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  • Ramanjit Singh

On the other side of Raavi


Darya Raavi forms a part of the border between India and Pakistan

Originating from the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, once part of Punjab Hill States, River Ravi (pronounced as Raavi) enters the present day Punjab from the Madhopur Headworks in Pathankot and then meanders its way south west separating the districts of Narowal and Gurdaspur and then Amritsar and Sheikhupura before entering into the Lahore district.

Over the centuries, songs have been written about this once mighty river. It was the central artery of Punjab, its waters not only irrigated the land but it also played an important role in Punjab's development. After partition and with the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty, exclusive rights to the waters of the eastern rivers of Ravi, Sutluj and Beas were given to India. Now barely a trickle of water flows into west Punjab. Today the river is a shadow of its former self as it runs west of Lahore. Its waters fill the sarovar that surrounds the sanctum sanctorum of Darbar Sahib, Amritsar.


It is fascinating to see its contours over a map, the back and forth of its flow, as if it is unsure of its course, unwilling to take sides, unwilling to be part of someone's idea of a border. Today when I look at this river, I feel it has become a symbol of an older era that is now forgotten.


I often wondered what do people think when they are crossing this river. Do they care to think about the stories it beholds. People cross it to see their Darghas, Gurdwaras and Mandirs. But no one stops to pay homage to this great river.


River Raavi also formed the backdrop to some of the worst atrocities that took place at the time of partition. One of the tragedies of the entire partition saga was that the fate of an entire village, town or city was dependent on which side of the river it found itself in when the final boundaries were officially announced in mid-August of 1947.


In the Muslim village of Sidhar Rajputan (map) and also in similar villages in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts, the farmers were out tending their fields in the afternoon when they were surrounded by the mob. The killings went on for days and at the end only few survived. Those who fled the villages soon found themselves on the wrong side of the river. In desperation, some jumped into the river and tried to cross it, those who couldn't swim were never found. The weak and the old were left behind. Fathers and mothers were seen running up and down the river bank for days looking for their children.


Raavi stands as a witness to history

It has seen triumphs and defeats

It has seen bravery and cowardice

It is part of countless stories, folktales, a lover's longing

And yet it still survives, it still survives

Raavi has seen peace and wars

It has seen caravans of invading armies

It has seen the best of humanity, and the worst

It has seen the rush of humanity trying to cross its waters

It has seen mothers letting go of their children

And yet it still survives, it still survives


Raavi has seen so much

It is a living testament to our legacy

It is a living embodiment of a spirit that was once called Punjabiyat

It is the abode of Guru Nanak


And yet Raavi has seen so much

It is a mirror to our true selves

It is a witness to our failures as human beings


Sometimes I think the river is asking us a question Why?

And the only thing I can say is O God what have we done


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