The Beas River: A Cradle of Hill Culture in Himachal Pradesh
The Beas River
Many civilizations flourished and perished in the hoary past on the riverbanks. Rivers like Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab, Yamuna and Giri which cut through Himachal Pradesh can truly be regarded as the cradle of its ancient culture.
Many historical towns and capitals of former rulers of princely states flourished on the banks of the Beas River. In addition, the number of temples was also built in these small towns.
The Beas KundClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Beas Kund
The river rises from Beas Kund situated in the Himalayan glacier in Lahaul & Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh in India.
It is one of the five rivers including Sindhu or Indus River of famous and ancient Indus valley civilization. The name India has also come from Indus River.
It traverses a course of about 472 Km, before merging into Sutlej in Punjab.
The River in Legends
In Vedas, the Beas River has been referred to as Arjikuja and was called Bipasha in ancient times. The river got its name from the great sage Veda Vyasa of Mahabharata fame, who was so impressed by the beauty of its surrounding mountains that he performed Tapasya or meditative penance here to gain the spiritual powers.
According to the legend connected with the Ramayana era, a sage called Shringi Rishi, by whose blessings Lord Rama was born, one day tied himself with ropes out of frustration and flung himself into the River. But the miraculous powers of the river saved him and released him of all frustration. Since then the Beas has also been known as Bipasha, which means release from all bonds.
Around 325 BC, the Greeks called it Hyphasis, as it became the eastern limit of the Empire of Alexander the Great when his army refused to cross it. Alexander agreed to their demand to return home and ended his 8-year expedition after raising altars to mark the limit of his territory on the banks of Beas River.
The Journey Along Beas
The journey along the course of Beas is highly enjoyable. The river passes through enchanting valleys of Kullu, Mandi an, Kangra districts.
Rising from the source in Beas Kund, on the Rohtang pass, the river flows majestically through various vales and dales and finally leaves Himachal at Mirthal.
The Beas waters have been diverted into Sutlej river through a big tunnel by constructing a dam at Pandoh in Mandi district. The river was earlier known as a River of Sorrow in Punkab. But after the construction of Pong Dam in Kangra district, it has now become the harbinger of prosperity.
The Tributaries of Beas
The small rivulets namely Uhl, Suketi, Son, Bain, Neugal, Banganga, Luni etc., are the chief tributaries of Beas along its course in Himachal Pradesh.
At ManaliClick thumbnail to view full-size
Manali-The First place Along the Course
The Manali town named after sage Manu and situated on the banks of River Beas has come up as one of the most beautiful and world famous tourist resort. It is a picturesque town snowcapped peaks and dense deodar forests. The Hidimba temple, Vashist temple, and Arjun Cave are the important religious spots in this beautiful land.
Of late the Mountaineering Institute has been set up at Manali. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first prime Minister of India was so fascinated with its exquisite scenery and soothing climate, that he always made it a point to visit Manali for a few days every year. This added to the popularity of this hill resort.
NaggarClick thumbnail to view full-size
Another town Naggar, situated about 5 Km from Katrain on way from Manali to Kullu on the left bank of Beas, commands the splendid view of Manali. Nagger was the capital of erstwhile Kullu state. This small place is also famous for its traditional wood crafts.
Nicholas Roerich, the famous Russian painter was so enchanted with the scenic beauty of Nagger that he made it his permanent home. His paintings have become a rich treasure of the valley and are displayed at Roerich museum here.
The Tripura Sundari and Gauri Shankar temples at Naggar are worth seeing for their fine architecture.
At KulluClick thumbnail to view full-size
Another ancient town just 40 km from Manali, on the right bank of Beas, is Kullu. It presently enjoys the status and an international fame as a tourist resort. It was the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Kullu and rose to the fame in the ancient days for being situated on the old silk route.
The international Dussehra fair of Kullu which lasts for seven days has greatly added to the tourist appeal. The origin of Dussehra owes its origin to the princely days. Raja Jagat Singh first initiated the practice of assembling the village gods to pay homage to Raghunathgi, the ruling deity of Kullu.
