Palaiyakkarar, poligar, polygar or palegar was the title for a class of territorial administrative cum military chiefs (Knights and Barons) appointed by the Nayak rulers of South India (notably Vijayanagar Empire, Nayaks of Madurai and the Kakatiya dynasty) during 16th - 18th centuries. The word is an English corruption of the Tamil term Palaiyakkarar and Palegallu (Telugu term). Palaiyakkarar was the administrator of a Palaiyam (Fortified district). The Polygars of Madurai Country were instrumental in establishing administrative reforms by building irrigation projects, forts and religious institutions. Their wars (Polygar Wars) with the British after the demise of Madurai Nayaks is often regarded as one the earliest Indian Independence struggles. Many were hanged and some banished forever to Andaman Islands by the British. Veerapandya Kattabomman and Puli Thevar were two notable Polygars.

Name and Origins

Palaiyakkarar is the head of Palayam (a fortified district) of the Madurai Nayak kingdom. Historians of the Southern Nayaks note that the Palaiyakkarar system might have originated from the Kakatiya dynasty's model by Prataparudra, who similarly divided his kingdom among 77 Padmanayakas.


In the Vijayanagara empire, local chieftains called "palegar's" were allowed to rule with limited autonomy by their overlords. They had powers to collect revenue, maintain a small army and impose punishments. They numbered up to 200 during this period. However, they are supposed to have refused to come to the rescue of the empire at the Battle of Tallikota in 1565 CE, which marked the downfall of the Vijayanagara empire.

When the Vijayanagara Empire of southern India weakened after the mid-16th century, the Vijayanagara Nayaks, or governors, became the independent rulers of large tracts of southern India. Of the prominent Nayaks were the Nayaks of Madurai (15491736), ruling from Madurai and Tiruchirapalli. The Tanjore Nayaks opted for a conventional system of administration, while the other Vijaynagar offshoots, namely the Nayaks of Gingee, and other territories under the Aravidu line of later Vijayanagara Kings based in Chandragiri - Vellore Fort, followed the Palayam or Palegallu system of administration,.


The first Nayak king of Madurai Viswanatha Nayak (15591563); a shrewd administrator, assisted by his famous Dalavoy (Governor General) cum Pradhani (first citizen) Ariyanatha Mudaliar are credited with establishing "the polygar (palaiyakkarar) system” in Madurai Kingdom.

The Madurai kingdoms consisted of present day Western Tamil Nadu with Coimbatore, Salem and Kollidam river forming the northern boundary barring Tanjore Kingdom and Western Ghats forming the western border and Kanniyakumari in the South. To make the territorial administration more efficient, Viswanatha Nayak and Ariyanatha Mudaliar apportioned the country into 72 palaiyams to 72 chieftains, some of them locals and the rest Telugu leaders of detachments who had accompanied Viswanatha Nayak from Vijayanagar. Most Palaiyams were dry tracts of land with scanty rainfall found in the western parts of Tamil Nadu.

Role of a Poligar

Palaiyakkarar (Polygar) who was to administer their Palaiyams (territories) from their Fortified centers. Their chief function was to collect taxes, maintain law and order, run the local judiciary, and maintain a battalion of troops for the Nayak.

Their function was an amalgamation of military chief and civil administrators. In turn they were to retain ¼ of the revenue collected as tax, and submit the remaining to the Kings treasury.These men also did much for the country in those days, founding villages, building dams, constructing tanks and building temples. Also the rulers taxed regions according to the cultivable and fertility of the land. Often several new rain water tanks were erected in the Semi-Arid tracts in western and South Tamil Nadu.

Their armed status was also to protect the civilians from robbers and dacoits who were rampant in those regions and from the invading armies who often resorted to plundering and pillaging the villages and countryside.

Poligar landmarks

Viswanatha Nayak, the Madurai Nayak king when rebuilding Madurai, built a double walled fortress encompassing Meenakshi temple and Madurai town with giant moats filled with water. He also built 72 bastions, of double storied structures to the entire perimeter of the fort wall serving as an office for each Palaiyakkarar.

