Ambur (TN)

Tam: ஆம்பூர் āmpūr ‘Lily Town’  -City, Tamil Nadu From Tam: āmpal, ‘Water-lily’ [Nymphaea lotus]; and ur, ‘town’, ‘city’. The town sits on the mighty 348km Palar river and this may have been famous at one time for its water-lilies. The modern city is better known for...

Arakkonam (TN)

Tam: அரக்கோணம்  arakkōṇam ‘Six Angles’   Town, suburb (Chennai), Tamil Nadu Tam: āṟu/aṟumai, ‘six’; kōṇam, ‘angle’, ‘corner’. Arakkonam, it is said, sits on an important junction linking six key towns: Kanchipuram, Thakkolam, Manavur, Thiruvalangadu, Tiruttani, Ponnai...

Arcot (TN)

Tam: ஆற்காடு āṟkāṭu ‘Forest Way’  [Arkkadu]  Town, Tamil Nadu Tam: āṟu, ’river’, ‘way’, ‘road’; and Tam: kāṭu ‘forest’, ‘wood’ Arcot was the HQ of the Nawab of the Carnatic (also Nawab of Arcot), a dependency of the Nizam of Hyderabad and a centre for...

Chennai (TN)

Tam: சென்னை c(h)eṉṉai ‘Chennappa’s Village’ [Madras] City/ Capital/ District, Tamil Nadu From Tel:  Chennappa Nayaka; and Tam: paṭṭiṉam, ‘coastal town’, ‘fishing village/hamlet’ The English East India Company acquired land (actually, a small...

Chidambaram (TN)

Tam: சிதம்பரம் c(h)itamparam ‘Dwelling of Consciousness’  [Thillai]  Temple town, Tamil Nadu From Skt: c(h)it, ‘consciousness’, ‘soul’; and Skt: ambaram, ‘dwelling’, garment’, ‘atmosphere’. Chidambaram has at its centre the remarkable 9thC Sri Nataraj temple, mythical...

Coimbatore/Kovai (TN)

Tam: கோயம்புத்தூர் kōyamputtūr ‘Kovan’s New City’ [Kovai]  City/District, Tamil Nadu From Kovan; Tam: putu, ‘new’; and ūr, ‘village’, ‘town’. In this derivation Kovan puthur (named after the 9thC Irula tribal chieftain Kovan or Koyan) became Koyambatoor and was then...

Coonoor (TN)

Tam: குன்னூர kuṉṉūr ‘Mountain Slope’  Town/Taluk, Tamil Nadu From Bad/Tam: kunnu/kuṉṟu, ‘mountain’/ ‘escarpment’; Bad/Kan: ōra, ōre, ‘slope’. Coonoor is situated on the edge of a plateau, so the name fits.  The town is surrounded by tea and coffee plantations and...

Coromandel (TN, AP)

‘Land of the Cholas’   Coastline, Tamil Nadu  Andhra Pradesh From Chola (dynasty) and Tam: maṇṭalam, ‘district’, ‘region’, ‘country’ Coromandel refers to the eastern coast of (northern) Tamil Nadu from Kodiakkarai, a.k.a. Point Calimere, to the mouth of the Krishna...

Cuddalore (TN)

Tam: கடலூர் kaṭalūr ‘Junction Town’  City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: kūṭal, ‘junction’, ‘confluence’; and ūr, ‘village’, ‘town’. This is the place where the Indian Ocean and the Pennaiyar, Kedilam, Paravanar and Uppanaar rivers meet.  This is the most likely...

Darasuram (TN)

Tam: தாராசுரம் darasuram ‘Lord of Raja Raja’  Town, Temple, Tamil Nadu                                                                                                      From Raja Raja and  Skt: īśvara, ‘lord’                                                         ...

Dharmapuri (TN)

Tam: தர்மபுரி darmapuri ‘City of Dharma’  [Tagadur]    City/District, Tamil Nadu From Skt: dharma, ‘religion’, ‘virtue’, ‘duty’; and pura, ‘town’, ‘(fortified) city’. In the earliest times the name was Tagadur [Tam: takaṭu/takaram, ‘metal plate’, ‘tin’; and ūr,...

Dindigul (TN)

Tam: திண்டுக்கல் tiṇṭukkal ‘Pillow Rock’  [Tintukkal] City/District, Tamil Nadu From: Tam: tiṇṭu ‘pillow’, ‘semicircular cushion’; and kal, ‘rock’. Dindigul Fort (270m high and 2.75km round) was built on a wedge-shaped rock in 1605.  It was under Nayak rule for more...

