It is believed that the Bhagirathi was the main flow of Ganga, hundreds of years ago. The present channel of the Bhagirathi, with its sacred traditions and ruined cities, marks the ancient course of the river Ganga. Captain Sherwill said it was the main river from Rajmahal (রাজমহল) to Sagar Island (সাগর দ্বীপ) in olden days, practically along the course of the present Hooghly River, which in due course became insignificant. The main river appears to have frequently changed its course below Gour in the last six centuries and successively discharged into the sea at different mouths, such as Matla, Kalinai, Kabadakh and Haringhata in the Sunderbans.

The original river Ganga used to flow across the entire north and east India from Uttarakhand (a new province carved out of Uttar Pradesh on 9th November 2000) to West Bengal (then only Bengal) before the 16th century. Geologists say, before it diverted to the Padma (পদ্মা)eastward, there might have been two major channels, flowing more or less independently and building the deltaic tract in the part of Bengal, west of Madhupur jungle, viz.., the Ganga flowed through central Bengal and the Teesta (তিস্তা)through south Bengal. Earlier, the Teesta was reinforced by the Mahananda (মহানন্দা) and the Kosi (কোসি)and still earlier, perhaps also by the Brahmaputra (ব্রহ্মপুত্র) before it coursed eastward to the Meghna (মেঘনা), i.e., before it merged with the Tsan Po (সান পো) of Tibet as a much smaller stream than now. These north Bengal Rivers flowed and fell together into the sea, probably through the meghna estuary. This hypothesis fits in with the historical and mythological evidences, supporting the contention that the Bhagirathi was the main flow of the Ganga in olden days.

Bhagirathi was the main trading link between north India and the south Asian countries, through the Bay of Bengal. Sir William Willcock (the renowned irrigation engineer) described the Bhagirathi, the Jalangi, and the Mathabhanga as the “overflow irrigation systems” in ancient Bengal, built up by great engineers like Bhagirath. Other experts believed that the Bhagirathi was a natural river and was once the main channel of the Ganga, diverting its discharge towards the sea. From time to time like other rivers too Bhagirathi has changed its course affecting the rise and fall of many cities on its banks, as it happened in the case of Murshidabad.

Account of Change of Course of Bhagirathi:

Gradually silting of Bhagirathi caused it to change its course. Captain Sherwill, in his Report on the Rivers of Bengal, quotes an extract from a letter written, In January 1666 AD by French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier that he saw the mouth of Bhagirathi by boat, closed by sand bank (Tavernier’s voyages in India). In 1683 AD William Hedges travelled on a Palki (পালকি) on his way to Cossimbazar from Mahula (মহুলা), because of shallow water on the river. John Zephaniah Holwell on his way to Murshidabad by boat, was detained by shallows at Shantipur below the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Jalangi, in 1756 AD. In 1781 AD Major James Rennell, the famous English geographer, historian and a pioneer of oceanography, surveyed Bengal, during his work at India and sketched up the most detail map of river Bhagirathi. From his map of “Cossimbazar island”,1781 AD we get a vivid description of the river Bhagirathi in this region.


Somewhat surprisingly for such a wide continent, Indian rock art has often been considered as pertaining to a “cultural unity”, as is the case for Upper Palaeolithic cave art in Europe. Disparities do exist according to the areas, so that regional groups have been and will no doubt be defined (see for example Chandramouli 2002 for the rock art of Andhra Pradesh in the south of India, or Mathpal 1985 for that of Kumaon in the north). However, “in spite of the great distances of the different regions Indian rock paintings bear surprising affinity in forms, subject matters and design elements to their contemporaries” (Kumar 1992: 56).

 The only petroglyphs (i.e. rock engravings) we have mentioned are cupules, because we hardly saw any other engraved motifs during our trip. Still, it is necessary to recall their existence and their importance in many parts of India, even if we are here focusing on pictographs (i.e. rock paintings). Among the colours used red is overwhelmingly dominant, at all periods. It comes from iron oxides such as haematite. White (from a white clay like kaolin) has also been widely used. ImageOther colours are scarcer, like “green and yellow derived from copper minerals” or “blue or coal black obtained from manganese or charcoal” (Chakravarty & Bednarik 1997: 46). Painting was carried out “by rubbing the colour nodule dry, or with water, without any visible use of organic binding material, using finger tips, twigs, hair brush or by spraying with the mouth” (id.).

he earliest discovery of prehistoric rock art was made in India, twelve years before the discovery of Alta Mira in Spain. Archibald Carlleyle discovered rock paintings at Sohagihat in the Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh in 1867 and 1868. Unfortunately he did not publish. J Cockburn rightly commented that Carlleyle’s knowledge died with him (Smith, 1906: 187). Fortunately, Carlleyle had placed some of his notes with a friend, Reverend Regionald Gatty, and V A Smith published these later, which is the only record of his discovery of Rock paintings. In his note he wrote “Lying along with the small implements in undisturbed soil of the cave floors, pieces of a heavy red mineral-coloured matter called geru were frequently found, rubbed down on one or more facets, as if for making paint. Geru is evidently a partially decomposed hematite (Iron peroxide). “On the uneven sides or walls and roofs of many caves or rock shelters, there are rock paintings apparently of various ages. Though all evidently of great age, done in red colour called geru.  Some of these rude paintings appeared to illustrate in a very stiff and archaic manner scenes in the life of the ancient stone chippers. Others represent animals or hunts of animals by men with bows and arrows, spears and hatchets. With regard to the probable age of these stone implements I may mention that I never found a single ground or polished implements not a single ground ring stone or hammer stone in the soil of the floors of any of the many caves or rock shelters I examined.” (Smith 1906: 187).

Central India is the richest zone of prehistoric rock art in India. The highest concentration of rock art sites is situated in the Satpura, Vindhya and Kaimur Hills. These hills are formed of sandstones, which weather relatively faster to form rock shelters and caves. They are located in the dense forest and were ecologically ideal for occupation by primitives. They were used for habitation in the Stone Age and even in the later periods. Inside the caves on the walls and ceilings artists painted their favourite animals or human forms, symbols, daily life hunting and fighting.