Across the river at an altitude of 8000 feet is Bijli Mahadev, where the Shivlinga is struck by the lightning every year even to this day.
The entire valley is studded with apple, cherry and plum orchards. The rich handicrafts of Kullu are known all over the world. The Kullu shawls and dohrus or blankets are very popular and attractive.
After leaving the Kullu district at Nagwain, the Beas flows through the narrow gorges and reaches the historical Mandi town known as Kashi of Himachal Pradesh. Mandi is an ancient town and was the capital of erstwhile Mandi state. Though the town abounds temples, yet its ancient Shiva temples like Bhutnath, Teriloknath, Panchvaktra and Srdhnarishwar are worth seeing.
The international Shivratri fair held every year draws huge crowds from within and outside the state. Hundreds of village gods assemble on the famous Paddal ground and the cultural programs are held there in the evenings for the seven days.
Beas River near Mandi TownClick thumbnail to view full-size
After Mandi, the River river reaches at an altitude of 590 meters at Sandhol and enters district Kangra. Coming out of deep gorges the river here base becomes wide.
At several harbors called pattans like Kandapatan, Sandapatan etc. the boats, ferries and inflated animal skins or pharnais are used to ferry the people. It is the boat steersmen or drai community which still continues their family tradition.
The river gets divided into three prongs at Reh which again rejoin at 300 meters above sea level at Murthal. The Beas finally leaves Himachal Pradesh at Murthal and enters the state of Punjab.
The Sujanpur Town
Following the course of the River Beas further, we find ourselves in the historic town of Sujanpur Tira, famous for the Kangra miniature paintings. There is a rich treasure of miniature e paintings at the royal palace.
It also remained the capital of erstwhile Kangra state for some time and attained great fame during the reign of Raja Sansar Chand, the great patron of art and learning.
Sujanpur can boast of its famous Sainik or Military School, besides the famous Holi festival.
The Pong Dam and other Dams on Beas
The second-phase of Pong Dam at Talwara was completed in 1974 under the Beas Irrigation and Hydroelectric Project whiles the first-phase situated 142 Km upstream at Pandoh and became operational in 1977. The former generates 360 MW and the latter diverts the waters to augment the Satluj River after generating 990 MW at Dehar.
The Pong dam reservoir on the Beas River provides great scope for fishing and water sports. The authorities are developing it as a Water Sports Complex. It is also a home of several migratory birds which visit the wetland every year from the distant places including Siberia.
Another Dam of 126 MW capacity has been built at Larji, upstream Pandoh.
On reaching the Shivalik Hills in Punjab at Hoshiarpur, the Beas River takes a sharp turn towards the north and forms a boundary with district Kangra.
Thereafter it moves towards the south and divides Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur districts of Punjab by taking a bend around the base of the Shivalik Hills, moves along Jullundur district and divides the districts of Amritsar and Kapurthala. At last, the river merges into the gushing waters of Sutlej River at the southwest end of Kapurthala district.
The Satluj River enters Pakistan and at Uch in Bahawalpur, it joins the Chenab River which also comes to Lahaul & Spiti but runs through Kashmir.
Thereafter at Mithankot, the collective waters merge into the Indus River. The Indus Water Treaty allocates the waters of the rivers to Pakistan and India.
The Beas Tragedy
It was the untoward day of 8th June 2014 that out of 48 students of Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology Hyderabad, that 24 students including the tour operator and 6 girls were washed away in the gushing waters of Beas River.
The students were on an excursion cum educational tour to Manali and they had stopped about one Km downstream Larji for photography and sight-seeing. The students descended down into the little waters in the river bed. Suddenly the Larji Dam authorities opened the flood gates of the dam without giving any warning. The river water rose to more than 6 feet and the students were washed away in the surges.
At the behest of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh, a case of criminal negligence has been registered against the dam authorities.
© 2014 Sanjay Sharma