Erode (TN)

Tam: ஈரோடு īrōṭu ‘Two Streams’   City/District,  Tamil Nadu From Tam: ir(u)/īr, ‘two’; and Tam: ōṭai, ‘stream’, ’water-course’, ‘dyke’, ’moat’. The 90km Kaingarayan canal connects the Bhavani and Noyyal rivers, tributaries of the Kaveri river. It was originally built...

Gangaikonda Cholapuram (TN)

Tam: கங்கைகொண்ட சோழபுரம் kaṅkaikoṇṭa cōḻapuram ‘The Chola who took the Ganges’   Village/Temple Site/former Capital, Tamil Nadu (TN) From Chola (dynasty); Ganga/Ganges (river); Tam: koṇṭa, ‘take’, ‘obtain’; and Skt: puram, ‘town’,...

Gobichettipalayam (TN)

Tam: கோபிச்செட்டிப்பாளையம் gōpicceṭṭippāḷaiyam ‘Gobi Chetti’s Camp’  Town/Taluk,   Tamil Nadu From Gobi Chetty and Tam: pāḷaiyam , ‘camp’, ‘territory’. Gobi Chetti was a Polygar under the Vijayanagars. The Polygars were 16th–18thC governors  and chieftains who...

Gudalur (TN)

Tam: கூடலூர் gūṭalūr ‘Valley Town’  Town/Taluk, Tamil Nadu From Bad:  goḍalu, ‘dale between two hills’, ‘basin’, ‘valley’; and Bad/Tam: ūru village, town. The location matches the derivation perfectly. Gudalur is a tea plantation region sitting at the foot...

Gudiyattam (TN)

Tam: குடியாத்தம் guṭiyāttam ‘Village Way’   Town,  Tamil Nadu From Tam: kudi, ‘village’, ‘settlement (of family, tribe or people related to one another)’; and  Tam: attam, ‘way’, ‘road’, ‘(rough) path’.  Gudiyattam/Gudiyatham is nicknamed ‘Little Sivakasi’...

Hosur (TN)

Tam: ஓசூர் ōsūr ‘New City’  City, Tamil Nadu From Kan: posa/hosa, ‘new’; and ūr, village, town Hoysalas (a 10th-14thC empire centred on Halebid and Belur in modern Karnataka) ruled Hosur after the decline of Chola Empire. It then became part of the Vijayanagara empire...

Kanchipuram (TN)

Tam: காஞ்சிபுரம் kāñcipuram ‘Kanchi City’  City/District, Tamil Nadu. From Tam: kāñc(h)i/kanji, ‘(river) Portia tree’ [Thespesia populnea]; or Skt: kāñcana, ‘gold’; ‘money’; and Skt: puram, ‘town’, ‘fort’, ‘city’. The sacred tree had many names: kalpa vriksha (tree of...

Kanyakumari (TN)

Tam:கன்னியாகுமரி kaṉṉiyākumari ‘Virgin Goddess’  Town/District, Tamil Nadu Kanyakumari sits on the very tip of India, where the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean meet. It is the ‘Land’s End’ of India. Its name comes from the Kanya...

Karaikudi (TN)

Tam: காரைக்குடி kāraikkuṭi ‘Karai Village’   City, Tamil Nadu Tam: kārai, ‘shrub’ [Canthium coromandelicum, Webera tetrandra]; and kudi, ‘village’, ‘settlement (of family, tribe or people related to one another)’. The Coromandel Boxwood is a very common coastal shrub:...

Karur (TN)

Tam: கரூர் karūr ‘Black Town’  [Vanji]   City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: karu, ‘black’; ūr, ‘village’, ‘town’; and vañci, ‘creeper’. Karur’s predominant soil type is black, accounting for over one-third of the soil in the region and this place name....

Kodaikanal (TN)

Tam: கொடைக்கானல் koṭaikkāṉal  ‘Forest of Creepers’ Hill Station,  Tamil Nadu From Tam: koṭi , ‘creeper’, ‘vine’; and kāṉal a forest on a hill-slope.  Kodaikanal was founded by American missionaries in the 19thC as an escape from the hot, dusty Tamil climate. It was...

