Meenakshi (Nayak Queen)

Meenakshi (ruled 1731-1736) was the last ruler in the Madurai Nayaks line. She was the granddaughter-in-law of Rani Mangammal.

Kings and Queen Regents of
Madurai Nayak Dynasty
Madurai Nayak Rulers
Viswanatha Nayak 1529—1563
Kumara Krishnappa Nayak 1563—1573
Joint Rulers Group I 1573—1595
Joint Rulers Group II 1595—1602
Muttu Krishnappa Nayak 1602—1609
Muttu Virappa Nayak 1609—1623
Tirumalai Nayak 1623—1659
Muthu Alakadri Nayak 1659—1662
Chokkanatha Nayak 1662—1682
Rangakrishna Muthu Virappa Nayak 1682—1689
Rani Mangammal‡ 1689—1704
Vijaya Ranga Chokkanatha Nayak 1704—1731
Queen Meenakshi 1731—1736
Madurai 1529—1616
Tiruchirapalli 1616—1634
Madurai 1634—1665
Tiruchirapalli 1665—1736
Major Forts
Madurai 72 Bastion Fort
Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort
Dindigul Fort
Thirunelvelli Fort
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal, Madurai
Chokkanatha Nayak Palace/Durbar Hall, Tiruchirapalli
Rani Mangammal Tamukkam palace Madurai

Vijaya Ranga Chokkanatha died in 1731, and was succeeded by his widow Meenakshi, who acted as Queen-Regent on behalf of a young boy she had adopted as the heir of her dead husband. She had only ruled a year or two when an insurrection was raised against her by Vangaru Tirumala, the father of her adopted son, who pretended to have claims of his own to the throne of Madurai. At this juncture representatives of the Mughals appeared on the scene and took an important part in the struggle.

Since 1693, Madurai nominally had been the feudatory of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and since 1698 the Carnatic region north of the Coleroon (Kollidam) river had been under direct Mughal rule. The local representative of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah were the Nawab of Arcot, and an intermediate authority was held by the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was in theory both a subordinate of the Mughal Emperors, and the superior of the Nawab.

How regularly the kings of Tanjore and Madura paid their tribute is not clear, but in 1734 — about the time, in fact, that Meenakshi and Vangaru Thirumala were fighting for the crown — an expedition was sent by the then-Nawab of Arcot to exact tribute and submission from the kingdoms of the south. The leaders of this expedition were the Nawab’s son, Safdar Ali Khan, and his nephew and confidential adviser, the well-known Chanda Sahib.

The expedition team took Tanjore by storm and, leaving the stronghold of Trichinopoly untouched, swept across Madurai and Tinnevelly and into Travancore. On their return from this expedition they took part in the quarrel between Meenakshi and Vangaru Tirumala. The latter approached Safdar Ali Khan with an offer of three million rupees if he would oust the queen in favour of himself. Unwilling to attack Trichinopoly, the Arcot prince contented himself with solemnly declaring Vangaru Thirumala to be king and taking the bond for the three millions. He then marched away, leaving Chanda Sahib to enforce his award as best he could. The queen, alarmed at the turn affairs now had taken, had little difficulty in persuading that facile politician to accept her bond for a crore of rupees (ten million) and declare her duly entitled to the throne.

Queen Meenakshi required Chanda Sahib to swear on the Quran that he would adhere faithfully to his engagement, and he accordingly took an oath in front of his Sepoys and Sowars. He was admitted into the Trichinopoly fort and Vangaru Thirumala — apparently with the good will of the queen, who, strangely enough, does not seem to have wished him any harm — went off to Madurai, to rule over that country and Tinnevelly.

Chanda Sahib accepted the crore of rupees and departed to Arcot. Two years later, in 1736 he returned, again was admitted into the fort, and proceeded to make himself master of the kingdom.

Chanda Sahib eventually marched against Vangaru Thirumala, who still was ruling in the south, defeated him at Ammaya Nayakkanur and Dindigul, drove him to take refuge in Sivaganga, and occupied the southern provinces of the Madurai kingdom. Having now made himself master of all of the region he then wrote a letter to the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur declaring himself the Nawab of Tinnevelly, he later also declared himself the Nawab of Carnatic.