Salem : History
Salem is the fifth largest city of Tamil Nadu. One of the most famous places in the state, this district has its own unique, compelling history. . The name 'Salem' seems to have been derived from inscriptions 'Sayilam', 'Shalya' or 'hai' that are found in the countryside surrounded by the hills. In ancient times, Salem and the hills areas that surrounded it were a part of the Kongu and Chera country. These places were ruled by Kongu kings who were termed 'Kurunila Mannargal' in ancient times.
It is believed that the area around Salem was the birthplace of the famous Tamil poetess, Avvaiyar. Auvaiyar penned poems that remain very popular even now and find their presence in the school textbooks in the Tamil Nadu state. In parts of the district, you will also find inscriptions that are a throwback on the Ganga Dynasty. Salem was a part of the Western Ganga Dynasty, the most important ruling dynasty in South India during 350 to 550 CE.
Salem was ruled by the Gangakulam rulers for a long time before it was invaded by the Vijaynagar empire. It then came under the reign of Madurai Nayaks. The Madurai Nayaks ruled from 1559 to 1736, and they were basically Telugu people speaking people who ruled over most parts of the modern-day Tamil Nadu, including Madurai, which they made their capital.
Later, Gatti Mudalis Poligars of Salem ruled over Salem and built some of the most renowned temples and forts in and around the city. Poligars were territorial chiefs appointed by the 'Naicker' rulers of South India, like the Madurai Nayaks, Vijayangagar Empire and Kakatiya Dynasty.
It was in the 18th century that Hyder Ali ruled Salem, after a long, drawn war between Madurai and Mysore. In the beginning of 1768, Colonel Wood took control of Salem from the hands of Hyder Ali. It was then recaptured by Hyder by the end of 1772. In the 1799, things back into the favor of the British, when East India Company took control over a detachment of the regiment stationed at Sankagiri Durg, and made it a military station. In the year 1861, the troops were withdrawn.
Salem again found itself in the middle of conquests of sorts, when it became a scene of battle along with Sankagiri, between Kongu forces and the British forces. The legendary chieftain from Kongu, Theeran Chinnamalai was hanged in a fort called Sankagiri on Adi Perukku Day. The fort later was to become the army headquarters of the British.
In the 19th century, a lot of things happened that changed history in Salem. In 1856, the East India Company ruled ended and the British Crown took over the district. In 1860, Salem City was made the capital of the district. In 1862, Salem Central Jail was built. Sadly, for the second half of the 19th century, there were a lot of famines in Salem that claimed a lot of lives. In 1875, there was a huge cholera epidemic as well.
Developmental activities surfaced in the 20th century especially after the independence of India in 1947. Exchange of villages between Mysore and Madras State took place under the provinces and states (Absorption of Enclaves) order 1950, in the year 1951. In 1965, Salem district was bifurcated into Salem Dharmapuri districts. Salem had 8 Taluks by then: Salem , Attur, Yercaud, Omalur ,Sankari, Tiruchengode, Rasipuram and Namakkal. In 1997, Salem District was bifurcated into Salem and Namakkal district. Salem constituted 8 Taluks - Salem, Yercaud, Attur, Omalur, Mettur, Sankari, Gangavalli, and Idappadi and Namakkal district constituted 4 Taluks - Namakkal, Tiruchengode, Rasipuram and Paramathi-Velur. In the year 1998, the Attur Divison came into existence, and a new Taluk known as Taluk Valappadi was formed. Salem then attained its present administrative system.