Updated: September 18, 2014 10:29 IST

“Rainwater harvesting in vogue during Chozha dynasty’’

A. V. RAGUNATHAN

The Thillai Kaliamman temple in Chidambaram which has provided a historical proof of the Chozha dynasty’s well-managed water resource system.
The Thillai Kaliamman temple in Chidambaram which has provided a historical proof of the Chozha dynasty’s well-managed water resource system.

Discovery comes to light during desilting of tank on the premises of a Chidambaram temple

The Chozha dynasty was known for its scientific water management practices. It evolved a foolproof system in which the impact of floods and drought condition could be effectively mitigated and tackled.

The system also served as the rain water harvesting system by enabling rain water to flow through tunnels to the resources such as temple tanks. The existence of such mechanism was recently unearthed when desilting was done at the Sivapriyai tank located on the premises of the Thillai Kaliamman temple in Chidambaram.

Ganapathy Murugan and A.Muthukutty, director and president of the Dravidian Historical Research Federation respectively (both are also Assistant Professors of History, Annamalai University), told The Hindu that it was a historically significant finding.

A well laid-out tunnel was found near the arch put up on the North Street of Chidambaram leading to Thillai Kaliamman temple, connecting a network of three temple tanks, including that of the Sivapriyai tank, the Sivagangai tank on the premises of the Lord Nataraja Temple and another tank on the campus of the Sri Anantheeswarar temple.

After the Sivagangai tank got filled up, the excess water would be carried through the tunnel to the other two tanks. At the entry point of the tunnel, a stone inscription written in “manipravala style,” a combination of Tamil and Grantham dating back to the 14-15th centuries was found.

The wordings “Devi Nayagan Sadha Sevai” had been etched on the stone plate embedded in the wall of the tunnel.

The historians said it meant that a staunch devotee of Goddess Kaliamman had undertaken the renovation work on the tunnel built by Vikkirama Chozhan who ruled from 1118 to 1135 AD.

The historians further noted that the Chozha dynasty was mainly dependent upon the Cauvery for cultivation. However, the region was known for recurring floods and drought.

Therefore, the Chozhas had thought of a system which could speedily drain the floods and also fill up the water sources that would ward off the drought condition in interior areas.

Vikkirama Chozhan was the descendant of Kulothunga Chozhan who later spent his life in the service of Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram.

It was the latter who provided accommodation to the Podhu Dikshithars in the surroundings of the temple, they said. Kulothunga Chozhan’s lieutenant Kalingarayan constructed the Sivagangai Theertha Kulam with granite and constructed a separate shrine for Goddess Sivakami at Chidambaram.

“Therefore, it could be said for sure that during the Chozha dynasty a well-evolved water management system was put in place in which the water sources were well protected and rain water harvesting system was in vogue,” Mr Ganapathy added.

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