projects. Jayendra golden jubilee school have regular interactions with Mill Hill school in London,UK.

In the outskirts of Tirunelveli 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.

Science centre

The city has a District Science Centre, a satellite unit of Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, Bangalore.[27] The centre is committed to the cause of science education through fun and entertainment. Permanent exhibitions, science shows, interactive guide tours, a mini-planetarium, sky observation through a telescope are some of the activities of the centre. Many scientific experiments prototypes planted in the campus. Exhibitions and Competitions are also conducted here up to school levels.[28]


Main article: Tamil language

Traditionally, it has been noted that the Tamil language originated from the Pothigai Malai, a hill situated in the Western Ghats near Papanasam, a small village in the Tirunelveli district. As per Brahminical legend, Lord Shiva sent two saints, Vyasa and Agatyar (in Sanskrit Agastya) to create the divine languages of Sanskrit and Tamil. Agatyar came to Papanasam first and established the Tamil culture from the Pothigai Malai. Today, the Tamil language as spoken in the Tirunelveli district is called as Nellai Tamil. Nellai Tamil uses words like Annachi (a venerational salute to the elders), unique to the region. Nellai Tamil is also spoken relatively fast, in comparison with other dialects of the language.


Crowd before Halwa store in Tirunelveli

Halwa (pronounced locally as alwa) is a popular dish, which is made primarily from wheat and sugar. Tirunelveli halwa is golden brown, has a jelly-like texture and contains a ghee (clarified butter), which gives it its distinctively greasy appearance. Best served hot, this popular sweet is generally enjoyed as a dessert. Tirunelveli halwa is said to owe its uniquely rich taste to a special recipe of this region, blended with the renowned sweetness of the Thamarabarani river.

The best places to buy Tirunelveli halwa is around the Nellaiyappar temple and avenue leading to the central railway station.[29]

Other local favourites include saiva pillaimar cuisine, Sodhi, Kootaan Choru, Thovaruma parruppu and Ulunthamparupu choru with yellu thovayal. Sothi is a gravy made of coconut milk and vegetables. This is served at marriage feasts, especially during the Maruveedu (reception) ceremony which takes place the day after a marriage. Kootan Choru is a hot spicy vegetable rice made with dhal, rice, vegetables and a mixture of coconut and red chillies. Ulunthamparupu choru is rice and ulunthamparupu (Urad Dhal) cooked together. Ulunthamparupu choru is taken with yellu (sesame seeds) and thovayal(spicy chutney). Amongst vegetarians, avial is a local variant of spicy stir-fried local vegetables. Tirunelveli avial tastes a bit sour and sometimes called as Nellai avial.

Major structures

The Thiruvalluvar Bridge at Tirunelveli Junction was constructed in 1973 to ease the heavy traffic at the railway junction. The two tier bridge has a length of 800m. The first of its kind ever constructed in India, it consists of 25 spans, of which 13 are bowstring arch (each with a width of 30.3m) and 12 are single tier RCC girders, each with a width of 11.72m.


Tirunelveli’s twin city

Main article: Palayamkottai

Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai being located on either banks of the Thamirabarani River, they are often referred to as twin cities. Palayamkottai is widely known for its educational infrastructure.The city has a rich heritage in pedagogy with its wide array of highly competitive and dynamic schools, colleges and institutions of higher education. Some of these institutions have been in existence for more than 150 years, and have had their eminence during the British Raj.


Attitude of Tirunelveli people is generally regarded as one of the strongest and highly adaptable in nature. They usually migrate to many other parts of Tamil Nadu and all over the world and establish themselves in good positions. There is a lot of establishments all around Tamil Nadu, whose founding members are from Tirunelveli.

