Jhelum River

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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Indus and its tributaries

Jhelum River flows in India and Pakistan. It is the largest and most western of the five rivers of Punjab, and passes through Jhelum District. It is a tributary of the Chenab River.

Variants of name


The river Jhelum is called Vitastā in the Rigveda and Hydaspes by the ancient Greeks. The Vitasta (Sanskrit: वितस्ता, fem., also, Vetastā) is mentioned as one of the major rivers by the holy scriptures — the Rigveda. It has been speculated that the Vitastā must have been one of the seven rivers (Sapta-Sindhu) mentioned so many times in the Rigveda. The name survives in the Kashmiri name for this river as Vyeth. According to the major religious work Srimad Bhagavatam, the Vitastā is one of the many transcendental rivers flowing through land of Bharata, or ancient India.

Alexander the Great and his army crossed the Jhelum in BC 326 at the Battle of the Hydaspes River where it is believed that he defeated the Indian king, Porus. According to Arrian (Anabasis, 29), he built a city "on the spot whence he started to cross the river Hydaspes", which he named Bukephala or Bucephala to honour his famous horse Bukephalus or Bucephalus which was buried in Jalalpur Sharif. It is thought that ancient Bukephala was near the site of modern Jhelum City. According to a historian of Gujrat district, Mansoor Behzad Butt, Bukephalus was buried in Jalalpur Sharif, but the people of Mandi Bahauddin, a district close to Jehlum, believed that their tehsil Phalia was named after Bucephalus, Alexander's dead horse. They say that the name Phalia was the distortion of the word Bucephala.

Dr Naval Viyogi[1] writes....Basuki Nag, who is regarded as the presiding deit of the village, has temples in the little town of Bhadarvaha and in two villages, Bheja-uprala (ie upper Bheja, the lower village being called Bheja Jaklā) and Nālti.[2] More details of snake worship in Kashmir has already been given in chapter-I on Pages 5 and 6.

There are several towns in Kashmir having,their name after some Naga, such as Veri Nag, Anant Nag, Shesh Nag etc.

Neela[3], the lord paramount of the Nagas or serpents of Kashmir, was believed from early times, to dwell in the main source of the Vitasta (River). Hence this fine spring was known as Neela-Naga or Neela-kunda, "The deep blue colour of the water", as Sir A. Stein observes, "which collects in the spring-basin, may possibly account for the location of the Neel Naga in this particular fountain". It goes by the

[p.20] name of Ver Naga and is surrounded by a stone embankment and to its east are temples of stone. Neelanaga is still worshipped in Kashmir and fairs related to him are also held even today.[4]

In the district of Nāgām (Ancient Nāgrām) which is watered by the Dudhganga (Milkganga) a small stream which joins the Vitasta at Srinagar, there is a small lake, likewise, known by the name of Neelanaga.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[5] mentions 'The Nations of India'....From this place to the river Cophes18 and Peucolaitis, a city of India, is two hundred and thirty-seven miles; from thence to the river Indus and the city of Taxilla19 sixty; from thence to the famous river Hydaspes20 one hundred and twenty; and from thence to the Hypasis,21 a river no less famous, two hundred and ninety miles, and three hundred and ninety paces. This last was the extreme limit of the expedition of Alexander, though he crossed the river and dedicated certain altars22 on the opposite side. The dispatches written by order of that king fully agree with the distances above stated.

18 See c. 24 of the present Book.

19 The present Attok, according to D'Anville.

20 One of the principal rivers of that part of India known as the Punjaub. It rises in the north-western Himalayah mountains in Kashmere, and after flowing nearly south, falls into the Acesines or Chenab. Its present most usual name is the Jhelum.

21 The most eastern, and most important of the five rivers which water the country of the Punjaub. Rising in the western Himalaya, it flows in two principal branches, in a course nearly south-west (under the names respectively of Vipasa and Satadru), which it retains till it falls into the Indus at Mittimkote. It is best known, however, by its modern name of Sutlej, probably a corrupt form of the Sanscrit Satadru.

22 See c. 18 of the present Book. The altars there spoken of, as consecrated by Alexander the Great, appear to have been erected in Sogdiana, whereas those here mentioned were dedicated in the Indian territory.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[6] mentions 'The Indus'....The Indus, called Sindis by the natives, rises in that branch of the Caucasian range which bears the name of Paropanisus,1 and runs in an easterly direction, receiving in its course the waters of nineteen rivers. The most famous of these are the Hydaspes,2 into which four other rivers have already discharged themselves, the Cantaba,3 which receives three other rivers, the Acesinus, and the Hypasis,4 which last two are navigable themselves.

