Temple of Bhuri Singh Deota

Amongst the interesting sites to visit around Morni is a temple with a breath-taking cliff-side location at the centre of the formidable ‘Bhuri-Singh-Deota-Range’. The hill range is a sheer wall of rock running for 15 KM from Sarahan in the South-East to Naina Tikkar in the North-West in Sirmaur District of Himachal Pradesh. The temple is located at Pejarli village at a height of 1870 metres and is dedicated to a local deity (deota) – Bhuri (also Bhur) Singh. The temple offers an unbroken view of a vast area of about 75 Sq. Km that forms a part of the scenic Ghaggar Basin. The basin is ensconced by hill ranges on all sides and is drained by the tributaries to Ghaggar River such as the Dehi Nadi.

Bhuri Singh Deota - the Ghaggar Basin

Bhuri Singh Deota – the Ghaggar Basin

Cliff-side Temple of Bhuri Singh Deota, Sirmaur

Cliff-side Temple of Bhuri Singh Deota, Sirmaur

As per the popular legend, Bhur Singh and his sister Debi were the children of a Bhat of Panwah village. Bhats of Sirmaur are Brahmins by caste who traditionally worked as priests and who would perform rituals such as the deota lagna to invoke the Gods.

To the ill-luck of Bhur Singh and his sister their mother died the Bhat married again. The step-mother was harsh and was given to ill-treating the motherless children in the absence of their father from home. Once she sent Bhur Singh to graze cattle in the forest. When Bhur Singh returned home in the evening it was discovered by the step-mother that one of the calves was missing. She immediately despatched the boy back to the forest with the direction to return only when the missing calf had been found. When the Bhat reached home that evening he found that his son had not returned from the forest. The worried father went in search for his son and found the child and the calf lying dead at the spot where the shrine stands today.

In the meantime Bhur’s sister Debi, who had been given in marriage to a one-eyed-man, was, in her mortification, returning home. Her doli happened to pass the spot where Bhur Singh lay dead. The sister was stricken with grief and threw herself from her doli from atop the cliff. The brother and sister are now worshipped together as Bhur Singh.

There are two temples, one at Pejarli, the other on the high hill known as Bhur-Singh-ki-Dhar.

Temple of Bhuri Singh Deota atop Bhur-Singh-ki-Dhar

Temple of Bhuri Singh Deota atop Bhur-Singh-ki-Dhar

The pujaris are two Bhats, one for Bhur Singh and one for Debi. A fair is held annually at the temple on Kartik Sud Ekadshi, the 11th lunar day (ekadashi) in the bright fortnight of the Hindu month of Kartik. It marks the end of the four-month period of Chaturmas, when Lord Vishnu is believed to sleep. The fair starts in the early hours of the morning and continues till late hours. During the fair at Bhur Singh Deota Temple pujari of Debi, and he dances alone by the night in the temple so that the people may not see him, and at midnight coming out of the shrine leaps on to a great rock above a high cliff. Standing there for a few moments he delivers one oracle, and no more, in answer to a question.

Oracle's Rock, Temple of Bhur Singh Deota, Sirmaur

Oracle’s Rock, Temple of Bhur Singh Deota, Sirmaur

On returning to the temple he swoons, but is speedily and completely revived by rubbing.

Meanwhile, when the secret dancing begins the men of the Panal family form a line across the door of the temple, and those of the Kathar temple rushing upon them with great violence break the line and enter the temple, but leave it again after touching the idol.

As Bhur Singh is known to live on nothing but milk, animals are never sacrificed at his temple. Devotees bring milk and ghee as offerings for the devta.

References:

  1. A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province; H.A. Rose (1911)
  2. Gazetteer of the Sirmur State (1934)

 

Acknowledgment:

The photographs have been adapted from the photographs available on the internet that have been clicked by a nature and travel enthusiast Sh. Narinder Sharma. The original photographs can be accessed at http://www.panoramio.com/user/2964099?show=best

Sukhna Lake, Wetland & Wildlife Sanctuary

Sukhna Lake is a man-made lake that was created by building a stone-cum-earthen embankment to block the flow of water of the Sukhna Choe that originates in the Shivalik Hills to the north of Chandigarh. The 42 feet high rockfill earth dam was completed in 1958 to create a kidney-shaped lake, 1.52 KM long and 1.49 KM wide. The initial storage capacity of the lake was about 11 million cubic metres of water. The water spread area was 1.88 sq. km. The average depth of the lake was about 15 feet with the deepest point being 33 feet deep.

