The Grand Kallanai Dam of Trichy

Built around an amazing 2000 years ago, the Kallanai dam is a sight to behold; it is majestically built across the Cauvery river, about 19km away from Trichy in the Tamil Nadu state of India. This ancient dam was built by the great Chola king Karikala who had the foresight to know the gains to be gotten through building a water regulator over the Cauvery river. It is the fourth oldest water-diversion or water-regulator structure in the world that is still in functional order.

Over the past two millennia, the dam’s solid foundation and structure have withstood the passage of time and are in excellent condition. Due to its amazing engineering, this dam is a modern day inspiration to many a dam builder. Its beautiful architecture as well as its history attracts thousands of tourists every year. It’s easy to get there as Trichy is well connected by road, rail as well as by air. The nearest railway station from the dam is the Lalgudi station which is just about 4km away while the Trichy International airport is 13km away. Book into any of the majestic hotels in the city and enjoy a heritage holiday with the beautiful temples and other historical monuments in and around Trichy, aside from this ancient dam.

The purpose of the Kallani, also known as the Grand Anicut, was to divert the Cauvery waters across the fertile delta region for farming purposes; the dam splits the running water of the river into 4 streams known as the Kollidam Aru, Kaviri, Vennaru and Puthu Aru. The dam is made up of unhewn stones spanning the entire grand width of the river that is 1,079 feet; its 66 feet wide and 18 feet high. The mind boggles to think how they managed to build such a wide dam with no specialized equipment or implements! In the 19nth century, British engineer Sir Arthur Cotton built a similar dam across the Cauvery’s major tributary, the Coleroon, using the Kallanai as a model. It came to be known as the Lower Anicut and was also used for irrigation purposes. Earlier only about 69,000 acres could be irrigated but with the building of the second water regulator, a total of a million acres are being irrigated now. The farmers based in the Delta are currently demanding that the Tamil Nadu government honor the Chola king Karikalan who had built the Kallanai that is sustaining their farms till date.

The Public Works Department has recently taken up controlled renovation and maintenance of the Grand Anicut worth Rs. 21 crore and this has drawn the country’s attention to this ancient structure with many demanding it be made into a heritage site.