Dams · Ken River

Kilkila: a Cursed River became Ganga; now Cursed again

Small rivers make big rivers. The health of big rivers depends on their smaller partners. But while bigger rivers are discussed, small rivers are normally absent in public discourse. They often lack govt or society’s attention. 

Smaller rivers, typically tributaries of bigger rivers, are essential part of river eco-system. They hold the key to rejuvenation of big rivers.  These small rivers are under multiple threats. They are slowly succumbing to damming, growing pollution, encroachments, mining and water extraction threats among others.

Kilkila is one such small river, with a fascinating story of its own.

It feeds the Ken river in Panna district in Madhya Pradesh. Ken joins the Yamuna, which joins the Ganga. Hence Kilkila is part of Ganga basin. This small river has a long story.

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Google Image of Kilkila River (Prepared by SANDRP)

About Kilkila River:- 45 kms longKilkila starts in Chhapar forest range of Take hills in Panna district, Madhya Pradesh. It flows through Panna city and buffer zone of Panna Tiger Reserve. About 2 km, upstream of Bariyarpur barrage, Kilkila joins Ken from right bank. Rather unusually, in lower part the river is known as Mohar Nadi.

In informal Hindi Kilkila translates as sweetly noisy, a bit like murmuring or babbling. It is also Hindi name for Kingfisher bird. The river makes two beautiful falls downstream Panna town. One is Kalkal at Amrai ghat and second is Kahua Seha fall. Two small streams join Kilikila in upper catchment.

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(Stunning image of Kahuaseha Fall from google map of Kilkila river by Er. Sumit Rupakheti, Sep. 2017)

There are more than a dozen small and large water bodies named as Sagar, Tank, Talab, Tal in Panna. Lokpal Sagar, Dharam Sagar, Nirpat Sagar are big water bodies. Benisagar Lake, Kamla Bai Tal, Dubey Pond, Talaiya, Sindh Sagar Tal, Pokhara Vansurai, Ramtaliya, Mathya Taal, Patharaya Talab, Dahlantaal Talab, Sundar Ju Ki Talaiya, Maharaj Talab are other medium size water bodies and small ponds. Out of all the waterbodies, Benisagar Lake drains into Kilkila river.

In the olden days, Kilkila was known as Kudhani Nadi. It was believed to be a cursed river. Through a fascinating tale of redemption by the Pranami Sect, Kudhan Nadi came to be considered as holy as Ganga.

Sept. 2013 You Tube Video by Ajay Hazari showing beautiful Kalkal Fall on Kilkila River 

The Syncretic Pranami Sect:- Pranami sect was founded by Shri Devchandra Ji Maharaj (1581–1655), born in Sindh province in Umarkot village in Pakistan. He formed a new stream of religion called Nijanand Sect. In his wanderings, he settled near Jamnagar to expound on Vedas and Vedantic knowledge. Devchandraji was respected and followed by both Hindu and Muslims. His followers later were known as Sundarsaths or Pranami.

Saint Prannath ji also known as Mehraj Thakur (1618–1694) was the dearest disciple of saint Devchandra. He was  son of Keshav Thakur, Diwan of Jamnagar State. He traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian region to spread the teachings of his Guru.

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Kilkila River at the outskirt of Panna a temple can be seen on its bank. (Image by Veditam/SANDRP during Ken River Walk June 2017)

Nijanand Sect believes in the Supreme Truth God “Raj Ji”. The Muslim followers consider Prannath as the “Last Imam Mehndi” and Hindu followers as “Budh Nishkalank Kalki Avatar”. Mahatma Gandhi’s mother, Putlibai, belonged to Pranami sect. Gandhi in his book My Experiments with Truth mentions about this sect – “Pranami is a sect deriving the best of both the Quran and Gita, in search of one goal – God.”

Maharaja Chhatrasal (1649–1731) of Bundelkhand, was a fervent pupil of Saint Pran nath and a follower of Pranami sect. The first meeting of both took place on the Amrai ghat bank of Kilkila river in 1683 in erstwhile Mau province.

When a cursed river is transformed into Ganga At that time, Kilkila was believed to be a cursed river. Legend talks of a river so morbid that birds flying over the river would drop dead. The river was known as Kudhani or Kodhin means Leper. Villagers supposed that if they bath in the river, they would suffer from the disease. Another tale talked of horses or horsemen dropping dead if they drank the water. These tales are a reminder that lores can sometimes be cruel to rivers.

In 1683, while visiting Bundelkhand, the saint wished to take a bath in Kilkila. The Gond tribe told him about the river and requested the saint not to enter in the river. But with the touch of Pran nath’s toe, it is believed that the water changed its colour and the river became pious forever. The saint and his pupils had bath in the river. Saint Pran nath was enchanted with the beauty of place. He decided to settle down there.

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Google map of water bodies in Panna and religious places around Kilkila river

He stayed for about 10 years in Panna. On Friday, June 29, 1694, the saint left the world. His body was given a Samadhi in the “Ghummat Ji” temple, which was constructed in 1694, in His presence.

There is a grand temple devoted to Saint Prannath in Panna. He is worshiped as incarnation of Lord Krishna. Every year, on occasion of Sharad Purnima (full moon night in September or October) month, a great fair is organized there. This year it would be on 18 October, 2018. Sharad Purnima also marks end of monsoon season and beginning of harvest season.

