There was a Tamil film by name Mahanadi acted by Kamal Hasan and Lekshmi and released about the year 1980’s and there was a beautiful song beginning with “Sri Ranga rajan…. Sung by a girl child “ It was played at least twenty times in an Omni bus I was travelling from Chennai to Trichy at that time. I was under the impression at that time Mahanadi would be a river in Tamilnadu not known to me. Recently only I could gather it is mainly a river of Chhatisgarh and Orissa.
Mahanadi (means Great River) is a river in East Central India. It drains an area of around 132,100 km2 and has a total course of 885 km.
Mahananadi River is the lifeline of Chattisgarh. Flowing from the Eastern Ghats to the Bay of Bengal through Cuttack, in the eastern Orissa State. Rising from the highlands of Chattisgarh, it flows through Orissa to reach The Bay Of Bengal.
2. Mythology- Mahanadi
Like all other rivers, the Mahanadi too is revered one. It plays a major role in peoples life and is part of all the major religious functions and festivals. The water of Mahananadi is considered to be auspicious for any occasion – be it good or bad. It is thought that the water of Mahananadi has the power of converting bad into good. (Limited mythology information only I could gather)
3. Geographic details
Mahanadi River is about 885 kms long, running through Central India. Rising from Central Chattisgarh, it passes through Eastern Ghats Mountains and ends at Bay of Bengal, near Cuttack, Orissa. It forms a Delta at the Bay of Bengal. In the rainy season it carries an immense amount of water, up to 51,000 cubic meters per second especially at the Naraj gorge.
The river current is very high, the Rivers Tel and Hasdo contribute as the main tributaries to the Mahanadi River.
4. Hirakud dam
The Hirakud Dam, the Worlds Highest Dam is constructed on Mahanadi. There is a high Gandhi Tower for the introspection of the Dam. As this Dam is the lifeline of Orissa, Mahanadi contributes a lot in fertilizing the chief crops – oilseed, rice and sugarcane.
The Hirakud Dam is also the main source of running Hydroelectric Plant at Sambalpur. Though the river flows at high speed, still in the months July to February, one can navigate the river on boat. (In any case one should not go very near Bay of Bengal, the point where Mahanadi merges in the Sea).The Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa share the drainage of the Mahanadi.
5. Source of Mahanadi
Like many other seasonal Indian rivers, the Mahanadi too is a combination of many mountain streams and thus its precise source is impossible to pinpoint. However its farthest headwaters lie 6 km from Pharisiya village 442 m above sea level south of Nagri town in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh. The hills here are an extension of the Eastern Ghats and are a source of many other streams which then go on to join the Mahanadi.
For the first 80 km of its course, the Mahanadi flows in a northerly direction and drains the eastern portions of Raipur district. It is a rather narrow river at this stage, the total length of its valley not exceeding 500-600 metres. It then enters the old Bilaspur district where it is joined by its first major tributary, the Seonath
6. Maha nadi Middle Course
After being joined by the Seonath, the river flows in an easterly direction through the remaining part of its journey. It is joined by the Jonk and Hasdeo rivers here before entering into Orissa after covering about half of its total length. Near the city of Sambalpur, it is dammed by the largest earthen dam in the world, the Hirakud Dam.
( About Hiirakud dam I have studied in my 7-8 th standards as Dams created under 1st/ 2nd five yer plan started by our first PM Jawharlal Nehru. But still about Mahanadi no recollection… )
A composite structure of earth, concrete and masonry, the dam measures 2.4 km including dykes. It spans two hills; the Lamdungri on the left and the Chandili Dunguri on the right. It also forms the biggest artificial lake in Asia, with a reservoir holding 743 km² at full capacity, with a shoreline of over 640 km.