The lake’s northern boundary with the Shivalik foothills is natural and irregular. The arc-shaped embankment with a beautiful tree-lined promenade on the top, forms the south-western boundary. The Sukhna Choe was dammed to the south of the point of confluence of its tributaries the Suketri nadi and the Kansal nadi. The Kansal nadi was in fact diverted from its original course by the Punjab Irrigation Department in 1972-73, by building a diversion channel, to supplement the natural flow of the Suketri choe. The Suketri choe in turn has the Ghareri, Nepali and Nathewala nadis as its tributaries. These nadis and choes together drain the Chandigarh Shivalik Hills that lie to the north of the lake and which comprise over 75% of the 42 sq.km catchment area of the lake. The balance 25% of the catchment area comprises of the agricultural fields, stream beds and forest area that falls between the lake and the hills. 70 % of this catchment area falls in Chandigarh, 25 % in Haryana and the balance 5% in Punjab. The control of this entire area was, however, vested with UT Chandigarh after the creation of Haryana in 1966 to enable a composite approach for soil conservation.

Sukhna Lake- Catchment Area

Sukhna Lake- Catchment Area

The Chandigarh Shivalik Hills have a rugged terrain characterized by steep slopes (average slope being 30 degrees) and deep gulleys. The soils are alluvial –sandy embedded with clay and boulders. This fragile ‘badland’ topography is highly susceptible to erosion. Over 50% of the total rainfall in the Shivaliks ends up as run-off into the nadis and the choes that bring large amounts of silt which gets deposited along the stream beds and eventually the lake bed.
The erosion rates in the Shivaliks were increased further by the mass deforestation of the slopes in the 50s and the 60s. This in turn led to heavy siltation of the lake with its water storage capacity being reduced to nearly one-third of the original within three decades from the creation of the lake. The water spread declined to about two-third of the original. The lake was thus rendered shallower and smaller.

The late 70s saw attention being focused on water-shed management and soil-conservation measures. The famous ‘Sukhomajri’ Project was started as a pilot project for an integrated approach to water-shed management. The Sukhomajri Village of the 70s lay at the head of the Kansal choe and had all the problems that were typical of the villages in the Shivalik foothills. The water-table was low and availability of water was poor during the dry season. The yields from agriculture were expectedly low. There was insufficient fodder to allow rearing of milch-cattle. The villagers thus reared goats and grazed them on the hill slopes. They also lopped trees for fodder. The over-grazing and excessive lopping ruined the natural forest ecology thereby exposing the slopes to heavy erosion by run-off leading to gulley formation and landslips. As part of the Water-Shed Project, water-harvesting dams were built across choes and streams to create perennial reservoirs. The increased availability of water in turn increased the viability of crop and dairy farming. Afforestation drives and contour-planting of local trees was undertaken to stabilize the denuded slopes. The seasonal lease to private contractors for collection of fodder grass (bhabar) from the hills was discontinued. The management of dams and the collection of fodder grass and firewood was entrusted to the Hill Management Societies of local villagers to make them stake holders in sustainable use of local resources. The ecology was now sought to be protected through ‘Social Fencing’. The experiment yielded results and was widely replicated all over the Shivaliks. A drastic reduction in siltation rates was achieved for sometime but the mid-80s saw a relapse.

The 80s saw increasing people-involvement and widespread concern over the future of this ‘dying’ lake. Jaspal Bhatti’s ‘cricket match’ on the dried up bed of the lake in the summer of 1988 drew attention to the catastrophic decline of the lake. The Administration was spurred by the media and the Courts to step-in and save the Jewel-in-the-Crown of City Beautiful before it disappeared completely. A slew of measures were adopted including the afforestation drives in the catchment area of the lake. Check dams were built all along the nadis in the hills to arrest the flow of silt at the source. The silted up portion of the lake was developed into a reserve forest with  plantations of Eucalyptus and other local species like Kikar.

