Coromandel Coast

Coromandel Coast

[kawr-uh-man-dl, kor-, kawr-, kor-]
Coromandel Coast, east coast of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states, SE India, stretching more than 400 mi (644 km) from Point Calimere, opposite the northern tip of Sri Lanka to the delta of the Krishna River. Its major cities, Nagapattinam, Puducherry (Pondicherry), and Chennai (Madras), are ports. The inland coastal plain is bounded by the Eastern Ghats and includes the debouchments of the Penner, Palar, Ponnaiyar, and Kaveri rivers. The name probably stems from Cholomandalam, i.e., land of the Chola, an empire that ruled the region from the 9th to the 12th cent.

The Coromandel Coast is the name given to the southeastern coast of the Indian peninsula. It is generally thought to be derived from the Tamil phrase Chola Mandalam, or the region (mandalam) of the Chola, an ancient dynasty of southern India. It could also be derived from Karai Mandalam or the coastal region. But most probably the name derives from the Sanskrit "Kara-mandala" - the land which receives the rays of the sun - the East coast. Historically the Coromandel Coast generally referred to the stretch of coast between Point Calimere (Kodikkarai), near the delta of the Kaveri River, north to the mouths of the Krishna River. Presently the Coromandel Coast is shared by the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and the union territory of Pondicherry.

Description

The coast is generally low, and punctuated by the deltas of several large rivers, including the Kaveri (Cauvery), Palar, Penner, and Krishna, which rise in the highlands of the Western Ghats and flow across the Deccan Plateau to drain into the Bay of Bengal. The alluvial plains created by these rivers are fertile and favour agriculture. The coast is also known for its ports and harbours, Pulicat,Chennai (Madras), Sadras, Pondicherry, Karaikal, Cuddalore, Tranquebar, Nagore, and Nagapattinam, which take advantage of their close proximity with regions rich in natural and mineral resources (like the Chhattisgarh belt and the mines of Golconda and Kolar) and/or good transport infrastructure. The planar geography of the region also favours urban growth and agglomerations.

The Coromandel Coast falls in the rain shadow of the Western Ghats, and receives a good deal less rainfall during the summer southwest monsoon, which contributes heavily to rainfall in the rest of India. The region averages 800 mm/year, most of which falls between October and December. The topography of the Bay of Bengal, and the staggered weather pattern prevalent during the season favours northeast monsoon, which has a tendency to cause cyclones and hurricanes rather than a steady precipitation. As a result, the coast is hit by inclement weather almost every year between October to January. The high variability of rainfall patterns are also responsible for water scarcity and famine in most areas not served by the great rivers. For example, the city of Chennai is one of the driest cities in the country in terms of potable water availability, despite high percentage of moisture in the air, due to the unpredictable, seasonal nature of the monsoon.

The Coromandel Coast is home to the East Deccan dry evergreen forests ecoregion, which runs in a narrow strip along the coast. Unlike most of the other tropical dry forest regions of India, where the trees lose their leaves during the dry season, the East Deccan dry evergreen forests retain their leathery leaves year round. The Coromandel coast is also home to extensive mangrove forests along the low-lying coast and river deltas, and several important wetlands, notably Kaliveli Lake and Pulicat Lake, that provide habitat to thousands of migrating and resident birds.

History

By late 1530 the Coromandel Coast was home to three Portuguese settlements at Nagapattinam, São Tomé de Meliapore, and Pulicat. Later, in the 17th and 18th century, the Coromandel Coast was the scene of rivalries among European powers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for control of the India trade. The British established themselves at Fort St George (Madras) and Masulipatnam, the Dutch at Pulicat, Sadras and Covelong, the French at Pondicherry, Karaikal and Nizampatnam, the Danish in Dansborg at Tharangambadi.

Eventually the British won out, although France retained the tiny enclaves of Pondicherry and Karaikal until 1954. Chinese lacquer goods, including boxes, screens, and chests, became known as "Coromandel" goods in the eighteenth century, because many Chinese exports were consolidated at the Coromandel ports.

On December 26 2004, one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history, the Indian Ocean earthquake, struck off the western coast of Sumatra (Indonesia). The earthquake and subsequent tsunami reportedly killed over 220,000 people around the brim of the Indian Ocean. The tsunami devastated the Coromandel Coast, killing many and sweeping away many coastal communities.

Sources and references

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