Adi Ganga

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Kalighat, Kolkata—shown with the Kalighat Temple and the river, Adi Ganga

Adi Ganga (Bengali: আদি গঙ্গা), also known as Gobindapur Creek, Surman’s Nullah and Tolly’s Nullah, was the main flow of the Hooghly River from the 15th to 17th century but has subsequently virtually dried up.[1]


The earlier course of the lower Ganges as it flowed through the Bhagirathi channel was somewhat different from what it is in the beginning of the 21st century. At Tribeni, near Bandel, it branched into three streams. The Saraswati flowed in a south-westerly direction, past Saptagram. The Jamuna (not the same river as in north India or many streams of that name in eastern Bengal) flowed in a south-easterly direction. The Hooghly flowed in the middle. The Hooghly glided down to around the place where Kolkata now stands and then flowed through the Adi Ganga, past Kalighat, Baruipur and Magra to the sea.[2]

In the 16th century, the main waters of the Bhagirathi, which earlier used to flow through the Saraswati, began to flow through the Hooghly. The upper Saraswati is a dead or dry river and the Hooghly has abandoned the Adi Ganga channel and adopted the lower course of the Saraswati to flow to the sea.[2]

In his Manasamangal, Bipradas Pipilai has described the journey path of Chand Saudagor, the merchant, as going past Chitpur, Betore, Kalighat, Churaghat, Baruipur, Chhatrabhog, Badrikunda, Hathiagarh, Choumukhi, Satamukhi and Sagarsangam. The description of Bipradas Piplai tallies to a large extent with Van den Brouck’s map of 1660.[3]

Some quarters ascribe the virtual drying up of Adi Ganga to its being artificially linked to the lower channel of the Saraswati, whereby that became the main channel for oceangoing ships and the Adi Ganga became derelict. This feat is ascribed by some to Nawab Alivardi Khan.[4] Others thinks that there was only a tidal creek connecting the Saraswati and the Hooghly, near the point where the Adi Ganga branched off. It is rumoured that the Dutch traders re-sectioned this tidal creek to let seagoing vessels come up the Bhagirathi.[5]

18th century[edit]

It was known earlier as Gobindapur Creek and marked the southern boundary of Gobindapur village. It was excavated by Edward Surman who lead an embassy to Delhi in 1717. The nullah was deepened by Colonel William Tolly in 1773 and connected to the Circular Canal. Thereafter, it bore his name.[6] In 1775, Col. Tolly connected the Adi Ganga to the Vidyadhari.[4]

19th-20th century[edit]

Ever since Tolly’s renovation the Adi Ganga remained a navigable river. However, the neglect of waterways in general and other factors such as population pressure and unplanned urbanisation caused further silting of Adi Ganga. It ultimately turned into a sewer channel for the south-western part of Kolkata.

Recent history[edit]

Adi Ganga, today

The Adi Ganga now flows by Tollygunge and Kudghat, Alipore, Bansdroni, Naktala, Garia, Boral, Mahamayatala, Narendrapur, Rajpur, Harinavi, Kodalia, Changaripota (now Subhasgram),where it is also known as the "Tolly Nullah", then on to Mahinagar and Baruipur (earlier Atisara village), and gradually reaches Joynagar and Majilpur. Ultimately, the Adi Ganga flows into the Bay of Bengal.[7]

Adi Ganga near Dahi Ghat.

The Kolkata Metro stretch from Dum Dum to Tollygunge is a totally underground track, except the two terminal stations. A decision was made to extend the southern end of the Metro by 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi) to Garia with the extension being an elevated track. The Tollygunj-Garia section runs over elevated track running over and along the Adi Ganga. The railway track is laid over a row of concrete pillars on the bed of Adi Ganga. Five out of the six stations on this new stretch are elevated stations. Social activists believe that Metro railway’s construction activity will result in the end of the river.[5]

Adi Ganga has recently become the focus of a number of community environmental initiatives. A number of suggestions have been made for the revival of Adi Ganga.[5]


  1. ^ Roy, Niharranjan, Bangalir Itihas, Adi Parba, (Bengali), first published 1972, reprint 2005, p. 126, Dey’s Publishing, 13 Bankim Chatterjee Street, Kolkata, ISBN 81-7079-270-3
  2. ^ a b Majumdar, Dr. R.C., History of Ancient Bengal, First published 1971, Reprint 2005, pp. 2-3, Tulshi Prakashani, Kolkata, ISBN 81-89118-01-3.
  3. ^ Roy, Niharranjan, p. 76
  4. ^ a b Bandopadhyay, Dilip Kumar, Bharater Nadi (Rivers of India), 2002, (Bengali), p. 69, Bharati Book Stall, 6B Ramanath Mazumdar Street, Kolkata.
  5. ^ a b c Chakraborty, Satyesh C. "The Story of River Port". Kolkata Port Trust. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  6. ^ Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, pp.35, 226, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  7. ^ Das, Soumitra (2009-07-05). "River of time". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. 

See also[edit]