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Ghaggar Hakra River
The Ghaggar-Hakra River is an important one, flowing through the plains of northern India in the western direction. The Ghaggar-Hakra originates in the Shivalik ranges in Himachal Pradesh and flows south through the states of Haryana and Rajasthan, eventually entering Pakistan where it dries out before reaching the Arabian Sea.
The present day Ghaggar-Hakra channel is drained by an ephermal stream with irregular water supply. The monsoon season brings an adequate flow of water but the brief flow of water is punctuated by long, dry spells. The total length of the present day channel is around 320 kilometers, majority of which falls in the Indian domain. The channel is divided into two lengths by the Ottu barrage, near Sirsa. The part of the river to the east of the barrage is called Ghaggar and the other half Hakra. The barrage leads to the formation of a large lake that serves as a feeder for water canals.
Paleogeographic studies indicate the existence of a wide channel in place of the current Ghaggar-Hakra. Experts relate this phenomenon to the high discharges the channel carried during large scale melting of glaciers at the end of the ice age around ten thousand years ago. The paleo channel of this river was drained by the Saraswati and discharged into the Rann of Kutch.
Studies indicate that the river has shrunk in magnitude. Previously, it is believed to have been a brimming river, watering the Bronze Age civilizations. On it banks lay numerous settlements that were part of the most advanced human civilization at the time. The vestigial channel boasts of relict sites of Indus Valley settlements. Artifacts uncovered at regular intervals stands as a testimony to this fact. Potteries, statues and jewelry constitute the majority of the findings. Some studies have reported over five hundred sites of significant Archeological findings that highlight the past glory of the river.
Even today, the Ghaggar-Hakra River constitutes an important source in terms of irrigation for Haryana in particular. The Ottu Barrage serves as a conduit for two canals, the northern Ghaggar canal and the southern Ghaggar canal which disperses the water of the streams to various districts of Haryana.
In the past, the Ghaggar-Hakra River served as an important tributary to the Indus River. It coursed through a flourishing civilization and received water from the perennial glaciers of the Himalayas. In time, the ancient Saraswati diminished and gave way to an ephermal stream that retained the channel of the once magnificent river. Geological evidence suggests innumerable tributaries pouring into the Ghaggar River. The Tons River, presently a tributary of the Yamuna is believed to have flowed west to join the Ghaggar. Current tributaries are far less in number and those that remain do not provide a steady flow. The river relies on base flow from ground water to provide paltry replenishments.
Except for a small segment in the lower Himalayan reaches, most of the river flows through the arid floodplains of northern India. In the past, the river is believed to have received considerable outflows from other Himalayan river such as the Yamuna. At present, its expanse is limited within a small area.
Ghaggar-Hakra River originates in the state of Himachal Pradesh in the Chivalric hills of Sirmaur. It flows west to enter the Ambala district in Punjab. The river crisscrosses the district of Patiala, Kurukshetra and Hissar, entering and reentering at many places. Numerous ephermal streams join the Ghaggar through this stretch such as Jhajjhar.
The direction of flow is from east to west all throughout the course except in brief interludes where the river adjusts itself.
Markanda is a major tributary that originates in the slopes of the Himalayas. It travels a length of over 100 kilometers through the districts of Ambala and Kurukshetra before joining the Ghaggar River near Chikha. Along the way, it receives contributions from rivulets such as Roon Nadi and Begna Nadi.
The Chautang is a virtually nonexistent stream that channels through the plains of Haryana and Rajasthan. This stream is believed to be the relic of the glorious Drsadvati River mentioned in the Vedas. The present day channel is parched and dry, punctuated by a few lakes on the channel that once used to be perennial. In times of rain, the river drains water into the Ghaggar near Saraswati Lake. The origins of the river can be traced to the Shivalik range.