Sukhna Lake ReserveForest

Sukhna Lake ReserveForest

Sukhna Lake Reserve Forest (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Sukhna Lake Reserve Forest (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

The silt near the Spillway Regulator at the eastern end of the lake was removed and used for building an embankment to create a basin at the point of inflow from the Sukhna Choe to contain the spread of silt. 1988 saw the start of the annual ‘Shramdan’. Save-the-Sukhna fever swept the city and tens of thousands participated every year in the effort to desilt the lake through free voluntary labour. Eventually, manual efforts were augmented with the far more effective mechanical desilting. Five years of Shramdan from 1988 to 1993 saw the removal of 1 million cubic metre of silt from the lake bed by manual and mechanical processes (equivalent to a cube of 100 m X 100 m X 100 m). The Tramp had also volunteered as a student in these well-intentioned but ill-conceived efforts under the blazing summer sun that eventually failed to make any major impact on the silt situation. The Save-the-Sukhna Movement, however, did demonstrate that the citizens of Chandigarh could be mobilized in such large numbers over a sustained period of five years for the cause of environment.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India recognized the Sukhna Lake in 1988 as one of the ‘National Wetlands’ that required priority for conservation. A 2.17 KM long, 62.5 m wide and 3 m deep rowing channel (the longest in the country) was built in 1989 for the 3rd Asian Rowing Championship and it also contributed in containing the flow of silt.

Catchment area of Sukhna Lake

Catchment area of Sukhna Lake

Sukhna Lake- Regulator end

Sukhna Lake- Regulator end

The afforestation and soil conservation measures in the Chandigarh Shivalik Hills resulted in the gradual regeneration of the forest cover over an area of 26 sq. km. With the recovery of the habitat the natural fauna of the region has made a re-entry and the area has been notified as the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is now home to the Sambar deer, the Chital, the barking deer, the Nilgai, the Sloth-Bear, the Leopard, the Golden Jackal, Civets, Mongoose, Wild Cats and a large variety of Avian fauna and reptiles.

The Tramp reproduces the account of a nature lover’s encounter with a Golden Jackal on the outskirts of the sanctuary area.

“The Day of the Jackal”

Was out birding in the afternoon at Saketri just behind Sukhna Lake. Went to one of my regular spots which has a road right adjacent to it and parked waiting to catch a few migrant bird species in the vegetation and then I spotted this guy, initially I assumed it was a dog but the way it moved through the undergrowth got me thinking it maybe something else, so I stayed put and waited for 15-20 minutes before he stepped out for a couple of seconds. Confirmed with the experts it was indeed a jackal and although they are common they are not easily seen and photographed!

The Golden Jackal (Canis Aureus) Saketri - Photo courtesy Munish (3-10-15)

The Golden Jackal (Canis Aureus) Saketri – Photo courtesy Munish (3-10-15)

The Sanctuary can be accessed through the Gates at Kansal and at Saketri (Nepali Gate). The Forest Department has created interesting nature trails for trekking. There are 12 ‘Watch Towers’ and 3 Forest Rest Houses inside the Sanctuary- the Inspection ‘Huts’ at Kansal and Nepali and the beautiful Log Hut at Kansal.

Log Hut, Kansal forest, Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandigarh Shivalik Hills

Log Hut, Kansal forest, Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandigarh Shivalik Hills

The Sanctuary has numerous ponds and lakes created by the earthen Check Dams built across the choes and streams for soil and water conservation. The Sanctuary is visited annually by about 10,000 avian visitors.

Sukhna Lake serves as a sanctuary for a large number of resident and migratory birds. Some 30 species of residents and 120 species of winter migrants have been spotted at the Sukhna Wetland Bird Sanctuary. The migratory water-birds generally begin arriving in October beginning. They fly in from the Siberian tundra and Central Asia over the mountain chain formed by the Pamirs, the Hindu-Kush, the Kun-Lun, the Karakorams and the Himalayas. The migration peaks around mid-January when the migrants- the grebes, geese, shelducks, marsh ducks, diving ducks, rails, coots, stilts and sandpipers join the ranks of the residents- the grebes, cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, plovers, harriers and terns. The most commonly sighted species include the Crested Grebe, the Little Grebe, the Mallard, the Common Pochard, the Spot-billed duck, the Drake, the Tufted duck, the Shoveler, the Purple Moorhen, the Common Coot, the Grey Heron, the Purple Heron, the Large Egret, the Little Egrets, the Greylag Geese, the Sandpiper, the Brahminy duck, the Black-winged Stilt, the Great Cormorant, the Indian River Tern, the Common Shelduck, the Indian Darter and the Marsh Harrier.

