actual name of Gingee is Sengiri meaning perhaps the
Red Hill in Tamil that has got corrupted into Gingee.
Some say that the name Sengiri has originated from 'Sanjeevi'
the hill mentioned in Ramayana from where Hanuman
gets the life saving herb, the Sanjeevini Booti for
Lakshamana when he is lying unconscious during the
war between Rama and Ravana. The Sanjeevi herb is
the panacea of Indian mythology. It has been
explained as the combination of two roots, Sam
(pleasure) and Ji (life). The name has also been
traced to Singavaram the neighbouring Vaishnavite
shrine, whose lord is supposed to be the guardian
deity of the place.
The local tradition has another explanation to
offer. The legend runs that seven virgin sisters
once lived here and one of them was known as
Senjiamman. Their modesty was threatened with the
possibility of violation of their chastity. Even
though a valiant man named Thadikara Virappan
rescued them from danger, they could not survive the
insult and so committed suicide. Their spirits are
even now believed to be haunting the place and
considered the genii loci. Each of the sisters has
got her own little shrine still existing and
attracts votaries from the neighbourhood. It is very
probable that Senjiamman who is worshipped on top of
one of the hills gave her name to the particular
hill and this afterwards came to be the common
designation of the whole circle of hills and
Another of the sisters, Kamalakanniamman, has a
shrine dedicated to her at the base of Rajgiri,
which, on certain days in the year attracts a great
number of worshippers. This hill was originally
known after the goddess as Kamalagiri. Gingee also
had an earlier name known as Krishnapura. This name
was possibly given to it by its first ruling dynasty
that were of shepherd class and whose tutelary deity
was Lord Krishna. However, it is possible that it
might have received the name from its powerful
ruler, Krishnappa Nayak.
The Bijapur Nawabs who held the fort from about
1660-77 A.D. called it Badshabad, while the Marathas
who succeeded them called it Chandry or Chindy. The
Mughals, on their capture of the fort in 1698 A.D.
named it Nasrat Gaddah in honour of Nawab Zulfiquar
Khan Nasrat Jang, the commander-in-chief of the
besieging army. Later, the English and the French
called it Gingee or Jinji. The early Madras records
of the English give the spelling Chingee or Chengey.
Whatever might be the name by which it might have
been known in different epochs, it has retained the
The chief source for the first two hundred years of
the history of the place is the "Complete History of
the Carnatic Kings" among the Mackenzie manuscripts.
One Narayan, who claimed to be a descendant of the
Ananda Kon Clan of Gingee, compiled it, after a
consultation with numerous authorities, both Hindu
and Muhammadan. According to Narayan, Gingee became
a fortified place only about 1200 A.D. Ananda Kon of
the shepherd community, accidentally found a
treasure in one of the cavities of the Western hill
while grazing his sheep. Making himself the head of
a small band of warriors, he defeated the petty
rulers of the neighbouring villages and built a
small fortress on Kamalagiri which he renamed
Anandagiri after himself.
The Kon dynasty ruled Gingee from 1190 to 1330 A.D.
This shepherd race was then superseded by the chief
of a neighbouring place called Kobilingan, who
belonged to the kurumba caste and ascended the
throne of Gingee. He was a feudatory of the powerful
Cholas. This way Gingee came into the hands of
various ruling dynasties of South India starting
from the Cholas.
C K Gariyali IAS