1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cauvery

CAUVERY, or Kaveri, a river of southern India. Rising in Coorg, high up amid the Western Ghats, in 12° 25′ N. lat. and 75° 34′ E. long., it flows with a general south-eastern direction across the plateau of Mysore, and finally pours itself into the Bay of Bengal through two principal mouths in Tanjore district. Its total length is 472 m., the estimated area of its basin 27,700 sq.m. The course of the river in Coorg is very tortuous. Its bed is generally rocky; its banks are high and covered with luxuriant vegetation. On entering Mysore it passes through a narrow gorge, but presently widens to an average breadth of 300 to 400 yds. Its bed continues rocky, so as to forbid all navigation; but its banks are here bordered with a rich strip of cultivation. In its course through Mysore the channel is interrupted by twelve anicuts or dams for the purpose of irrigation. From the most important of these, known as the Madadkatte, an artificial channel is led to a distance of 72 m., irrigating an area of 10,000 acres, and ultimately bringing a water-supply into the town of Mysore. In Mysore state the Cauvery forms the two islands of Seringapatam and Sivasamudram, which vie in sanctity with the island of Seringam lower down in Trichinopoly district. Around the island of Sivasamudram are the celebrated falls of the Cauvery, unrivalled for romantic beauty. The river here branches into two channels, each of which makes a descent of about 200 m. in a succession of rapids and broken cascades. After entering the Madras presidency, the Cauvery forms the boundary between the Coimbatore and Salem districts, until it strikes into Trichinopoly district. Sweeping past the historic rock of Trichinopoly, it breaks at the island of Seringam into two channels, which enclose between them the delta of Tanjore, the garden of southern India. The northern channel is called the Coleroon (Kolidam); the other preserves the name of Cauvery. On the seaward face of its delta are the open roadsteads of Negapatam and French Karikal. The only navigation on any portion of its course is carried on in boats of basket-work. It is in the delta that the real value of the river for irrigation becomes conspicuous. This is the largest delta system, and the most profitable of all the works in India. The most ancient irrigation work is a massive dam of unhewn stone, 1080 ft. long, and from 40 to 60 ft. broad, across the stream of the Cauvery proper, which is supposed to date back to the 4th century, is still in excellent repair, and has supplied a model to British engineers. The area of the ancient system was 669,000 acres, the modern about 1,000,000 acres. The chief modern work is the anicut across the Coleroon, 2250 ft. long, constructed by Sir Arthur Cotton between 1836 and 1838. The Cauvery Falls have been utilized for an electric installation, which supplies power to the Kolar gold-mines and light to the city of Mysore.

The Cauvery is known to devout Hindus as Dakshini Ganga, or the Ganges of the south, and the whole of its course is holy ground. According to the legend there was once born upon earth a girl named Vishnumaya or Lopamudra, the daughter of Brahma; but her divine father permitted her to be regarded as the child of a mortal, called Kavera-muni. In order to obtain beatitude for her adoptive father, she resolved to become a river whose waters should purify from all sin. Hence it is that even the holy Ganges resorts underground once in the year to the source of the Cauvery, to purge herself from the pollution contracted from the crowd of sinners who have bathed in her waters.