In 1841, a British Collector Black Burn demolished all 71 bastions to extend the City and filled the deep moats to form the Veli streets. One of the surviving bastions still functions as a corporation office near Periyar Bus stand in Madurai.

In Palaiyakkarar’s local region, they built forts usually on a hill. Since cannon and gunfire artillery came into existence, when establishing the Nayak Empire most of them were fortified to withstand cannon shot of the enemy troops. Sankagiri fort on the Coimbatore-Salem highway of Deeran Chinnamalai is one that remains in its original state.

Notable Palaiyakkarars

*Veerapandya Kattabomman (Panchalankurichi-Tutucorin District)
*Koneti Naik (Rayadurgam-Vijayanagar empire)
*Puli Thevar (Nerkattumseval – Madurai District)
*Virupachi Gopal Nayak (Dindigul District)
*Deeran Chinnamalai (Erode District)
*Venkatapathi naik (Kalyandurg- Anantapur District)
*Ramabhadra Nayak { [vadakarai - Dindigul District}
*Madakari Nayaka ( [Chitradurga] )
*venkatappa nayak ( [surapura] )

List of various Palaiyams and their Palayakkars

The number of Palayams and the Palayakkar were not fixed. New Palayams were created and older palayams were merged with other Palayams. The number of Palayams ranged to over 200.

North Region

Kalahasti - Chenappa Naidu

Chandragiri -


Nagari - poligaru chengamma Nayannuvaru

Central Region



Chengalpattu - Seshadri Pillai, the Poligar

Some Palayakkars are Maddikayala Teppalraj, Kuppum Venkatachala Nayak, Damerla Venkatapati Nayak, Strirama Singama Nayak, Rayalu Nayak, Vadamaraja Tanappa Nayak, Rangappa Nayak, Anapambattu Harikrishna Raj, Nakka Venaktarama Nayak, Adavi, Venaktapati Raj, Kulur Venkata Raj, Itambi Subburoya Pillai (the only Tamil of the group), Mul Raj, and Madupakam Ramachandra Nayak in Madras region.

East Region

Ariyalur - Malavarayan

Vadakarai - Ramabhadra Nayak

Turayur - Basava Reddi

Puchiya Nayakkan

Lakkaya Nayakkan

Kammaya Nayakkan

Kamakshi Nayakkan

Lingama Nayakkan

Muttaya Nayakkan

VallaKondama Nayakkan

Samaya Nayakkan

Ammaya Nayakkan

Kulappa Nayakkan

Appayya Nayakkan

Palani Hills - Sennava Nayakkan

Virupakshi - Ramabhadra Nayakkan, tottiyans by caste

West Region

There are 9 goundar Poligars based around Kangeyam. Some of them are:

Pollachi (Puravipalayam) - The Gopanna Mandradiars were Poligars or Palayakaran under the Nayaks of Madurai and, zamindars during British rule. uthukuli - The kalingarayars who where poligars before the Britisher where made to zamindars under the British. [ [ The Hindu : Metro Plus Coimbatore / Down Memory Lane : Royal tale ] ]

Kangeyam (Palaya Kottai OR Palayamkottai)- Sarkarai Mandradiars

Gatti Mudali of Tara-Mangalam

Karnataka region

Mysore - Somanna Danayaka

Surapura Samsthana - founded by the Bedars and ruled between 1650 and 1858 AD in Sagara-nadu or Shorapur Doab (Gulbarga dist. Karnataka).

outh Region

Sinnanajan Thevan

Sivagiri Vanniyan

Irattaikudai Vanniyan

Alagapuri Vanniyan

Settur - Tiruvana Thevan

Kollangondan Thevan

Annichi Nayakkan

Tumbichi Nayakkan

Kama Nayakkan

Kalanga Nayakkan

Kandama Nayakkan

Elumadai Nayakkan

chokkanpatti - Chokkathalavan


Tali Veli

Suttala Thevan

Saluva Thevan





Ramabhadra Reddi

Ramaswami Reddi

Kumaraswami Reddi

Venkatachala Reddi

Kechalapa Nayakkan

Pethana Nayakkan

Kadalakkudi Nayakkan

Nagalapuram Nayakkan

Melamandai - Sirumalai Nayakkan



Eravappa Nayakkan

[The Private Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai 1736-1761 -]

