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Besides showcasing the architectural expertise and aesthetics of their time, temple tanks also play an extremely important role as water storage systems in Chennai. Chennai has 39 temple tanks (excluding the suburban area) according to a study conducted in 2008. As the rains arrived, a few temple tanks in the city were filled to the brim with water, thus helping in groundwater recharge while offering a spectacular view for devotees.
“Most temples were designed to include tanks, an indigenous way of ensuring water management as part of religion and ritual. These tanks were dug by the benefactors and philanthropists,” said Nivedita Louis, a historian.
We toured temples across the city and suburbs to check out the state of the tanks in some of our temples. While the prominent temples are maintained well with rainwater harvesting in place, the not-so-well-known ones are crying for attention. Here are a few glimpses from the temple sites:
Laasya Shekhar is an independent journalist based in Chennai with previous stints in Newslaundry, Citizen Matters and Deccan Chronicle. Laasya holds a Masters degree in Journalism from Bharathiar University and has written extensively on environmental issues, women and child rights, and other critical social and civic issues. She tweets at @plaasya.
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Thanks for this excellent story that deserves to be preserved for many reasons. The temple tanks cited in the story, to my mind, are but only a few of the many more tanks appurtenant to several other temples spread over the expanding city–as I witnessed during my long and involved stay in the beautiful city from 1990 till early 2013. I myself saw how, in many parts of the city on the road toward Mamallapuram, temple tanks were being destroyed by ordinary builders without any bother by the residents or the authorities bought over easily whenever encroachment of any temple land is involved. Let a Foundation be created by the concerned citizens and lovers of Chennai to resurrect, revive and recharge the lost temple tanks, not for religious fundamentalism but for sheer necessity of survival in the coming decades. Let similar initiatives be taken all over the state where there still are thousands of temples with tanks requiring revival/recharging. Such a Foundation is entitled to income tax benefits as tegards the donations received.
Great effort, needs to be religiously followed every year
So heartening to see the good work! I hope these activities get more attention and followers, many more temple tanks have to be cleared, de-silted and more percolation pits created on poromboke lands to recharge the ground water. Let this year’s drought be our final lesson and let’s follow rain water harvesting religiously.