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One of the ancient cities in Tamil Nadu, Karur was ruled by the Cheras, Cholas, the Naickers, and the British successively. There is proof that Karur may have been the centre for old jewellery-making and gem setting (with the gold imported mainly from Rome), as seen from various excavations. According to the Hindu mythology, Brahma began the work of creation here, which is referred to as the "place of the sacred cow."
Karur has a very long history and has been sung by various sangam poets. In history, it has been the battleground of various Tamil Kings like Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallavas because of strategic location. The district has a very rich and varied cultural heritage.
Karuvoor Thevar born in Karur is one among the nine devotees who sung the divine Music Thiruvichaippa, which is the ninth Thirumurai. He is the single largest composer among the nine authors of Thiruvichaippa. He lived during the reign of the great Raja Raja Chola-I. In addition to the famous Siva temple, there is a Vishnu temple at Thiruvithuvakkodu, a suburb of Karur, sung by famous Kulasekara Alwar [7-8th century AD] who was the ruler of Kongu nadu. The same temple is presumably mentioned in epic Silappadikaram as Adaha maadam Ranganathar whose blessings Cheran Senguttuvan sought before his north Indian expedition.
Karur is one of the oldest towns in Tamil Nadu and has played a very significant role in the history and culture of the Tamils. Its history dates back over 2000 years, and has been a flourishing trading centre even in the early Sangam days. Epigraphical, numismatic, archaeological and literary evidences have proved beyond doubt that Karur was the capital of early Chera kings of Sangam age. It was called Karuvoor or Vanji during Sangam days. There has been a plethora of rare findings during the archaeological excavations undertaken in Karur. These include mat-designed pottery, bricks, mud-toys, Roman coins, Chera Coins, Pallava Coins, Roman Amphorae, Rasset coated ware, rare rings etc. Karur was built on the banks of river Amaravathi which was called Aanporunai during the Sangam days. The names of the early Chera kings who ruled from Karur, have been found in the rock inscriptions in Aru Nattar Malai close to Karur. The Tamil epic Silapathikaram mentions that the famous Chera King Cheran Senguttuvan ruled from Karur. In 150 Greek scholars Ptolemy mentioned “Korevora” (Karur) as a very famous inland trading centre in Tamil Nadu. After the early Cheras, Karur was conquered and ruled by Pandyas followed by Pallavas and later Cholas. Karur was under the rule of Cholas for a long time. Later the Naickers followed by Tipu Sultan also ruled Karur. The British added Karur to their possessions after destroying the Karur Fort during their war against Tipu Sultan in 1783. There is a memorial at Rayanur near Karur for the warriors who lost their lives in the fight against the British in the Anglo-Mysore wars. Thereafter Karur became part of British India and was first part of Coimbatore District and later Tiruchirappalli District.
Karur is also a part of Kongunadu. The history of Kongunadu dates back to the 8th century. The name Kongunadu originated from the term "Kongu", meaning nectar or honey. Kongu came to be called as Kongunadu with the growth of civilization. The ancient Kongunadu country was made up of various districts and taluks which are currently known as Palani, Dharapuram, Karur, Nammakkal, Thiruchengodu, Erode, Salem, Dharmapuri, Satyamangalam, Nilgiris, Avinashi, Coimbatore, Pollachi and Udumalpet. Kongunadu was blessed with enormous wealth, a pleasant climate and distinct features. Kongunadu was ruled over by the Chera, Chola, Pandya, Hoysala, Muslim rulers and finally the British.