Kotagiri (TN)

Tam: கோத்தகிரி kōttakiri ‘Kot(h)a Hill’   Town/Hill Station, Tamil Nadu Kotagiri is a town in the Nilgiri Hills. It is 1,950m up and enjoys one of the coolest climates in South India. The Kotas are an ancient tribal community of 2,000 people living in...

Krishnagiri (TN)

Tam: கிருஷ்ணகிரி kiruṣṇakiri ‘Krishna Hill’   City/District, Tamil Nadu From Krishnadevarayar and Skt: giri, ‘mountain’, ‘hill’, ‘rock’ Krishnagiri Fort was built by Krishnadevarayar, a 16thC Vijayanagara Emperor. He reigned from 1509 to 1529 when the Empire was at...

Kumbakonam (TN)

Tam: கும்பகோணம் kumpakōṇam  ‘Cosmic Pot Corner’   City, Tamil Nadu From Tam: kumpam, ‘small water-jar’, ‘sacrificial pot’, ‘pinnacle (of a temple’; and  kōṇam, ‘angle’, ‘corner’. Every twelve years hundreds of thousands of devotees flock to the holy town of Kumbakonam...

Madurai (TN)

Tam: மதுரை madurai ‘Walled City’ [Matirai]   City/District,  Tamil Nadu From Tam: matiḷ, ‘wall (round a fort)’, ‘walled city or fortification’ Records of the name Matirai date back to 2ndC Tamil-Brahmi cave inscriptions. Madurai was once a double-walled fortified...

Mamallapuram/Mahabalipuram (TN)

Tam: மாமல்லபுரம் mamallapuram ‘Great Wrestler’s City’  [Mahabalipuram]   Town,  Tamil Nadu From Skt: maha, ‘great’; Skt/Tam: malla, ‘wrestler’, ‘athlete’; and Skt: pura, ‘town’, ‘city’. Narasimhavarman I was a 7thC Pallava king. He completed the group of rock cut...

Nagapattinam (TN)

Tam: நாகப்பட்டினம் nākappaṭṭiṉam ‘Naga City’   Town/District,  Tamil Nadu From Nagas and Tam: paṭṭiṉam, ‘coastal city’, ‘sea-shore town’. The Nagas [from Skt/Tam: naga/nākam, ‘snake’, ‘cobra’] were an aboriginal, serpent-worshipping tribe associated with Sri Lanka and...

Nagercoil (TN)

Tam: நாகர்கோவில் nākarkōvil ‘Naga Temple’      City,  Tamil Nadu From Skt/Tam: naga/nākam, ‘snake’, ‘cobra’; and Tam: kōvil/kō(y)il. Nagaraja Temple (dedicated to Nagaraja, ‘king of the serpents’) is in the centre of town, replete with snake sculptures including the...

Neyveli (TN)

Tam:நெய்வேலி neyvēli ‘Paddy Fields’      Town, Tamil Nadu From Tam: nel , ‘paddy’; vēli,  ‘field’, ‘enclosure’, ‘land’ At one time rice dominated the local economy, but since the 1960s lignite and thermal power stations have taken over: Neyveli...

Nilgiris/Nilgiri Hills (TN)

Tam: நீலகிரி nīlakiri ‘Blue Mountains’   District, Tamil Nadu From Skt/Tam: nīla(m) ‘blue’, ‘indigo’; and  Skt/Tam: giri, ‘mountain’, ‘hill’, ‘rock’ Some suggest that the name comes from the purple-blue flowers of the kurinji [Strobilanthes kunthiana], but since it...

Palani (TN)

Tam:பழனி paḻaṉi ‘Paddy Fields’   Town, Tamil Nadu From Tam: paḻaṉam/pazhaṉam, ‘agricultural land’, ‘rice-fields’. Palani, one of the Arupadai Veedu (six battle camps) of Lord Murugan, is a pilgrimage destination for seven million devotees of Murugan every year. In...

Pollachi (TN)

Tam: பொள்ளாச்சி poḷḷācci ‘Sesban Forest’  Town/Taluk,  Tamil Nadu From Tam: poḻil, ‘grove’, ‘forest’; and akatti/accam/acci, ‘sesban’ or ‘West Indian pea tree’ [Sesbania grandiflora] a.k.a. ‘corkwood’, ‘swamp pea’,...

Pudukottai (TN)

Tam: புதுக்கோட்டை putukkōṭṭai ‘New Fort’  City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: putu, ‘new’; and Tam: kōṭṭai, ‘fort’, ‘fortified town’. Pudukottai was a kingdom founded in the late 17thC by the Raja of Ramnad, Raghunatha Setupati, The nearby Thirumayam Fort is a 16...

