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Thamirabarani River flowing across Tirunelveli
|- left||Karaiyar, Servalar, Gadananathi, Chittar River|
|- right||Manimutharu, Pachaiyar|
|- location||Gulf of Mannar|
|Length||125 km (78 mi)|
The Thamirabarani River (also spelt Tamaraparani, Tamiraparani, or Thamiravaruni) originates from the famous Agastyarkoodam peak in the hills of the Western Ghats above Papanasam in the Ambasamudram taluk and flows through Tirunelveli & Tuticorin districts of the Tamil Nadu state of southern India. It was called the Tamraparni River in olden days and it is also associated with Sri Lanka. The old Tamil name of the river is Porunai. From the source to sea, the total length of the river is about 125 km.
The Thamirabarani contains traces of copper, hence its name (Thamiram means copper in Tamil). The copper content gives it a distinct reddish shade. The river has also been historically known as Porunai. Thamaraparani in Tamil is Than Marantha Para Nir means the river which spreads forgetting itself.
The meaning and origin of the name Tamiraparani is reasoned out differently. Bishop R. Caldwell, in his book A History of Tinnevelly, discussed the interpretations of the word ‘Tamiraparani’ at length. According to him the meaning of the name in itself is sufficiently clear, but its application in this connection is far from self-evident. Tamara means red, parani means parana: a tree that has leaves. Tamiraparani might, therefore, mean a tree with red leaves. But this is a strange derivation for the name of a river. Ideas naturally suggest that some events or legends capable of explaining the name lies beyond. He further discussed the similarity of the name Tamiraparani and of the old name of the Sri Lanka — which was called in olden days as Tambrabane — and tried to find out the political, cultural and anthropological intercourse of the land of the river with that island. He concludes that it seems more natural that Tamiraparani, the tree with the red leaves should have been first the name of a tree, then of a town, then of a district and then of a river (it being not uncommon in India for villages to adopt their names from remarkable trees).
Some scholars interpret the name Tamiraparani as Tamiram (copper) and Varuni (stream or river). They ascribe this origin as the bed of the river is of red soil; when the water flows on the red soil it gives a copper-like appearance. The Greeks of the Ptolemy’s time refer to this river as Solen.
Spelt as Tampraparani, Tamraparni, Tamiravaruni, etc., the river is mentioned as the Porunai nathi in Tamil poetic literature. It gets recognition and is referred to as the renowned one in Sanskrit literature references to which are as old as that of the Puranas and Epics. The river is mentioned in existing ancient Sangam and Tamil texts. There is an ancient script written as Thamirabarani mahathmiyam.
In Mahabharatha (3:88) the river is mentioned as "Listen, O son of Kunti, I shall now describe Tamraparni. In that asylum the gods had undergone penances impelled by the desire of obtaining salvation".
The Tamiraparani River originates from the peak of the Pothigai hills on the eastern slopes of Western Ghats at an elevation of 1,725 metres above sea-level. The river is joined by its headwater tributaries Peyar, Ullar, Pambar before it flows into the Kariyar Dam reservoir, where it meets Kariyar. The river forms the Vaanatheertham waterfalls (40m high) as it enters the Kariyar reservoir. Servalar joins Thamirabarani before it enters into the Papanasam lower reservoir, which was built for the Papanasam Hydroelectric station. The river descends down the mountains near Papanasam, where it forms the Kalyanatheertham falls and Agasthiar falls.
Course and tributaries 
The river flows on the plains eastwards from Papanasam. The first tributary to join Thamiraparani in the plains is the Manimuthar River, which originating from Manjolai hills and joins Thamiraparani near Aladiyoor village. The towns Ambasamudram and Kallidaikurichi are located respectively on the left and right banks of Thamiraparani, after which the river meets the tributary Gadananathi at Tiruppudaimaruthur. Before the Gadananathi's entry into the Tamiraparani, the Gadananadhi is joined by the rivers Kallar, Karunaiyar and Veeranathi or Varahanathi which joins the river Gadananathi about 1.5 km north-east of Kila Ambur. The Gadananathi is fed by the Jambunadhi and Ramanadhi Rivers. The Pachaiyar river which originates from the Kalakkadu reserve forests at about 1,300 m above sea level joins the Tamiraparani near Tharuvai village in Palayamkottai Taluk. The river bisects the twin cities Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai before meeting its major and affluent tributary Chithar (Chitranathi) which arises in the Kutralam hills and receives supply from the rivers Gundar, Hanumanathi and Karuppanathi. The Chittar river runs almost parallel to Thamirabarani till it joins the main river near Sivalaperi. Thamiraparani passes through the taluks of Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai of Tirunelveli district and Srivaikundam and Tiruchendur taluks of Thoothukkudi district.
