A leopard leapt… a dam born

A long weekend awaited me. We headed for Nangal in Punjab. As we disembarked the claustrophobic air-conditioned environs of the car, a picture straight out of a Monet canvas beckoned us. Quiet flowed the Sutlej in its turquoise glory. The eventide lights had deepened the blue of the river, mirroring its tint onto the pebbly Shivalik hills behind. The picturesque Shivalik, literally meaning tresses of Shiva, had taken on the pigment of the Neelkanth himself, reflecting the aquamarine of the Sutlej and the azure of the sky above, spreading out a breath taking sight to behold. As we soaked in the splendour, the constant chatter of the cacophonous babblers broke the spell.

Nestled in the Shivalik, Nangal spreads over both sides of the Sutlej which forms the Gobind Sagar reservoir behind the Nangal Dam. The man-made lake created with the impounded waters of Sutlej due to the construction of the Bhakra dam adds to the charm of the Nangal township, where we stayed. The Bhakra dam, a concrete gravity dam is 10 km upstream in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh. The dams along with the Nangal Hydel Channel, the Ganguwal and Kotla Power Houses are part of the Bhakra-Nangal project.

Local legend has it that a leopard leaping from one end of a gorge to the other on the Sutlej inspired ICS officer Sir Louis Dane to choose the site for a dam. Over a century ago, Sutlej used to flow through a narrow gorge between two hills, Naina Devi ki dhar and Ramgarh ki dhar. “Here was a site made by God for storage,” he wrote in 1908. Subsequent to geological tests, the gorge was finalised for building the Bhakra Dam.

“Commercial fishing is allowed in Gobind Sagar. This place is home to the endangered mahseer,” informed the official accompanying us. The vast lakes, the Gobind Sagar here and Maharana Pratap Sagar formed by the Pong dam on Beas in Himachal, are home to many fish species. About one lakh migratory birds belonging to 220 species visit this region every year. The Pong Dam reservoir has been designated a Ramsar Wetland.

During our short stay, we spotted Indian grey hornbills while a woodpecker with its flashy red crest was drumming on a woody trunk. Black ducks with cherry pink bills were cruising along in the waters while a kingfisher flaunting its electric blue hues was scouring for a meal. A flamboyant peacock with its luxuriant plumage silhouetted against the downing sun even as we called it a day. 

After paying obeisance at Gurudwara Anandpur Sahib, we headed back home on Hanuman Jayanti which coincided with Chaitra Purnima, one of the prettiest full moon nights of the year. The moon shone in full glory, shimmering like molten silver in the pitch dark Beas. Pandit Nehru while dedicating the Bhakra project to the nation in 1963 had called it “the new temple of resurgent India.” He had sounded the bugle of development more than 50 years ago which
resounds aptly well in today’s atmospherics.

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A leopard leapt… a dam born

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