Ganga flowing in Bihar about 200 years ago

Courses of Rivers of Bihar in 1810 AD as Surveyed by Francis Buchanan

Francis Buchanan surveyed the courses of the rivers of Bihar along with their tributaries and branches in 1810-11 AD and presented a minute account of it.
Bihar has many rivers and innumerable rivulets. They are shifting their courses .The shifting of the courses and bed over the centuries is very remarkable. Many of the channels mentioned in that survey have become dead and dry even extinct. This account of the courses of the rivers of Bihar in about 200 years ago, is very important and interesting for making the comparison with their present courses.

At present, the ecological unbalance and many other factors are contributing to the great losses to ecology of Bihar and its negativity is resulted in forms of massive flood,soil-erosion etc. These statements of the old courses of the rivers of Bihar may be relevant and interesting in finding solutions to the above environmental issues..
The Ganga , where it enter Bihar was evidently a much less considerable river than in its passage along Patna

The channel of the Ganga in the entry point of Bihar was , as in 1810 AD, from a half to three-quarters of a mile wide; but the size and rapidity of the stream was in spring much less than at Patna, although it was no where fordable.

The Ganga, after receiving several rivers, was enlarged to the size . It was joined by the Sone, a little way above the town of Sherpur and thereafter it passed east with an undivided channel, until it reached about two miles beyond the cantonments of Danapur; but immediately above the cantonments a small corner of the latter was placed on the south side of the river. On this part of the Ganga, Danapur and Digha were the only places which carry on an export and import trade by water.

Watercolour by Sir Charles D'Oyly of houses along the  bank of Ganga, one flying the union flag, state barges and budgerows in the foreground Dated 1820 AD


Shifting of the bed of Ganga was continuing and in the fair season its upper end was becoming perfectly dry, and boats could no longer reach the East India  Company's cloth factory situated on the bank of the river. An island about six miles long, and, where largest, about one mile broad was formed by the channels of Ganga near Patna.. Many boats, however, intended for the accommodation of travelers, were kept in the lower end of this channel at Barkerganj (Now bakerganj).The main channel passing round the north side of the above mentioned island received the Gandak at Hajipur.A long, wide, and cultivated tongue of land projected from the west side of the Gandak, and passing east about six miles from Hajipur, separated the stream of the Gandak from the Ganga; but, in the rainy season, a small channel separated this tongue from the northern shore.


Watercolour by Sir Charles D'Oyly dating 1820 AD-Flagstaff Ghat at Danapur
Below this island the main channel washed the walls of the old city of Patna, where many goods were imported at Khajeh Kalan ghat. About the extremity of the patna the Ganga divided into two branches, which surround a very large island divided into two very unequal portions, and about nine miles in length. As the shifting of the beds of the Ganga was very remarkable, these statements were given as a means of making comparisons in future years.From the lower part of this island to Barh the Ganga run easterly for about 21 miles with an uninterrupted channel. For about eight miles above Barh , an old channel of the river was runing parallel to the Ganga,which was navigable in the rainy season only which formed a narrow island called Ramnagar Diyara,

Below Barh, the Ganga was taking a considerable sweep to the north, and a narrow old channel separated from the main an island called Malai-Diyar.Beginning about five miles below Barh, the Ganga was running to south-east direction for about 28 miles. Opposite to Duriyapur, about 16 miles in a direct line from Barh were two islands..

About two miles below Duriyapur the Ganga was sending off a small channel called Mar-Gang, or the dead river
, which was soon separated into two branches, each taking the same name, and after a course of eight or nine miles they were reunited, and immediately afterwards, joining the Haluhar, communicated with the Kiul by means of the Rohuya. In the dry season the water of the Haluhar, Mar-Gang and other adjoining creeks were almost stagnant, and in the floods sometimes was running one way and sometimes another, as partial rains swelled one channel more than another.


The eastern and northern branch of the Mar-Gang, which, when Major Rennell made his survey was the great channel of the river, was in some parts of its course called Sarla. It soon divided into two branches, the south western of which or the Sarla, was rejoining the first, and most westerly Mar-Gang ; while the other, called also Mar-Gang, was running parallel and near to the great Ganga, until it approached Suryagarha, where it joined the Kiul. 

These three old channels of the Ganga, together with its present grand stream and the Kiul, included three very large and fertile islands. In the time of Major Rennell, at the border of then tirhut and Bhagalpur districts (Presently, near Barahiya), there was a large island in the river, the southern arm of which received the Kiul river. This arm was, in 1810, dry and a small channel was conveying the water of the Kiul to Suryagarha. From Suryagarha, the river was runing about 11 miles with a very wide uninterrupted channel. At Suryagarha the Ganga divided into two arms, which surround a long winding island, extending to Munger. 

