The river Jeevanadhi Kaveri originates from the Bramahagiri Hills in Kodagu, Karnataka. The place where the river originates is known as Tala Kaveri which is at a height of 4400 feet above MSL. After traveling around three hundred eighty five KM the river reaches Tamil Nadu at Hogenakkal near Mettur.
From Hogenakkal upto Bhavani the river runs southwards. The river Bhavani which originates at about 800 feet MSL south west of Otty in Nelgiri hill range amalgamates with Kaveri at the place called Bhavani. From there on the c ourse of the river is eastward and Noyyal and Amaravati rivers also amalgamates with Kaveri. She becomes broader and the flow of the river is so majestic that the sight of it will make one spell bound.
The river swells so broad that it splits into two streams just west of Trichy near Elananur. The northern stream is named Kollidam and the southern stream retains the name Kaveri. The rivers try to rejoin again near Kallanai thus forming an island in between. Thus formed island is where the famous Sri Rangam and Tiruvanaikaval are situated. But these two rivers were not able to amalgamate since Kollidam flows in a lower plain than Kaveri. The rivers are running side by side at this point and hence when ever there were floods, the river Kaveri will breach its northern bank and the excess water will flow through Kollidam. It required an annual routine to rebuild the northern bank of Kaveri for proper irrigation.
The scenario took a change when the king Karikala Chola of great chola dynasty built a dam across this broad and majestic river to control the flow of the river so that water for irrigation is properly managed.
During the reign of Karikala Chola, a plan was conceived to prevent recurrence of this breach of banks of the river. Karikala Chola selected the right spot where the dam should be built and enabling regulation of water flow. This place is today known by the dam itself as ‘Kallanai’. It is still a wonder that the king had constructed a dam just with stones stacked with sand as base and no mortar was used. The technology adopted by Karikala Chola two thousand years ago is amazing and considered to be an astonishing engineering feat even by modern day engineers.
Thus built with unhewn stone by Karikala Chola, the massive 329 m (1,079 ft) long and 20 m (66 ft) wide Kallanai had withstood the test of time, vagaries of nature for nearly two thousand years and is the first man-made dam on the earth. Later during British raj regulators for flow of water in the river Kaveri and Kollidam were designed and executed over the Karikala Chola’s Kallanai itself. The British was so amazed that they called Kallanai as ‘Grand Anicut’.
The man behind this feat is Karikala Chola or Karikala Chozhan (Tamil: கரிகால சோழன்) was the king of Early Chola during the Sangam period. He was the son of Ilamcetcenni and ruled around 270 BC. He was also known by the epithets Karikala Peruvalathaan (கரிகால பெருவளத்தான்) and Thirumavalavan (திருமாவளவன்).
The name Karikala has been held to mean 'the man with the charred leg' and perpetuates the memory of a fire accident in the early years of his life.
The Chola king Ilancetcenni with Urayur as capital through his wife Velir princess from Azhundur had a son. Soon after the birth of the son the king died. Since the prince was too young, he was overlooked for the position of king. There was political turmoil in the kingdom. At one stage the place where the prince was staying was set on fire. But the prince escaped the fire and, with the help of his uncle Irum-pitar-thalaiyan, defeated his enemies to become the king. During this incident the leg of the prince was scorched in the fire and hence he is known as ‘Karikallan’ meaning ‘the man with the charred leg’.
Thanjavur delta was the rice bowl of south and catered to the need of South India, Ceylon and also Burma all of which were under British then. British called this delta land as the Fertile Crescent in their empire, giving three harvests of rice a year. The same is the reason that the British have invested a lot in expanding the river for increasing their revenue. First thing that attracted them was the point from which the Kaveri water flows into this delta area i.e., Kallanai. They took all steps to construct water regulation sluices at this place which will enable them to keep the delta fertile. There were many development and design of sluices in Kallanai across Kollidam river and Kaveri river during British right through 19th and early 20th centaury. Captain Calddell, Sir Arthur Cotton Engineer in charge of Madras province and Mr. W.M.Ellis, CIE, RE were few who had helped building sluices here.
