Coastline of Tamil Nadu

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The Coastline of Tamil Nadu is located on the southeast coast of Indian Peninsula, and forms a part of Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. It is 1,076 km (669 mi) long and is the second-longest coastline in the country after Gujarat.[1] Chennai, the capital of the state and an important commercial and industrial center in the country is located in the northern part of the coast with Kanniyakumari, forming the southern tip where Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea meet. It also shares maritime border with Sri Lanka across the Palk strait in Gulf of Mannar. The coastal corridor consists of 13 districts with 15 major ports and harbors, sandy beaches, lakes and river estuaries.


The coastal stretch extends for 1,076 km (669 mi) from Pazhaverkadu of Thiruvallur district to Ezhudesam of Kanniyakumari district. Kanniyakumari, forms the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent where Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea meet.[2] Pamban Island forms part of Ramanathapuram district separating Gulf of Mannar and Palk strait with the Ram Setu connecting it with Sri Lanka.[3] There are 13 districts that share the coastline namely Thiruvallur, Chennai, Kanchipuram, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari.


Chola conquests during Rajendra Chola I

The coast of Tamil Nadu was a part of ancient silk route and played an important role in spice trade with western empires. Roman and Greek traders frequented the ancient Tamil country securing trade with the seafaring Tamil states of the Pandyan, Chola and Chera dynasties and establishing trading settlements which secured trade with South Asia by the Greco-Roman world since the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty a few decades before the start of the Common Era and remained long after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.[4] Major ports included Uraiyur, Korkai, Poompuhar and Kaveripattinam. The ancient city of Poompuhar was destroyed by the sea around 300 BC.[5][6][7]

During the reign of Raja Raja Chola I and his successors Rajendra Chola I, Virarajendra Chola and Kulothunga Chola I the armies of the Chola Dynasty invaded Sri Lanka, Maldives and some parts of Southeast Asia like Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand[8] of the Sri Vijaya Empire in the 11th century. Raja Raja Chola I launched several naval campaigns that resulted in the capture of Sri Lanka, Maldives and the Malabar Coast.[9] In 1025, Rajendra Chola, the Chola king from Coromandel in South India, launched naval raids on ports of Srivijaya in Southeast Asia and against the Burmese kingdom of Pegu,[10][11] and conquered parts of Srivijaya in Malaysia and Indonesia and the Tambralinga Kingdom in Southern Thailand and occupied it for some time.[12] A second invasion was led by Virarajendra Chola of the Chola dynasty who conquered kedah in Malaysia of Sri Vijaya in the late 11th century.[13][14][15][16]


Container terminal at Chennai port
Seashore in Tiruchendur

Tamil Nadu has major seaports at Chennai, Ennore, Tuticorin and Nagapattinam. There are 11 other minor ports.[17] Chennai Port is an artificial harbor and is India's second busiest container hub.[18]

Because of its shallow waters, Sethusamudram—the sea separating Sri Lanka from India—presents a hindrance to navigation through the Palk Strait. Though trade across the India-Sri Lanka divide has been active since at least the first millennium BCE, it has been limited to small boats and dinghies. Larger oceangoing vessels coming from the West have had to navigate around Sri Lanka to reach India' eastern coast.[19] The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project is a proposed project to create a shipping route in the shallow straits between India and Sri Lanka which would provide a continuously navigable sea route around the Indian Peninsula.[20]

Fishing and aquaculture[edit]

The state has a fishermen population of 1.05 million and the coast consists of 3 major fishing harbors, 3 medium fishing harbors and 363 fish landing centers. The marine fishing output from the state contributes to 10-12 % of the total marine fish production in India and is estimated at 0.72 million tonnes. Aquaculture include shrimp, sea weed, mussel, clam and oyster farming.[21]

There have been several alleged incidents of Sri Lankan Navy personnel firing on Indian fishermen fishing in the Palk Strait, where India and Sri Lanka are only separated by 12 nautical miles.[22] Indian Government protests periodically against Sri Lankan navy for its alleged involvement in attacks on Indian fishermen.[23] The incidents continue to happen and over 530 fishermen have been killed in the last 30 years.[24]

Map of the Indian Ocean region
Countries affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

Weather patterns[edit]

The Bay of Bengal is responsible for the formation of some of the strongest and deadliest tropical cyclones in the world. The basin is abbreviated "BOB" by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the official Regional Specialized Meteorological Center of the basin.The basin is mostly affected by tropical cyclone.