1 Or Hindoo Koosh. In this statement he is supported by Arrian, Strabo, Mela, and Quintus Curtius. It rises, however, a considerable distance on the north-east side of the Himalaya.

2 The modern Jhelum.

3 Some writers suppose that this must be the same as the Hydraotes, or modern Ravi River, because the latter is not otherwise found mentioned in the list given by Pliny. The name, however, leaves but little doubt that Pliny had heard of the Acesines under its Indian name of Chandabragha, and out of it has made another river.

4 The modern Sutlej.

In Mahabharata

Vitasta River (वितस्ता) (R) (II.9.19), (II.9), (III.80), (VI.10.15), (VIII.30.35), (XIII.26.7),


The river Jhelum rises from Verinag Spring situated at the foot of the Pir Panjal in the south-eastern part of the valley of Kashmir in India. It flows through Srinagar and the Wular lake before entering Pakistan through a deep narrow gorge. The Neelum River, the largest tributary of the Jhelum, joins it, at Domel Muzaffarabad, as does the next largest, the Kunhar River of the Kaghan valley. It also connects with rest of Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir on Kohala Bridge east of Circle Bakote. It is then joined by the Poonch river, and flows into the Mangla Dam reservoir in the district of Mirpur. The Jhelum enters the Punjab in the Jhelum District. From there, it flows through the plains of Pakistan's Punjab, forming the boundary between the Chaj and Sindh Sagar Doabs. It ends in a confluence with the Chenab at Trimmu in District Jhang. The Chenab merges with the Sutlej to form the Panjnad River which joins the Indus River at Mithankot.

External Sources

वितस्ता नदी

वितस्ता नदी (AS, p.853): विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[7] ने लेख किया है ..... वितस्ता कश्मीर तथा पंजाब में बहने वाली झेलम नदी का प्राचीन वैदिक नाम है। 'ऋग्वेद' के प्रसिद्ध 'नदीसूक्त' (10, 75, 5) में इसका उल्लेख है- ‘इमं मे गंगे यमुने सरस्वति शुतुद्रि स्तोमं सचता परुष्ण्या असिकन्या मरुदवृधे वितस्तयार्जीकीये श्रृणुह्य सुषोमया।' महाभारत के समय यह नदी बहुत पवित्र मानी जाने लगी थी- 'वितस्तां पश्य राजेंद्र सर्वपापप्रमोचनीम् महषिंभिश्चाध्युषितांशीततोययां सुनिर्मलाम्।' महाभारत, सभापर्व 130, 20. महाभारत, भीष्मपर्व 9,16 में वितस्ता का उल्लेख 'इरावती'( =रावी) के साथ हुआ है- ‘नदीं वेत्रवतीं चैव कृष्णवेणां च निम्नगाम्, इरावती वितस्तां च पयोष्णीं देविकामपि।'

'श्रीमद्भागवत' 5, 19, 18 में वितस्ता का उल्लेख नाम मरुद्वृधा तथा असिक्नी के साथ है- ‘चंद्रभागा मरुद्वृधा वितस्ताअसिक्नी।'

'वितस्ता' शब्द की व्युत्पत्ति, मोनियर विलियम्स के संस्कृत-अंग्रेज़ी कोश में ‘तंस्’ धातु से बताई गई है, जिसका अर्थ है- 'उड़ेलना'। पानी के अजस्र प्रवाह का नदी रूप में (पर्वत से) नीचे गिरना-यही भाव इस नदी के नाम में निहित है। वितस्ता नाम का संबंध 'वितस्ति' ( =हिन्दी बीता) से भी जोड़ा जा सकता है, जिसका अर्थ ‘विस्तार’ है। वितस्ता को कश्मीर में स्थानीय रूप से ब्यथ और पंजाबी में 'बेहत' या 'बेहट' कहा जाता है। ये नाम वितस्ता के ही अपभ्रंश रूप हैं।

ग्रीक लेखकों ने इसे 'हायडेसपीज' (Hydaspes) कहा है, जो वितस्ता का रूपांतरण है। नदी का झेलम नाम मुसलमानों के समय का है, जो इस नदी के तट पर बसे हुए 'झेलम' नामक कस्बे के कारण हुआ है। इसी स्थान पर पश्चिम से पंजाब में आते समय झेलम नदी को पार किया जाता था। 'राजतरंगिणी' में उल्लिखित वितस्तात्र नामक नगर शायद वितस्ता के तट पर ही बसा हुआ था।


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