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The Kaveri river seen near Mysore, Karnataka
|- left||Hemavati, Shimsha, Arkavathy|
|- right||Kabini, Bhavani, Noyyal, Amaravati|
|Cities||Kushalnagar, Mysuru northern suburbs, Srirangapatna, Mettur, Erode, Karur, Tiruchirapalli, Thiruvaiyaru-Thanjavur District, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuthurai, Poompuhar|
|Source||Talakaveri, Kodagu, Western Ghats|
|- location||Karnataka, India|
|- elevation||1,276 m (4,186 ft)|
|- location||Bay of Bengal, India|
|- elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|Length||765 km (475 mi)|
|Basin||81,155 km2 (31,334 sq mi)|
|- average||677 m3/s (23,908 cu ft/s) |
|Discharge elsewhere (average)|
|- Grand Anicut (South)||235.7 m3/s (8,324 cu ft/s) |
The Kaveri (or Cauvery in English) is a large Indian river. The origin of the river is at Talakaveri, Kodagu in Karnataka, flows generally south and east through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and across the southern Deccan plateau through the southeastern lowlands, emptying into the Bay of Bengal through two principal mouths in Poompuhar, Tamilnadu.
The Kaveri basin is estimated to be 81,155 square kilometres (31,334 sq mi) with many tributaries including the Shimsha, the Hemavati, the Arkavati, Honnuhole, Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabini, Bhavani River, the Lokapavani, the Noyyal and the Amaravati River. The river's basin covers four states and Union Territories, as follows: Tamil Nadu, 43,856 square kilometres (16,933 sq mi); Karnataka, 34,273 square kilometres (13,233 sq mi); Kerala, 2,866 square kilometres (1,107 sq mi), and Puducherry, 160 square kilometres (62 sq mi). Rising in southwestern Karnataka, it flows southeast some 800 kilometres (500 mi) to enter the Bay of Bengal. East of Mysore it forms the island of Shivanasamudra, on either side of which are the scenic Shivanasamudra Falls that descend about 100 metres (330 ft). The river is the source for an extensive irrigation system and for hydroelectric power. The river has supported irrigated agriculture for centuries and served as the lifeblood of the ancient kingdoms and modern cities of South India.
After the river leaves the Kodagu hills and flows onto the Deccan plateau, it forms two islands, Srirangapatna and Shivanasamudra. First comes the Srirangapatna which forms the sangam and then comes Shivanasamudra. At Shivanasamudra the river drops 98 metres (320 ft), forming the famous Shivanasamudra Falls known separately as Gagana Chukki and Bhara Chukki. Asia's first hydroelectric plant (built in 1902) was on the left falls and supplied power to the city of Bangalore.
In its course through Karnataka, the channel is interrupted by 12 "anekattu" (dams) for the purpose of irrigation. From the Anekattu at Madadkatte, an artificial channel is diverted at a distance of 116 kilometres (72 mi), irrigating an area of 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres), and ultimately bringing its water supply to the town of Mandya.
Three kilometers away from Srirangapatna, the Kaveri is the basis for the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary. Near Srirangapatna is also an aqueduct, the Bangara Doddi Nala, which was constructed in the 17th century by the Wodeyar maharaja of Mysore, Ranadhira Kantirava, in memory of his favorite consort. It is said to be the only aqueduct where the water from a river, dammed upstream, is carried by the aqueduct over the very same river few miles downstream. This aqueduct also served as a motorable bridge until 1964.
The river enters Tamil Nadu through Dharmapuri district leading to the flat plains where it meanders. It drops into the Hogenakkal Falls just before it arrives in the town of Hogenakkal in Tamil Nadu. The three minor tributaries, Palar, Chennar and Thoppar enter into the Kaveri on her course, above Stanley Reservoir in Mettur, where the dam has been constructed. It then flows further through the length of Erode district where the river Bhavani, running through the breadth of the district, merges with it. The confluence of the rivers Kaveri, Bhavani and Akash Ganga (mythological) is at the exact place of Bhavani, Tamil Nadu Kooduthurai or Tiriveni Sangamam, Northern part of Erode City.