Panchalankurichi - Veera Paandiya Katta Pomman

Ettayapuram - Ettappan


Sivagangai - Marudu brothers


Nelkattamsevval - Puli Thevar

Mini Palayams and their rulers

Local Agrarian Societies in Colonial India: Japanese Perspectives By Peter G. Robb, Kaoru Sugihara, Haruka Yanagisawa

The Madura Country: A Manua By James Henry Nelson

Indrathalaivan ( Thalaivan Kottai )

Notable Palaiyams

*Kongu Nadu
*Panchalankurichi (Madurai- Tirunelveli)
*Ettayapuram (Madurai-Tirunelveli)
*Nelkattumseval (Madurai)
*Sankagiri (Madurai-Salem)
*Sivagiri (Madurai)
*Kannivadi (Madurai - Dindigul)of tottiyans by caste
*Virupachi (Madurai - Dindigul)of tottiyans by caste
*Kalahasti (Chandragiri)
*Madurantagam (Chandragiri-Vellore)
* [(Thalaivan Kottai - Indrathalavan Thirunelveli)]
*Nagari (Karvetinagaram)

Palaiyams of Ramnad

Ramanathapuram(Ramnad) started as Palaiyam under Madurai Nayak s, but under Muttu Krishnappa Nayaks reign (16021609) the Sethupathis of Ramnad were granted controlled domain status later for their valour and bravery in restoring order to those parts. By early 18th century they broke free from Madurai, surviving till Independence after submission to British.

Pudukottai state was a Palaiyam under the Ramnad, which became an independent state and survived till Independence after submission to British.

Sivaganga Zamindari was constituted by Ramnad palace, first as a Palaiyam, later became independent state and played a major part in the Polygar Wars. Marudhu Brothers were de-Facto rulers under Velu Nachiar of Sivaganga state and after their defeat in the second Polygar War,the state became a Zamindari under the British colonial rule.

( Thalaivankottai )ZAMIN was famous separate Independent zamin our control 18 village ( Indraramasamy pandia thalaivanar )1)Thalaivan kottai. 2)Dharugapuram. 3)Pattakurichi.4)Arioor.5)Mullikkulam. 6)Duraisamyapuram. 7)Vadamalapuram. 8)Andarkulam. 9)Chinthamani. 10)Puliangudi. 11)Vellakaundanpatti. 12)Madathu patti etc..... ( Mu_Mu_Ka_Mari Durai )

Rebellions against British

With the downfall of Madurai Kingdom in 1736 anarchy prevailed in those regions. Starting 1690’s the Madurai Kingdom became a feudatory under the Mughals, represented by the Nawab of Carnatic (The Nawab of Arcot) and after 1750s the region came under the complete control of the Carnatic Nawab, who was the new overlord of the Polygars.

The Carnatic Nawab’s tax collection efforts often ended in small wars with the polygars, who refused to recogonise his authority and considered him as a usurper. The Nawabs often expensive tax collection campaigns and lavish spending drove him to bankruptcy, resorting to huge borrowings from the British. In 1752 the old Madurai Kingdom was leased to a savage warrior Mohammed Yusuf Khan, and was backed with troops from the British and Carnatic Nawab to bring the Polygars into control. He immediately went around pillaging and damaging the country-side to subdue the Polygars, till he himself got killed his overlords. But by the end of Yusuf Khan’s life he bought many polygars under control with several of them killed.

Later in late 18th century to compensate loans borrowed from British, the Nawab ceded his tax collection rights to the former, who in turn raised the taxes, irrespective of a regions agrian produce, enraging several Polygars.The Polygars saw the British as an unwanted intruder, still refusing to accept the weak Nawab.

