Thamirabarani River

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Thamirabarani River தாமிரபரணி பொருணை ஆறு.jpg
Thamirabarani River flowing across Tirunelveli
Country India
State Tamil Nadu
Districts Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi
 - left Karaiyar, Servalar, Gadananathi, Chittar River
 - right Manimutharu, Pachaiyar
Cities Tirunelveli, Ambasamudram
Source Pothigai hills
 - coordinates 8°36′07″N 77°15′51″E / 8.601962°N 77.264131°E / 8.601962; 77.264131
 - location Gulf of Mannar
 - coordinates 8°38′29″N 78°07′38″E / 8.641316°N 78.127298°E / 8.641316; 78.127298Coordinates: 8°38′29″N 78°07′38″E / 8.641316°N 78.127298°E / 8.641316; 78.127298
Length 125 km (78 mi)
Discharge for Sri Vai Kuntum
 - average 32 m3/s (1,130 cu ft/s) [1]

The Thamirabarani River (தாமிரபரணி)(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 and Tuticorin districts of the Tamil Nadu state of southern India. It was called the Tamraparni River in olden days, a name also associated with Sri Lanka. The old Tamil name of the river is Porunai. From the source to sea, the river is about 125 kilometres (78 mi) long.


Some scholars interpret the name Thamirabarani as Thamiram (copper in Tamil language) and Varuni (stream or river).[2]

The meaning and origin of the name Thamirabarani 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).


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.[3] There is an ancient script written as Thamirabarani mahathmiyam.

In the Mahābhārata (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".[4]


Paanatheertham waterfalls


The Thamirabarani River originates from the peak of the Pothigai hills on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats at an elevation of 1,725 metres (5,659 ft) 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, 40 metres (130 ft) high, as it enters the Kariyar reservoir.[5] Servalar joins the Thamirabarani before it enters into the Papanasam lower reservoir, which was built for the Papanasam Hydroelectric station.[6] The river descends down the mountains near Papanasam, where it forms the Kalyanatheertham falls and Agasthiar falls.[7][8]

Course and tributaries[edit]

The river flows on the plains eastwards from Papanasam. The first tributary to join Thamirabarani in the plains is the Manimuthar River, which originating from Manjolai hills and joins Thamirabarani 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 River at Tiruppudaimaruthur. Before the Gadananathi's entry into the Thamirabarani, the Gadananathi River is joined by the rivers Kallar, Karunaiyar and Veeranathi or Varahanathi which joins the river Gadananathi about 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mi) north-east of Kila Ambur. The Gadananathi is fed by the Jambunathi and Ramanathi Rivers. The Pachaiyar River which originates from the Kalakkadu reserve forests at about 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) above sea level joins the Thamirabarani 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. Thamirabarani passes through the taluks of Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai of Tirunelveli district and Srivaikundam and Tiruchendur taluks of Thoothukkudi district.

List of major tributaries
Tributaries Length Origin Joins at Length of course of Thamirabarani Dams on the River
Karaiyar Mundanthurai reserve forests Karaiyar Dam 6 kilometres (4 mi) Karaiyar Dam
Servalar River Mundanthurai reserve forests Papanasam Reservoir 22 kilometres (14 mi)
Manimuthar River 9 kilometres (6 mi) Manjolai hills Aladiyoor 36 kilometres (22 mi) Manimuthar Dam
Gadananathi River Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve Tiruppudaimaruthur 43 kilometres (27 mi) Gadananathi River Dam
Pachaiyar River 32 kilometres (20 mi) Kalakkadu reserve forests Tharuvai 61 kilometres (38 mi)
Chittar River 80 kilometres (50 mi) Kutralam Hills Sivalaperi 73 kilometres (45 mi)
Ramanathi River Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve Kizha ambur 22 kilometres (14 mi) Ramanathi River Dam


Map showing the river

The river drains into Gulf of Mannar near Punnaikayal in Tiruchendur taluk of Tuticorin district. The river drains with its tributaries an area of about 4,400 square kilometres (1,700 sq mi). As most of its extensive catchment areas lie 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 as the dam water was let out so massively and suddenly that the river and its channels could not bear the excess water inflow.

Prior to the bifurcation of the Tirunelveli district, the Thamirabarani 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.


River Thamirabarani from Authoor bridge

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 Gadananathi River has 6 anicuts and a reservoir of 9,970,000 cubic metres (8,080 acre·ft), and irrigates 38.87 square kilometres (15.01 sq mi) of wetlands. The Ramanadhi has 7 anicuts, a reservoir of 4,300,000 cubic metres (3,500 acre·ft), and irrigates 20.23 square kilometres (7.81 sq mi) of wetlands. Pachaiyar River has 12 anicuts and irrigates 61.51 square kilometres (23.75 sq mi) of wet and dry lands.

The important irrigation channels branching off from both the banks of the river Thamirabarani are, South Kodaimelalagian channel, North Kodaimelalagian channel (Kodaimelalagian anicut), Nathiyunni channel (Nathiyunni anicut), Kannadian channel (Kannadian anicut), Kodagan channel (Ariyanayagipuram anicut), Palayam (Palavur anicut) channel, Tirunelveli channel (Suthamalli anicut), Marudur Melakkal, Marudur Keelakkal (Marudur anicut), South Main Channel and North Main Channel (Srivaikundam anicut). Of these the first seven anicuts were constructed during the period of ancient and medieval rulers and the last anicut namely the Srivaikundam anaicut was constructed and completed by the British in 1869.[9]

List of dams across Thamirabarani river:

  1. Kodaimelaalagain anicut, 1,281.67 hectares (3,167.1 acres)
  2. Nathiyunni anicut, 1,049.37 hectares (2,593.0 acres)
  3. Kannadian anicut, 2,266.69 hectares (5,601.1 acres)
  4. Ariyanayagipuram anicut, 4,767.30 hectares (11,780.3 acres)
  5. Palavur anicut, 3,557.26 hectares (8,790.2 acres)
  6. Suthamalli anicut, 2,559.69 hectares (6,325.1 acres)
  7. Marudur anicut, 7,175.64 hectares (17,731.4 acres)

List of channels:

  1. South Kodaimelalagain channel
  2. North Kodaimelalagain channel
  3. Nathiyunni channel
  4. Kannadian channel
  5. Kodagan channel
  6. Palayam channel
  7. Tirunelveli channel
  8. Marudur Melakkal
  9. Marudur Keelakal


  1. ^ "Gauging Station - Data Summary". ORNL. Retrieved 2013-10-01. 
  2. ^ "Fifth ‘hero’ stone with Tamil Brahmi inscriptions found". New Indian Express. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Rivers of Western Ghats - Origin of Tamiraparani". Centre for Ecological Sciences. Indian Institute of Science. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Mahabharata Online. 
  5. ^ "Ambasamudram - Tourism". Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Ambasamudram - Rivers". Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Rivers of Tamil Nadu". Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "Tirunelveli - Places". Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation. Govt. of Tamil Nadu. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Tirunelveli District Irrigation". Tirunelveli District Administration. Govt. of Tamil Nadu. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 

External links[edit]