Most water-birds prefer the eastern-end of the lake near the regulator gates that is shallower and has numerous mud-bars and mud-deposits that are convenient spots for resting, sunning and preening for most species. The water-birds feed on fish, crustacean, mud-dwelling invertebrates, water plants and tiny plankton. It is now understood that the siltation of the lake has been a blessing in disguise. It has resulted in the creation of a wetland ecosystem that has over the years become an attractive destination for a large number of migratory species. The Sukhna Wetland is today widely recognized as a birder’s paradise despite its small size.

Mallard, Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Mallard, Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Spot-billed duck, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Spot-billed duck, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Spot-billed Ducks December 2011 - Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Spot-billed Ducks December 2011 – Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Northern Shoveller, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Northern Shoveller, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Bar-headed Goose January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Bar-headed Goose January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Bar-headed Goose (In Flight) January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Bar-headed Goose (In Flight) January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Northern Pintail, Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Northern Pintail, Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Brahminy Shellduck,Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Brahminy Shellduck,Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Common Coot with a catch January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Common Coot with a catch January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Common Coot, December 2011 - Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Common Coot, December 2011 – Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Common Pochard, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Common Pochard, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Farm Ducks? Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Farm Ducks? Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Little Tern, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Little Tern, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Red-wattled Lapwing, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Red-wattled Lapwing, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Red-wattled Lapwings, November 2011 - Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Red-wattled Lapwings, November 2011 – Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Black-winged Stilt, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Black-winged Stilt, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Purple Heron - January 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Purple Heron – January 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Grey Heron, Sukhna Wetland- January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Grey Heron, Sukhna Wetland- January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Great Egret, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Great Egret, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Little Egret, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Little Egret, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Great Egret & Purple Heron, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Great Egret & Purple Heron, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Great Cormorant, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Great Cormorant, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Great Cormorant- January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Great Cormorant- January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Great Cormorants, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Great Cormorants, January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Little Cormorant January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Little Cormorant January, 2014 Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Curlew Sandpiper, November 2011 - Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Curlew Sandpiper, November 2011 – Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

White-breasted Kingfisher, Sukhna Lake, Regulator end, November 2011

White-breasted Kingfisher, Sukhna Lake, Regulator end, November 2011

Small Blue Kingfisher, November 2011 - Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Small Blue Kingfisher, November 2011 – Sukhna Wetland (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Lesser-pied Kingfisher, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Lesser-pied Kingfisher, Sukhna Wetland, November 2011

Little Grebe, Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Little Grebe, Sukhna Wetland, January 2014 (Photo courtesy Kuljit Bains)

Apart from the Sukhna Lake there are around 150 small and large water bodies in the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary that forms its catchment area. These water bodies also attract winter migratory birds and have a rich population of resident bird species. The Avian Habitat and Wetland Society (AWHS) and UT Forest and Wildlife Department have recently joined hands to conduct a birds’ survey in Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary to ascertain the number of bird species found in the Sanctuary during different seasons. Some 200 birds’ species have been identified.

 

References:
1. Siltation Problems in Sukhna Lake; ENVIS Bulletin Vol 10(2): Himalayan Ecology; Yadvinder Singh
2. A temporary home for migratory birds, Baljit Singh, The Tribune, March 17, 2002

Temples of Chandi

Prior to the partition of 1947, the British-Indian province of Punjab had Lahore, the magnificent City of Gardens of the Mughals as its capital.With the partition and creation of India and Pakistan, the western part of the province and the city of Lahore went to Pakistan. India then built its first modern planned city as the new capital of east-Punjab and named it ‘Chandigarh’.

Chandigarh or Chandi-ka-Garh, literally means the fortress of goddess ‘Chandi’ . The name is taken from a modest 19th century stone fortress built atop a hill near Pinjore by the Rajas of Manimajra. The fortress commanded a minor hill pass and overlooked the floodplains of Ghaggar river to the south as well as the Morni hills of the Meers of Garhi-Kotaha that lay beyond. The construction of the fort is generally attributed to Raja Bhagwan Singh who ascended the throne of Manimajra in 1866. The fort is, however, likely to have been built much earlier as it finds a mention in a travel account of Mr.William Moorcroft and Mr. George Trebeck who crossed the area in 1820.*#   The fortress today lies in a state of ruin and is locked to the visitors. The charm of its 200 year old history is all but lost to the semi-finished modern red-brick structure that has been thoughtlessly built inside this historical fortress. One can spy a small temple and some rock carvings inside the locked premises.

Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Panjab, in Ladakh and Kashmir; in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz, and Bokhara (Vol I); Mr.William Moorcroft and Mr. George Trebeck (1841)

# Gharib Das was the founder of the Manimajra family and with the fall of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, he seized the 84 villages that were in the charge of his father Ganga Ram who was a revenue officer under the Governor of Sirhind. He also briefly held the fort at Pinjore. He died in 1783 and his elder son Gopal Singh was conferred the title of ‘Raja’ for the services rendered to the British in the campaign against the Gurkhas. Gopal Singh was succeeded on his death by his son Hamir Singh in 1816 who was followed by Govardhan Singh. Gurbaksh Singh ascended the throne in 1847 and it is generally believed that it was during his reign that the Mata Mansa Devi temple was constructed at Manimajra. Govardhan Singh was succeeded on his death by his brother Bhagwan Singh in 1866.

Chandi-ka-Gurh, Chandi-Kotla, Pinjore-Morni

Chandi-ka-Gurh, Chandi-Kotla, Pinjore-Morni

View from Chandi-ka-Garh

View from Chandi-ka-Garh

Rock carvings at Chandi-ka-Garh

Rock carvings at Chandi-ka-Garh

Semi-finished modern red-brick structure being raised inside Chadi-gurh

Semi-finished modern red-brick structure being raised inside Chadi-gurh

The fort lies at the edge of the Chandi-Kotla village. The village has a curious twin-towered temple dedicated to the goddess.

Chandi temple at Chandi-Kotla, Pinjore-Morni

Chandi temple at Chandi-Kotla, Pinjore-Morni

Twin towers of Chandi temple at Chandi-Kotla, Pinjore-Morni

Twin towers of Chandi temple at Chandi-Kotla, Pinjore-Morni

The visitor to this temple cannot possibly help feeling intimidated by the rather ominous looking idol of the deity draped in a black sari that depicts the goddess at her belligerent best!

Idol of Chandi at Chandi-Kotla

Idol of Chandi at Chandi-Kotla

To the southwest of Chandi-Kotla on the plains below the hill lies the village of Chandimandir. A rather modern looking temple dedicated to Chandi has been built on the outskirts of the village by the side of the Kalka railway line.

Chandi-Mata Mandir, Chandimandir village, Pinjore-Morni

Chandi-Mata Mandir, Chandimandir village, Pinjore-Morni

If one were to go by the claims of the temple pujaris, the Goddess slayed Mahisasura at this spot over 5000 years ago. It is claimed that the first President of independent India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad visited the temple in 1953 along-with Sir C.P.N. Singh, Governor of Punjab and Sh. K.N. Katju the Defence Minister of India. That he was so impressed with the ancient past of the temple that he named the local police station, railway station and the adjoining village ‘Chandimandir’ after the ancient temple! Furthermore it was decided to name the upcoming capital of Punjab after the hill fortress of Chandi, that overlooked this temple!!

References:

  1. The Rajas of the Punjab, the history of the principal states in the Punjab; Sir Lepel Henry Griffin (1870).
  2. Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Panjab, in Ladakh and Kashmir; in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz, and Bokhara (Vol I); Mr.William Moorcroft and Mr. George Trebeck (1841)

Lake at Mallah

The Haryana forest department has built an artistic masonry check dam across a seasonal choe to create a beautiful, long and narrow lake in the abandoned limestone quarry area of Mallah. A walkway with concrete banisters has been created on the top of the dam wall. A flight of steps has been added at either ends to provide easy access from the steep banks.  A number of smaller check dams have been built downstream across the choe creating small pools and ponds that lie hidden by the thick scrub and foliage of the area. The lake waters are clear and serene.  Wide terraces have been cut into the hill sides that surround the lake for removing limestone and these are now covered by trees and scrub. The lake is frequented by wildlife in the area as is borne out by the numerous hoof marks on the banks. Leopards have been frequently spotted in the area by the locals.

The limestone outcrop at Mallah was initially identified by the British in the early 20th century as a potential quarry site for providing gravel for metalling of roads of Punjab province. The lack of road connectivity and distance from the railroad, however, prevented its exploitation. A cement factory (Bhupendra Cement Works) was established at Surajpur near Pinjore by the Patiala Cement Company of the Maharaja of Patiala in 1939 to exploit the limestone at Mallah. The Bhupendra Cement Works later became a part of the Associated Cement Companies Ltd. (ACC) that operated the limestone mines at Mallah till 1997 when the cement factory and the limestone quarrying was shut down under Court orders over environmental concerns. BCW Surajpur has the distinction of having supplied the cement for building the Bhakra Dam!