While passing through Erode, two more tributaries merge. Thirumani Mutharu joins it in a village called Kududurai in Namakkal District. Noyyal and Amaravathi join it in Karur district before it reaches Tiruchirapalli district. Here the river becomes wide, with a sandy bed, and flows in an eastern direction until it splits into two at upper Anicut about 14 kilometres (9 mi) west of Tiruchirappalli. The northern branch of the river is called the Kollidam while the southern branch retains the name Kaveri and then goes directly eastwards into Thanjavur District. These two rivers join again and form the Srirangam island that is a part of the city of Tiruchirapalli. The fourth oldest functional damGrand Anicut or Kallanai was present at this place. From Thanjavur, the river splits and goes to few places in the Delta kaveri.
The Chola king Karikalan has been immortalised as he constructed the bank for the Kaveri all the way from Puhar (Kaveripoompattinam) to Srirangam. It was built as far back as 1,800 years ago or even more. On both sides of the river are found walls spreading to a distance of 330 metres (1,080 ft). The Kallanai dam constructed by him on the border between Tiruchirappalli and Thanjavur, made with earth and stone, survived for hundreds of years.
In the 19th century, it was renovated on a bigger scale. The name of the historical dam has since been changed to “Grand Anicut” and stands as the head of a great irrigation system in the Thanjavur district. From this point, the Kollidam River runs north-east and discharges into the sea at Pazhaiyar, a little south of Chidambaram. From river Kollidam, Manniar and Uppanai branch off at lower Anicut and irrigates a portion of Mayiladuthurai taluk and Sirkazhi taluk in Nagapatnam District. After Grand Anicut, the Kaveri divides into numerous branches and covers the whole of the delta with a vast network of irrigation channels in Nagapatnam and Tiruvarur districts and gets lost in the wide expanse of paddy fields. The Kaveri here is reduced to an insignificant channel and enters the Bay of Bengal at the historical place of Poompuhar about 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of Tharangampadi.
The primary uses of Kaveri is providing water for irrigation, water for household consumption and the generation of electricity.
The water for the Kaveri is primarily supplied by monsoon rains. Dams, such as the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam and Mettur Dam, and those on its tributaries such as Banasura Sagar Dam project on a Kabini tributary, store water from monsoon periods and release the water during the dry months. Even so, during the months of February–May, water levels are often quite low, and some channels and distributaries riverbeds may become dry. Flow generally begins to increase in June or July. However, in some years when rains are light, the low river level can lead to agricultural distress in areas dependent upon the Kaveri for irrigation.
The hydroelectric plant built on the left of Sivanasamudra Falls on the Kaveri in 1902 was the first hydroelectric plant in Asia.
Significance in Hinduism
There are several legends about how the river Kaveri came into being. Chapters 11–14 of the Skanda purana (also known as the Kaveri purana) relate many of them. According to the most well known version, when the great ocean was churned by the devas and the asuras in order to obtain amrita, the elixir of life, Lord Vishnu turned into Mohini, a non-pareil of infinite charm and appeal, to distract the asuras and restore the elixir to the devas. Goddess lakshmi also sent along Lopamudre, an apsara to assist Mohini. After the elixir was successfully restored to the devas Lopamudre was brought up by Brahma as his daughter.
After some time Kavera, a sage of renown, came to the Brahmagiri to meditate. Kavera was lonely and prayed to Lord Brahma that he might bless him with a child. Brahma was pleased by his devotion and gave him Lopamudre for a daughter. Lopamudre was renamed Kaveri after the sage.
Kaveri was very keen that her father should have every happiness and prosperity in life and a blessed land full of good and happy people. So she went to the Brahmagiri too and prayed to Lord Brahma that she might turn into a river and flow through the country, pouring her blessings on the people and turning the land green and fertile. She also prayed that her waters might be so holy that all those who took a dip in it might be absolved of all their sins. Brahma granted her both the boons readily and Kaveri was really happy.
