Tag Archives: Himachal Pradesh

Ghaggar River: The Lost Glory

Introduction

The rivers in India are of two types. The ones like Ganga and Indus are perennial in nature because they originate in Himalayas and are fed by melting ice. Others are intermittent in nature. Their catchment area is foothills of Himalayas and these flow in full glory only during monsoons in the catchment area in hills.

River Description

One such river is Ghaggar. It originates in the village of Dagshai in the Shivalik Hills of Himachal Pradesh at an elevation of 1,927 metres (6,322 ft) above mean sea level and flows through Punjab and Haryana states into Rajasthan just southwest of Sirsa, Haryana and by the side of Talwara Lake in Rajasthan. Dammed at Ottu barrage near Sirsa, Ghaggar feeds two irrigation canals that extend into Rajasthan.

The wild grasses growing in the bed of river

This river is located just a kilometre from our home and I visit it almost daily for morning walks and nature photography. Present conditions are described below:

Present Scenario

Amidst a quite big bed, water flows in a thin winding strip. Wild shrubs like Kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum), acacia trees grow in its bed. Many people use it as a garbage dump and also for open defecation. The river bed is ruthlessly mined for sand and pebbles by the sand mafia. Of course, during the monsoon season the river is in spate. But rest of the times one can walk through it with ease from one bank to another.

Muddy water flowing in the river during rains

The bed is home to many species of birds like Ring Plovers, Pratincole, Steppe Eagles, Wagtails, martins, lapwings and wiretails. Snakes also roam during summer mornings. During winter some migratory birds also come here.

A little ring plover in the river

Past Glory!!!

Standing on its bank, I think about its past glory. Satellite imagery and other archaeological studies indicate that once upon a time it was a mighty river. So much so that Yamuna and Satluj were its tributaries on East and West sides respectively. It flowed in full force into Arabian Sea. Due to plenty of water and fertile land around, it was a perfect place for the humans to settle in the ancient times. It is now becoming clear from the evidence gathered from excavations that there was a big population living along its banks during Indus Valley Civilization. It was a part of Ghaggar Hakra River system.

Rig Veda the Aryan holy Text, mentions about the holy Saraswati river so many times, was a part of Sapt (Seven) Sindhu (River) which eludes to Ghaggar and its six tributaries including Saraswati. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati are the trinity of rivers held in great reverence by Hindus.

Then the Times changed on geological scale. Tectonic activity changed the river associations. Yamuna realigned with Ganges and wayward Satluj with Indus stripping Ghaggar of much of its volume of water leading to the disintegration of the towns on its banks.

Conditions nowadays are becoming even more grim.

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Parakeets

It is the winter season here in North India. The place where I live is adjoining the hills of Himachal Pradesh. During severe winters, many birds from these hill areas come down to adjoining plains which are relatively warmer.

There is a forest near my residence. These days lots of Alexandrine Parakeets and Rose Ringed Parakeets are present in this forest. Their flocks fly from one tree to another searching for the cavities in the tree branches for making nests.

2.6 Million Old Fossils found in Masol Village of Punjab

Shivalik mountains have been suggested to be 16 to 5 million years old. Much of present day Himachal Pradesh is situated in these hills. Punjab, Haryana plains sit just below these hills. This area has many perrenial rivers flowing through these states. Due to this, the area must have been rich in vegetation and plenty of water made which had made it an ideal place for many animals to inhabit it.

In fact, a research conducted jointly  by India-based Society for Archaeological & Anthropological Research (SAAR) and France’s National Scientific Research Center (CNRS) and department of prehistory of the National Museum of Natural History has found rich cache of diverse fossils of fauna which is being dated back to 2.6 millions years claiming them to be the oldest fossils shadowing the ones found in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia which are said to be 2.58 million years old.

The excavations were carried out in the Masol village of Mohali which is situated in the foothills of Shivalik.

In fact, more than 2,000 fossils of different herbivores have been found by the team during digging. These include Stegodon, an ancient elephant with tusks up to four metres, and Sivatherium, a giant giraffe.

Stegodon

sivatherium

The study adds that before this find, the oldest sites were in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia dating back to 2.58 million years.The team has also found 14 fossils of Leptobos, pre-historic ancestors of modern-day cows that weighed up to 320 kilogrammes

Leptobos

Leptobos

These rare fossils, excavated between September 2009 and March 2015, were bubble-wrapped and dispatched to a French lab.

The team says that it is a multi disciplinary effort involving specialists from the field of geology, geomorphology, sedementology , physics, palaeontology , taphonomy. The research paper on these fossils has been called “Taphonomical studies of the Plio-Pleistocene Transition Fauna of Masol in Shivalik Frontal Range, Northwestern India”. Due to the tectonic activity in this region, many fossils buried deeper have moved to shallower depths.

The scientists have already conducted paleo-magnetic dating electron spin resonance (ESR) tests on the fossils to know their age.

The Punjab government is planning to start eco-tourism trail of these villages in Shivalik Hills where fossils of wild camel, horses and bulls dating back to nearly three million years have been found. Besides the scenic beauty and wild life of the area being major attractions, Siswan Dam site is picnic spot and can be developed further as a tourist destination.

