Tamil Nadu

‘Poor upkeep of tunnel caused flooding in Chidambaram temple’

Perfect engineering: The 2-km-long tunnel with the grilled opening, right, on the precincts of the ancient Thillai Natarajar temple in Chidambaram.  

The flooding inside the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram occurred after four decades, despite an ancient underground drainage system in place on the premises.

“Lack of maintenance led to the flooding. The drainage system was created by Chola King Kulotunga II, whose reign was between 1133 and 1150 A.D.,” said J.R. Sivaramakrishnan, assistant professor of history at the Kunthavai Natchiyar Government Arts College, Thanjavur.

Mr. Sivaramakrishnan, who discovered the tunnel while working at Annamalai University, said the 2,000 m underground drainage system would take water to a five-acre tank, known as Thiruparkadal.

“The drainage system begins near the north gopuram. The temple on a sprawling 51 acre premises has been built in such a way that the water slopped into the drainage,” he said. For many years, Thiruparkadal disappeared from sight as it was encroached upon. “When we read the inscription, we found the reference to the existence of the tank. We brought it to the notice of devotees and the government. Subsequently, it was restored,” Mr. Sivaramakrishnan said.The excess water from Thiruparkadal would go to Sivapriya Kulam, near Thillai Kali temple, through another drainage system.

“We should keep in mind that Chidambaram temple itself was constructed on swampland and Veeranam lake was dug to prevent flooding in Chidambaram temple. The Cholas perfectly planned everything. Chidambaram emerged as a new town while new settlements were created around Veeranam,” Mr. Sivaramakrishnan, who has done extensive study on the Chidambaram temple, said.

“There are nine tanks around the temple. If they are maintained properly, groundwater in Chidambaram would not have turned saline,” he said. All the jala tharais — drainages — were repaired when kumbhabishekam was performed in 1987. But construction work over the years could have caused blockages.

“The channels inside the temple are clean, and not clogged. But the unprecedented rain caused the problem,” said one of the Dikshitars.

CPI(M) State secretary K. Balakrishnan, former MLA from Chidambaram, alleged that flooding happened because the temple was under the control of the Dikshitars and not in the hands of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department.

“They are answerable to none. Had it been under government control, we could have held the officials responsible and action would have been taken immediately,” he said. The AIADMK government could have enacted a law to take over the temple after the Supreme Court order in favour of the Dikshitars, he added.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 4:31:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/poor-upkeep-of-tunnel-caused-flooding-in-chidambaram-temple/article33260721.ece

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