Sunday, November 09, 2014

Vedaranyam – Renowned for salt and struggle

During my visit to Point Calimere (Kodiyakarai) we landed at Vedaranyam for temple visit and to time pass while waiting for the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary to be open by afternoon to enter. Vedaranyam is a coastal town, about 50 km southeast of Nagapattiman in Tamil Nadu along the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal. The town Vedaranyam derive its name from the temple here called Vedaranyeswarar Temple, with Vedaranyeswarar as presiding deity, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The 7th century Saiva canonical work, Tevaram (written by Tamil saint poets known as the Nayanars) mentions this place as Tirumaraikadu, meaning the place where Vedas, the oldest scripture of Hinduism, originated.

Vedaranyeswarar Temple, Vedaranyam
Vedaranyeswarar Temple Tower (click photos for enlargement)
Vedaranyam is also a historical town and according to the inscriptions found in Vedaranyeswarar Temple, Vedaranyam has been a part of the Chola Empire under various reigns (from 871-1120 CE) until before it falls during 13th century CE while under a power struggle between Pandyas and Hoysalas. The Cholas had been profuse throughout their reign granting to the temple, which continued even during the rules of the Nayaks of Thanjavur. The Vedaranyeswarar Temple is a part of the series of temples built by Aditya Chola (871-907 CE) along the banks of river Cauvery to commemorate his victory in the Tirupurambiyam batter. The temple has a five-tiered gateway tower and a central shrine, holding the image of Shiva in the form of lingam.

Saltpans of Vedaranyam
Salt Pans of Vedaranyam
Being under French and British regime, like many other places in pre-independence era and a part of Nagapattinam region, Vedaranyam is renowned for salt and struggle! Producing around 500,000 tonnes of salt every year, Vedaranyam stands next to Tuticorin in quantum of salt produced in Tamil Nadu. Thanks to the advantage of Great Vedaranyam Swamp with total area of about 349 sq.-km stretching parallel to the Palk Strait and Point Calimere wildlife sanctuary to extreme east; Vedaranyam has five fresh water channels from river Cauvery draining into the swamp, that obtain continuous source of fresh, saline or brackish water during the southwest monsoon and dries up in summer, contributes to salt extraction.

Salt Pans along the way to Point Calimere from Vedaranyam
The swamp is also filled by two periodical high tides that occur during the full moon days of summer. The saltpans spread over 11,000 acres between Vedaranyam and Kodiyakarai has small, medium and large salt manufactures that employ around 20,000 people. Aside salt manufacturing, fishing and salt water prawn cultivation is also primary activities of Vedaranyam. During the British period, salt from Vedaranyam has been transported to Nagapattinam port though a 52 km long canal since road transportation has been limited between these two towns then. Vedaranyam is a place that earned name for supporting Dandi March, one of the prime protest lead my Mahatma Gandhi against sales tax levied on salt extraction.  

Vedaranyam Beach
While Gandhi launched the Dandi March along India’s west coast to protest against the tax imposed by British Raj for salt extraction, his close associate and later India’s first Governor-General C. Rajagopalachari carried out a salt march in parallel, to the event on the east coast starting from Tiruchi to Vedaranyam. His group led by 100 volunteers was arrested by the British for collecting salt directly from the sea on the coast of Vedaranyam on 30 April 1930. There is a Salt Sathyagraga Memorial Stupe on the way to the Vedaranyam beach, built in memory of the salt march that sent Rajaji and others to six months imprisonment. Equivalent to Raameshwaram, taking bath in Vedaranyam beach is also believed to drive away sins! 


TexWisGirl said...

the temple is lovely. the salt extraction area is interesting!

L. D. said...

I learned something about your country when I viewed the old Ghandi movie. Salt was an important commodity and having it be owned by India was very important. It is nice to see all the photos of such a large processing place.

Destination Infinity said...

I always wondered where and how they manufacture salt. Now I know something. I am surprised that 20,000 people work in this industry.

Destination Infinity

Betsy Adams said...

Very interesting town of Vedaranyam. I loved reading and learning about the production of salt, and the town's struggle through the years. Thanks for so much great information.

Getting ready for another cold blast on Thursday!!!! Looks like winter is coming for sure... VERY busy in the yard!

ladyfi said...

What a fascinating history and lovely temple.

Namrata said...

Hey Jeevan, it's been a long time since my last visit. First of all how are you? You seem pretty occupied these days. And I can see your travelogue filling up. Good job. I wish I could do the same. Don't know when my dream will be fulfilled. :)

ashok said...

well captured post Jeevan