Picturesque and poetic descriptions of the Karamana river

Ward & Conner in the Memoir of the Survey of the Travancore and Cochin States (1827) describes the Karamana river thus: “The Karamanay River is the most remarkable. It’s general course is about fifty degrees S. W. making several grand windings. It rises from the deep valleys of the high range of mountains about Chenboonjee peak; another branch from the sides of the pass on the range; in its course it is fed with numerous Nullahs. It’s bed is rocky and winding with steep banks, through a tract of high land covered with wood. Previous to its approaching the populated tracts, receiving in its course, the surplus waters of several glens; where the road crosses it is forded by a bamboo raft worked by the aid of canoes fastened to trees on either bank, from thence winding enters the Neyattincurray district. The river is navigable for rafts to a considerable distance, during a portion of the year attended with difficulty in hollows where the stream is violent and bottom, rocky. The timber for exportation is dragged to the river by elephants and floated during the rains. Small canoes roughly hollowed also are at this season floated down. It was in agitation to throw a dam across this river on the East of Curacolum for the purpose of conveying water by a canal to the Trivandrum Fort across the Killiyaur. The ground had been inspected and a regular series of levels carried over an extensive paddy cultivation called the Irrimba Dasum and upon a rising ground intervening. The spot across, which the intended dam was to be thrown is about 1 1/2 furlongs broad; at the Eastern bank is a large rock and several smaller ones in its bed. The Kurramunnay river in a portion of its course forms the boundary between this district and Trivandrum one mile and West North-West 1 1/4¼ miles, occasioned by the gravelly heights through which it traverses, till it passes the village Kurramunnay where it is crossed by a substantial bridge; from thence it winds through a rich country to Poondra flag staff and soon after leaving the southern declivity of the table land, falls into the sea above Punnatoray head-land”.

Lt Col. Horsley, the engineer who built the Karamana bridge and was also the author of the earliest English treatise on history of Travancore (in 1838), was a person who had a good grasp of the geography of the state of Kerala. His account is also very picturesque. It runs thus: “The Karramanney river also has its source on the northwest side of the Agasteesuer mountain [another historic writing says: This beautiful river rises on the ridge to the north of Agasthiar peak and an outlying spur terminating in the Sasthankotta rock 1605 m above sea level, the peaks of origin are today known as Chemmunji Motta and Aathiramala, with upper tributary rivers known as Kaaviyaar, Attayaar, Vaiyappadyaar and Thodayaar], and flows in its early course through a very woody and uneven country over a partially rocky and narrow bed confined by high banks. The total distance traversed by this river in all its winding is about forty-one miles, its course being generally S. and S.W. till approaching Poontoray on the coast; after receiving the waters of Killyaur, it runs parallel to and unites with the Sea at the foot of a little head-land termed Covellum. The Karramanney is crossed by a rude stone bridge (the one built by Raja Kesavadasa during mid 18th century) at the village of the same name, over which the main road to Trevandrum passes. Boats can ascend this river for 8 to 9 miles during the monsoon and it is serviceable likewise for floating down bamboos and timber of all descriptions from the hills.”

(Continuing the weekly series on the Karamana river, written by Dr. Achuthsankar S. Nair, head of the Department of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, University of Kerala. He is a music and history buff.)