THE INDUS RIVER

The Indus drains an area of 450,000 sq. miles. Its annual flow is twice that of the Nile

Dr. S.M. ALAM
Oct 28 - Nov 03, 2002

The river Indus emerges from a lake named Mansarovar, which is situated in Tibet at the top of the extreme eastern side of Himalayan mountain range. It rises in south western Tibet at an altitude of 16,000 ft. (4,000 meters). The mighty Indus river has a total flowing length of (1,800 miles) 2,900 kilometers. During its flows from the said lake in a northwesterly direction along the slopes of the Himalayas, crossing into Jammu and Kashmir from the southeast, it covers a vast tracts of lands, namely, Tibet, Ladak, Zanskar valley, Shyok, Shigar, Hunza, Gilgit, Astor and other streams carry snow and glacial melt waters to the Indus from the main Himalayan range, the Nanga Purbat ranges and then enters into Pakistan. The Indus river main tributaries are: Zanskar, Sutlej, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas and Chenab.

In Pakistan, it emerges from the mountain highlands and flows as a rapid stream between the Swat and Hazara regions and across the salt range and the river covers a long fertile land from the top of the mountains in NWFP, then flowing smoothly and covering the vast tracts of plain land in the Provinces of the Punjab and Sindh. The Indus receives its most notable tributaries from the Punjab to the east, including the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers. After receiving the water of the Punjab rivers the Indus becomes much wider and flow at a slow speed, depositing large quantities of silt along its course. Nea Jattaha, in Sindh Province, the Indus begins its deltaic stage and breaks into distributaries that reach the Arabian sea at various points southeast of Karachi finally flowing into the Arabian sea near Karachi.

HISTORY AND MYTHOLOGY: According to Hindu mythology, in the beginning of the world was word and the first recorded word was 'Veda'. And the Vedas are just ecstatic about the Sindhu (also Indus), the cradle of Indian civilization. Sindhu in might surpasses all the streams that flow. His roar is lifted up to heaven above the earth; he puts forth endless vigour with a flash of light. Even as cows with milk rush to their calves, so other rivers roar into the Sindhu. As a warrior-king leads other warriors, so does Sindhu lead other rivers. Rich in good steeds is Sindhu, rich in gold, nobly fashioned, rich in ample wealth. The river Sindhu has been invoked numerous times in the Vedic literature with other gods and goddesses. In fact, the Vedas refer to the Ganga only twice, but make as many as thirty references to the Sindhu.

Greeks pronounced Sindhu as Indus. Sindhu is the oldest name in Indian history. When Shiva carried the immolated body of his divine consort Sati over all the land, her skull-top with its hingula (sindur) fell at what has been Hinglaj ever since. It is near Karachi on the Sindh-Balochistan border. To this holy spot sanctified by the visit of Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana went the great Sindhi Sufi Poet Saint Shah Abdul Latif in the company of yogis. As long as East and West Pakistan were one state, a major attraction to the Bangladeshi Hindus visiting the west wing was Hinglaj. The reference of Sindhu does not end with the Vedic texts, but continued in the great epic of Mahabharata and then in the first history book written in India, Rajtarangini.

Rising in southwestern Tibet, at an altitude of about 16,000 feet, Indus enters the Indian territory near Leh in Ladakh. The river has total drainage area of about 4,50,000 square miles, of which 1,75,000 square miles lie in the Himalayan mountains and foothills. After flowing eleven miles beyond Leh, Indus is joined on the left by its first tributary, the Zanskar, which helps green Zanskar Valley. Many interesting mountain trails beckon the mountaineering enthusiasts to the Zanskar Valley. The Indus then flows past Batalik. When it enters the plains, its famous five tributaries - Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej that give Punjab its name as the "land of five rivers," join it. Buddhist monasteries and other heritage sites are the principal tourist attractions of Central Ladakh and Zanskar. These sites, most within reach of Leh, may be visited by a bus or taxi. Many of the region's major gompas (Buddhist monasteries) are open throughout the day and a caretaker Lama is available to show visitors around. Some of the less visited establishments have special opening hours, as in the case of Namgyal Tsemo, Shey Palace, and the Stok Palace Museum.

The "Sindhu Darshan" or Sindhu festival held in the month of June aims at projecting the Indus as a symbol of India's unity and communal harmony. Whilst promoting tourism to this area, this festival is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of India who have been fighting not only with the enemies in the human form but also in the form of nature.

The Indus drains an area of 450,000 sq. miles. Its annual flow is twice that of the Nile. The Indus is moderately rich in fish. Irrigation from the Indus waters has provided the basis for successful agriculture in the semi-arid plains of Pakistan since early times. One of the great modern canal irrigation system in the world was created by the British administration after 1850. The irrigation network has proved a life-blood for the agricultural productivity in Pakistan.