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The name "Marthandam" is derived from the Malayalam word "mardha", meaning 'to die'. It was so named because of a local legend that an elephant belonging to the king died here. The place where it fell came to be known as Mardham and later became Marthandam. According to another version, there was once a fierce battle between two kings at Kottar (near Nagercoil). One of them had his elephant killed in this battle and he wanted its dead body for performing last rites. He sent his army ahead with orders not to stop until they reached their destination but on reaching Marthanadom, they found that the enemy king had already fled leaving behind only one man who told them about what happened during war time which made him sadder than death itself; hence this place came by its present name -MArthanAdom or MARThANADOM-meaning 'death' in Tamil language .