Today the original ‘Kallanai’ immortalised by Karikala Chola is visible only during summer when the river is dry. British had built sluices [நீரொழுங்கி] and bridges [மதகு] over them and today we could see Kallanai along with these structures only. There is a wonderful structure that these British were asked to build on Kallanai, which you may miss if you are not aware. The structure is a temple for Sri Anjaneya Swami. The temple is on the Kollidam River regulator side.
Right on the dike built by Karikallan across Kollidam River, the British wanted to build water regulating gates and bridge. Captain J.L.Calddell was in-charge of the project during that time. The work progressed well but when they took up construction of 19th vent they could not complete the same. They had tried several times to finish but could not. It was a mystery to the officer in charge of the site who had to spend sleepless nights.
The engineer in charge Captain J.L.Calddell one night had a strange dream in which Sri Anjaneya appeared and persuaded him to build a temple for Him at that spot. The British was not prepared to believe this and continued trying rebuilding the 19th vent but in vain. He did not share his dream with anybody, but in a few days a group of monkeys flocked him reminding about Sri Anjaneya. Captain was not moved and remained stubborn. But the next day a mestiri [mason in-charge] reported to the Captain stating that he had a dream in which Sri Anjaneya telling him that a temple should be build at the spot for Him. Captain was taken aback to hear the description given by the mestiri and changed his mind. He then allowed construction of the temple for Sri Anjaneya at the very same spot as directed by Him in the dream.
There is a stone, in one corner of the temple as a record of this fact to with a note “Repaired this colling LHA & Erected the 26s upright stones by Cap. J.L.Calddel AD 1804”. Below this there is a note in Tamil stating that the stone is erected as per the orders of the Government. On the other side of the stone Sri Hanuman’s figure had been engraved [as we see in temple pillars].
It is more than two hundred years that Lord Sri Hanuman is protecting this two thousand years old bridge. It is widely believed that He is the Protector of the two thousand year old Kallanai and the Master who irrigates the Thanjavur delta. Every year before the water is released for cultivation of paddy to the delta, poojas are conducted in this temple. Every season before the water is released for cultivation of first ‘bogam’, the paddy seeds are first offered to the Lord then to the river and then the water for irrigation is released from all sluices. Farmers, Engineers and Ministers used to participate in this pooja ceremony.
Poojas are conducted in all the other three temples around, namely Sri Vinayaka, Sri Kaliamman and Sri Karuppannachami at that time.
Sri Anjaneya had selected this very strange spot to stay. During early January 2008 when I visited the temple, ankle deep water was flowing on the floor of the front hall. I was told that during season when water is released in Kollidam the basement of the temple and the floor of the front hall will not be visible. Water will be flowing upto the brim of the door steps of the temple. A sight which is beyond imagination, the pundit tells it is seen to be believed. It is a unique spot for a temple, but Lord Hanuman had selected this spot for Himself for the reason best known to Him.
The Temple is east facing with a big hall in front. The temple is about ten feet by ten feet. The main garbhagraham constitutes the entire temple. There is a two feet wide open prakaram around the temple with closely placed iron grills around, to prevent any untoward incident like devotee falling into the river etc.
[About the drawing of temple: The drawing of the temple which I had drawn here is from the front of the temple from the hall. The gopuram of the temple had been drawn as I had seen from the steps that lead to temple. I had put them together in this drawing, as the temple would be visible when the front hall is not there.]
Sri Hanuman of this temple is facing north in an ardha shila form. Lord is seen moving towards north. Sri Hanuman is holding ‘sowgandhika’ flower in His left hand which is resting on the hip. Lord’s right hand is seen raised above His shoulder with ‘abhaya mudra’. Lord’s tail is seen raised above His head, with a small bell tied at the end. Lord is wearing three malas in his neck. His kesam is seen tied neatly and tagged. Lords eyes are radiant and glowing mesmerising the devotee and making him spell bound.
The daily poojas are done as per the Madwa tradition.
Come and see the Lord who is protecting the two thousand year old Kallanai for the last two hundred years standing in a unique spot. A Marvel! He is protector of one and all, surrender yourself and see what all He bestows on you.
[Ed : December 2011] Sri Hanumath Jayanti Special
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Our salutations to this Hanuman who always brings subham - everything that is good - for His devotees and eliminates the bad and the evil. He removes even the traces of bad thoughts and deeds from His devotees. i.e He makes them pure in words, thought and deed.