Lake at Mallah, Morni hills

Check dam at Mallah, Morni hills

Breached retaining wall, Mallah lake

Lake at Mallah-Panormic

References:

  1. Supply of Road Metal in the Punjab; Graham Trevor Pound, 1921

Kaushalya Dam

A 700 metre long and 34 metre high earth-fill dam has been constructed on Kaushalya, a tributary of Ghaggar river by the Haryana Government at a cost of Rs. 217 crores. The dam is located at Pinjore, in the foothills of Morni and is expected to check flash floods during monsoons and also supply 40 cusecs*/ 25 MGD (million gallons per day) of raw water to Panchkula city.The dam has a catchment area of around 75 square kilometres. A lake has been created upstream of the dam that is expected to recharge the ground water and attract bird life.

*40 cusecs during filling period (July-September) and 18 cusecs during lean period (September-July).

A dam on Ghaggar was first conceived by the British in the mid 19th century to supply water to Ambala Cantonment. The idea was revived in 1960s with the plan to build a large dam on Ghaggar at Gumthala, near Chandimandir  that would supply water to Chandigarh and control floods in downstream areas of Punjab. This plan was finally shelved in 1999 as it involved submergence of over 4000 acres of land with the resultant dislocation of a large number of people. The idea of building smaller dams on the tributaries was then mooted and the construction of the Kaushalya dam started in 2008.

Interestingly, Ghaggar water was initially associated with the high prevalence of goitre and disease of the spleen as also fever and poor health.  Mr. Bateson, Civil Surgeon, Ambala toured the area of Mani Majra and the villages around it in 1868 and concluded in his report to the Deputy Commissioner Captain Tigre that there was some correlation of dependence on Ghaggar waters with the incidence of these diseases. The ilaqa of Manimajra included the town and 69 villages that drew water from the Ghaggar through irrigation channels called ‘kuls’. The people, however, drank water drawn from wells as the river water was not to be trusted. Mr. Bateson toured Mowli, Pabhat, Abehpur, Barra Firozpur, Dara and Chandi apart from the Manimajra town. The people of Barra Firozpur who relied almost completely on Ghaggar water for drinking purpose were the most unhealthy with large incidence of goitre and deaths due to ‘fevers’, especially during the rains.

A.C.C. Renzy, Esquire, Sanitary Commissioner Punjab, however, rubbished the conclusions drawn by Mr. Bateson and attributed the disease to ‘contamination’ of the Ghaggar water with the drainage from the rice fields and other impurities as it ran through the ‘kuls’ (irrigation channels). The mineral composition of surface-soil and sub-soil of Manimajra area was believed to be causing the high incidence of goitre.

In fact, the incidence of goitre was so high in the adjoining area of Pinjore, that in one of the sieges of the Pinjore fort, the besieged army paraded a number of unhealthy women with gortesque swollen throats on the fort walls to scare off the aggressors! As per folklore, the Raja of Sirmaur scared off Nawab Fidai Khan, the architect of Pinjore Garden and the foster brother of Aurangzeb by presenting some goitre-inflicted women to the Nawab who wanted to be introduced to Rajah’s harem!!

 

Kaushalya Dam

Kaushalya Dam

Kaushalya Dam, Pinjore

Kaushalya Dam-reservoir

Sunset at Kaushalya Dam

References:

  1. Report on the Sanitary Administration of the Punjab; 1869

Nada Sahib Gurdwara

Nada-Saheb-Gurdwara

Just before the turn on NH 73 (connecting Panchkula-Roorkee) for the major district road to Morni, is the historic Nada Sahib Gurdwara that marks the spot where the tenth Guru of the Sikhs set up camp on the banks of river Ghaggar on his way to Anandpur after his victory at Bhangani in 1688 A.D. The following is an account of the events as documented by different historians:-