Immediately below Munger the river, since the time of Major Rennell, had encroached much on both banks, especially towards Sitakunda, and formed in its channel some very large islands. In many parts of this course the right bank of the river was rocky. The channel between Sitakunda and the islands was smaller than that on the west. Opposite to the lower of these islands a branch of great length separated from the left bank of the Ganga, which it rejoined far below. It passed east for about I5 miles through Gogri, where it wais called Baharkhal. It then was taking a large sweep north to reach Bihpur, passing by Madhurapur. At both these places it was called merely a branch of the Ganga, and in fact this part of it, in the time of Major Rennell's survey, was the northern side of a large channel of the Ganga, which then passed Bihpur. This channel was navigable in the floods; but in many parts, the river was becoming quite dry during the fair season. From Bihipur it passed south about six miles to Sibganj, where it was called the Kalbaliya, but was navigable in the rainy season alone. It rejoined the river about five miles below.

The southern side of the same channel of the Ganga, in the time of Major Rennell passed Bihpur, but in 1810 AD,formed a branch called Ganggacharan. Below the islands and Sitakunda, there was, for about 14 miles, a very uninterrupted channel, about a mile wide, but in the dry season one half, or perhaps more, was a white glittering sand. At the end of this uninterrupted space, towards the east, was a vast rock of granite surrounded entirely by the stream, with another adjacent to the southern bank. At Sultanganj, , in the time of Major Rennell, a branch of the river took a sweep to the north, forming a large island.

The Fakeer's Rock at Janguira, near Sultangunj by Sutherland, Thomas Date: 1824

Opposite to this, as in the time of Major Rennell, and extending towards Kahalgaon, was a channel of the Ganga, which was called Yamuniya or Jaoniya. This channel was later on interrupted by the great river, which had carried away the islands opposite to Barari. Still farther the river had worn away a great part of the northern bank, and had greatly enlarged the width of the lower part of the island between the Yamuniya and Ganga. The length of this island, was very much curtailed, and three immense rocks of granite, north from were in the middle of the river, forming one of the most picturesque scenes. From these rocks to Patharghat the river was sweeping some rocky hills, and two small remnants of the former island was resisting its power. 

One of them, opposite to Patharghat, was supported by a rock of granite. On the enlarged part of the Yamuniya was Bhagalpur. On the northern bank ,there was Sahali, at the mouth of the branch of the river called Kalbaliya. A few miles below Sahali the Ganga was sending, from its left side, a small channel, which after a course of eight or nine miles rejoined the great stream, just before that united with the vast body of the Kosi. This channel was called Gangaprasad, and has on its banks, Pangchgachhiya. It was only navigable in the rainy season
The river Ganges near Bhagalpur, the steamer 'Hooghly' on the river Artist: Prinsep, Thomas (Oct.1828)                                 

Between Patharghat and Paingti was an old channel of the river, in many places both wide and deep, but in the dry season quite stagnant, and in many places cultivated. It extended five or six miles in length, and was called merely Ganggacharan, or a branch of the river

At the granite rocks of Patharghat, sixty-five minutes west from Calcutta, and in the latitude of 25° SO' N,the river there was confined within a narrow channel free from islands or sand-banks, and was almost a mile in width. At all seasons of the year it was navigable in the largest vessels,. A few miles lower down, where it was receiving the Kosi, it was spreading out to an immense size, and, including its islands, was from six to seven miles from bank to bank. At the time of Rennel`s survey,the southern branch of the river, was called as the Bhagirathi. The channel, which bounded on the north the island Khawaspoor, was considered as the Kosi, and since the survey, seems to have enlarged itself by cutting away from that island, and by leaving its channel towards Karhagola almost dry.

There was a large communication between the Bhagirathi and Kosi at the east end of the island of Khawaspoor, the two rivers were considered as separate upto the junction a little below Lalgola apposite to Paingti. This place was esteemed peculiarly holy, and was a special resort of the pilgrims, who frequent the river to bathe. It was said, that formerly its course was to the north of the small hill at Manihari, with the hills of Sakarigali and on its north side was a large old channel. Nearly south from Manihari was a small channel separating an island from the northern bank. It was called the Maragangga, or dead Ganga, while another similar channel, a little lower down, was considered as a dead branch of the Kosi.

In the rainy season of 1809, the lower channel of the Bhagirathi, leading to Calcutta, had been entirely shut; but in the following year it opened again, and was nearly of the same size with the upper channel; both however suffered a considerable diminution, owing probably to the new communication opened below the Jalanggi. On the upper channel.
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