NAGAPATTINAM: Nagapattinam, which once served as a port of Chola Kingdom and centre of sea trade between many countries across the globe, is now bereft of any such activity. With the Nagapattinam district turning 30 on Monday, TNIE looks back at its past glory and history.
The Nagapattinam district was carved out of Thanjavur district in 1991. The erstwhile integrated district consisted of the present-day districts of Tiruvarur and Mayiladuthurai, which were bifurcated in 1997 and 2020, respectively.
Now, with a population of nearly 7 lakh people and an area of 1,397 square kilometres, Nagapattinam is one of the smallest districts in the State; smaller than its begotten kids — Tiruvarur and Mayiladuthurai. Known as ‘Negapatam’ during the colonial rule of Europeans, Nagapattinam served as a port for passenger ferry service to South Asian countries.
It was the centre of sea trade between countries like China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, and served as a port of Chola Kingdom. The town, as well as the district, now has a defunct port.
An official from the district administration said, “The ferry services for passengers and commercial services for cargo ships ceased a year ago due to lack of interest about operating ferry services to the ‘less-developed and deindustrialised’ Nagapattinam and growth in prominence of other commercial ports in the state. Then, a private port was set up in Karaikal. Chances for resuming both the services appeared less with the establishment of Karaikal Marg Port."
In the early 1990s, the district was named ‘Nagai Quaid-e-Millat’ to commemorate freedom fighter M Muhammad Ismail, who was also known as ‘Quaid-e-Millat’. It was renamed back as Nagapattinam in 1997.
K Skandan, who was Nagapattinam’s first-ever Collector cum District Magistrate, shares his experience with TNIE during the most eventful time in nation’s history - May 1991 marked the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur, and 1992 of the demotion of Babri Masjid.
The 64-year-old retired IAS officer says, “I was 34 years when I was posted as the District Collector of Nagapattinam. We were working in temporary offices then. Compared to other districts, we maintained a decent communal harmony in the aftermath of Babri Masjid demolitions, save for few protests. Then there was Sri Lankan Tamil refugee crisis and threats of LTTE incursions through Vedaranyam, which we kept in check.”
(This is part one of the three-part series)