Before the construction of the dam in 1953, the Mahanadi was about a mile wide at Sambalpur and carried massive amounts of silt, especially during the monsoon. Today, it is a rather tame river after the dam and is joined by the Ib, Ong, Tel and other minor streams. It then skirts the boundaries of the Baudh district and forces a tortuous way between ridges and ledges in a series of rapids until it reaches Dholpur, Orissa. The rapids end here and the river rolls towards the Eastern Ghats, forcing its way through them via the 64 km long Satkosia Gorge. Dense forests cover the hills flanking the river here. The river enters the Orissa plains at Naraj, about 11 km from Cuttack, where it pours down between two hills a mile apart. A barrage has been constructed here to regulate the river’s flow into Cuttack..
7. Mahanadi -Mouth
The river traverses Cuttack district in an east-west direction. Just before entering Cuttack city, it gives off a large distributary called the Kathjori. The city of Cuttack stands on the spit separating the two channels. The Kathjori then throws off many streams like the Kuakhai, Devi and Surua which fall into the Bay of Bengal after entering Puri district. The Kathjori itself falls into the sea as the Jotdar. Other distributaries of Mahanadi include the Paika, Birupa, Chitartala, Genguti and Nun. The Birupa then goes on to join the Brahmani River at Krushnanagar and enters the Bay of Bengal at Dhamra.
The Mahanadi proper enters the sea via several channels near Paradeep at False Point, Kendrapara district. The combined Delta of the Mahanadi’s numerous distributaries and the Brahmani is one of the largest in India.
Prior to the construction of the Hirakud Dam, the Mahanadi was navigable from its mouth up to Arrang , about a 150 km from its source. However numerous barrages apart from the Hirakud have put an end to that. Today, boats are restricted to the delta region and the Hirakud reservoir.
9. Trade and Agriculture-reference by Ptolemy
The city of Sambalpur was a prominent trading place for diamonds in the ancient world and the river itself has been referred to as the Manada in Ptolemy’s works. However today the Mahanadi valley is best known for its fertile soil and flourishing agriculture. Prior to the Hirakud dam, the river carried more silt than any other river in the Indian subcontinent As a result its delta had one of the highest yield per acre in the whole of India. Today agriculture primarily depends on a network of canals that arise from the river. Rice, oilseeds and sugarcane are the principal crops here. An equally fertile though smaller valley also exists near Raipurd in the river’s early course.
10.Maha Nadi -Water
An average annual surface water potential of 66.9 km³ has been assessed in this basin. Out of this, 50.0 km³ is utilisable water. Culturable area in the basin is about 80,000 km², which is 4% of the total culturable area of the country.
At its peak during the monsoon, the Mahanadi has a discharge rate of 2 million cubic ft. per second almost as much as the much larger Ganges
. However owing to its seasonal nature the river is mostly a narrow channel flanked by wide sand banks for most of the year.
11. Mahanadi Floods
The Mahanadi was notorious for its devastating floods for much of recorded history. However the construction of the Hirakud Dam has greatly altered the situation. Today a network of canals, barrages and check dams keep the river well in control..
Many people died as the river breached its banks.( My friend Mr Hari har sethi, Divisional Engineer in Cuttack Telecom has narrated the incidents when communication itself was paralysed for months there. He had said people were totally helpless having all houses fully damaged in river floods …)
Relation between Maha nadi and Lord Krishna- An excellent legend was posted by one of the members as response and I have duly acknowledged him for the added information.
Gopala Krishnan 11-4-2010
Reposted on 17-5-2020 after editing R. Gopala Krishnan
I have learnt in middle school classes about Brahma Putra River as a river in North India. Normally rivers are considered female but Brahma Putra is considered as male. How the river was called Brahma puthra or as a male river was beyond my thinking at that time.
Like other rivers there are many legends associated with Brahma puthra.Brahma puthra river flows through three countries – born in Tibet, flowing through India and then on to Bangladesh.
It has many names – Tsangpo in Tibet, Lohit or Brahmaputra in India and Jamuna (not to be confused with Yamuna of India) in Bangladesh.
