Tirunelveli also known as Nellai and historically as Tinnevelly, is a major city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the administrative headquarters of the Tirunelveli District. It is the sixth-largest municipal corporation in the state after Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Salem. Tirunelveli is located 700 km (430 mi) southwest of the state capital Chennai, 58 km (36 mi) away from Thoothukudi and 73 km (45 mi) from Kanyakumari. The downtown is located on the west bank of the Thamirabarani River; its twin Palayamkottai is on the east bank. Palayamkottai is called as the Oxford of the south India. It is a hub of many schools, colleges and many important government offices.
Tirunelveli is an ancient city, and is more than 2,000 years old. Tirunelveli is believed to be an ancient settlement of great importance. It has been ruled at different times by the Early Pandyas, the Cheras, the Medieval Cholas and Later Cholas, the later Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire and the British. The Polygar War, involving Palaiyakkarars led by Veerapandiya Kattabomman and forces of the British East India Company, was waged on the city's outskirts from 1797 to 1801.
Tirunelveli is administered by a Municipal Corporation. Tirunelveli is well-connected by road and rail with the rest of Tamil Nadu and India. The nearest domestic airport is Thoothukudi Airport. The Nearest International Airports are Madurai International Airport and Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. The nearest Seaport is Thoothukudi Port.
Industries in Tirunelveli include administrative services, agricultural trading, tourism, banking, agricultural machinery, information technology and educational services. The city is an educational hub of southern India, with institutions such as Anna University Regional Campus - Tirunelveli, Tirunelveli Medical College, The Tirunelveli Veterinary College and Research Institution, Tirunelveli Law College, the Government College of Engineering, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University and much more.
Tirunelveli has a number of historical monuments, the Swami Nellaiappar Temple being the most prominent. Tirunelveli is famous for a sweet called, 'Iritu kadai halwa'.
Occupations in Tirunelveli include service-sector activities such as administration, agricultural trading, tourism, banking, agro-machinery, cement manufacturing, information technology and educational services. Service sectors such as tourism have developed, due to a growth in religious tourism. Tirunelveli has beedi and cement factories, tobacco companies, workshops for steel-based products and mills for cotton textiles, spinning and weaving; there are also small-scale industries, such as tanneries and brick kilns. The agricultural areas, hand-woven clothes and household industries contribute to the economic growth of the city. Food-processing industries have developed since the late 1990s; at the district level, it is the foremost industrial segment. Industries involving rice-making, blue-jelly metal manufacturing and power generating are located on the outskirts of the city. The major agricultural produces in the region are paddy and cotton. Beedi production during the 1990s earned an annual revenue of ₹190 billion and a foreign exchange of ₹8 billion across the three districts of Tirunelveli, Tiruchirapalli and Vellore.
Tirunelveli is a major area for wind-power generation. Most wind-power-generation units in Tamil Nadu are located in Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari Districts. In 2005 they contributed 2036.9 MW to the state power-generation capacity. Many private, multinational wind companies are located on the outskirts of the city. In June 2007 the Tata Group signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government to open a titanium dioxide plant, with an estimated value of ₹25 billion, in Tirunelveli District and Thoothukudi District. However, the state government put the project on hold after increasing protests against it.
Tirunelveli has two Special Economic Zones in the outskirts of the city, one located in Gangaikondan in the North along NH 44 and another one located in Nanguneri in South along NH 44. They house some of MNCs such as Atos Syntel, Coca-Cola, Yokohama Rubber Company, Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Novo Carbon Private Limited, Bosch Limited, Alliance Tyre Group, Ramco Cements, India Cements, etc.
Tirunelveli has a population of over 473,637 people.