Despite all the latest technologies and modernizations building a dam is still a momentous task. With only determination and hard work at his disposal, the 2000-year old Kallanai Dam built by the Chola King Karikalan is an epitome and the greatest tribute to ancient engineering, craft and labor. Kallanai is erected across the River Kaveri and is located 15 kms from the city of Tiruchirapalli. The dam is one of the oldest water controlling structures built and is in excellent condition since its inception.
The dam was built around 2nd Century B.C by Karikala Chola with an idea to distribute water from Kaveri to adjoining areas for irrigational purposes using canals. Kallanai branches Kaveri into 4 distributaries namely Kaveri (the main branch), Kollidam, Vennaru and Puthu Aru. The Grand Anicut is 1079 feet (329 m) long, 66 feet (20 m) wide and 18 feet (5.4 m) thick. During the 19th Century, the dam was raised 0.69 m above its initial height increasing its holding capacity.
Kallanai is considered a role model and yardstick for further dam constructions where uncut stones were utilized for the dam’s construction. In fact, Kallanai inspired Famous British General and Engineer, Sir Authur Thomas Cotton in building The Upper Anaicut (மேலணை in Tamil) across the Kollidam during the 19th century. Originally, Kallanai’s irrigation network spawned 69,000 acres which increased to One Million acres during the British Rule.
Similar to Upper Anaicut, Kollidam has another dam across it called The Lower Anaicut (கீழணை in Tamil) situated 70 kms below the Upper Anaicut where Kollidam further branches into Manniar and Uppanai. The Upper and Lower Anaicut are considered sister ones of Kallanai. Geographically, Kallanai is sandwiched between Upper and Lower Anaicut. All the three dams constitute major irrigation systems around the Kaveri Delta Basin and are major tourist attractions.
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