Construction of both the palace and fort at Ramnad began in the late seventeenth century under the rule of Raghunatha Setupati (1674-1710). This ambitious project would not have been possible without a sudden increase in the kingdom's prosperity. The fort visibly expressed the king's newly elevated position and protected the people, treasures and palace buildings which now surrounded him. Now that the inner functions of the palace have been considered, the role which Ramnad town played in constructing the identity of the king will be examined. Like other palace towns, Ramnad pinpointed the centre of the kingdom and provided a location for kingly ceremonies such as navaratri.
Previous studies of south Indian town plans have been largely concerned with temple cities. Such research generally considers two criteria: the city's role as an extension of the temple and whether its plan corresponds with textual sources such as vastu shastra. 222 The purpose of this chapter is to look at Ramnad alongside neighbouring palace towns according to the same criteria. In so doing, one can see that just like temple towns, palace towns functioned as ceremonial centres. The two main palace towns neighbouring Ramnad were Madurai and Pudukkottai. These three former kingdoms, which existed within a 100-kilometre radius of each other, all have connected histories: Ramnad kingdom broke away from Madurai Nayaka rule in the early seventeenth century, and Pudukkottai broke away from Ramnad Setupati rule in the late seventeenth century. Construction of Pudukkottai town and palace began soon before 1700, so palaces at all three sites were constructed within less than a hundred years of each other. Although most of Pudukkottai's old palace was demolished in the 1990s, its pre-colonial town plan is still identifiable. The site plans of Madurai, Ramnad and Pudukkottai thus provide a broader planning context for a study of seventeenth-century south Indian palace towns. Comparing and contrasting the planning principles found at Madurai and Pudukkottai with what we find at Ramnad allows us to pinpoint the relevant planning conventions of pre-colonial kingdoms in southern Tamil Nadu. Once these conventions are apparent, their correspondence with vastu shastra can be traced.