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With the Madras Week just around the corner, a team of historians, photographers and enthusiasts, among others, are Cooum-bound

According to historian and novelist Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, the history of Madras could very well be the history of Cooum. He chuckles as he proposes the notion that struck him after a recent trip to the point of origin of the river. Ramakrishnan firmly believes that if people were aware about the rivers history — like the fact that the first car to be made in India was made by Simpson, on the banks of the river — they would stop treating it like a dump. With Madras Week starting on August 17, Ramakrishnan has his hands full with walks and exploration trips along Cooum that you are welcome to sign up for.

Need to know
“To educate people, we must first unearth all the history about this river,” says the author of Kaviri Maindhan, the sequel of Ponniyin Selvan, adding, “just a week ago, we discovered so much about the place where the river originates.” The place Ramakrishnan refers to is Thakkolam, located 70kms from the estuary, this is also the place where the Cholas lost to Northern invaders in the battle of Thakkolam. Here, Ramakrishnan and the 40 others who accompanied him, learnt about the dam built by the government in 1942, that redirected the water of Cooum to the Poondi lake. “This dam, and the Korattur Anaikatti that diverts rainwater to the Chembarambakkam lake, ensure that not a drop of water from Cooum reaches Chennai,” he says, adding that if this dam was to be demolished, the Cooum would clean itself in a matter of five years.

Weekend plans
Ramakrishnan and his group of historians, photographers and volunteers will be exploring the regions around the Cooum estuary this Sunday, after which they will be making a half-day trip to the Korattur Anaikatti the following week (August 10). With over 300 members actively participating (sharing information) on their Facebook page, Ramakrishnan hopes that the team will be able to come up with an e-book book and interactive map in the next couple of months. And with many bloggers also among the group, there may be a blog coming up, he shares. With the efforts of this enthusiastic group, we just might see the Cooum crocodile (last sighted around the 1920s) wading these waters soon.

Along the way
The trip from estuary  to origin, at 70kms, is  doable in a day. If you are up for it, here’s what you should not miss on the way:1. Estuary — Stop at landmarks  like the fort, Munroe statue, Senate hall, Victoria statue, Island grounds and Anna Samadhi
2. College Road — Did you know that the museum here was formerly a zoo?
3. Chintadripet — this locale was developed by the British (with Temples et all), so Kancheepuram weavers would settle here
4. Thiruvirkolam temple — that  the river owes its name to
5. Thakkolam — the place where  the river originates

Details: facebook.com/groups/CooumCulturalMapping

— Ryan Peppin

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