Tirunelveli District enjoys the
benefit of the early showers of south west monsoon and of the
later rains of the north-east monsoon. The district is chiefly irrigated
by rivers rising in Western ghats. The dams and anaicuts constructed on
Tamiraparani and Manimuthar rivers serve both agriculture and power
generation. The total fall, though is light,
averaging about 814.8 mm per annum, is generally well distributed. The
Tamiraparani river affords perennial
irrigation to a fairly large area on which two crops are normally
raised. Several tanks and wells form part of the other source of
Tamiraparani is a symbol of Tamil culture and civilization and an identity
of the far south of India. In Tamil and Sanskrit literature of earlier
times, the Pandyas were referred to as the
rulers of the land where the Tamaraparani flowed. Tamiraparani is the
chief river of
the district which has a large network of tributaries which includes the
Peyar, Ullar, Karaiyar, Servalar, Pampar, Manimuthar, Varahanathi,
Ramanathi, Jambunathi, Gadananathi, Kallar, Karunaiyar, Pachaiyar,
Chittar, Gundar,Aintharuviar, Hanumanathi, Karuppanathi and
Aluthakanniar. The two rivers of the district which are
not linked with Tamiraparani are the Nambiar and the Hanumanathi of
Nanguneri taluk. (There are two Hanumanathis in the district).
Tampraparani, Tamraparni, Tamiravaruni, etc., the river is
mentioned as the Porunai nathi in Tamil poetic literature. It
gets recognition and is referred to as the renowned one in Sanskrit
literature references to which are as old as that of the Puranas and Epics.
meaning and origin of the name Tamiraparani is reasoned out differently.
Bishop R. Caldwell, in his book, A History of Tinnevelly
various interpretations of the word ‘Tamiraparani’ at length.
According to him the meaning of the name Tamiraparani in itself is
sufficiently clear, but its application in this connection is far
from being self-evident. Tamara means, red, parani means
a tree which has leaves. Tamiraparani might, therefore mean a tree with
red leaves, but, this is a strange derivation for, the name of a river
and the ideas naturally suggest itself that some events or legends
capable of explaining the name lies beyond. He further discussed the
similarity of the name
Tamiraparani and of the old name of the present
Sri Lanka which was called in olden days as Tambrabane and tried
to find out the political, cultural and anthropological intercourse of
the land of the river with that island. He concludes that it seems more
natural that Tamiraparani, the tree with the red leaves should have been
first the name of a tree, then of a town, then of a district and then of
a river (it being not uncommon in India for villages to adopt their
names from remarkable trees).
scholars interpret the name Tamiraparani as Tamiram (Copper) + Varuni
(stream or river). They ascribe this origin as the bed of the river is of
red soil and when the water flows on the red soil it gives a copper like
appearance. The Greeks of the Ptolemy’s time refer to this river as
Tamiraparani originates from the peak of the Periya Pothigai hills of
the Western Ghats above Papanasam in the Ambasamudram taluk. The great
river like the Cauvery, but unlike most of the other Indian rivers, is
fed by both the monsoons – the south west and the north-eastern and is
seen in full spate twice a year if the monsoons do not fail.
Tirunelveli Sthalapurana associates the origin of the river with sage
Agasthiyar. It states that when Agasthiyar was requested by Lord Siva to
move to the South, Parvathi Devi, the divine consort of Siva filled the
sage’s font meant to hold water for poojas (kamandala) with the water
from the Ganges and on his arrival at Pothigai, he released it and the water
ran as Tamiraparani.
to the bifurcation of the Tirunelveli district, the Tamiraparani was the
only major river in Tamilnadu which had its source and end in the same district. After bifurcation, the river traverses the two
districts of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin before joining the Gulf of Mannar of the Bay of Bengal at
Punnaikayal in Tiruchendur taluk of Thoothukkudi district.
the source to sea, the total length of the river is about 125 km., of
which its course in Tirunelveli district alone is about 75 km.
Originating at an altitude of 1725 m. above MSL at Periya Pothigai hill
ranges and integral hill track of Western Ghats in Ambasamudram taluk,
it passes through the taluks of Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai of
Tirunelveli district and Srivaikundam and Tiruchendur taluks of
Thoothukkudi district. In the Ghats, the chief tributaries of the river
are the Peyar, Ullar, Karaiyar, Servalar and the Pambar. These rivers join
the Tamiraparani and enrich its course before it reaches the plains. The
first tributary which enriches the water of the Tamiraparani in the
plains on the right side is the Manimuthar. Then comes the Gadananathi,
which joins the Tamiraparani at Tiruppudaimaruthur. Before the
Gadananathi’s entry into the Tamiraparani, the Gadananadhi is joined
by the rivers Kallar, Karunaiyar and Veeranathi or Varahanathi which
joins the river Gadananathi about 1.5 km north-east of
Kila Ambur. The river Pachaiyar is another tributary which joins
the Tamiraparani near Tharuvai village in Palayamkottai Taluk. One of
the important and affluent tributaries of the Tamiraparani is the
Chithar or Chitranathi which arises in the Courtalam hills and receives
supply from the rivers Gundar, Hanumanathi and Karuppanathi. The Chithar
empities itself into the Tamiraparani in Sivalapperi Village.