The tenth Guru had his dera at Makhowal that fell within the territory of Kohlur State (Bilaspur) who’s Raja Bhim Chand, was perturbed by the increasing militarisation of the Sikhs including use of Nagaras (war drums). To test his suspicion he asked the Guru to loan him the elephant called Prasadi that he had received from Ratan Rai, the son of Raja Ram Rai of Assam. The demand was an assertion of political over lordship of the Raja. The Guru’s refusal escalated tensions. In the meantime, a border dispute developed between the States of Nahan and Srinagar (Garhwal). The Guru accepted the invitation of Medni Prakash, the ruler of Nahan to come to Nahan and intercede with Fateh Shah, the ruler of Srinagar. The Guru set out for Nahan and halted at Bhurewal and Toka in the foothills of Nahan where he was welcomed by the Rangars (Muslim Chauhan Rajputs). He stayed briefly at Nahan and then reached Paonta on the banks of river Yamuna where he established a new dera and fort in 1685 A.D. The border dispute between the neighbours was resolved amicably with the Guru’s good offices. The Guru settled to a life of prayer and religious composition. He would occasionally hunt for big game in the forests around Paonta.

A fresh development took place with the betrothal of Fateh Shah’s daughter to Bhim Chand’s son.* The Guru refused passage to Bhim Chand’s heavily armed entourage through Paonta and the Raja was forced to take a longer circuitous route to Srinagar. The Guru sent a gift of jewellery to Fateh Shah, as a gift for the bride. Bhim Chand was incensed at Fateh Shah’s accepting a wedding gift from his sworn enemy and threatened to break the marriage. The gift was returned. Relations deteriorated sharply thereafter and ended in a fierce battle fought between Fateh Shah and Guru’s army at Bhangani, a village close to Paonta.* Fateh Shah led an alliance of hill Rajas including Bhim Chand of Kohlur, Kirpal of Katoch, Gopal of Guler , Hari Chand of Hindur and Kesari Chand of Jaswal. Pir Budhu Shah, a sufi saint of Sadhaura, is believed to have arranged 500 pathan mercenaries to support the Guru’s army but they deserted before the battle. The Pir then despatched his four sons and 700 disciples who fought valiantly alongside the Guru’s army. The battle was fought on 18th September 1688 and the Guru killed the enemy’s bravest archer, Hari Chand by his own arrow. Fateh Shah’s coalition was routed in the nine hour battle.

*As per some historians the demand for the elephant (Prasadi) was made by Bhim Chand on the pretext of his son’s proposed wedding to Fateh Shah’s daughter and that the wedding had taken place before Guru moved to Paonta. The attack by Fateh Shah was actually a fallout of resumption of hostilities between Garhwal and Nahan and a reaction to increasing militarisation of the Sikhs and the consequent increase in their political clout. Also that the Guru through his strategic fortifications at Paonta now commanded the passage to Nahan.  

The Guru is said to have left Paonta a month after the battle of Bhangani and moved with his followers back to Anandpur. On the way, he stopped to address a congregation of devotees at Kapal Mochan near Jagadhri. He moved onto Sadhaura, camping at Laharpur. He then entered Raipur State, which was a powerful State in the late 17th century, its ruler being recognized as the chief of the Chauhan Rajputs of Naraingarh area. The ruler of Raipur, Rao Fateh Sinh is said to have shown his reluctance to allow the Guru to encamp inside the town for fear of retribution from his pathan neighbours. The Guru then set up camp at Manak Tabra at some distance from Raipur. The Rani, upset with her husband’s cowardice is said to have visited the Guru’s camp and invited him for meals at Raipur Fort.

The Guru was impressed at the Rani’s fearless devotion and presented her with a khanda. The Guru referred to Raipur as Rani-ka-Raipur and the town gradually came to be known as Raipur Rani. As per another version, the Rani was acting as the regent for her minor son.

The Guru then moved westward and set up camp on the banks of river Ghaggar in the Morni foothills. The locals led by one Nadu Shah Labana served the Guru with devotion during his stay and the place came to be known as ‘Nada’ after Nadu Shah. A platform was built subsequently at the site to commemorate the Guru’s visit by Bhai Motha Singh.

The Gurdwara came up at the site of the original platform and was taken under the aegis of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee when the Patiala State merged with Punjab in 1956.

A large complex has come up at the site with guest rooms for pilgrims, langar halls, multi-level parking etc. The full moon day (pooranmashi) of every month sees thousands of devotees visiting the shrine for offering prayers and partaking in the community meal (langar). A Sikh museum and a sarovar are proposed at the site.

 

References:

  1. Sketch of the Seikhs: Lt. Col. Malcolm, 1812
  2. The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism: H. S Singha
  3. History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E: Surjit Singh Gandhi
  4. Gazetteer of the Sirmur State 1934