River Hooghly, Howrah Overview

River Hooghly, also known as the Bhagirathi-Hoogly and Kati-Ganga River, is a stunning waterbody and an important source of water, seafood and the lifeline of Howrah. It is 260 km long, and the channel flows through the city and finally merges with the Bay of Bengal. It's a picnic hotspot for locals and tourists equally where they spend time basking in the morning sun or taking a ferry ride across the river. This enchanting river is also known as Bhagirathi Hooghly which means - created by Bhagiratha - the prince of Sagar dynasty. He was destined to bring the sacred Ganges from heaven to earth; hence, the waters of the Hooghly river is considered as holy as the Ganges.

Interestingly, though according to mythology, the Bhagirathi River has been brought down from the heavens by Bhagirath a prince of the Sagar Dynasty, the Bhagirathi-Hoogly River has been influenced by man-made constructions. The Farakka Barrage diverts the waters into the Farakka Feeder Canal which regulates the supply of water sharing between India and Bangladesh. The Hoogly River is also known for some wonderful bridges that are constructed over its entire length facilitating commute and connectivity.

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Course of the Hoogly River

The Ganga splits into the Padma and Hoogly at Giria; however, the human-made bifurcation at Farakka Barrage happens at Tildanga, Murshidabad, 40 km upstream of Giria. The Padma flows into Bangladesh, whereas the Hoogly flows southwards through West Bengal into the Bay of Bengal. The upper zone of the river is called Bhagirathi and the lower Hoogly. The main rivers that drain into the Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system include the Mayurakshi, Ajay, Jalangi, Damodar, Haldi and Rupnarayan Rivers.

The Feeder canal that runs parallel to the Ganga joins the river above Jahagirpur. The Bhagirathi-Hoogly then flows passing various districts and towns, such as Jiaganj Azimganj, Murshidabad, Baharampur, Katwa, Nawadip, Kalna until it enters the Hoogly District and the North 24 Parganas District. It crosses Halisahar, Chinsurah, Serampore and Kamarhati before turning southwest and cutting through the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah. Finally, at Nurpur, it turns south entering an old channel of the Ganga to drain into the Bay of Bengal along an estuary that is 32km wide.

History of Hooghly River

The book by Abu’l Fazl, Ain-i-Akbari describes that the Ganga and Saraswati had different flows in lower Bengal. He even goes on to describe the different colours of the waters, with Saraswati being white, Jamuna blue and Ganga a muddy yellow.  From Kolkata, the Ganga used to flow along the Kalighat Temple Baruipur, Jayanagar, Chhatrabhog and Hatiagarh but there was no flow between Kiderpore and Sanskrail. Today, however, there is a water stream between Kiderpore and Sanskrail and is called the Kati-Ganga. This channel had been dug in the 18th century during the time of Alibardi Khan with the help of Dutch traders who also set up a toll at the Hoogly River. This thus confirms that the present Hoogly is also a part of the lower Saraswati River.

The East India Company sailed into Bengal and established their settlement through the Hoogly River. The Calcutta Port was the leading and biggest port during the British rule though today its position has lowered. The modern port at Haldia which is built on the intersection of the River Hoogly and River Haldi has emerged the more important port of the region today.

The Farakka Barrage was built in 1974 when it began diverting the waters into the Hoogly during the dry season and also to avoid sitting at the Kolkata Port.

Tidal Bore

The natural phenomenon of the tidal bore is seen most impressively along the Hooghly River. The edge of the tide forms a wave of water that travels in the opposite direction to the flow of the river. The tidal bore in the Hoogly is sometimes more than 7 feet high, and its effects are felt up to Kolkata as well. This may destroy small boats with the greatest mean rise in tide taking place in March, April or May and falling during the rainy season.

Attractions in Hooghly

The river passes along some of the busiest and populated towns and cities of West Bengal. It is the most important resource for industries, fishing, irrigation and also a navigation channel that allows people to cross over and commute. Some of the most architecturally wonderful bridges that span across the River Hoogly include the Howrah Bridge or Rabindra Setu the cantilever bridge built in 1943 connecting Howrah and Kolkata. The Vidyasagar Setu is another bridge built in 1992 that also joins Howrah and Kolkata. The Vivekananda and Nivedita Setu connect Bally and Kamarhati, Sampreeti Setu joins Bandel and Naihati, Ishwar Gupta Setu connects Bansberia to Kalyani. The Gourango Setu joining Nabadwip to Krishnanagar, Ramendra Sundar Tribedi Setu connecting Khagraghat to Baharampur and the Jangipur Bhagirathi Bridge connecting Raghunathganj to Jangipur are some of the other bridges that are important connectors across the Hooghly River.

Besides, the Hoogly River also acts a tourist sport, attracting ferry rides or picnics at various points. Within Kolkata, the Millennium Gardens, Eco Park and Diamond Harbour are some of the tourist attraction points along the river.

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