Kallanai Dam

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Kallanai Dam
Grand Anicut, Kallanai (11876067114).jpg
Kallanai Dam with its floodgates open
LocationThanjavur district, Tamil Nadu, India
Construction beganc.150 CE
Built byKarikala cholan of Chola dynasty
Operator(s)Government of Tamil Nadu
Dam and spillways
Type of damBarrage
Impounds River
Height (foundation)5.4 metres (18 ft)
Length329 metres (1,079 ft)
Width (base)20 metres (66 ft)

Kallanai (also known as the Grand Anicut) is an ancient dam. It is built (in running water) across the Kaveri river flowing from Tiruchirapalli District to Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu, India. The dam located in Thanjavur district.[1][2] Located at a distance of 15 km from Tiruchirapalli, 45 km from Tanjavur, the dam was originally constructed during the reign of Chola king Karikalan in c.150 CE.[3][4][5] It is the fourth oldest water diversion or water-regulator structures in the world and the oldest in India that is still in use.[6][7] Because of its spectacular architecture, it is one of the prime tourist spots in Tamil Nadu.


The dam was originally built by King Karikalan of the Chola Dynasty in c. 100  – c. 150 CE. It is located on the river in Thanjavur district, exactly 14 km from the city of Tiruchirappalli and 45 km from the city of Thanjavur. The idea behind the construction of the dam was to divert the river to the delta districts thereby boosting irrigation.[3][4][5] This dam was re-modeled by the British during the 19th century. In 1804, Captain Caldwell, a military engineer, was appointed by the British to make a study on the Kaveri river and promote irrigation for the delta region.[8] He found that a large amount of water passed onto the Kollidam leaving behind a small volume for irrigation purposes.[8] Caldwell initially proposed a solution by raising the dam and hence raised the dam stones to a height of 69 centimetres (27 in), thus increasing the capacity of the dam.[3] Following this, Major Sim proposed the idea of undersluices across the river with outlets leading to the Kollidam River (Coleroon) thus preventing formation of silt.[3] The Lower Anaicut built by Sir Arthur Cotton in the 19th century across Coleroon, the major tributary of Cauvery is said to be a replicated structure of Kallanai.[3]


The Kaveri river splits into two at a point 20 miles (32 km) west of Kallanai. The two rivers form the island of Srirangam before joining at Kallanai. The northern channel is called the Kollidam (Coleroon); the other retains the name Kaveri, and empties into the Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar. On the seaward face of its delta are the seaports of Nagapattinam and Karaikal.[9]


The purpose of the Kallanai was to divert the waters of the Kaveri across the fertile delta region for irrigation via canals and to its northern delta branch Kollidam/Coleroon. Downstream of the barrage, the river Kaveri splits into four streams known as Kollidam Aru, Kaveri, Vennaru and Puthu Aru. However, the flood waters can be allowed, by opening the barrage/anaicut gates, to pass through the other three delta branches also to join the sea.[10] It is constructed from unhewn stone spanning the Kaveri and is 329 m (1,079 ft) long, 20 m (66 ft) wide and 5.4 m (18 ft) high.[11] The dam is still in excellent condition, and supplied a model to later engineers, including Sir Arthur Cotton's 19th-century dam across the Kollidam, the major distributary of the Kaveri.[12] The area irrigated by the ancient irrigation network is about 69,000 acres (28,000 ha). By the early 20th century, the irrigated area had been increased to about one million acres (400,000 ha).[13]

The delta farmers of Tamil Nadu have demanded the Tamil Nadu government to honor Karikala Cholan, who built this dam.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Flowing waters for fertile fields". The Hindu. India. 29 August 2011.
  2. ^ Singh, Vijay P.; Ram Narayan Yadava (2003). Water Resources System Operation: Proceedings of the International Conference on Water and Environment. Allied Publishers. p. 508. ISBN 81-7764-548-X.
  3. ^ a b c d e Syed Muthahar Saqaf (10 March 2013). "A rock solid dam that has survived 2000 years". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Incredible India! A 2,000-year-old functional dam". India Today. 26 August 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Karikalan cholan memorial inaugurated - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  6. ^ Christopher V. Hill (2008). South Asia: An Environmental History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-1-85109-925-2.
  7. ^ "Kallanai Dam || Thanjavur Tourism". www.thanjavurtourism.com. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  8. ^ a b Skempton 2002, p. 114.
  9. ^ Wiebe E. Bijker (19 September 2006). "Dikes and Dams, Thick with Politics". Maastricht University. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  10. ^ "Grand Anicut A00677". WRIS, India. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Places to visit". IIM-Trichy, India. Archived from the original on 19 December 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  12. ^ Govindasamy Agoramoorthy; Sunitha chaudhary; Minna J. HSU. "The Check-Dam Route to Mitigate India's Water Shortages" (PDF). Law library — University of New Mexico. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Fit case for World Heritage status". The Hindu. Trichy, India. 10 September 2007. Archived from the original on 14 September 2007.


Further reading[edit]