During one of my recent visits to the Kalesar National Park, Haryana’s only Sal forest, I finally got an opportunity to visit the famed Hathni Kund barrage on the Yamuna River. Although, I had crisscrossed the barrage as well as the forest many a times before but a dedicated visit could only be made possible this time.
Located in Yamunanagar district of Haryana just before the Sal forest cover of Kalesar starts, the barrage marks the state’s border with Uttar Pradesh. The diversion towards Ladwa from Kurukshetra at NH 1 takes straight to Yamunanagar from where the barrage is just 40 km, a little aside the State highway connecting the district headquarters with Dehradun via Paonta Sahib, a popular pilgrimage of Sikhs.
The folklore claims that an elephant, belonging to the personal cavalcade of the Mughal emperor Shahjahan, was drowned here (and hence the name). Legend has it that the emperor got the beast thrown into the Kund in the hope of retrieving the golden elephant in return, after someone told him that a priest had tossed the Paras Stone into the riverbed.
The Hathni Kund barrage, which diverts water into the Western and Eastern Yamuna canals, serves as a wetland for over 40 waterfowls including 15 resident species. During winters when water is mostly stagnant, the one-km-sq reservoir created by the barrage is known to attract a fair quantity and variety of migratory as well as resident waterfowls. Luck possibly was not on my side that day as the barrage surprisingly did not live up to its reputation as the quantity of the collective bird species was quite low. Nevertheless, I spotted River Lapwings in its natural habitat among others and the view from the barrage was quite absorbing. The foothills of the Himalayas, further afar, served as a link between the plains and the skyline.
Built on an elevated platform, Hatni Kund is not only a preferred bird watching site but is frequented by river rafters alike. As the river Yamuna enters the northern plains after meandering through Himalayas, crossing its last rocky lap at Paonta Sahib, the water-related adventure activities culminate at the Hathni Kund. As with other non-perennial rivers, such adventure activities are highly seasonal and flourish only when the flow of water is adequate (as in late spring). The waters of the Yamuna are redirected through a barrage at Hathni Kund and at Tajewala, located five kilometres further afield. The state tourism department bills these links as rafting course of the lowest grade or beginner level. Although, with regard to purpose, the British-era Tajewala barrage has been replaced by the recently constructed Hathni Kund barrage, the links are still very much functional. The waterfront at Tajewala could be combed for angling activities, after obtaining a special permit, specifically pertaining to Mahaseers.
The seasonal camping facilities provided by the state tourism department have been discontinued and the best options to stay nearby include the Guest House of electricity department at the site and the colonial Forest Rest House at the Kalesar National Park. Having spent a couple of hours at the crystal clear waters of the barrage, I headed towards the National Park where I wished to spend at least three days.
Other popular destinations within an hour’s reach from the site include Asan Barrage, Bheemgoda Barrage, Kaleshwar Math, Paonta Sahib Gurudwara, Chuharpur Nature Park, Buria, Sugh, Bilaspur, Kapal Mochan Temple, Saraswati Udgama Sthal, Ban Santour, Adi Badri Temple, etc.