There is a river near Panchkula city of Haryana. It is called Ghaggar. Once a mighty river, now it has become a mere shadow of its past. A thin stream of water flows through the large bed made of sand, pebbles and small amounts of clay. Bushes and different grasses like bulrushes grow in its bed.
Here in the beds near running water one can spot these little cute birds only if you look very carefully on the ground because there colour camouflage them in the sand. They keep standing at a given spot for long time. They become quite fearless and allow you to approach quite nearer.
It is called Small pratincole, little pratincole, or small Indian pratincole (Glareola lactea), is a small wader in the pratincole family, Glareolidae. The birds arrived here about three months ago. They have laid the eggs and raised the new generation They lay eggs in the gravel and sand.
In Hindi it is called Kaans. It is a perennial grass and grow in abundance in the dry river beds and adjoining spaces. It is rhizome and spreads quickly claiming the empty soil. Ghaggar river flows near our home in Panchkula, Haryana. It is seasonal river nowadays though once upon time as the history tells us it was a powerful river flowing till sea and along with another river called Hakra originating in Afghanistan and flowing down to Punjab and Sind, Ghaggar formed a river systems called Ghaggar Hakra system. But now it is mostly dry with small amount of water flowing in the deepest channel.
The grass is found all over the northern plains of India upto Assam. Generally it grows in on the edges of the rivers. This grass has claimed the empty dry bed of the river. At this time of end of August, it has begun to bloom into white colored flowers stalks and whole of the river bed resembles a white sea. It looks beautiful though. Blooms are just in delicate condition and shall go on to become more thick in the coming months. Then they will dry and their color will change to slightly brown and finally they will begin to disintegrate.
In Bengal where it is called Kash Fool, it heralds the onset of Puja festival.
The garden is very near to my home. If I take the pedestrian route which winds through fields and tall reed grass river bed, the garden is hardly 2 kilometers away. But you have to cross the Ghaggar river on the way and wade into the water and climb steep sloping boundary. The path winds through the fields and poplar trees which in itself is very sylvan. In winters there is wheat crop in the fields. Small rivulets used to channel the river water for irrigating these fields run through the fields. After crossing these fields, the river bed starts. The river is called Ghaggar and it originates in the Shivalik hills. Although in the monsoon, it is flooded and becomes very dangerous, during winter and dry season most of the bed is dry and a small ribbon like water channel flows through it. Reed and other tall grasses grow on the bed. There are kingfisher, lapwings and other birds which can be found perched and flying in the bed. In the water one can find regular water fowls dipping the beaks in the water to catch the insects.
The regular route is by road and is about 7 kilometers from our home. But it is worth visiting even by long road route from my home. The garden is laid along the river and is spread across long distance but width is very small. Lawns are lovely and well maintained. There are all kinds of herbal plants and trees. Many other regular trees add to its beauty. People who live nearby come regularly to walk and sit and relax. There are view posts with canopies and sitting benches along the river, where you can sit and watch the reflection of sun in the simmering river water. Indeed it is very well maintained. Only the parking for vehicles is very limited. I can sit there for hours watching the sunset. Must visit.
It is the beginning of October. In a few days, the winter season will begin. Presently it is quite hot in the day. Here in Panchkula which is very near to Chandigarh, rains have almost vanished. Once upon a time not so long ago, it was an agricultural area irrigated by five streams or Kul as they are called in the local parlance. The name of the place is the combination of two words namely Panch (five) and Kula (streams).
The land was very fertile. The system of the irrigation was an ingenious community exercise. These streams issued from the Ghaggar River which flowed through the place and passed along the edges of the lands of the landowners. The river originates in the Shivalik hills. It dries down in the Rajasthan. Ghaggar River is mentioned in Vedic literature and it was an important river along with Saraswati River which is now believed to be flowing underground. The days and durations were fixed for each piece of land depending upon the quantity of the water available and area of the land holdings. It was a very peaceful and mutually benefitting exercise. It was a win-win situation for everyone. It is an open fact that division of the irrigation water is a very sensitive issue and leads to unending conflicts. Everyone in India is aware of Tamilnadu and Kerala spat over the distribution of Kaveri waters. It is going on for the years.
The Panchkula is now a big city and a satellite town to Chandigarh. The land is scarce for frenzied building activity. Almost all the agricultural land has been bought by builders at exorbitant cost resulting in very high cost of flats. Even the Ghaggar River is now bearing the brunt of this expansion. At many places its natural flow has been modified or blocked. Quarrying of sand, pebbles is taking place. The day is not far when the river will be lost. The five streams are already dead.
My childhood and youth was spent in a village called Manimajra adjacent to Panchkula. In those days Panchkula was a small village like many other villages. We had agricultural land at two places falling within Panchkula. It was routine for us to walk to our fields after the school was over. We went on foot and fields were quite far. On the way, the path meandered through the fields and streams. In the summers, we enjoyed bathing in those streams splashing water over one another and bathed the buffalos.
It was all green with crops like wheat, barley, millet, sugarcane, cotton, chilies and paddy in the respective seasons. There were mustard and gram crops which imparted yellow color to the flat interminable stretches of the flat land. There were many gardens with mango, guava and other. Many a times we stayed in the night in the shelters built on the land itself. In the winter seasons, Gur (jaggery) was prepared from the juice of sugarcane and we used to enjoy the fresh product.
Land was acquired by Haryana Government at a very low price and a housing board was built. It was the beginning of the breakneck building activity.
I have left the place after I got a Government transferable job and after 35 years have returned to this place. Fields are almost gone. Yet there are some stretches of the agricultural land still resisting and looking at the rich crops standing in them takes me back to my childhood days. At that time we never gave a thought of what is coming in future. Now it is all over. Wherever you look, you will find high-rise building. Lots of labors from East UP and Bihar have come here for work.