Puli Thevar

One of the earliest to rebel against the British -Carnatic Nawab combine was Puli Thevar, a polygar of Nerkattumseval in mid 18th century. Nerkattumseval is Palaiyam near the Western Ghats of Madurai region. Puli Thevar Puli Thevar, initially a good ally of Carnatic Nawab, came into conflict with Muhammed Yusuf Khan, over payment of dues, erupting into a war. After a prolonged campaign of three years, Muhammed Yusuf Khan defeated and captured Puli Thevar and the later was hanged to death by the British.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman

The most famous of all Polygars, was Veerapandiya Kattabomman, ruler of Panchalankurichi in present day Tuticorin district in late 18th century. Veerapandiya Kattabomman came into conflict with the British who now posted a Tax collector.Kattabomman’s war against the British is often classified as the First Polygar War, later he was captured in an act of betrayal and hanged by the British in 1799. See the separate page of Veerapandiya Kattabomman.

Polygar Wars

See Polygar Wars

Polygar War is a series of wars fought by a combine of Palaiyakkarar's against the British troops, between 1798 and 1802. The war between the British and Kattabomman Nayak (Veerapandiya Kattabomman) is often classified as First Polygar war (1799), while Second Polygar War 1800-1802 against the British was fought by a much bigger combine over entire western Tamil Nadu headed by Oomaidurai (brother of Kattabomman Nayak) and Marudhu Pandiyan brothers of Sivaganga.

The Polygars often had artillery and resisted stubbornly and the storming of their hill forts proved on several occasions’ sanguinary work. The British columns were exposed throughout the operations to constant harassing attacks; and had usually to cut their way through almost impenetrable jungles fired on from under cover on all sides. It took more than a year to suppress the rebellion completely, resulting in the abolition of the Polygar system.

End of the Polygar system

After a long and expensive campaign the British finally defeated the revolting Polygars, of whom many were beheaded and hanged while others were deported to the Andaman Islands. Of the Polygars who submitted to the British some of them were granted Zamindari status, which has only tax collection rights and disarmed them completely. (The Zamindari system originated in Bengal, but was adopted by the British.)

General view

Modern historians credit the Polygars for their massive re-structuring work (following the 14th century mayhem), which provided a massive fillip to economic and agricultural growth and helping in restoring order, leading to formation of many new towns and villages ("pettai" and "palaiyam" suffixes found in Tamil Nadu today).

Incidents do point towards some disorderly polygars, who took things in their hand, becoming mini tyrants and corrupt, earning the wrath of their citizens. Some accounts were often exaggerated by the chroniclers of English East India Company to justify their occupation over these regions. But such were the nature, often found in any administration including the administrative officers in English East India Company officers, the Deccan Sultans and the Jahirs of the Mughals.

The region after the downfall of Madurai Kingdom was marked by a complete confusion, mayhem and disruption of general life, exacerbated by severe droughts in 1782, 1783,1807,1823,1833 and 1854.

The revision and collection of the tax by the British East India Company, who were ill-suited or inexperienced for the purpose (as they were British traders and Military officers rather than administrators), resulted in growing resentment between the Polygars and the British.

When the districts of Rayalaseema were ceded to British rule, the local palegars refused to share the revenue with the British. The British collector in Rayalaseema, Thomas Monroe, ordered the arrest of the palegar of Koikuntla, Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy, who was hanged publicly. After that, however, the British allowed the palegars to remain. They numbered around 80 in the region and were permitted to conduct their own courts. For example, Dosakayala Venkata Subba Reddy would hold court every day at 10 a.m. and judgments delivered by him had no appeal. In some areas palegars encouraged their private armies to indulge in dacoit activities and took a share of the booty.

Palegars vanished after independence, but the culture survived in the form of factionists.

Recognition today

It was not until 1960, when a movie released on Veerapandya Kattabomman did the public take notice of the Palaiyakkarar's, who were till then simply termed as “local chieftains”. Till then their acts in the war was kept alive in the Folk songs and ballads in the western Tamil Nadu country side, often ignored by the rest.

Today Puli Thevar, Marudhu Pandiyan Brothers and Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Deeran Chinnamalai all are honored with monuments by the Government of Tamil Nadu.The movie Veerapandiya Kattabomman stands out as one of the best movies in Shivaji Ganesan’s long movie career, winning him international accolades.

Academics and Books

A number of Tamil Publications cover Puli Thevar, Marudhu Pandiyan Brothers and Veerapandiya Kattabomman’s role in the struggle against the British. Their administrative efforts are mentioned in the books covering the Madurai Nayaks and 17th- 19th century regional history, while most of the British chronicles paint them in a very bad light. Otherwise no exclusive compilations of study material exist.