- List of Major tributaries of Thamirabarani
|Tributaries||Length of Tributary||Origin||Joins at||Length of course of Thamirabarani|
|Karaiyar||Mundanthurai reserve forests||Karaiyar Dam||6 km|
|Servalar River||Mundanthurai reserve forests||Papanasam Reservoir||22 km|
|Manimuthar River||9 km||Manjolai hills||Aladiyoor||36 km|
|Gadananathi||Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve||Tiruppudaimaruthur||43 km|
|Pachaiyar River||32 km||Kalakkadu reserve forests||Tharuvai||61 km|
|Chittar River||80 km||Kutralam Hills||Sivalaperi||73 km|
The river grains into Gulf of Mannar near Punnaikayal in Tiruchendur taluk of Tuticorin district. The river drains with its tributaries an area of about 4400 km2. As most of its extensive catchments areas lay in the Western ghats, the river enjoys the full benefit of both the monsoons which make the river perennial. Since all its tributaries are arising from the Western ghats, the river is prone to heavy floods especially during the northeast monsoon. In the year 1992, there was an unexpected flood in Thamirabarani, which claimed hundreds of lives.
Prior to the bifurcation of the Tirunelveli district, the Tamiraparani was the only major river in Tamil Nadu which had its source and drain in the same district. After bifurcation, the river traverses the two districts of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin.
The many anicuts, dams and reservoirs on the Thamirabarani river, along with those on the Manimuthar River, provide a large proportion of the water for irrigation and power generation for Tirunelveli District. It is fed by both the monsoons – the south west and the north-eastern and is seen in full spate twice a year if the monsoons do not fail. The Gadananadhi has 6 anicuts and a reservoir of 9,970,000 m³, and irrigates 38.87 km² of wetlands. The Ramanadhi has 7 anicuts, a reservoir of 4,300,000 m³, and irrigates 20.23 km² of wetlands. Pachaiyar River has 12 anicuts and irrigates 61.51 km² of wet and dry lands.
The important irrigation channels branching off from both the banks of the river Tamiraparani are, South Kodaimelalagian channel, North Kodaimelalagian channel (Kodaimelalagian anaicut), Nathiyunni channel (Nathiyunni anaicut), Kannadian channel (Kannadian anaicut), Kodagan channel (Ariyanayagipuram anaicut), Palayam (Palavur anaicut) channel, Tirunelveli channel (Suthamalli anaicut), Marudur Melakkal, Marudur Keelakkal (Marudur anaicut), South Main Channel and North Main Channel (Srivaikundam anaicut). Of these the first seven anaicuts were constructed during the period of ancient and medieval rulers and the last anaicut namely the Srivaikundam anaicut was constructed and completed by the British in 1869.
List of dams across Thamirabarani river:
- Kodaimelaalagain anaicut 1281.67Hectares
- Nathiyunni anaicut 1049.37 Hectares
- Kannadian anaicut 2266.69 Hectares
- Ariyanayagipuram anaicut 4767.30Hectares
- Palavur anaicut 3557.26Hectares
- Suthamalli anaicut 2559.69Hectares
- Marudur anaicut 7175.64Hectares
List of channels:
- South Kodaimelalagain channel
- North Kodaimelalagain channel
- Nathiyunni channel
- Kannadian channel
- Kodagan channel
- Palayam channel
- Tirunelveli channel
- Marudur Melakkal
- Marudur Keelakal
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- Mahabharata Online.
- "Ambasamudram - Tourism". ambasamudram.net. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Ambasamudram - Rivers". ambasamudram.net. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Rivers of Tamil Nadu". discovertamilnadu.net. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Tirunelveli - Places". Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation. Govt. of Tamil Nadu. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Tirunelveli District Irrigation". Tirunelveli District Administration. Govt. of Tamil Nadu. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
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