Rare Old Photos of Hooghly (Hugli) River Ghat, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India (1863)

The Hooghly River (Hoogli or Hugli) or the Bhāgirathi-Hooghly, called the 'Ganga' or the 'Kati-Ganga' in mythological texts, is the eastern distributary of the Ganges River in West Bengal, India, rising close to Giria in Murshidabad. It is referred to as an arm of the Ganges and was previously the major flow of the waters of the Ganga. It is because of this reason, people believe the holy waters of the Ganga still flow through the Bhagirathi-Hooghly and hence it is still worshipped today. The other distributary of Ganga then flows into Bangladesh as the Padma. Today there is a man-made canal called the Farakka Feeder Canal connecting the Ganges to the Bhagirathi.

Rare Old Photos of Hooghly (Hugli) River Ghat, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India (1863)

Rare Old Photos of Hooghly (Hugli) River Ghat, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India (1863)
Rare Old Photos of Hooghly (Hugli) River Ghat, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India (1863)

The river flows through the Rarh region, the lower deltaic districts of West Bengal, and eventually into the Bay of Bengal. The upper riparian zone of the river is called Bhagirathi while the lower riparian zone is called Hooghly. Major rivers that drain into the Bhagirathi-Hooghly include Mayurakshi, Jalangi , Ajay, Damodar, Rupnarayan and Haldi rivers other than the Ganges. Hugli-Chinsura, Bandel, Chandannagar, Srirampur, Barrackpur, Rishra, Uttarpara, Titagarh, Kamarhati, Agarpara, Baranagar and Kolkata are located on the banks of this river.

Ain-i-Akbari, a book by Abu'l-Fazl, describes that the river Ganga and river Sarwasati (Sarsuti) streams of lower Bengal had different flows. According to the footnotes of this book, the colour of the water of the Sarawasati was white, the colour of another stream named Jamuna was blue, and the colour of the Ganga was muddy and yellowish. From Kolkata the main flow of the Hooghly-Bhagirathi (or Ganga) used to run along the side of the Kalighat temple, Baruipur, Jaynagar, Chhatrabhog and Hatiagarh. At that time, between Khiderpore and Sankrail no flow existed. Presently, the stream between Khiderpore and Sankrail became known as KatiGanga. A channel had been dug at the time of Alibardi Khan in the middle of 18th century. This happened with the assistance of Dutch traders, who also set up a toll point on the Hooghly river. So the present reach of the Hooghly is actually the lower part of the historical Saraswati, the capital of Kolkata is located near Hoogly river.

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.

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.

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