Siswan Dam

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Fabled Rumals of Chamba Himachal Pradesh India

Himachal Pradesh is a beautiful hill state in India. It is nestled between Shiwaliks and Lower Himalayas and due to cool weather have so many hill stations like Shimla, Kasauli, Kulu, Manali. Chamba is old city in the state. Situated on a mountain ledge overlooking the River Ravi, the town of Chamba was established in the 10th century when Raja Sahil Varman relocated his capital from the neighbouring Bharmour region, now the homeland of semi-nomadic shepherding Gaddis. The city is believed to have been named after the king`s favourite daughter, Champavati, who legend says, sacrificed herself to provide water to the parched city. To this day, women and children sing her praises in the town temples on the occasion of the annual Sui festival. The ornament carving of the Laxhmi Narayan Temple Complex, the Chamunda temple and the Madho Rai Temple provide ample testament of the consistent art patronage provided by Raja Sahil Varman and his successors. The hill state was rulded by a single dynasty in continuous series of accessions and consequently, it enjoyed a remarkably stable political environment in which the arts could be actively cultivated by the rulers. In the mid 18th century, a number of artists fleeing religious persecution were given refuge in the Pahari states; notable among the courts in which these artists found avid patrons was that of Raja Umed Singh of Chamba.

Although practiced throughout the region that comprises erstwhile princely hill states, the craft has come to be associated specifically with Chamba owing to the patronage afforded it by rulers of the area as well as to the quality of the local craftsmanship. Traditionally,the Chamba rumals were silk embroidered square pieces of hand spun and handwoven unbleached mulmul (muslin), fine cloth that were used to cover dishes of food,gifts to significant persons and offerings to a deity, or exchanged between the families of the bribe and the groom as a token of goodwill. The embroidery was done in a double satin stitch technique known as dorukha, which ensured an exact replication of image on the
reverse of the fabrics.Although practiced by women from all strata of Pahari society,the embroidery style developed by the women of the upper classes and the royalty has now come to be exclusively related to the craft.Both the folk and the court styles usually rendered the popular themes of the Raaslila, Raasmandal (depiction of dance in relation to Krishna and devotees), Ashtanayika ( a depiction of various types of heroines in their distinctive moods and environments),hunts and chaupad, dice game; the styles and colour schemes, however, were vastly different. The folk style made generous use of brilliant colours including pink, lemon yellow,purple and green while the court form evolved a more sophisticated colour palette that consisted of pale shades of ochre,dark green and blue. The court style reflects the popular pastimes of Pahari men and women from royal and noble families through the addition of details such as the smoking of the hookah, women shown talking to parrots, playing with a ball or dice or listening to music. It also derived its compositions, border motifs and floral ornamentation from the wall paintings of the Rang Mahal of Chamba and the Pahari miniature tradition. Often, trained miniature painters from the courts were called in to draw the compositions onto the fabric and to provide colour schemes. It is due to this close relationship with the painting tradition that the Chamba rumals have been called “paintings in embroidery”. In recent years, artisans have been encouraged to reproduce earlier masterpieces in order to sustain the craft. Simultaneously,efforts have also been made to diversify the craft products to include a wider range of items such as caps,hand fans, blouses and bedspreads. Below are some examples of Motifs.

Below: In the depiction of the Raaslila, Krishna multiplies himself in order to dance with four of his devotees, the gopis, while Vishnu witnesses the scene from his seat on a lotus.

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Below: Radha and Krishna are seated in the upper floor of the pavilion; the musicians, ladies-in-waiting and strolling peacocks in the garden reflect what was the lifestyle of the court.

chamba-2

Below: The deity Lakshmi Narayan sits in the central quadrangle of a game of chaupad as three male figures sit in the four corners of the composition with sets of dice laid out before them. The dense stitching is believed to be based on the bagh (garden) embroideries of Punjab.

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Below: Godhuli, literally the “hour of cowdust”, when cow herds come home,depicts Krishna and his cowherd friends bringing the cows back at dusk.

chamba-4

Malana Village

Today morning, I was watching DD Bharti channel on television. This channel is a repository of invaluable programs. It has a nostalgia attached to it due to its being the only channel which was first seen in Black and White and that too for few hours in the evening. It has grown up with us. It is the government controlled channel. The programs telecast on it are generally those which have recorded long back and relate to us. The faces of the presenters in some old programs send the mind in the old alleys.

Anyway, it was telecasting a documentary film on Malana village which is situated in the Parvati valley. As the name goes, Himachal is the abode of Gods, being so beautiful, it is like a heaven on the earth. The village has kept itself insulated from the outside world and its inhabitants have been guarding its their unique customs and culture closely. The village is situated on a plateau.

The documentary depicted the villagers. The women are very beautiful and men are very handsome, though it is all natural that they may not be aware of it. Outsiders tend to compare because they have seen different races of the people. One very prominent feature of their physique is the resemblance to the Greek people with sharp patrician noses and sturdy bodies. It is not surprising because the people living in colder places are generally fair colored. It is said that they are the descendants of the Greek soldiers of the Alexander’s army who settled in this beautiful valley.

The villagers has a Devta named Jamblu Devta which is supposed to be presiding over them through a council of members.The villagers follow the Devta in all the aspects of life and His decision is all abiding. The village follows democratic rules and is said to the oldest democracy in the world.

The customs are strictly followed. For example, the love marriages are considered very bad and an offense punished which is punished like the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Eden Garden for disobeying the God and eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge although in this case their was the snake who convinced the Eve that after eating the fruit they shall have the true knowledge and become as wise as the God itself.

Lets us hope that this village remains unaffected by the outside influences where so many bad things like corruption, crimes are happening and people are destroying the nature unawares that they are chopping off the very branches of the tree on which they are perched.