Puhar/Poompuhar (TN)

Tam: பூம்புகார் pūmpukār ‘Seaport’  [Poompuhar, Kaveripoompattinam]  Town/Ancient Seaport, Tamil Nadu From Tam: pukār, ‘mouth of a river’; ‘seaport’ Puhar was an ancient seaport on the east coast. At one time it served as both...

Rajapalayam (TN)

Tam: இராசபாளையம் irācapāḷaiyam ‘Raju Cantonment’    City/Taluk, Tamil Nadu From Tam: pāḷaiyam, ‘fort’, ‘camp’, ‘cantonment’. The Rajus, a Telugu speaking community, migrated here from Andhra Pradesh following the collapse of the Vijayanagara Empire  in the 17thC. They...

Ramanathapuram (TN)

Tam: இராமநாதபுரம் irāmanātapuram  ‘Lord Rama’s Town’  [Ramnad]   Town, Tamil Nadu From Rama; Skt: nātha, ‘lord’, ‘master’; and puram, ‘town’, ‘city’. Ramnad has traditionally  included the Hindu holy island city of Rameswaram with its ornate multi-pillared...

Ranipet (TN)

Tam: இராணிப்பேட்டை irāṇippēṭṭai  ‘Queen’s Suburb’    Town/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: irāṇi , ‘queen’; and pēṭṭai, ‘suburb (of fort)’, ‘village near a market town’. Local songs and plays commemorate the valour of Desingh Raj. In 1771 the young prince (he was only...

Salem (TN)

Tam: சேலம் sēlam ‘Mountain (City)’   City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: cayilam/śailam, ‘mountain’. Salem is situated at the foot of the Shevaroy Hills and his surrounded by mountains in all directions: Nagaramalai,  Jarugumalai Kanjamalai and Godumalai. Salem dates...

Sivakasi (TN)

Tam: சிவகாசி sivakāci ‘Shiva’s City of Light’   City, Tamil Nadu From S(h)iva; and Kas(h)i, ‘Varanasi, (City of) Light [Skt: kāśī, ‘light’, ‘splendour’]. Harikesari Parakkirama, a 16thC Pandya king, went to Kasi (Varanasi) to fetch a lingam for a new...

Tenkasi (TN)

Tam: தென்காசி teṉkāci ‘Southern Varanasi’     Town/District, Tamil Nadu Tam: ten, ’south’ and Kas(h)i, ‘Varanasi, (City of) Light [Skt: kāśī, ‘light’, ‘splendour’]. Parakraman, a 15thC Pandyan king, had a dream in which Lord Siva told him to build him to match the...

Thanjavur (TN)

Tam: தஞ்சாவூர் tañcāvūr  ‘City of Refuge’ [Tanjore]  City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: tañcam, ‘refuge’, ‘protection’; and Tam:  ūr, ‘village’, ‘town’. The Chola Empire dominated South India and beyond from 9-13thC and Thanjavur was its capital for most of that...

Tharangambadi/Tranquebar (TN)

Tam: தரங்கம்பாடி taraṅkampāṭi’ ‘Village of Waves’ Town, Tamil Nadu From Tam: taraṅkam, ‘wave’; pāṭi, ‘village’, ‘hamlet’ This fishing port on the Coromandel coast was a Danish trading post (1620-1845). Fort...

Thiruvaiyaru (TN)

Tam: திருவையாறு tiruvaiyāṟu ‘Five Rivers’  Town, Tamil Nadu From Tam:  tiru, ‘eminent’, ‘prosperous’;  aintu, ‘five’; and āṟu, ’river’. Thiruvaiyuru sits in the middle of three parallel rivers and their tributaries: Kollidam, Kaveri (+Kudamurutti) and Vennar (+Vatar)....

Thoothukkudi/Tuticorin (TN)

Tam: தூத்துக்குடி tūttukkuṭi ‘Wetlands Settlement’ [Tuticorin]  City/District  Tamil Nadu From Tam: tiruttu , ‘cultivated wet land’, ‘paddy field’, ‘reclaimed land’; and Tam: kudi, ‘settlement’, ‘colony’. This suggests that Thootukudi could have been built...