Thousands of disciple of Prannath and followers of Pranami sect from all over the world visit Panna for the event. It has become a pilgrimage event for the sect. For the Pranami sect, Kilkila river is as holy as Ganga. Hence, devotees fill and carry Kilkila water with them. They also bury the ashes and remains of dead followers on the bank of Kilkila to attain salvation.

Shrines and Temple along Kilkila Bank There are a number of temples and shrines on the bank of Kilkila river. Most of these belong to Pranami sect and Royal family of Panna. Mohan garhi, Purana Pani, Hanuman Temple, Mahamati Prannath Temple, Devchandra Temple, Rajvai Temple, Ganga-Jamuna (Keshav Kund, Chopra Ji) are located on the bank of Kilkila river in Panna. All these temples belong to Pranami sect.

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Padmavati Puri Temple on Kilkila Bank (Image Source: http://www.nijanand.org/panna.htm)

Pranamis know Panna as Padamavati Puri shrine. This is oldest temple in Panna. It is believed to be built around 2000 years back. The river forms a 20 feet fall downstream of this shrine. The fall point is known as Amrai Ghat. This ghat holds special significance for Pranami sect. On this ghat Saint Prannath purified the Kilkila river in 1683.

Padma is main deity of Panna. Padma means Lotus flower. The deity is believed to dwell in water bodies full with Lotuses. As per local people Padma protects the Panna from evil forces and has blessed the town with prosperity.

The Prannath temple at Gummat is highly revered by all. It was built in 1689. It is also known as Muktidham temple. A Samadhi of saint is built here. The holy scriptures of Pranami sect, Tartam and Kuljam are placed here.

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Kalkal Fall on Kilkila river showing Amrai Ghat (Image Source: Google Images) 

River Kilkila and Ken are mentioned at many places in these scriptures.

Ken padmavati  nadyorantike vindhya parvatey |

Indrawati naam sa devi bhavishyanti kalau yuge ||

(Sunderi Tantra)

Nadi Kilkila ke tir par, utare paramhansa aye |

Tin mein sirdar Aksharateet, dekh apna thaur sukh paaye ||

(BS: 60/12)

The inscriptions on the top two sides of Saint Pran Nath Ji’s Holy Shrine ‘Ghummat Ji’ is unique.  One side of the dome reads the Koranic Kalma “La-Ilah-Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah,” and the other side reads Nijnam Mantra “Nijnam Shri Krishnji Anadi Aksharateet.”

Saint Prannath is worshiped as child avtar of Lord Krishna in the temple. The temple was renovated by Hridya Shah and Sabha Singh, son and grandson of Maharaja Chhatarsal.

Bai Ju temple is also located on Kilkila bank. It was built in 1750. Bai Ju is worshiped as deity Radha avatar. She is believed to be wife of Saint Prannath. The birthday of Bai Ju is celebrated widely on the eighth day of no moon in July month.

A palace of Maharaja Chhatrasal is also standing on the bank of Kilkila. The birth of Hirdya Shah took place in the palace. The Kheejda temple is another well known temple on the river bank. It is named after Kheejda tree. As per locals, Saint Prannath occasionally used to visit the place.

State of Kilkila River now:- Kilkila river is battling sewage pollution today. Many drains from Panna city falls in the river. As a result, sheet of water hyacinth covers the river surface for most part of a year. It has turned into muddy puddles. Panna city’s solid waste is also disposed on the banks of the Kilkila river. As per google images below the solid waste dump was not in 2004 and by 2017, the river bank has become a dump yard. 

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2004 google earth image showing Kilkila River Bank with couple of water bodies in Panna. 
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Dec. 2016 google earth image of same stretch of River shows the water bodies are gone under huge dump yard. 

There have been some efforts to clean the river. These efforts seem limited to removing of hyacinth which keep growing back. The drains polluting the rivers have not been stopped. Farmers on its bank have no option but to use polluted water to grow vegetables.

Recently one more effort has been initiated by youth of Panna to restore, Kilkila to its lost glory. The youth has also revived Dharam Sagar pond in Panna city. In first phase the hyacinth has been removed from large parts of the river. In second phase it is planned to be de-silted. The District Collector, Panna has also promised to install a Sewage Treatment Plant with the support from National Mineral Development Corporation to treat the sewage water entering in Kilkila river.

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Detailed report on Kilkila River by Arun Kumar, Dainik Jagran, June 2018

Kilkila is lifeline of Panna famous for its pearl mines. It plays significant role in cultural and religious history of Panna. Rani Bagh, Mohan Niwas, Agra Mohalla and Dham Mohalla gets water from the Kilkila river. The river is intertwined finely in cultural heritage and religious history of Panna. It is in the center of recreational activities. In lower parts the river provides irrigation water to farmers. For wildlife it is important source of water. In short, Kilkila is real but forgotten pearl of Panna district. 

The Kilkila, it seems, is waiting for another Saint Prannathji to rejuvenate it from its current cursed state of polluted river.

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Polluted Kilkila River image by Veditam/SANDRP during Ken River Walk 

Composed by Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

PS: The information in this article has been sourced from below mentioned Hindi Reports.

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