Industries proposed


The state and Central government has agreed a bid to set up an Information Technology park[30] in the view to develop this district.[31] Time has now ripened for the development part in the lower part of Tamil Nadu.[32][33][34] [1].The government of India has approved Naguneri, a town which is 28 km away from the city as Special Economic Zone (SEZ, previously known as Hi-tech Industrial Park[35]) for the promotion of Electronic/Telecom/Computer Hardware manufactures, Manufacture of white goods/entertainment electronics, Software development, Agro based Industries, Food Processing and Precision Engineering Industries. The promoter for this project are M/s. INFAC India Group, USA., and Axes Technologies Inc., USA. The estimated cost of this project is around Rs 7000 million. More than 25 km² of lands were earmarked for this project; 90% of the land had already be acquired. Utilities viz Water at 6.77 Million Gallons per Day from the river Tamiraparani and Uninterrupted Power supply assured by TNEB by stalling a dedicated sub-station in the vicinity, are tied up for this project. Further Tirunelveli is having better rail link, road link and air link compare to the past. Moreover better higher education institutions including professional education is situated in Tirunelveli. The skilled labour is cheaper and its availability is in abundance. Nearest Port at Thoothukudi will be a boon for export / import. Koodankulam Power Project is also a boon. Industrialist and entrepreneurs must invite foreign direct investment by inviting them to Tirunelveli. A company viz. ATMAC Ltd was incorporated to implement the project. It is reported that JTC, Singapore has prepared the Master Plan.

Jurong International, Singapore, has submitted its conceptual master plan, according to which the industrial sector would include ready built factories, custom built factories, units of multi-national corporations, science, business and hi-tech or information technology parks.

The final hurdle for establishing a hi-tech park in the proposed Nanguneri Special Economic Zone (SEZ), transfer of 412 acres (1.7 km2) of land by the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments to the promoter, was cleared.

With the transfer, the minimum area of land required for establishing an SEZ – 10 km² – has been achieved.

This has revived hopes of people here that work on the Rs. 14,000-crore project may take off soon.[36][37]

Once the IT park is in full-fledged operation, it is expected to provide a colossal opportunity for about 100 thousand jobs directly and 200 thousand indirectly in Tirunelveli district and the adjoining districts such as Tuticorin, Nagarcoil, Virudhunagar.



Tirunelveli has one of the Software Technology Parks in India.[38][39] With major cities like Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, in close proximity, and with good rail and road connectivity to various parts of India, the state government has laid the foundation stone for the emerging software park. STPI has registered Rs.0.43 Crores of software exports during 2003-04 and the Software Development activity is expected to grow in the coming years. STPI-Tirunelveli is one of the international gateways of STPI-Chennai, which is located in premises of M/s. Global Software Solutions (TVL) PVT LTD. Moreover, BSNL is ready to provide high speed data communication facilities for STPI and thus Tirunelveli is on the verge of becoming an emerging IT destination.[40][41] The STPI centre, Tirunelveli is situated in Vasanthapuram Tirunelveli bypass road.

[edit] Image gallery

  • Central Theatre

  • Nellaiappar Gopuram

  • Entrance arch of Tirunelveli City

  • Ther (Temple Car)

  • Tirunelveli Junction at night

  • Holy Trinity Cathedral (Oosigopuram)

  • RmKV, Vannarapettai, Tirunelveli

  • Tirunelveli Junction during day

Surrounding area


The Iron-Age urn-burial site at Adichanallur, about 24 km from Tirunelveli town in southern Tamil Nadu, has attracted nationwide attention for three important findings: an inscription in a rudimentary Tamil-Brahmi script on the inside of an urn containing a full human skeleton; a potsherd (fragment of broken earthenware) with stunningly beautiful motifs; and the remains of living quarters (rampart wall, potters’ kilns, a smith’s shop and so on) close to the site.Link label


A tiny village in the far south, Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary in Nanguneri Taluk of Tirunelveli District is favorite of the migratory birds. It is just 38 km away from Tirunelveli and is in the nearby Nanguneri Taluk. This village is sparsely populated. Migratory birds start coming by December end and fly away to their northern homes by June or July after they lay eggs, hatch them and the young ones grow old enough to fly with the older ones. About 35 species of birds visit this calm but congenial village for breeding.It is under Tamil Nadu Forest Department [42]

The birds called Painted strokes are coming from North India and East European Countries to this place. Similarly the flamingoes which flew in mainly from the Rann of Kutch have hatched and reared their young ones in the village.

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