But something else was to happen to her first. Sage Agastya happened to see Kaveri when she was deep in meditation on the Brahmagiri. He fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. Although her heart was set on turning into a river of blessings, Kaveri could not refuse Agastya. But she made him promise that if ever he left her alone too long, she would have the right to forsake him and go her way. Agastya promised and kept his word faithfully for some time. But one day he got busy in a theological discussion with his disciples and lost track of time. Kaveri waited patiently for a while but after some hours had passed she jumped into agastya’s special holy tank and flowed from it like a river. As soon as the disciples of agastya saw what had happened they tried to stop her from flowing away. But Kaveri promptly went underground and appeared again at Bhaganda Kshetra and flowed on toward Valambari and finally into the Bay of Bengal. And it has been worshipped as a sacred river – throughout its course – ever since.
There is yet another interesting belief according to which the river Ganges also joins Kaveri underground once a year, during the Tulamasa, in order to wash herself free of the pollution caused by the crowds of sinners who bathe in her waters all the year round. Kaveri is considered to be as sacred as the Ganges throughout its course, with the same power to wash off all one’s sins. But Bhagamandala, where the three rivers meet, is considered to be the most sacred spot of all. There are temples all along its banks visited by thousands of pilgrims. Kaveri is joined by several rivers, the most important ones being Kummahole, Hemavathi, Lakshmanatirtha, Shimsha etc., it flows into the Bay of Bengal in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu.
During the month of Tula, devotees take holy dip (tula snana) in the Cauvery in the pilgrim centers in its banks across the two states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, most prominent of them being Bhagamandala in Karnataka and Mayavaram in Tamil Nadu. The cult of the river Goddess began in Kodagu and was centered in Bhaganda Kshetra (Bhagamandala).
The three major river islands at Kaveri have a strong Vaishnava heritage, with sculptures of Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture on the legendary seven-headed serpent (Sesha) as his celestial bed (Sheshashayana). These three temples are known as Adi Ranga, Madhya Ranga, and Antya Ranga.
Prominent towns, religious sites
- Srirangapatna - Adi Ranga
- Krishna Raja Sagara Dam
- Shivanasamudra - Madhya Ranga
- Tirumakudalu Narasipura
- Muthathi - Malavalli, Karnataka
- Kanakapura - Karnataka
- Bhavani – Thirunana
- Tiruchirappalli - Srirangam - Anthya Ranga
Veneration as a goddess
The legend of Kaveri has its origins in Puranas. Kaveri is directly linked with three puranic icons i.e. Agasthya, King Kavera and Lopamudra, the earthly, feminine manifestation of Kaveri herself. It is held that Lopamudra was granted the form of a river, by Brahma, in answer to tapas performed by all the three, including herself.
Both saint Agasthya and king Kavera were independently performing tapas with salvation (Moksha) as the goal. Pleased by their tapas, Brahma appears before them only to deny both immediate Moksha. Instead, Brahma rules to Kavera that he shall beget a daughter who will lead him to Moksha; to Agasthya, Brahma says, he shall give him a divine wife; Agasthya is to live with her and enrich the world before eventually attaining Moksha. In the meantime it was said that Vishnumaya, the divine daughter of Brahma—the impeccable feminine creation of the creator, expressing to Brahma her wish to serve the world. Being pleased, Brahma ordain her to be, in due time, Lopamudra, the daughter of Kavera, then the wife of Agasthya, and eventually the sacred of the sacred, the river Kaveri.
In a slightly different version, Kaveri is regarded as the outpour of sage Agasthya's Kamandala; it is said the Lord Ganesha, assuming the form of a crow, upset Agasthya's Kamandala to release the Kaveri.
After assuming the form river, Kaveri performed another tapas to become the sacred of rivers, more sacred than even the Ganges. Her tapas was answered and Lord Vishnu appears before her. On hearing her wish, Lord Vishnu says "Ganges is sacred because she originates from my feet; but you are infinitely more sacred to her as I adorn you as my garland". Upon this blessing, it is said that even the Ganges is said to come underground, once a year, to Kaveri to cleanse herself. To this day, Vaishnavites regard Kaveri, the river that holds Srirangam in her bosom, as the most sacred of rivers. Vaishnavaites lovingly regard Kaveri as the mother of Ranganayaki, the divine consort of Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam in Tiruchirappalli.
Hogenakkal Waterfalls in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu
Kaveri near Pallipalayam, Tamil Nadu
Kaveri river at Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu
Kaveri and Thiruvarangam island, Tamil Nadu
Kaveri river seen near Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu
Mouth of River Cauvery, Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu
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