Nattukottai Nagarathar

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

The Nattukottai Nagarathars (also known as Nattukottai Chettiar) is a community under Chettiar caste in Shaivism that originated in Kaveripoompattinam under the Chola kingdom of India. They are a prominent mercantile (Vaishya) 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.


The traditional base of the Nattukottai Nagarathars is the Chettinad region of the present-day state of Tamil Nadu. It comprises a triangular area around north-east Sivagangai, north-west Ramnad and south Pudukkottai. There are various claims regarding how they arrived in that area.[1]

Business community[edit]

It is possible that the community had been involved in trade since the 8th century CE and certainly by the early 17th century they were established salt merchants. Later, in the 19th century, their trading activities had expanded into southeast Asia.[1]

Religious influence[edit]

Nagarathars spread Hinduism in Asian countries as well as business. Even today, one can find temples dedicated to the Hindu deity, Murugan, spread throughout Asia. There are Thandayuthapani temples in 15 locations in Malaysia, two in Singapore, 50 temples in Burma, and two in Ho Chi Minh City. Sri Lanka has three of these temples, as well as the famous Selva Vinayagar Temple (Kandy). There are also temples maintained by Nagarathars in locations across the globe, including North America. Inscriptions within the Karpaka Vinayakar Temple at Pillayarpatti dating between 1091 and 1238 indicate that the Pillayarpatti Nagarathar became the custodians of the temple during the 13th century, in its second growth phase.[2] Nagarathars are basically Siva worshippers (Shaiviste). They have the tradition of taking Siva Upathesham and for this purpose they have established two Mads.[citation needed]

It is also believed that Kannagi and Kovalan, the prime personalities of the epic Silappatikaram were born in this community (called 'Thanavanigar' by then).[citation needed]

'Pattinathar' - a saint, who is believed to be a Nagarathar and was a trader before leaving the worldly pleasures.[citation needed]

The Koviloor Math, established at Koviloor (a divinely-charged sacred place near Karaikudi), has an eventful and vibrant history of 200 years, right from its founder Sri-La-Sri Muthuramalinga Gnana Desikar — a saint, popularly known as 'Koviloor Andavar'. This math (monastery) is reverved by the Nagarathars. The Koviloor Math highly deserves the merit of being called the First School of systematic Vedantic Studies through the medium of Tamil. Many students learnt Vedanta here without any discrimination.[citation needed]


The king of Pandiya gave the Nagarathar community nine villages around Pudukottai to settle. They built a Shiva temple in each of them and created the "9 temple" or "9 koil" division of the community. Initially, the Nagarathars lived in 96 villages surrounding the temple, but as of 2007, they have reduced their size to 74 villages. The koil is used as a primary classification for the community. Members of each temple society treat each other as brothers and sisters or "pangalis" and thus marriage is not allowed amongst members of the same temple. Men and women of different temples marry, and the bride automatically becomes a member of the groom's temple. The koils are:-

Some of these temples have sub-divisions.

  • IIaiyatrangudi: Kazhani Vaasarkkudaiyar, Kinginikkoorudaiyar, Okkurudaiyar, Pattanasamiyar, Perusenthurudaiyar, Sirusenthurudaiyar, Perumaruthurudaiyar
  • Mathoor: Arumbakkur, Kannur, Karuppur, Kulathur, Mannur, Manalur, Uraiyur
  • Vairavankoil: Kazhani Vaasarkkudaiyar, Maruthenthirapuram, Periya vahuppu, Pilliyar vahuppu, Theyyanar vahuppu



  • This article was originally based on an article by PL.Chidambaram, first published at
  • Rajeswary Brown. (1993). Chettiar capital and Southeast Asian credit networks in the inter-war period. In G. Austin and K. Sugihara, eds. Local Suppliers of Credit in the Third World, 1750-1960. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • David Rudner. (1989). "Banker's Trust and the culture of banking among the Nattukottai Chettiars of colonial South India". Modern Asian Studies 23(3), 417-458.
  • David West Rudner. (1994). "Caste and Capitalism in Colonial India: The Nattukottai Chettiars". University of California Press.
  • Heiko Schrader. (1996). "Chettiar finance in Colonial Asia". Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie 121, 101-126.
  • Nagarathar Kalaikalangiyam by Meyappa Chettiar
  • Nishimura, Yuko Gender. (1998). Kinship and Property Rights: Nagarathar Womanhood in South India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-564273-2.