river drains with its tributaries an area of about 4400 sq. km. As most
of its extensive catchments areas lay in the Western ghats, the river
enjoys the full benefit of both the monsoons which make the river
perennial. Since all its tributaries are arising from the Western ghats,
the river is prone to heavy floods especially during the North East
river Pachaiyar rises on the eastern slope of Western ghats about 11 km.
north west of Kalakadu at an altitude of 1000 m. above MSL. It flows
eastward upto Padmaneri village from where it changes its course towards
north east. It is a tributary of Tamiraparani and makes its confluence
with the river in the village Tharuvai. The total length of the river
from its source to its confluence with the Tamiraparani is about 32 km.
The river Pachaiyar has three tributaries which are Kavayan Odai,
Anaikidangu Odai and Uppan Odai. These tributaries join the river
Pachaiyar in the villages Arasppattu, Vadagarai and Padmaneri
river Korayar is a tributary to the Tamiraparani. It originates in
the eastern slopes of Western ghats, flows in the northern direction and
empties into the main river Tamiraparani near Vellanguli village in
Ambasamudram taluk after crossing the Kannadian channel through and
outlet. This river has no direct 'ayacuts' (irrigation area) but
contributes a heavy flood of water to Tamiraparani during rainy season.
Chittar meaning little river or Chitranathi meaning beautiful river is a
nature's invaluable gift to the district as it is the river which causes
a set of splendid cascades in Courtalam and its suburbs, and
international cynosure often compared to the famous Spa falls of Belgium
for its curative value. It is a major tributary of the river
Tamiraparani. The river takes its origin in the eastern slopes of
the Western Ghats in the Courtalam hills, called Tirikoodam in
literature, at an altitude of 1750m. above MSL. From its origin,
the river climbs down for about six km. turns north and flows for about
16 km. before turning towards the east. Its total length is about
80 km. It joins the river Tamiraparani near Sivalapperi village of
river Chittar has its own tributaries. They are, the Aintharuviar
which joins its main river near Gajamajorpuram, the Gundar or Govindar
which joins near Tenkasi town the Hanumanathi which mingles with its
main river near Veerakeralampudur village and the Aluthakanniar which
meets the main river in Kadapagothi village, all in Tenkasi taluk.
The river Chittar makes many patches of, Tenkasi Taluk fertile.
is a major tributary to the Chittar river. Arising in the eastern
slopes of the western Ghats, it flows 10km. towards north east before
joining its main river (Chithar) near Kadapagothi village of Tenkasi
taluk. The eight anaicuts that are built across this river
named as Thalai anaicut, anaicuts II, III, IV, Kandamangalam anaicut and
anaicuts, VI, VII, and VIII.
Aintharuviar is one of the tributaries of the river Chittar. It
takes its origin from the eastern slopes of Eastern ghats and Joins the
Chittar river near Gajamajorpuram village. The river in its course
causes a waterfall, popularly known as Aintharuvi. There are two
anaicuts across the river and they are Aintharuvi anaicut and Ilanji
is a tributary of the Ramanathi. Like all the rivers of the
district, it also originates from the eastern slopes of the Western
ghats. The river confluences with the Ramanathi near Mokkadagam
village. The only anaicut built across this river is
in the eastern slopes of Western ghats at an altitude of 1720m.
above MSL in the north western corner of Ambasamudram taluk, the
Ramanathi flows down the hills for about six km. in the thickly
wooded forest and reaches the plain in Melakadayam village from
where it runs about eight km. and receives its tributary Jambunathi.
The course of the Ramanathi after its merger with the Jambunathi is
known as the Veeranathi or Varahanathi. This river joins the
Gadananathi near the village Kila Ambur. The Ramanathi finally
empties into the river Tamiraparani near Thiruppudaimaruthur.
The Ramanathi, the Jumbunathi and the Gadananathi are both direct
and indirect tributaries of the prime river of the district.
Ramanathi branches off into two, the Ramanathi Vadakal and the
Ramanathi 'thenkal' and rejoins at the juncture of its confluence
with the Jambunathi. The division of the river have totally
eight reservoirs. The northern branch has three anaicuts,
viz., Kallakal anaicut, Suchimadayar anaicut and Savalakaran anaicut.
The Southern branch has five anaicuts (i.e) Mannanai (Sand dam),
Ottai anaicut, Alkolli anaicut, Pottalpudhur anaicut and Adachani
Gadananathi or Karunaiyar, like the other rivers of the district,
has its origin in the eastern slopes of Western ghats at an altitude
of about 1700 m. in Ambasamudram taluk. It is a major
tributary of the Tamiraparani.
river after flowing about 8km., receives the Pampar and on it course,
two other rivulets, Kallar and Iluppaiyar, all these tributaries, join
it at Sivasailam village. After the confluence, the river flows
about 10km. and merges with the Ramanathi in Kila Ambur village.
