Bhareh - The Sangam of Chambal & Yamuna Rivers

Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans
Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans

When we talk of a confluence of two rivers in India (Sangam in Hindi) what comes first to most people's mind is spirituality, crowds and the sound of temple bells. However, there is one such sangam (that involves a sacred river and a cursed river) where you will be surprised to see none of the above, well at least not on the scale that you see in Devprayag where the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers merge or Prayagraj where the Yamuna merges in to the Ganga. No, I talk of the confluence of the Chambal with the Yamuna river in Bhareh, Etawah district, a remote part of Uttar Pradesh, a two hour drive from Agra. 

Bhareh fort ruins
Bhareh Fort surrounded by ravines

If you've read my other post on the Chambal River, you would know that the Chambal originates from the Vindhyan slopes in Indore district in Madhya Pradesh and flows through three states for approximately 1,000 KM before it merges with the Yamuna at Bhareh in Uttar Pradesh. Although a major perennial tributary of the Yamuna river, the Chambal is considered a cursed river in Hindu mythology. Besides being cursed, how can we forget, the region also made headlines till the turn of the millennium because of the famous dacoits (bandits) who called the River's ravines, home.

Chambal and Yamuna confluence
Sangam of Chambal and Yamuna Rivers

Coming back to the confluence. On a recent visit there, I was really happy to see that this sangam was quiet, clean and sans hordes of humans. The road to Bhareh from Agra is good and the topography get's very interesting towards the tail end of your journey - ravines on both sides of the road and scattered to none human movement. It appeared as if at the next turn I might just run in to a dacoit or even a wild animal. No dacoits, but I did see a Jungle Cat crossing the road, marking it's territory and being mocked by potential prey. See the video below.  

Bhareh is a small town rooted in history. The Bhareh Fort ruins can be seen as you approach the town. The Fort overlooks the confluence of the two rivers. I bet in it's prime, the Fort was a fine specimen of architecture surrounded by dense ravines and forests teeming with wild animals. Today, it is not the same, Bhareh is surrounded on one side by agricultural fields and the other side luckily still retains it's forest cover. The Fort on the other hand lies in ruins, the walls have crumbled over time after it was bombarded by the British during the First War of Independence (1857). Story goes that the Fort's Rajput rulers fought against the British raj and the only way the British forces could take the Fort down was when they fired on the massive walls with French cannons placed on merchant boats on the Yamuna.  

Bhareh Fort
Bhareh Fort

The area was too quiet to be true. I asked my local guide - "Where is everyone, where are the devotees?". He said - "Let's go to the river, we will find them there". We started our walked down the Fort and past the Shiva temple and in to yellow mustard fields buzzing with bees until we finally reached the river bank, overlooking a beautiful sight, one that was faintly visible from the Fort unless you had a really good pair of binoculars. There were thousands of birds of all shapes and colors. Cormorants, Pelicans, Ducks, Storks, Gulls etc. congregating at the confluence as if doing their rituals just like us humans. 

It was also clearly evident which river was which - the polluted water of the poor Yamuna river (flowing from the left) was brackish in color and smelt really bad when I was on the boat compared with the greyish clean water of the Chambal (flowing from the right) river. See the video below.

The boatman informed me that this year the number of birds is half than what they were in previous years. Imagine, the sight when they are here in their full strength! It could be mainly because many birds stopped at other wetlands and water bodies along their annual migratory routes. Last year there was considerably less pollution and fishing in our rivers and food may have been more abundant, so it could have been that some birds stayed on rather than continuing to the end of their journey. 

migratory birds in chambal
Pintails, Ruddy Shelducks & Lesser Whistling Ducks

Regardless, it was a beautiful sight. I mean how many sangams do you know of where there are more birds than humans? I told myself, I have to visit Bhareh more often to see my feathered friends. Current reports claim that many birds have left the confluence (as it's become warmer in India) for their homes in Ladakh, Central Asia, Europe and beyond. They will be back in October once again and I'm sure I will too.

Bhareh Fort and a Shiva Temple
From the River: Bhareh Fort and a Shiva Temple

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