Bharathappuzha river, which is also known as the River Nila, is a major river in India situated in the state of Kerala. The river has a length of 209 km, and is the second longest flowing river in Kerala, after the great Periyar River. The word “Nila” indicates something about the culture and life of southern Malabar part of Kerala. The headwaters of the main tributary of the river originates in the Anaimalai Hills located in the Western Ghats, and flows in the westward direction through Palakkad Gap, across Palakkad, Thrissur and the Malappuram districts of Kerala, with a number of tributaries joining it. For almost the first 40 km or so, the Bharathappuzha river flows in a northerly course direction till it reaches Pollachi near Coimbatore. At Parli, the rivers Kannadipuzha and Kalpathippuza merge and flow as Bharathappuzha, which follows a westerly course till it reaches the Lakshadweep Sea at Ponnani. At Mayannur, Gayathripuzha merges with the river and also the Thootha River merges with at Pallippuram. Since the Thootha River is rich in water content, the Nila becomes thicker in flow after the merger.
The river is basically not navigable through most of its course except in the small stretch where the river joins the sea. The Bharathapuzha basin is considered to be the largest among all the river basins in Kerala with and has a watershed of 6,186 km². Around two-thirds of this area is within Kerala and the remaining area is in Tamil Nadu. Despite a large basin, the flow of water is relatively less when compared with other long rivers in Kerala. The construction of a good number of dams after Indian independence has resulted in the reduced flow of the river. During the summer months, there is almost no flow of water in most parts of the river. The Bharathapuzha serves as the lifeline of many cities and villages in the area that it flows.
Bharathappuzha river is regarded as the lifeline of Kerala’s cultural map as cultural centers such as Kerala Kalamandalam, Killikkurissimangalam, Bhadar Kali temple are situated on the banks of this river. Leading writers in Malayalam such as M. Govindan, V. K. N., O. V. Vijayan, M. T. Vasudevan Nair, and M. Sukumaran were born along the banks of this river. Late poet P. Kunhiraman Nair, is said to have drawn his literary inspiration from the scenic and mind blowing beauty of the landscape along the Bharatapuzha. There are various famous Hindu temples like Thirunavaya Navamukunda Temple, Thiruvilwamala Temple, and Panniyur Sree Varahamurthy Temple situated on the bank of Nila. As per the legends, those cremated on the banks of the Bharathappuzha will achieve salvation and famous persons like O V Vijayan and VKN are cremated on the banks of this river.
This river has gone through various of challenges resulting in irreversable degradation. Bharathapuzha has now become dirty because of the actions of irresponsible human beings. Until a few decades back the Bharathapuzha river used to flow effortlessly and smoothly during even intense summer periods. The extreme sand mining in the last 30 years, has made the thick sand bed to be completely vanished and has been replaced it with grasses and bushes leading to an environmental catastrophe.