Rivers of Bihar in 1810 -Kosi, Bagmati,Soura, Kali-kosi, Kalindi...

The Kosi And Its Branches-their bed and courses about 200 years ago

Survey of Rivers of Bihar-about 200 years ago

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.
Kosi is the name used by the people who inhabit its banks and the original name, was perhaps Kausiki. The river was said to be the daughter of Kusik Raja, king of Gadhi, a very celebrated person.

The Kosi, in 1810 AD,when entering Bihar was very rapid, and its channel was filled with rocks or large stones, and was nowhere fordable; but small boats could at all seasons reach the bottom of the cataract at Chatra.

The Kosi continued for about 18 miles to form the boundary between Bihar and Nepal. During this space, the river undergone little change. Its course was more gentle, and is free from rocks or large stones, but it was nowhere fordable. 

Water-colour painting of buildings on the river bank at Kahalgaon (Bihar) by Robert Smith (1787-1873) between 1814 and 1815.

The channel was about two miles in width, and in the rainy season was filled, from bank to bank; but contained numerous islands, which were covered with tamarisks and coarse grass. In the dry season, most of the space between these islands became dry sand; but there were always several streams: one was usually rapid, rather muddy, from 4 to 500 yards in width, and nowhere fordable; the others were shallow and clear, in many places being almost stagnant, which allowed the mud to subside. Boats of 4 or 500 mans could frequent this part of the river at all seasons; but larger could not pass in the spring, owing to a want of sufficient water.

Soon after entering Bihar, the Kosi was sending to the right a small branch named Naliya and about eight miles below again received this stream increased by the waters of the Barhati, which was coming from Nepal. In the dry season neither the Naliya nor Barhati contained a stream.

At Sahebganj, there entered from the north a small river which had a course of 10 or 12 miles. In its upper part it was called Ghaghi, and in its lower it assumed the name of Rajamohan. Below Deviganj,  the channel near the left bank, was very narrow, and in the dry season contained no water. It was therefore called Mara-Kosi, and was considered as a different river.

At Saptamighat ,the river was about 1000 yards wide and free from islands; but contained many sands. The water in February,1810 was confined to one stream, about 400 yards wide, rather slow and turbid; but about 15 feet deep. On either side were large sandy spaces covered with tamarisks like the islands in the upper parts, and intersected by channels, which during the floods contained water. At Dhamdaha, a little higher, the character of the river was exactly to resemble its appearance at Nathpur, that was, it consisted of a channel, about two miles wide, filled with sands and islands, and intersected by various channels, one of which was deep and wide. 

The most exact way, perhaps, of representing this river, would therefore be by a channel of from 1.5 to 2.5 miles wide, extending from where it entered Bihar to where it joined the Ganga. In this space, perhaps a fourth part was covered with reeds and tamarisks, and was sometimes disposed in islands and sometimes was contiguous to the bank; but the whole was changing every year, produce new islands, and join some old ones to the continent. About seven miles above its actual junction with the Ganga, the Kosi received into its right bank a small river called the Hiran. This arised from a marsh about three miles north-west from Nathpoor; but was there called Gadhi. This, after a course of about seven miles, was joined by a smaller rivulet called the Garara, which rised immediately south from Nathpoor. The Hiran continued the remainder of its course, parallel to the Kosi. About 14 miles from Dimiya and 30 from its source was Dorha.  About four miles lower down were Krishnapoor Rup and Aliganj, where the river became still deeper. About seven miles lower down, Dhamdaha and the adjacent town Garel were situated, between it and the Kosi, on the two banks of a channel, which in spring was dry, and at both ends communicated with the Hiran,

A little below the re-junction of these channels the Hiran received a river called the Nagar, which rised from a marsh near Viratnagar, and had a course of about 18 miles in a direct line. About five miles from its mouth was Barahara, where in the floods boats of 1000 mans burthen could load. From its junction with the Nagar, unto where the Hiran was falling into the Kosi, was about 17 miles in a direct line.About two miles below the mouth of the Hiran the Kosi received the Gagri .

About eight miles from the junction of the Gagri with the Kosi, , the former river receivesd a branch named the Daus, Belaganj was at about two miles east from it, and 20 miles from its entrance into the Gagri,

A path of Koshi-in Traditions

The Kosi on reaching the plain, instead of running almost directly south to join the Ganga, formerly proceeded from Chatra to the eastward, and joined the Ganga far below; and many old channels were told formerly occupied by its immense stream, and were called (Burhi), the old, or (Mara), the dead Kosi. Three or four different routes was traced over that period,by which the river seems to have successively deserted its ancient course towards the south-east, until finally it had reached a south or straight direction.

In tradition of that time ,it was alleged that in times of remote antiquity the Kosi passed south-east by where Taj pur, and from thence towards the east until it joined the Brahmaputra, having no communication with the Ganga..
No rivers was falling into the Kosi from its left bank, at least below where it entered Bihar; but several branches separated from it, and the Mahanonda received the various streams of the northern mountains, several of which in all probability joined the Kosi when its course was more towards the north .

