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Regions with significant populations
India: Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, Chennai,
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Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta
Related ethnic groups
Tamil people, Dravidian people, Vaishya

The Nagarathars (Tamil: நகரத்தார் செட்டியார்) is a Chettiar Tamil community following Shaivism (Tamil: சைவ சமயம்) that originated in Kaveripoompattinam under the Chola kingdom of India. They are a prominent mercantile Vaishya, (Tamil: வைசியர்) caste in Tamil Nadu, South India. They are a community with very rich cultural heritage, known for their philanthropy; building temples and schools, and maintaining them throughout India and Asia. They were able to travel to foreign countries by boat, train, and by foot and set up businesses.

Origin and history of Chettiars[edit]

The first book on print to come out about Nagarathar history is in 1894 called "Thanavaisya Nattukottai Nagarathar". With the help of scriptures from Poongondrai Velangudi at Thulavoor Mutt, the book was requested and examined by VR. L. Chinniah Chettiar of Devakottai. The permission granted by eminent persons such as M. AL. AR. Ramanathan Chettiar and AL. AR. RM. Arunachalam Chettiar the edition were printed by Sadavadanam Subramania Iyer of Tanjore at the Desabimani Press at Tanjore. The second edition came in 1904.

In 1911, Pandithamani Kathiresan Chettiar wrote a book called "Nattukottai Nagarathar Seerthirutham" (changes) and in 1919 Chockalinga Ayya of Karaikudi wrote a book called "Nattukottai Nagarathar Marabu Valakkam" (description of their ways). Both wrote separate books on Nagarathar history. In 1953, the compilation by A.Ramanathan Chettiar of Vayinagaram and the edition of that by Pandithamani was called "Nattukottai Varalaru" (history). In 1970 A. Shesadiri of Varagur wrote "Nattukottai Nagarathar Varalaru", which came out in the form of a book.

In 707 A.D. Nagarathar community was further subdivided into Nattukottai Nagarathar and Aruviyur Nagarathar. So the origin and history of Aruviyur Nagarathar remained the same as that of until 706 A.D. A complete detailed revised book (343 pages) named Namathu Samuthayam written by So.Vaithiyalingam in Oct 2010 explains clearly about the complete history of chettiyar's from 2897B.C. to 2010A.D with several references.

After this many researchers on Nagarathars have written many research essays on their history. Certain notable essays are those written by Kamban Adipodi Sa. Ganesan, Dr. V. SP. Manickanar, Dr. SP. Annamalai and Dr. T. Chockalingam. Based on the above we can classify the old history of the Nagarathars as below.

Early history (till 2898 BC.)[edit]

Initially the Vaishyas lived in Sandhyapuri of the Sambu Islands in Naganadu. This is an island off Sri Lanka's Jaffna peninsula. They were of Chandrakula Gothiram. Later they embraced Saivism. There is actually a question over when the Nagarathars joined Saivism and when they would renounce Saivism? "When the sun and the moon were born on this earth the Nagarathars became Saivaites and when they are no more they would renounce Saivism." According to Pandit Kathiresan Chettiar. At that time they were saivaites, praying to Maragatha Vinayagar, doing trade in precious stones and having the equal respect like the king. Naganadu is near Andhra. Later, an earthquake, according to DR. V.SP.Manickanar destroyed this Naganadu.

Leather Age (2897 BC to 790 BC)[edit]

During the Kaliyuga year 204 (2897 BC) the Vaishyas could not bear the harassment of the Naga king and they came down to Thondaimandalam, namely Kanchipuram. At Kanchipuram the king welcomed them with a warm heart and royalty. He gave them land to build temples and mutts, They continued their devotion towards Maragatha Vinayagar and continued their trade with gems till the Kaliyuga year 2311 (790 BC) and lived happily.

Old years (789 BC to 706 AD)[edit]

During the Kaliyuga year 2312 (789 BC), Prathaparasa the king who ruled Kanchipuram imposed unjustified severe fines and punishments. Hence, the Vaishyas from there went to Cholanadu. They settled along the banks of River Cauvery at Kaveripoompattinam. Manuneedhicholan, the king of that time requested the Vaishyas to live in three streets, East, West and South streets. He gave the Vaishyas three honorable rights. One was the coronation of the king, the second was to have an independent lion flag of their own and the third was to have golden kalasams in the bungalows they lived in. When they got these rights the Nagarathars were called " Rathina Maguda Thanavaisyar". They continued their prayers towards Maragatha Vinayagar.

In the Kaliyuga year 3775 (674 AD) Poovanthicholan who was ruling at that time harassed and imprisoned all the womenfolk. Hence, the 8000 Vaishyas leaving behind all their assets, 1502 boys and the Maragatha Vinayagar under the custody of their guru Atmananda Sastri to do pooja and look after, they all committed suicide. The guru Atmananda Sastri taught them the five-letter panchatara mantra for upadesam, till to this date they remember it with the help of the Patharakkudi Madam.

In the Kaliyuga year 3784 (683 AD) the old aged Poovanthicholan requested the Vaishyas youngsters to do the coronation ceremony for his son Rajaboosanacholan. The youngsters said that they were incapable of doing the coronation since they were all bachelors and there were no eligible girls in the community to get married to. The king consulted with Esana sivachariar and pronounced that Vaishyas can marry Vellala caste girls. The Vaishyas youngsters said that they would marry the girls from the Vellala caste, but they would not marry their girls by birth to the Vellala caste. The king requested the Vellala community to accept this. The Vellala community accepted on the condition that their community guru would perform the dhikshai for their girls and the girls born to them. The East Street, which was divided into seven branches, had 502 Vaishyas youngsters married to Solliya Vellala girls. For these girls their guru was Alagiya Gurukkal from Srivanjiyam...

Middle Age (707 AD to 1565 AD)[edit]

Nagarathars are referred in general as Nagarathar Chettiyar until 706A.D. Later in 707A.D. Nagarathar were divided into four major groups named as Nattukottai Nagarathar, Aruviyur Nagarathar, SundaraPattina Nagarathar, Vallanattu Nagarathar. There had been lot of changes in the community after this period and you can refer their individual pages. (This information needs reference)



  • Namathu Samuthayam (343 pages) book written by Vaithiyalingam about chettiyar's from 2897B.C. to 2010A.D.

This article was originally based on an article by PL.Chidambaram, first published at