The following are the anaicuts across the Gadananathi. They are Arasapattu
anaicut, Alwarkurichi Thenkal anaicut, Manjapalli
Kakkavallur anaicut and Kangeyan anaicut.
is a tributary of the Chittar river. It rises at an altitute of
1650m. above Courtalam in Tenkasi taluk, traverses in the slopes about
10km. receives Karuppanathi, its tributary, then it flows and merges
with Chittar near Surandai village. The anaicuts built
across the river, are Mettukal anaicut, Karisalkulam anaicut, Panpoli
anaicut, Vallalkulam anaicut,
Elathoor anaicut, Nainaragavan anaicut, Pungamkal anaicut and Kambli
adjacent to the Hanumanathi to the north of it at the same altitude,
it constitutes the major tributary of the river Hanumanathi.
The Karuppanathi flows in the slopes for about 9km. reaches the
plains in the village Visavankulam where Vembunathi, contributes its waters to the Karuppanathi as a tributary.
Then it runs for 18km. and joins the Hanumanathi below Urmelalagian
anaicut built across the river Karuppanathi. From its source
to its merger with the Hanumanathi, there are six anaicuts
constructed over the river. They are Thalai anaicut, Pappalkal
anaicut, Srivalankal anaicut, Open Head-Klangad Vadakkukal anaicut
and lastly Urmelalagian anaicut.
river Gundar originates at Mundankoil mottai above Courtalam.
Mottaiyar and few streams contribute to its water and it flows
in Sengottai and Tenkasi taluks for 20 km. and combines with the
Hariharanathi. The combined river runs for about 8 km. and joins
its main river the Chithar. Three masonry and three temporary
anaicuts have been raised across the river. They are Nelloorkal
anaicut, Thottachi anaicut and Piranoor anaicut and Maravankal,
Sambodaikal and Varahamadankal respectively.
is a tributary of the Gundar. An anaicut called
Mottai anaicut has been built across the river.
river Manimuthar is a major tributary of the Tamiraparani. It
arises from the dense forest a top Senkutheri in Ambasamudram taluk at
the height of about 1300 m. from MSL. The tributaries of the
Manimuthar are the Keezha Manimuthar (lower or eastern Manimuthar) and
the Varattar. The river runs from its source for a distance of 9
km. and confluences with the Tamiraparani near Kallidaikurichi. In
its 9km. course, it makes minor cataracts. The river contributes a
lot, as tributary, to enhance the water level of Tamiraparani as it is
always in full spate and perennial. In the year 1957,
Manimuthar anaicut was built across the river just three km. above its
confluence with Tamiraparani.
Nambiyar river is the water source to the Nanguneri taluk. It
takes its origin in the western slopes of the Western ghats - 8 km. west
of Thirukurungudi village at an altitude of 1500 m. above MSL. It
runs eastwards and turns south east and confluences in the Gulf of
Mannar at Tiruvambalapuram village. It's
course of 45km. is restricted entirely to Nanguneri taluk. The
river has two tributaries, the Parattaiyar and the Thamaraiyar.
The first tributary is a stream from Mahendragiri hills and the second
tributary originates from the combination of two hill streams, Mombaiyar and
Kodumudiyar. These tributaries join Nambiyar at the foot of the Mahendragiri hills. The river
has nine anaicuts, Mailaimani anaicut, Dhalavaipuram anaicut,
Rajakkamangalam anaicut, Mylapuram anaicut,Kannanthur anaicut,Vijayan
anaicut,Kovankulam anaicut,Thittikulam anaicut, and Pulimangulam anaicut.
surplus waters of Vijayanarayanam tank in Nanguneri taluk together
with the local
drains flow as Karunaiyar or
This river runs for a distance of 30 km. and meets the sea near
Manappadu in Tiruchendur Taluk of Thoothukkudi district.
rivulets, Virisidai-idiyaru and Kadaiyaru in the eastern slopes of the
Western ghats above Sankarankoil taluk, combine and flow as
Vadamalaiyaru which runs in the taluk and empties into the big
tank of Malaiyadikurichi.
river also originates at an altitude of 1700 m. above M.S.L. in the
Western ghats above Sankarankoil taluk. It merges with the small
tank of Durgapuram.
from the above rivers, there are some more rivers also orginates in this
district Kothaiyaru, Rajasingiyaru and Mundhal
Tamirabarani River System
important Irrigation Channels branching off from both the banks of the
river Tamiraparani are, South Kodaimelalagian channel, North Kodaimelalagian
channel (Kodaimelalagian anaicut), Nathiyunni channel (Nathiyunni
anaicut), Kannadian channel (Kannadian anaicut), Kodagan channel (Ariyanayagipuram
anaicut), Palayam (Palavur anaicut) channel, Tirunelveli channel (Suthamalli
anaicut), Marudur Melakkal, Marudur Keelakkal (Marudur anaicut), South Main Channel and North Main
Channel (Srivaikundam anaicut). Of these the first seven anaicuts were
constructed during the period of ancient and medieval rulers and the
last anaicut namely the Srivaikundam anaicut was constructed and
completed by the British in 1869.