According to official estimates, more than 10,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless when a tsunami triggered by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake near the Indonesian island of Sumatra struck the southern coast of Tamil Nadu on 26 December 2004. The earthquake registered 9.1–9.3 Mw, and was the largest in five decades.[25]

View of marina beach from the lighthouse


There are numerous beaches along the coast. Marina Beach in Chennai[26] covering a distance of 13 km (8.1 mi),[27] is the longest natural urban beach in the country[28] and the world's eleventh-longest.[29]

Flora and fauna[edit]

The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a protected area of India consisting of 21 small islands (islets) and adjacent coral reefs in the Gulf of Mannar. It lies between Thoothukudi and Dhanushkodi. It is the core area of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve which includes a 10 km buffer zone around the park, including the populated coastal area.[30] The park has a high diversity of plants and animals in its marine, intertidal and near shore habitats.[31] About 510 (23%) of the 2,200 fin fish species in Indian waters are found in the Gulf, making it the most highly diverse fish habitat in India.


  1. ^ "Centre for Coastal Zone Management and Coastal Shelter Belt". Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University Chennai. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Cape Comorin". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Detailed map of Rameswaram taluka Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Curtin 1984: 100
  5. ^ Gaur A. S. and Sundaresh, Underwater Exploration off Poompuhar and possible causes of its Submergence, 1998, Puratattva, 28: 84-90. Available online at [1]
  6. ^ Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast, Rao, S.R.. Journal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 5–20. Available online at [2]
  7. ^ ”Indian town sees evidence of ancient tsunami”, Associated Press report, Poompuhar,1/14/2005. Available online at [3]
  8. ^ Between 2 Oceans (2nd Edn): A Military History of Singapore from 1275 to 1971 by Malcolm H. Murfett,John Miksic,Brian Farell,Chiang Ming Shun p.16
  9. ^ South India by Stuart Butler,Jealous p.38
  10. ^ Munoz, Paul Michel (2006). Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet. ISBN 981-4155-67-5. 
  11. ^ Asia: A Concise History by Arthur Cotterell p.190
  12. ^ The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World by Lincoln Paine p.866
  13. ^ History of Asia by B.V. Rao p.211
  14. ^ Singapore in Global History by Derek Thiam Soon Heng,Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied p.40
  15. ^ Aryatarangini, the Saga of the Indo-Aryans, by A. Kalyanaraman p.158
  16. ^ India and Malaya Through the Ages: by S. Durai Raja Singam
  17. ^ "Tamil Nadu - States and Union Territories - Know India: National Portal of India". 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  18. ^ "India's major ports see rise in container volumes". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  19. ^ Francis Jr., Peter (2002). Asia's Maritime Bead Trade: 300 B.C. to the Present. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2332-X. 
  20. ^ Singh, Gyanant (23 February 2013). "Centre will go ahead with Sethusamudram project". India Living Media India Limited. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  21. ^ "Tamil Nadu fisheries department". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  22. ^ Rumley et al. 2009:166
  23. ^ "Indian fisherman killed in Lankan firing". IndiaVoice. 2011-01-13. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  24. ^ "Second TN fisherman killed by Lankan Navy". Times Of India. 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  25. ^ "Magnitude 9.1 earthquake hits Indonesia". U.S. Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 1 September 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  26. ^ "Marina Beach in Chennai, Tamilnadu". 
  27. ^ "Beaches in Tamilnadu". Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation. Retrieved 8 May 2007. 
  28. ^ Marina Beach – One of the popular beaches of India, IndiaTravelTo, archived from the original on 16 September 2011, retrieved 28 September 2011 
  29. ^ EARSeL (2002). Observing our environment from space: new solutions for a new millennium ... A. A. Balakema. ISBN 90-5809-254-2. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  30. ^ UNDP (1994). "Conservation and Sustainable-use of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve's Coastal Biodiversity" (PDF). UNDP, Project Brief, New York. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  31. ^ Shaunak B Modi (2011). "Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park - Tamil Nadu Forest Dept. (GOMNP)". Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust. Retrieved 2007-10-15.