TIRUCHIRAPALLI – more commonly referred to as Trichy – stands in the plains between the Shevaroy and Palani hills, just under 100km north of Madurai. Dominated by the dramatic Rock Fort, it’s a sprawling commercial centre with a modern feel. Most of its business is in the southern Trichy Junction district, where the bazaars, immediately north of the Junction, heave with locally made cigars, textiles and fake diamonds, made into inexpensive jewellery and sewn into dance costumes. Head north along Big Bazaar Road and you’re confronted by the dramatic profile of the Rock Fort, topped by the seventeenth-century Vinayaka (Ganesh) Temple. There are several British churches dotted around the town, the most notable of which is Our Lady of Lourdes, west of the Rock Fort, which is modelled on the basilica of Lourdes.
North of the fort, the River Kaveri marks a wide boundary between the crowded business districts and the somewhat more serene temples a beyond the river. The spectacular Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, 6km north of central Trichy, is so large it holds much of the village within its courtyards. Also north of the Kaveri is the elaborate Sri Jambukeshwara Temple.
The precise date of Trichy’s foundation is uncertain, but though little early architecture remains, it is clear that between 200 and 1000 AD control of the city passed between the Pallavas and Pandyas. The Chola kings who gained supremacy in the eleventh century embarked upon ambitious building projects, reaching a zenith with the Ranganathaswamy Temple. In the twelfth century, the Cholas were ousted by the Vijayanagar kings of Hampi, who then stood up against Muslim invasions until 1565, when they succumbed to the might of the sultans of the Deccan. Less than fifty years later the Nayaks of Madurai came to power, constructing the fort and firmly establishing Trichy as a trading city. After almost a century of struggle against the French and British, who both sought lands in southeast Tamil Nadu, the town came under British control until it was declared part of Tamil Nadu state in 1947.