2. Brahma puthra in Kalika purana
There are many mythological stories about Brahmaputhra. The most popular and sacred one is about the river’s birth in ‘Kalika Purana’.
It describes how Parasurama, got rid of his sin of killing his mother Renuka with an axe (or Parashu) by taking bath in the sacred waters of Brahma puthra. Obeying the order from his father Jamadagni, Parasurama killed his own mother by severing her head with an axe. The story of Jamadagni and Renuka I have already posted a few times…
As a result of this nefarious act, the axe got stuck to his hand and he was unable to take it off his hand. (For me new information)
On advice from sages, Parasurama started on a pilgrimage and ultimately reached the place, which is presently known as Parashuram Kunda (about 25 km north of Tezu in Lohit district in Arunachal Pradesh).
According to the legend the mighty river was confined to a Kund or a small lake surrounded by hills at that time. Parasurama cut down the hills on one side to release the sacred water for the benefit of the common people. By this act, Parasurama’s axe came out of his hand to his great relief and he knew that he had been exonerated from his sin.
3. The Brahmaputhra and Assam:
The Brahmaputhra is also called as ‘Luhit’ or ‘Burha Luit’ in Assam. It is derived from the word ‘Lohit’ means ‘blood’ in Assamese. This name is believed to be related to the story of Parashuram described above.
4. Brahma Puthra- son of Lord Brahma
As the very name indicates, Brahmaputhra means the son of Lord Brahma. In mythological times, Amogha wife of Sage Shantanu had a child by Brahma the creator of the Universe. The child took the form of water. Shantanu placed the child right in the middle of the four great mountains – Kailash, Gandhamadana, Jarudhi and Sambwartakka. He grew into a great lake, the Brahmakunda. It was this Brahma Kunda opened on one side by Parasurama.
5. Legend from Tibet
The Tibetans believe that long before human occupation, the Chang Tan plateau was covered by the waters of a great lake.. A Bodhisattva (an enlightened being) decided the waters had to flow to help people who occupy the region. So he cut an outlet through the Himalayas for the Tsangpo or ‘Great River’..
The mountains, gorges and jungles through which the Tsangpo flows in Tibet are considered extremely holy. Ancient Tibetan scrolls written by sages, speaks of sanctuaries or beyuls deep in the Himalayas. Here ageing is slowed down and, animals and plants have miraculous powers. The Tibetans believe that in this area, perhaps through one of the waterfalls at the bottom of the world’s deepest gorge, is the doorway to paradise on Earth, Shangri-la.
6. Balarama and Brahma puthra river
Balarama, Krishna’s brother committed the sin of killing many Brahmins. To wash of his sins, he went on a pilgrimage and visited the confluence of the rivers Brahmaputra and Laskshya. He used his plough to get them to flow and meet yet another river the Dhaleshwari. As this was the place where the plough stopped, it was called Langalbandh.
The Lohit or Luit or Lauhitya joins the Brahmaputra and the Brahmaputra itself is called by these names in parts of North Eastern India. From India, the Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh.
7.Slightly different version of Parasurama Legend
Slightly different version of sage Parasurama legend goes on to add that Parashurama used a plough to further furrow the soft soil to make a path for the waters to flow to the plains. Tired he stopped at a place near Sonargaon. Here his plough or ‘Langal’ came to a standstill or ‘bandh’, and this place got called Langalbandh. This is considered to be a very holy place to round of a pilgrimage with a dip in the Brahmaputra..
8. Ganga turn down Brahma puthra’s love .
Brahmaputra in due time desired to marry Ganga. To test his love Ganga took on the form of an old woman. When Brahmaputra came he did not recognize Ganga appearing as old woman.
Ganga got angry and turned down the love of Brhama putra. Later however Ganga allowed the Jamuna (Not Yamuna) to join her.Jamuna is the name of Brahma puthra in Bangaladesh.
One more legend of associating Krishna and Brahma puthra is there. NEXT POSTING I will start with it and further details of Brhama puthra.