In school texts Tamil and government text books covers the major leaders and Palaiyakkarar's role in administration and war, the Indian English textbooks based loosely on British accounts simply state the period as polygars, with no mention of their role in the development and the freedom struggle.

Historic sites and landmarks

*Madurai Bastion office - The remaining structure of the Polygar Bastion near Periyar Bustand in Madurai is one of the remaining 72 structures.
*Kayattar – the monument, where Kattabomman was hanged in Madurai Tirunelveli highway
*Panchalankurichi – Kattabomman’s re-erected fort reproduction in Tutucorin district.
*Sankagiri Fort – Deeran Chinnamalais’ fort in Coimbatore Salem highway
*Sivagangai – Marudhu Brothers Monument in Sivaganga town
*Dindigul Fort – Fort built by Nayak but later strengthened by the Mysore ruler Hyder Ali, served as a prison for all captured Polygars.

External References

* [ The Hindu:Madurai 72 Bastion Fort today ]
* [ Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra ]


* Rao, Velcheru Narayana, and David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Symbols of substance : court and state in Nayaka period Tamilnadu (Delhi ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1998) ; xix, 349 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 22 cm. ; Oxford India paperbacks ; Includes bibliographical references and index ; ISBN 0-19-564399-2.
* Devakunjari, D., 1921-. Madurai through the ages : from the earliest times to 1801 A.D. general editor, R. Nagaswamy (Madras : Society for Archaeological, Historical, and Epigraphical Research, [1979] ) ; 336 p., [26] leaves of plates : ill. ; 22 cm. ; SAHER publication no. 8. ; "Thesis submitted to the University of Madras for the award of Ph.D. degree in the year 1957"--T.p. verso. ; bibliography: p. 334-336.
* Rajaram, K. (Kumarasamy), 1940-. History of Thirumalai Nayak (Madurai : Ennes Publications, 1982) ; 128 p., [1] leaf of plates : ill., maps ; 23 cm. ; revision of the author's thesis (M. Phil.--Madurai-Kamaraj University, 1978) Includes index ; bibliography p. 119-125 ; on the achievements of Tirumala Nayaka, fl. 1623-1659, Madurai ruler.
* Balendu Sekaram, Kandavalli, 1909-. The Nayaks of Madura by Khandavalli Balendusekharam (Hyderabad : Andhra Pradesh Sahithya Akademi, 1975) ; 30 p. ; 22 cm. ; "World Telugu Conference publication." ; History of the Telugu speaking Nayaka kings of Pandyan Kingdom, Madurai, 16th-18th century.
* Sathianathaier, R. History of the Nayaks of Madura [microform] by R. Sathyanatha Aiyar ; edited for the University, with introduction and notes by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar ( [Madras] : Oxford University Press, 1924) ; see also ( [London] : H. Milford, Oxford university press, 1924) ; xvi, 403 p. ; 21 cm. ; SAMP early 20th-century Indian books project item 10819.
* Balendu Sekaram, Kandavalli, 1909-. The Nayaks of Madura by Khandavalli Balendusekharam (Hyderabad : Andhra Pradesh Sahithya Akademi, 1975) ; 30 p. ; 22 cm. ; "World Telugu Conference publication." ; History of the Telugu speaking Nayaka kings of Pandyan Kingdom, Madurai, 16th-18th century.
* Prof.K.Rajayyan M.A.,M.Litt,A.M. P.hd.,A History of Freedom Struggle in India
* Prof.K.Rajayyan M.A.,M.Litt,A.M. P.hd.,South Indian Rebellion-The First War of Independence (1800-1801)
* M.P.Manivel, 2003 - Viduthalaipporil Virupachi Gopal Naickar (Tamil Language), New Century Book House, Chennai
* N.Rajendran ,National Movement in Tamil Nadu, 1905-1914 - Agitational Politics and State Coercion, Madras Oxford University Press.
*D. Sreenivasulu, "Palegars or factionists, they call the shots in Rayalaseema", "The Hindu" (online) 24th January 2005.

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