Built By Chola Dynasty King, This Is The Oldest Dam In India

by Sushmita Mahanta
Built By Chola Dynasty King, This Is The Oldest Dam In India

Did you know that one of the major tourist spots in Tamil Nadu happens to be the oldest dam in India? Well, the Grand Anicut or Kallanai Dam built by the Chola Dynasty King Karikalan in Tamil Nadu attracts the most number of travellers in the state. The dam, built around 2000 years ago, is about 15 kilometers from Tiruchirapalli in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. Kallanai is considered the oldest dam in India and the fourth oldest water diversion or water-regulator structure in the world to be still in use. Read on to know more about this engineering marvel in India that’s built with uncarved stones across the River Kaveri.

The Oldest Dam In India Was Built To Boost Irrigation

The 1,079 feet long, 66 feet wide, and 18 feet high Kallanai dam was built to divert river water to the fertile delta districts and prevent excess water from flooding the farmland in the region, thereby boosting irrigation. However, the construction of the oldest dam in India wasn’t an easy process. Due to the shifting nature of sand and the tilt of the river bed, boulders were used. Owing to their mass and gravity, the massive stones settled on the river bed to make a strong broad base for the dam. However, before building the masonry, smaller stones were layered on top to raise the height. The oldest dam in India might look simple on the outside but it has a unique and curved masonry with an irregular sloping crest from front to rear.

The Kallanai Dam Was Re-modeled By The British In The 19th century

The oldest dam in India might have been built by the Chola Dynasty, however, it was the British who re-modeled it. The Kallanai dam’s structure changed during the 19th Century and that made the dam stronger to withstand the tides of time. Captain Caldwell, who was a military engineer in 1804, was in charge of boosting irrigation in the delta districts in India. The captain’s research revealed that with maximum water going into the Kallanai Dam, the water left for irrigation was less and not enough. It was then that Caldwell proposed to raise the dam. Now the oldest dam in India has dam stones raised to a height of 0.69 meters, which has increased the capacity of the dam.

Well, now that you know the story behind India’s oldest dam, we hope Kallanai makes it to your itinerary list the next time you visit Tamil Nadu!


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