Where there is water, there is life. Tirunelveli is blessed with life from South India’s famous river, the Thamirabarani River. It lies on the river’s western bank, and it is networked and nourished by its many tributaries. The river has a length of 125 km, of which 75 km traverses the district. Dams have been constructed along the course of the river for agricultural and power generation purposes. Some of the dams listed in order of size include; Marudur Dam, Ariyanayagipuram Dam, Palavur Dam, Suthamalli Dam, Kannadian Dam, Kodaimelaalagain Dam, Nathiyunni Dam and many others. The district enjoys early showers from the Southwest Monsoon Winds and heavy rains from the Northeast Trade Winds. It has an average annual rainfall of 814.8 mm. Two other rivers that flow through Tirunelveli are the Hanumanathi River of Nanguneri Taluk and Nambiar River. All the rivers in Tirunelveli originate from the hills of the Western Ghats in the Ambasamudram Taluk.
Origin and Meaning of Name
Thamirabarani literally means “A tree with red leaves”. The first part of the name, “Tamara”, means red, and the second part, “Parani”, means Parana (a tree with leaves). Thamirabarani could probably have been the name of a tree, according to Bishop R. Caldwell in his book, “A History of Tirunelveli”. He suggested in the book that there are far deeper legends/events regarding the origin of the river’s name. Other scholars refer to it as the Copper Stream/River (Tamiram Varuni) because of the red soil covering its bed, and the copper-like appearance it gives to it. The Greeks of Ptolemy’s time referred to it as “Solen”.
Source of River
The river originates from the peak of Periya Pothigai Hills of the Western Ghats. It flows from there and ends up in the Gulf of Mannar in Tiruchendur of Thoothukkudi district. The Sthalapuranas of Tirunelveli however believe that the river has a mystical origin, associating it with sage Agasthiyar and the divine consort of Lord Siva, Parvathi Devi. Until Tirunelveli was divided into two, Thamirabarani was the only major river in Tamil Nadu State having its source and endpoint in the same district. The river now flows through Tirunelveli and Tuticorin ending up in the Gulf of Mannar.
The Thamirabarani River is fed by many small rivers and streams along its course. Together with its tributaries, the river drains an area of about 4400 km2. The river sometimes floods heavily since its tributaries arise from the Western Ghats (its extensive catchment area), and are fed by rains from both the Southwest and Northeast Trade Winds. Some of the tributaries of the river are: the Pachaiyar River, the little/beautiful Chittar River, the Korayar River (with no direct irrigation area “Ayacuts”), the Ramanathi River, the Gadananathi River, the Nambiyar River and many others. Some of the tributaries cause beautiful waterfalls along their course.
A visit to Tirunelveli offers more to tourists than its ancient temples and cultural heritage. The Thamirabarani River, its tributaries, dams and reservoirs are worthy sites to also visit.
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