Tamil Nadu, save for a few regions, does not receive much rain from the SouthWest monsoon which is the main monsoon of India. Tamil Nadu receives its rains mainly from the North East monsoon which is less copious.
During the whole season, it rains for only 15 to 20 days in a year, which means about only 100 hours of rain and this has to be used for the remaining 8660 hours of the year. This scenario has led to the popular belief that Tamil Nadu is rainfall deficient and hence water deficient.
But this has been the rainfall scene for thousands of years.
While the modern generation looks at this land as being rainfall and water deficient, even till as recently as 150 years ago, the people of Tamil Nadu seem to have enjoyed great prosperity and culture, which can come only when there is sufficient water in this land for its people, flora and fauna.
The people of Tamil Nadu had realized that this land is on the leeward side of the Western Ghat. The gradient of the land was sloping from west to east, draining into the Bay of Bengal.
Recognizing this topography, they built Eri, tanks, dotting all over the landscape to harness the rains where its falls and pass it on to places where it did not rain. It was an ingenious, intricate web, a chain of tanks – system tanks, Eri, Oorani, Anaikat and a whole host of local water harnessing systems, which were interconnected. The rivers and their distributaries were the arteries. The principle behind it was the heart of sharing.
If it rained anywhere in the Carnatic region, all the tanks downstream would also receive water. Finally, if the water was let out from the Sri Vaikuntam Eri in southernend of Tamil Nadu, near Tirunelvelli, to the sea, it meant that all the Eri of the Carnatic land were brim full by then.
These Eri and the web, were all built by the locals themselves during the Pallava period, from 400 CE to 1100 CE. These have since then sustained the land and made it prosperous for the next thousand years and more. These were all people designed and people maintained.
It was after the 1857 war of Independence that the British administrators decided to wrest control of the water bodies from the local people.
To this effect, a Public Works Act of 1857 was promulgated and the Public Works Department (PWD) was created to control the water bodies of the land. This passed the control of the water bodies from the people to the government which soon led to the dereliction in their maintenance and eventual disrepair. Soon the people of Tamil Nadu were deprived of their life supporting Eri and therein, rests the tale of the water shortage of Tamil Nadu.
A perspective of this is discussed in our article on solution to the Cauvery Water Issue.
The Tamil Nadu State Legislative Assembly passed the Farmers Management of Irrigation Systems Act 2001 which is a step in the right direction of giving back the control of the water bodies back to the farmers.
Today, there is a renewed energy in the youth to revive the tanks in disrepair in their local areas. While this is a good step in restoring ground water in that region, this stand alone tank will be of no avail when that region does not receive its due rains in any year.
The complete solution lies in reviving the connecting ducts between these tanks as well as reviving the entire web, the Chain Tank system, so that irrespective of wherever it rains in the Carnatic region, the Eri of every village of this region is always full. Not a trivial task. It is a challenge indeed, in terms of plan, effort and cost.
A possible way out for the overall revival is discussed in detail in our book You Turn India in the Bharath Gyan series.
Winter marks a period filled with festivals of light.
Deepavali is by far, the most popular one, celebrated all over India. It is also the most popular Indian festival celebrated the world over. Deepavali as the name itself suggests, is an array of lights. While Deepavali is celebrated all over India, it is interesting to note that it is celebrated in different parts of India to rejoice very different events.
In South India, Deepavali is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi, to commemorate the defeat of the Asura, Naraka, by Krishna.
In North India it is celebrated as the coronation of Rama as the King of Ayodhya, post His return from a 14 year Vanavas, exile, after defeating Ravana, the Rakshasa.
In Western India, the focus is on celebrating it as Lakshmi Puja, the start of a New Financial Accounting year, by the traditional trader families.
In the north west of India it is celebrated as Kubera Puja.
Similarly, other regions too have their special reason to celebrate Deepavali.
But despite these varied reasons all over India, Deepavali is uniformly celebrated as the festival of Lights. How has this come to be so?
In the Indian calendar, Deepavali comes about 3 weeks after the Navaratri festivities. It marks the onset of winter. It starts getting dark, earlier each day, even when the evening is still young. That is when there is need for lights – a string of lights to brighten up one’s life, to brighten up the houses when there is still time before the community retires for the night.
So, it is an apt need for seasonal lighting when darkness sets in even before the night.
In olden times, it was not celebrated as just a one day festival, the way we do now, but was a month long festival, known as Kaumudi Mahotsav.
Kaumudi is a water lily. In this season, after the monsoons, the sky is clear and the moon is visible through the month, not being obliterated by the monsoon clouds. The tanks are filled with crystal clear, fresh water. One can well imagine what a beautiful sight it would have been. The tanks lit up with beautiful rows of water lilies, bobbing merrily, reflecting the light of the moon. It would have seemed like a celestial festival.
Flower festivals are held in many parts of the world in different seasons to celebrate alongside Nature as she blooms with joy. The Kaumudi Mahotsav seems to have been a precursor to all.
Even 5000 years ago, during the times of Mahabharata, there is reference to this period as Kaumudi, as the month when Krishna departs on his peace mission to the court of Hastinapura.
Festivities such as Deepavali, Kubera Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Bhai Dhooj, Naraka Chaturdasi, Rama Pattabisheka, Mahavira Pari Nirvana allcoincide within this festive month of Kaumudi Mahotsav. In modern times where everything has become abridged, all these festivals too have collectively come to be abridged and celebrated as a single festival called Deepavali.
Each festival has its unique identity and reason for celebration. When we identify ourselves with each festival and celebrate it for its essence, then life itself becomes a celebration.