TINNEVELLY, a town and district of British India, in the Madras presidency. The town is on the left bank of the Tambraparni river, on the other side of which is Palamcottah, the administrative headquarters of the district. Pop. (1901), 40,469. It is the terminus of a branch of the South Indian railway, 444 m. S.W. of Madras. Its most noteworthy building is a beautifully sculptured temple of Siva.
The District Of Tinnevelly has an area of 5389 sq. m. It is for the most part a plain with an average elevation of 200 ft., sloping to the east with slight undulations. It is watered by numerous short streams, the principal being the Tambraparni with a length of 80 m. The chief irrigation work is the Srivaikuntam anicut or dam on this river. In the north the scenery is unattractive and the soil poor; in the south red sandy soil prevails in which little save the Palmyra palm will grow. This palm yields toddy as well as a coarse sugar. Along the banks of the rivers are rice-fields and a variety of trees and crops; and coffee is grown on the slopes of the Travancore hills. The district contains many ancient and magnificent buildings.. But the most interesting antiquities are the large sepulchral earthen urns of prehistoric races, which have been found at several places, especially along the course of the Tambraparni; they contain bones, pottery, beads and bronze ornaments, iron weapons, implements, &c. The South Indian railway has its maritime terminus at Tuticorin, the chief seaport. The principal exports are rice to Ceylon and cotton to Japan and Europe. In 1901 the population was 2,0J9,607, showing an increase of 8% in the decade. The number of native Christians was 159,213, Tinnevelly being the most Christian district in India. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Church Missionary Society have important and flourishing stations at Tinnevelly town and Palamcottah, as also have the Jesuits. It was here that St Francis Xavier began his preaching in India. The Shanans, or caste of toddy-drawers, have supplied many converts to Christianity. In 18 99 their treatment by the Vellalars, or cultivating caste, led to serious riots and bloodshed.
The early history of Tinnevelly is mixed up with that of Madura and Travancore. Down to 1781 it is a confused tale of anarchy and bloodshed. In that year the nawab of Arcot assigned the revenues to the East India Company, which then undertook the internal administration. Several risings subsequently took place, and in 1801 the whole Carnatic, including Tinnevelly, was ceded to the British.
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