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Permanently settled estate of Ramnad
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The estate of Ramnad was a permanently settled zamindari estate that existed in the Ramnad subdivision of the Madura district and later Ramnad district of the erstwhile Madras Presidency in British India from 1801 to 1949.
The seat of administration was the town of Ramanathapuram. The Zamindari had its origins in the Kingdom of Ramnad established by Raghunatha Kilavan in the late 17th century. In 1803, the Kingdom was converted to a Zamindari by the British. The male rulers of Ramnathapuram also bore the title of Sethupathi or "protector of the bridge", the bridge here referring to the legendary Rama's Bridge while female rulers bore the title "Nachiyar".
The estate of Ramnad was located between 9 degrees 6' and 10 degrees 6' N latitude and 77 degrees 56' and 79 degrees 19' E longitudes. It comprised the southern and eastern portion of Madura district and included the whole Bay of Bengal coast of the district.
The estate covered an area of 2,104 square miles (5,450 km2) and had a population of 723,886 in 1901. It was one of the largest and most populous zamindari estates in the Madras Presidency. The zamindar of Ramnad paid a tribute of Rs. 3.75 lakhs for the year 1903-04 to the British government.
The estate was subdivided into five zamindari tehsils: Ramnad, Tiruvadanai, Paramakudi, Tiruchuli and Mudukulathur. The administration was based in the town of Ramanathapuram in Ramnad tehsil. Ramanathapuram, Kilakkarai, Paramakudi, Rameswaram, Mandapam and Pamban were some of the important towns in the estate.
The estate of Ramnad included the Hindu holy island city of Rameswaram, from where, legend has it that the Hindu god Rama launched his invasion of Ravana's Lanka. On the conclusion of the war and Rama's success in it, he appointed a Sethupathi or "lord of the bridge" to guard the way to the island. The "bridge" referred to here is the legendary Adam's Bridge or Rama's Bridge which was believed to have been constructed by Rama. The chieftains of Ramnad were entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the bridge, hence the appellation.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, the traditional chieftain of the region who belonged to the Maravar caste was officially recognized as Sethupathi by the Nayak king of Madurai. The chieftain of Ramnad, in return, recognized the sovereignty of the Nayak king over his lands. When the power of the Nayak kings of Madurai began to decline in the late 17th century, the chieftains of Ramnad asserted their independence. In the late 17th century, Raghunatha Kilavan crowned himself king of Ramnad and changed his seat from Pogalur to Ramnad close to the east coast. He erected massive fortifications to protect his capital. In 1725, the king of Tanjore claimed the northern part of the Ramnad kingdom (the Aranthangi region) up to the river Pambar in return for his services during the civil war in Ramnad. A vassal of Ramnad who was amongst the victors in the civil war took over the westerly located Sivaganga region, thereby leaving only three-fifths of the kingdom actually in the hands of the king of Ramnad.
Ramnad participated in the Carnatic wars between the British and the French East India companies. The state came under British influence in the 1790s and the king of Ramnad was deposed in 1795 for misrule. The British, then, made the king's sister the ruler of Ramnad and deprecated the kingdom to a zamindari by a permanent sanad (grant) in 1803. Since then, until the India's independence in 1947, Ramnad was ruled by the queen and her descendants.
Raja Bhaskara Sethupathi, who lived in the late 19th century, borrowed large amounts of money from Nagarathar creditors for construction of irrigation works and massive developments projects and for charitable purposes that he soon ran into heavy debt. In 1895, most of the estate was pledged to the creditors who set up a trust for its administration and maintenance. Bhaskara Sethupathi's successors actively supported the Justice Party. Shanmugha Rajeswara Sethupathi was an active supporter of the Justice Party and promoted the Self-Respect Movement.