A large channel filled with rocks and stones at the foot of the hills was alleged by the people of the vicinity to be the original channel of the river Kosi.   It was a very inconsiderable stream and  after passing south-east for about three miles, was divided into two branches.That to the west called Sitadhar and the eastern branch was called Pangroyan communicating  with the Mahanonda, was considered as a branch of that river. The Sitadhar , passing from the separation of the Panduyan about 10 miles in a southerly direction, and having about midway left Matiyari at some distance from its left bank, divided into two branches.

The branch to the west joined a small stream called the Dulardayi, which, a was rising from a marsh south-west from Matiyari. 

The Soura,Kalindi,Ghogha and Kali-kosi rivers -their bed and courses about 200 years ago

Some miles below this the Dulardayi was lost in the Soura, which arised from a marsh about 10 miles south from Matiyari.It passed south and east for a little way, where it was joined by another draining of a marsh called Vagjan. The united stream, after passing through a corner of Arariya, entered Haveli about 14 miles direct from Purnia, and some miles lower down received the Dulardayi. The united stream was much of the same size with the Dulardayi, and even in floods admitted only of small boats.

About six miles north-west from Purnia, the Soura was sending off a considerable part of its water by a channel called Khata, which in January,1811 AD contained a pretty rapid stream. Below that the Soura was almost stagnant. About four miles above Purania, the Soura received from the north-east the draining of a marsh which form a river named Gargada, which was of a very short course, boats of 200 mans burthen could enter.

A little below this the Soura was much more enlarged by receiving the Burhi Kosi,
a continuation of the eastern and principal branch of the Sitadhar.From its separation from the western branch it was running east towards the boundary of Arariya, and about midway, without any visible reason, assumed the name of Burhi Kosi, and was considered as the old channel of the great river. This old channel passed then for a considerable way through the south-west corner of Arariya  and entered Haveli. About 12 miles road distance from Purnia, it was navigable, for small boats, in the rainy season. Some way down, gradually increasing, it separated for a little way into two branches including a considerable island. Soon after it joined the Soura, and loosed its name.

The Soura was also called Samra. Soon after receiving the Burhi Kosi it was passing through Purnia, and even in the dry season it admited boats of from 50 to 100 mans. 

A little below the town of Purnia , the Soura received the old channel of the Kali-kosi or black Kosi. In the floods it was navigable for trade, especially in cotton. About a mile or two south from the boundary of Nepal ,the Kosi was sending from its left bank a channel which was called the Burhi or old Kosi, and in the dry season contained no water. After running to no great distance east it received from Morang a small river called Geruya. The Burhi Kosi, from where it received the Geruya, was flowing south, parallel to the great Kosi, and very near it. In one part, by separating into two arms, it formed an island. About the boundary of Haveli, it changed its name to that of Kali-kosi. Six or seven miles below Puraniya, at Rajiganj, the Soura united with the main channel of the Kali-kosi, and loosed its name in that of the Kali-kosi. 

Some miles below, where it assumed this new name, the Kali-kosi was joined by another river, which was coming from Morang a little east from the Geruya, and was continuing its course all the way parallel and near to the river which it was to join. Where it entered Bihar, this river was called Kajla. Some miles south from the boundary the Kajla, was devided into two arms. The western arm retained the name, the eastern was called Nitiyadhar. On their reunion the stream assumed the name of Kamala, and join the Kali-kosi far below.

Immediately before the junction of the Soura with the Kali-kosi the latter send off an arm, which was called little (Chhoti) Kali-kosi.
The Ghoga arised from the right bank of the Mahanonda, a little above where it divided into two branches. After sending off the Baramasiya, the Ghoga turned to the west, and soon was joined by the Kankhar,. It then winded very much for six or seven miles, until it joined the Kalapani, and assumed the name of Kalindi.

The Kalindi was not wide, but was very deep. A little below this, a branch of the Ganga,called Ganga Pagla or Burhi-Ganga had swept away a part of the Kalindi. The remainder separated from this branch of the Ganga, about three miles from Gorguribah, and run with a very winding course, for about 17 miles, to join the Mahanonda opposite to Maldah. Near the northern boundary of Gondwara the great Kosi was sending from its left bank a small branch called the Barhandi, which soon after divided into two branches, the Barhandi, and dead (Mara) Barhandi.

The Bagmati  - about 200 years ago
The first river, on  the left bank of the Ganga, was that which Major Rennell called the Bagmati or the Gandaki. It had its source in the valley of Nepal and in Bihar, over that time, joined a small river, which passed Mujaffarpur and , the lesser GandakiAlthough the Bagmati was by far the most considerable stream, this Gandaki was probably an old channel of the great river of that name, the united stream was most commonly called Gandaki. Numerous changes in the course of the Bagmati had greatly impeded the improvement of the country. Immediately below the old channel called Burhi Ganga, the great river was sending off a considerable branch called the Pagla. The Pagla was navigable in the rainy season for boats of any size; but in the dry season, although it had many deep pools, it retained no current.