Tiruchirappalli (TN)

Tam: திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி tiruccirāppaḷḷi ‘Holy Rock Town’ [Trichy, Trichinopoly]  City/District  Tamil Nadu From Tam:  tiru, ‘holy’, ‘sacred’; cilā/cilai, śilā. ‘stone’, ‘rock’; and paḷḷi, ‘village’. A 16thC inscription (1520) records the name as Tiru-śśilla-paḷḷi. ...

Tirumangalam (TN)

Tam: திருமங்கலம் tirumaṅkalam  ‘Prosperous Land’  Town, Tamil Nadu From Tam: tiru, ‘prosperous’, ‘eminent’, ‘auspicious’; and mankalam, ‘agricultural tract’, ‘fertile country’, ‘prosperous land’. In loan words Skt: mangalam has a similar meaning to Tam:...

Tirunelveli (TN)

Tam: திருநெல்வேலி tirunelvēli ‘Paddy Field’  [Tinnevelly, Nellai]  City/District  Tamil Nadu From Tam:  tiru, ‘prosperous’, ‘eminent’, ‘auspicious’; and  nel , ‘paddy’; Tam: vēli,  ‘field’, ‘enclosure’, ‘land’. Tirunelveli has a history dating back at least two...

Tiruppur (TN)

Tam: திருப்பூர் tiruppūr ‘Holy City’  City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: tiru, ‘holy’, ‘eminent’, ‘auspicious’; and Skt: puram, ‘town’, ‘city’. Tiruppur has temples dating back to the Cholas and Pandyas including the 10thC Sukreeswarar Temple. Tiruppur’s main claim...

Tiruvannamalai (TN)

Tam: திருவண்ணாமலை tiruvaṇṇāmalai ‘Holy Red Mountain’   City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: tiru, ‘holy’, ‘eminent’, ‘auspicious’; aṇṇā/aruṇa, ‘red’, ‘(colour of the) dawn’; and malai, ‘mountain’, ‘hill’. Aruṇācala, the Red Mountain [Tam: acala(m), ‘mountain’] is...

Triplicane – Thiruvallikeni (TN)

Tam: திருவல்லிக்கேணி tiruvallikkēṇi ‘Holy Lily Pond’  Locality (Chennai), Tamil Nadu From Tam:  t(h)iru, ‘sacred’, ‘auspicious’; alli, ‘water lily (the plant and the flower)’; and kēṇi, ‘pond’,...

Udhagamandalam/Ooty/Ootacamund (TN)

Tam: உதகமண்டலம் utakamaṇṭalam ‘Single Stone Settlement’  [Ooty, Ootacamund]   City, Tamil Nadu From Tam: oṟṟai, ‘single’; kal, ‘stone’, ‘rock’; Tod/Kot: moḏ/manḏ, ‘Toda village’. The modern Ooty  was founded in the 19thC on the site of a Toda mand. The British used it...

Vaniyambadi (TN)

Tam: வாணியம்பாடி vāṇiyampāṭi ‘Trading Town’  Town, Tamil Nadu From Tam: vāṇikam/vāṇiyam, ‘trade’, ‘commerce’; and Tam: pāṭi , ‘town’, village’. Leather is the mainstay of Vaniyambadi’s economy: it has more than 150 tanneries and manufactures a wide range of leather...

Vellore (TN)

Tam: வேலூர் vēlūr ‘Babul Tree Town’    City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: vēl , ‘babul tree’ [Vachellia nilotica]; and ūr, ‘village’, ‘town’. The babul, a thorny tree with yellow flowers, is also known as the gum arabic, thorn mimosa, Egyptian acacia or...

Villupuram (TN)

Tam: விழுப்புரம் viḻuppuram ‘Great Town’     City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: viḻu/vizhu, ‘great’, ‘excellent’. wealthy’; and puram, ‘town. ‘village’ Sugarcane is an important commercial crop in Viluppuram...

Virudhunagar (TN)

Tam: விருதுநகர் virutunakar ‘Victory Town’     City/District, Tamil Nadu From Tam: virutu , ‘banner’, ‘trophy’, ‘badge of victory’; and Skt: nagar, ‘city’. The town clearly commemorates a victory of some sort. But it is not clear what it was or when. Legends tell...

Wellington (TN)

Tam: வெல்லிங்டன் velliṅṭaṉ ‘(Duke of) Wellington’ [Jakkatalla] Town, Tamil Nadu  The Wellington Barracks in the Nilgiri Hills was originally known as Jakkatalla/Jagathala: there is a Badaga Village with that name further north [Tam/Bad: cakke,...