Rani Mangammal, who ruled Madurai between later 16th and early 17th century, was an efficient and popular ruler. Her memory is cherished even today in the rural areas of the state. Mangammal worked tirelessly to better the civil administration, trade and industry in her kingdom and paid special attention to irrigation and communication.
During her rule, she had constructed several Anna Chathirams (food inns) along the pathways of Madurai to Tiruchy via Dindigul for travellers. Also, special horse stables were established near current Manapparai block so that horses used in the war against Thanjavur king.
Rani Mangammal also repaired many irrigation channels, constructed a rich network of roads and lined them all with trees.
There are about three such Chathirams and a temple in Mannapparai block were constructed during here time. Due to lack of proper maintenance by the archaeology department, all the monuments are on the verge of extinction. Currently, people — unaware of the historical value of the monuments — have been taking stone carvings out from the buildings.
Commenting on this, Gramiyan, a historical structure analyst said, “The Dindigul stretch was considered as a main route to travel to Madurai. That is why, Rani Mangammal had built many such mandapams along the road.” He added, “During her reign, the present Karumandapam was actually the town’s outskirts and had a thick green cover. Many such mandapams were being constructed by the then rulers to provide relief to the pedestrians, soldiers, travellers and their horses.”
Meanwhile, M Muthuvelan, a 74-year-old resident from Palayakottai village of Manapparai block where there a few Chathirams are situated, said, “My grandfather used to say that the three Chathirams were built by Rani Mangammal to provide food and rest to weary travellers. During times of war, her horses were kept in the Chathirams in Palayakottai village. Now, however, all the Chathirams are on the verge of destruction.” Muthuvelan also recalled that his father use to take him to the Chathiram in the evening when he was a child. They would often be joined with the neighbours and their children.
Over the subsequent years, however, the lack of proper maintenance, all the Chathirams, including the ones in Palayakottai and Thomas Nagar and Maravanur Chathirams, have begun to fall into pieces.
While speaking, S Xavier, assistant professor of history, EVR College and Archaeologist from Tiruchy said, “Apart from the ancient buildings in Manapparai block. Several stone carvings and monuments from her time were destroyed leaving several mysteries unsolved. Rani Mangammal’s cause of death in early 17th century is yet to be ascertained.” He also added that people need to realise the worth of such monuments for them to be preserved and prized for generations.