Kayalpatnam Kayalpattinam


—  city  —
Kayalpatnam Kayalpattinam
Location of Kayalpatnam Kayalpattinam
in Tamil Nadu and India
Coordinates 8°33′59″N 78°6′59″E / 8.56639°N 78.11639°E / 8.56639; 78.11639Coordinates: 8°33′59″N 78°6′59″E / 8.56639°N 78.11639°E / 8.56639; 78.11639
Country India
State Tamil Nadu
District(s) Thoothukudi(formerly V.O.C.)
Nearest city Thoothukudi
Parliamentary constituency Thoothukudi
Formarly with Tiruchendur
Assembly constituency Tiruchendur
Civic agency Kayalpattinum Municipality


32,664 (2001)

2,613 /km2 (6,768 /sq mi)

Sex ratio 1000:1177 /
Literacy 88.67% 
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
Area 12.5 square kilometres (4.8 sq mi)
Website [http://www.kayalpatnam.com

http://www.kayalpatnam.in www.kayalpatnam.com

Kayalpatnam(aka Kayalpattinam, Tamil – காயல்பட்டினம்) or Korkai is a town in the Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, India. Kayal is referred to in Marco Polo's travel diaries dating to 1250 AD. Korkai or Kayal (Chayal) was an ancient port dating to the 1st centuries of the Christian era and was contemporaneous to the existence of Kollam, another Pandyan port. Kollam served the Pandyas on the west coast while Korkai/Kayal served them on the east coast connecting them to Ceylon and the pearl fisheries in the Gulf of Mannar facing the Tirunelveli Coast. Kayal has Muslim settlements dating from 7th century AD but Marco Polo's reference to the tomb of Thomas and the Christian communities would indicate Syrian Christian communities in the region prior to that era. The ancient port had connections with Egypt, Rome and Greece. The other ports on the Coromandel Coast were Kaveripumpattinam (Poompuhar) and Arikamedu (near Pondicherry). On the west coast the ancient ports were Kollam and Kodungallur and Barugachha (Broach) in Gujarat.[1]

A famous port during the times of the Pandyan kingdom, it is also a chief port of Mabar (Tirunelveli Coast or Coromandel Coast adjoining the Gulf of Mannar). Since 8th century AD, Kayal is inhabited by Muslims belonging to the Dravidian race. It is believed that a portion of Kayal's inhabitants migrated from Egypt.

There are several references to this trading port in various literary works, notably in the travel work of Marco Polo. Kayalpatnam was also an important trade centre even before the arrival of Islam. Five thousand years ago, it was the capital of second Tamil Sangam, called Kapadapuram. The northern part of Kayal is called Palaiya Kayal and Punna Kayal. The town has a number of mosques. Prominent among them are Kutba Periya Palli, Kutba Siru Palli, Al-Jamiul Azhar, Aram Palli, Kaadiriya Kodimara Siru Nainar Palli, Kuruvithurai Palli, Erattai Kolathu Palli, Appapalli, Maraicar Palli, Kadal Karai Palli (the second mosque in India, first mosque of the town), Karup-Udaiyar Palli, Kattu Mogudoom Palli,Hafil Ameer Appa Palli, Thayum Palli, Ahamed Nainar Palli, Mogudoom Palli of Mogudoom street and Yusuf Appa Palli



Few doubt today that an ancient city called Kayal (Qail, Quil) existed. It is widely acknowledged by the scholars that a city by that name did flourish in ancient time as a commercial port – carrying on trading with countries as far away as Greece and China.

There are several references to this trading port in various literary works, notably in the travel work of Marco Polo. What is less certain, however, is whether that ancient port is what that exists today as the bustling town of Kayalpatnam. Several archeological evidences seem to suggest so, but still some doubts persist.

Is Kayalpatnam remnant of an ancient city?

Literary argument

As evidences to the claim that the present Kayalpatnam is indeed on the site where ancient Kayal existed, several passages from literary works are quoted. One such is from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's Discovery of India. Bishop Caldwell's History of Tinnevelly is also quoted. But these are not conclusive evidences.

Archeological argument

Burial grounds of Kayalpatnam have turned in few objects of interest. At one place, Chinese porceleins were found. They are believed to be centuries old. At another place, swords and other arms were found. These, it is suggested, probably belonged to a dead soldier who was buried along with his ornaments. In the least, these evidences point to a well-developed, major urban settlement dating to some time early in the present millennium.

Numismatical argument

Bishop Caldwell, in his History of Tinnevelly[2] reports discovery of large quantities of Arabic coins on the roads leading to Kayalpatnam. It is a well established belief that there was brisk trade between the people of Kayal and other foreign countries. Discovery of these coins so near Kayalpatnam does add more weight to the belief.

Tombstones argument

The Muslim community of Kayalpatnam must have mostly consisted of Arabs and also some Persians. This is reflected in the early tombstones found in the town. Some of the tombstones record the origin of the deceased as al-qahiri, indicating that the person or his ancestors were from Egypt. Another tombstone at a different site records the origin of the deceased as al-Iraqi. Some other tombstones carry the surname al-mabari (the natives). These tombstones seem to be, by far, the most persuasive of all the evidences.

Doubts raised

There are many who dispute the claim that Kayalpatnam is the Kayal of the legend. Among them is foreign researcher Henry Yule, who has translated the works of Marco Polo. He says that the real site of this once celebrated port (Kayal) has never been identified in any published work he continues.

They state also that the name of Kayalpattanam has only recently been given to it, as a reminiscence of the older city. The old Kayal, and the erroneously named  Koil in the Ordinance Map of India, is situated on the Thamirabarani River about a mile and a half from it could be the real Kayal or Korkai pattinam the ancient capital of  Pandya Kingdom


  1. ^ K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, History of South India, 2nd ed.,Oxford University Press, 1958
  2. ^ Robert Bishop Caldwell (1982) "A history of Tinnevelly" New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.

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