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MADURA

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 296 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MADURA, a city and district of British India, in the Madras Presidency. The city is situated on the right bank of the river Vaigai, and has a station on the South Indian railway 345 M. S.E. of Madras. Pop. (1901), 105,984. The city was the capital of the old Pandyan dynasty, which ruled over this part of India from the 5th century B.C. to the end of the 1th century A.D. Its great temple forms a parallelogram about 847 ft. by 729 ft., and is surrounded by nine gopuras, of which the largest is 152 ft. high. These ornamental pyramids begin with door-posts of single stones 6o ft. in height, and rise course upon course, carved with rows of gods and goddesses, peacocks, bulls, elephants, horses, lions, and a bewildering entanglement of symbolical ornament all coloured and gilded, diminishing with distance until the stone trisul at the top looks like the finest jeweller's work. The temple, which contains some of the finest carving in southern India, is said to have been built in the reign of Viswanath, first ruler of the Nayak dynasty. Its chief feature is the sculptured " Hall of a Thousand Pillars." The palace of Tirumala Nayak is the most perfect relic of secular architecture in Madras. This palace, which covers a large area of ground, has been restored, and is utilized for public offices. The Vasanta, a hall 333 ft. long, probably dedicated to the god Sundareswara, and the Tamakam, a pleasure-palace, now the residence of the collector, are the other principal buildings of this period. The last of the old Pandyan kings is said to have exterminated the Jains and conquered the neighbouring kingdom of Chola; but he was in his turn overthrown by an invader from the north, conjectured to have been a Mahommedan. In 1324 a Moslem army under Malik Kafur occupied Madura, and the Hindus were held in subjection for a period of fifty years. Subsequently Madura became a province of the Hindu Empire of Vijayanagar. In the middle of the 16th century the governor Viswanath established the Nayak dynasty, which lasted for a century. The greatest of the line was Tirumala Nayak (reigned 1623-1659), whose military exploits are recorded in the contemporary letters of the Jesuit missionaries. He adorned Madura with many public buildings, and extended his empire over the adjoining districts of Tinnevelly, Travancore, Coimbatore, Salem and Trichinopoly. His repudiation of the nominal allegiance paid to the raja of Vijayanagar brought him intocollision with the sultan of Bijapur, and after a lapse of three centuries Mahommedans again invaded Madura and compelled him to pay them tribute. After the death of Tirumala the kingdom of Madura gradually fell to pieces, being invaded by both Mahommedans and Mahrattas. About 1736 the district fell into the hands of the nawab of the Carnatic, and the line of the Nayaks was extinguished. About 1764 British officers took charge of Madura in trust for Mahommed Ali (Wallah Jah), the last independent nawab of the Carnatic, whose son finally ceded his rights of sovereignty to the East India Company in 18o1. The DISTRICT of MADURA has an area of 8701 sq. m. Pop. (1901), 2,831,280, an increase of 8.5% in the decade. It consists of a section of the plain stretching from the mountains east to the sea, coinciding with the basin of the Vaigai river, and gradually sloping to the S.E. The plain is broken by the outlying spurs of the Ghats, and by a few isolated hills and masses of rock scattered over the country. The most important spur of the Ghats is known as the Palni hills, which project E.N.E. across the district for a distance of about S4 M. Their highest peaks are more than 8000 ft. above sea-level, and they enclose a plateau of about Too sq. m., with an average height of 7000 ft. On this plateau is situated the sanatorium of Kodaikanal, and coffee-planting is successfully carried on. The other principal crops of the district are millets, rice, other food-grains, oil-seeds and cotton. Tobacco is grown chiefly in the neighbourhood of Dindigul, whence it is exported to Trichinopoly, to be made into cigars. There are several cigar factories and a number of saltpetre refineries. The only other large industry is that of coffee-cleaning. Madura is traversed by the main line of the South Indian railway. It has four small seaports, whose trade is chiefly carried on with Ceylon. The most important irrigation work, known as the Periyar project, consists of a tunnel through the Travancore hills, to convey the rainfall across the watershed. See Madura District Gazetteer (Madras, 1906).
End of Article: MADURA
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