Rivers of Bihar in 1810 AD-Mahananda,Kankayi,Ratoa,Bakra..

Mahananda and its tributaries -  course about 200 years ago

Mahananda arise from  the hills of Sikim and after entering into Bihar,in 1810-11 AD, it was called Balasan

Survey of Rivers of Bihar in 1810-11 AD

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.

About eight miles below the mouth of the Balasan the Mahananda received, a river called Chengga, which was said to be as large as the Balasan. Opposite almost to the mouth of the Chengga was Kaliyaganj. The Mahananda there had a channel of about 400 yards wide with high banks. In the dry season it contained a broad clear stream, which admits of large canoes, on which were constructed floats, that at all times can transport 80 mans of goods.

Some way below this the Mahananda received by two mouths, distant about two miles, a river called Buridangi, which though small contained a stream at all seasons. From the boundary of Udhrail, the Mahananda passed for about 22 miles, mainly through Kisanaganj, but in one small corner it reached Bahadurganj, and had on its banks Dewanganj also.

Wash drawing of the Governor's House,Malda on a bank of the Mahananda  by an unknown artist, c.1790

In this part of its course it received two rivers, the uppermost, from the right, named the Deonayi; the other, from the left, named Dank.The Deonayi was said to come from the lower hills of Nepal, and soon after entering the plain was said to separate into two arms, of which that to the west preserves the name, and entered Bihar as a stream useful for floating down timber.The Dank, which entered the Mahananda from the east, arised in the north-west corner of Ronggopoor, and after running about seven miles through Udhrail, receives into its right side another small stream called the Berang. This was coming from the same quarter, and had high steep banks. In the dry season both were rapid clear streams. In the rainy season they admitted canoes. The united stream was 50 yards from bank to bank. The water was about two feet deep and filled the channel from side to side. The current was very slow.
At the boundary of Kishanganj the Dank received from the left a very large channel, which was called Burhi, or Sukha Changolayi, which was arising near the source of the Dank .From the boundary of Udhrail the Dank winded through Kishanganj for about 15 miles, without including turnings. 
Immediately after leaving Kishanganj, and entering Dulalganj in West Bengal, the Mahananda was dividing into two branches, the western of which contained a stream in the rainy season only, and was called Sukha Mahananda.

Kankayi-  course about 200 years ago

A little way below Dulalganj, the right bank of the Mahananda received a great additon called the Kankayi. Kankayi was by far the most considerable river between the Tista and Kost. It entered in Bihar near Bahadurganj as a stream useful for floating down timber and  in the rainy season admited small boats.

Soon after entering Bihar, it was sending to the right a channel called Mara or dead Kankayi. The Mara kankayi, which was mentioned as the great Conki of  Major Rennell rejoined the principal channel, after a separation of about 25 miles, in a direct line; but in that space it was divided into two arms, that again rejoined. The eastern of these was very inconsiderable, and passed Bahadurganj. This channel was called Guna. The west and main channel received from Morang a small stream, called Kharra.

The principal Kankayi, after having sent off the dead channel, passed a little way south, and then was receiving from the left a small river. A little south from the mouth of the Berang, the Kankayi received a river of the same name and size, called Chhota or little  and Burnhi Kankayi. From the mouth of the Burhi-Kankayi, downwards, the Kankayi at all seasons admitted boats of 200 mans burthen and in the floods it received those carrying 1000 mans. A little below, where the two arms of the chief Kankayi reunited, the stream was joined by the Ratoa. 

View of Ganges and Rajmahal Hills from the top of the hill at Sakrigali, with the shrine of Sayyid Ahmad Makhdum,Artist-Sitram,1820 AD

Ratoa-  course about 200 years ago

 The river was called Mara, or dead Ratoa, and was distinguished from the Bahi, or running Ratoa, which was placed farther west. It was coming from Morang and was receiving from its west side, another small stream, the Krishnayi. Farther down, and from the same side, it received the Loneswari, which rised from a marsh in Bahadurganj. A little way below received a river from the east side called Kamal

The Ratoa then was running straight south to join the Kankayi. In this distance, which was about 10 miles, of its course, canoes could ascend at all seasons, floats of timber descend even in the dry season, and in the floods boats of 500 mans burthen could navigate its channel, which was deep, though narrow.

A little below the mouth of the Mara-Ratoa the Kankayi receiveg from the west also a small river, named Das, or Baruya, which arised on the boundary between Bahadurganj and Arariya 

The next branch of the Mahananda, entering Bihar near Bahadurganj, was there called the Bahi, (running )Ratoa
. This channel was formed in about eighteenth century, which, in 1810 AD, conveyed most of the water of the Mara-Ratoa. In the rainy season it was admitting canoes and bringing down floats of timber. Soon after entering Bihar, the Ratoa received from the west a small river, at Sisaugachhi, named the Lona, which seemed to have been cut off by this new Ratoa  and its lower portion formed the Loneswari as a branch of the Kankayi.

 Near the junction , The Ratoa, a little below that, entered Arariya, and some way below received from its right another small channel, named Jogjan. Immediately below the junction the Ratoa increased a little in size, and in the rainy season admited boats of 200 mans burthen. A little way lower down the Ratoa received from its right another marshy channel named the Biri, which was a branch of the Barka.

A few miles below this, near Baghmara, the Ratoa, , changed its name to Panroyan and was admitting boats of 300 mans. Towards the boundary between Arariya and Dulalganj, the Panroyan received a small river named Kathuya, which was rising from a marsh near Arariya and in the rainy season admitted small boats for a little way. 
The Bakra river-  course about 200 years ago

The Bakra was coming from Morang, and after crossing a corner of Matiyari, passed through Arariya to receive the Lohandara. In this space, even in the fair season, it admitted boats of 50 mans burthen, and of 400 mans in the floods. The united stream of the Lohandara and Bakra was called Bakra and in the rainy season admitted boats of 1000 mans, while at all seasons it could be navigated by those of 100. Some way below Bochi this river received from the west a small stream named Balakongyar or Kagjiya  or Trisuliya. After the junction of this petty stream the river was most commonly called Balakongyar, but it was also known by the name Lohandara, and retained these names through the remainder of its course in Arariya. After leaving this, and running for about 24 miles between Haveli and Dulalganj, it joined the Mahananda. In the dry season boats of 300 mans could ascend this part of its course.