Hooghly River

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Map of Hooghly River
Hooghly River viewed over the town of Bally, Howrah.

The Hooghly River (Bengali হুগলী, Hugli; Anglicized alternatively spelled Hoogli or Hugli) or the Bhāgirathi-Hooghly, called 'Ganga' traditionally, is an approximately 260 kilometres (160 mi) long distributary of the Ganges River in West Bengal, India.[1] It splits from the Ganges as a canal in Murshidabad District at the Farakka Barrage. The town of Hugli-Chinsura, formerly Hooghly, is located on the river, in the Hooghly (district).[2] The origins of the Hooghly name are uncertain, whether the city or the river was named first.

Course[edit]

The Farakka Barrage is a dam that diverts water from the Ganges into a canal near the town of Tildanga in Malda district. This supplies the Hooghly with adequate water even in the dry season. It parallels the Ganges, past Dhulian, until just above Jahangirpur where the canal ends and the river takes its own course. Just south of Jahangirpur it leaves the Ganges area and flows south past Jiaganj Azimganj, Murshidabad, and Baharampur. South of Baharampur and north of Palashi it used to form the border between Bardhaman District and Nadia District, but while the border has remained the same the river is now often east or west of its former bed. The river then flows south past Katwa, Navadwip and Kalna. At Kalna it originally formed the border between Nadia District and Hooghly District, and then further south between Hooghly District and North 24 Parganas District. It flows past Halisahar, Chunchura, Konnagar, and Kamarhati. Then just before entering the twin cities of Kolkata (Calcutta) and Howrah, it turns to the southwest. At Nurpur it enters an old channel of the Ganges and turns south to empty into the Bay of Bengal. Two of its well known tributaries are Damodar and Rupnarayan.

Harvest fields of Bengal[edit]

The Hooghly River from the Harvest Fields of Bengal, c. 1905

The scenery along the banks of the Hooghly varies considerably. From the sea nothing but sandbanks and mud formations covered with coarse herbage at first greet the eye, then as the river narrows, cultivated rice fields and sleepy hamlets reposing within the foliage of beautiful groves, render the view at once pleasing and picturesque.

Tidal bore[edit]

The tide runs rapidly on the Hugli, and produces a remarkable example of the fluvial phenomenon known as a "tidal bore." This consists of the head-wave of the advancing tide, hemmed in where the estuary narrows suddenly into the river, and often exceeds 7 feet (2.1 m) in height. It is felt as high up as Calcutta, and frequently destroys small boats. The difference from the lowest point of low-water in the dry season to the highest point of high-water in the rains is reported to be 20 feet 10 inches (6.35 m). The greatest mean rise of tide, about 16 feet (4.9 m), takes place in March, April or May - with a declining range during the rainy season to a mean of 10 feet (3.0 m), and a minimum during freshets of 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m).

History[edit]

In its upper reaches the river is generally known as the Bhāgirathi, until it reaches Hooghly. The word Bhāgirathi literally means "caused by Bhagiratha", a mythical Sagar Dynasty prince who was instrumental in bringing the river Ganges from the heavens on to the earth, in order to release his 60,000 grand-uncles from a curse of the saint Kapila.

The river was an important transportation channel in the early history of Bengal, and later with the colonial trading ports. The river's presence is one of the reasons chosen by the British to settle there at Calcutta. The Dutch/French colony at Chandannagar on the Hooghly was once the rival of British Calcutta, but was eclipsed by Calcutta in the colonial wars of the 18th century. The river banks hosted several battles and skirmishes towards the start of the colonial era, including the Battle of Plassey Palashi, as well as earlier wars against Maratha raiders. On eastern bank lie many historic and wealthy towns like Murshidabad, Jangipur and Ziaganj.

In 1974, the Farakka Barrage began diverting water into the Hooghly during the dry season so as to reduce the silting difficulties at Kolkata's port.

Like the rest of the Ganges, the Bhāgirathi-Hooghly is considered sacred to Hindus, and its water is considered holy.

Economics[edit]

Jubilee Bridge on Hooghly River between Naihati and Bandel

The Bhāgirathi-Hooghly river system is an essential lifeline for the people of West Bengal. It is through this river that the East India company sailed in to Bengal and established their trade settlement - Calcutta, which later grew up to be one of the greatest cities of the world and capital of the erstwhile British India. People from other countries like French, Dutch, Portuguese, etc. all had their trade settlement by the banks of this river.

The river provides perennial supply of water to the plain of West Bengal for irrigation and human & industry consumption. The river is navigable and the major transport system in the region with a huge traffic flow. The river is also polluted. For a long time, the Calcutta Port was the biggest port of India. Though in the past its significance had gone down, but recently it had again came up to the 3rd position in the list of Indian Ports. The fish from the river are important to the local economy.

The modern container port of Haldia, on the intersection of lower Hooghly and Haldi River, now carries much of the region's maritime trade. One new port will be built in the deep sea to reduce load on Calcutta port.

The Hooghly river valley was the most important industrial area of erstwhile state of Bengal. Due to declining jute industry, the prime industry of this region, it lost its glory and partitioning of Bengal. But still it is one of the biggest industrial areas of India. Except Kolkata and Howrah it has number of small cities which forms the Greater Kolkata Agglomeration, the second biggest Indian city and former capital.

Several bridges run over the Hooghly at Kolkata – Howrah Bridge, Vidyasagar Setu, Vivekananda Setu, Nivedita Setu (second Vivekananda Bridge), Jubilee Bridge(chinsurah) and Iswar Gupta Setu (Banshberia).

Gallery[edit]

In literature[edit]

Rudyard Kipling wrote an article, On the Banks of the Hugli[3] (1888), and a short story set on the Hooghli, An Unqualified Pilot[4] (1895).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 21°55′N 88°05′E / 21.917°N 88.083°E / 21.917; 88.083