Travel Shot: The confluence of blue and grey

Karcham, in the Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh, is a pretty ordinary looking place and one can be forgiven for dismissing it as just another Indian town. However it is not “just another Indian town” as I found out.

This is where the highway (or rather the dirt track that passes for one) bifurcates into two β€” one leads to Kalpa and the other leads to the Sangla Valley. It is here that the Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant is situated. And it is at Karcham that the Sutlej and the Baspa rivers meet.

Baspa, Sutlej, river confluence, Kinnaur,
The blue Baspa meets the grey Sutlej at Karcham

According to a Kinnauri legend,

the rivers Sutlej and Baspa are brothers, with former being the older one. Sutlej was the more serious and sedate sibling, and Baspa the mischievous one. Like all siblings the two were rivals for everything, including whose name should be retained where their waters joined at Karcham. It was decided that whoever reached Karcham first would get the honour of lending his name to the river from that point onwards.

And so the two rivers set forth towards Karcham. Baspa, the faster of the two. He rushed forth through valleys and gorges, but was easily distracted and stopped to play with other streams and take mini diversions. On the other hand, Sutlej flowed slowly and steadily towards Karcham. And we know which type of person wins, right?

Sutlej reached Karcham first and that is how the river from Karcham onwards is known by that name even though it contains the waters of Baspa as well.

Wherever I travelled in the Kinnaur region these rivers were never too far from me. If the Sutlej was within my sight from the Kalpa side, the Baspa kept me company in the Sangla Valley. Two brothers, so different in looks and character, both heavily dammed, and yet in their own ways lifelines for the regions they flow through.

The confluence is stark and one can easily pick out the blue of the Baspa and the grey of the Sutlej. It was a sight the kept me mesmerised for a long time.

PS: Isn’t the Kinnauri folktale delightful?

40 thoughts on “Travel Shot: The confluence of blue and grey

  1. Lovely photograph Sudha, the distinction between blue and grey is quite evident!Even if I dont comment often, I love reading your travel posts , they make a happy-with-routine person like me actually want to travel πŸ˜€
    Also, I’ve always thought rivers were potrayed as feminine, so this story is actually quite surprising!


    1. Thank you, Monishikha. One day, you are just going to get up, pack a bag and set out to travel. Mark my words. πŸ™‚

      Most rivers are feminine and prior to the Himachal trip, I only knew of the Brahmaputra as the masculine river. This visit introduced me to two more – the Sutlej and the Baspa. I’m sure there are many more.


    1. Yes, it is going to be Himachal all the way now – for some time at least. πŸ™‚

      These stories may have become much loved folk tales today. Who knows they may have been real at some point in time. I wonder…


    1. Did R enjoy the story? I would love to know what she thought of it. As for the picture, the region is so beautiful that one doesn’t have to do anything for a good picture. It just happens πŸ™‚


  2. Lovely story.. I have been lucky enough to see karcham and loved the experience. the whole area is magical… thanks for sharing the story…


    1. Welcome here, Indrani, and thank you for stopping by and commenting. I thought the story is lovely too and befits the beautiful region it comes come – Kinnaur. πŸ™‚


    1. I had travelled with a group and the group leader had been to this region in 1986. At that time both the rivers were blue, different shades of blue and the distinction was less apparent then. The Sutlej has turned grey due to damming and silting. I did see some flashes of blue green in the upper reaches of the river in Kalpa, but it was nowhere as brilliant as the Baspa.

      Do plan a trip to Himachal sometime. I’ll be glad to share whatever resources and information that I have with you, if you should require it. πŸ™‚


  3. What a nice story! It only goes to show that every river, valley and mountain has some folk tale associated with it, not just in India, but elsewhere in the world too. One wonders if they are indeed folktales or had been reality in some far off enchanted times?


    1. In my response to Anu’s comment earlier on. that is exactly what I said – perhaps these stories were real and over time turned into a legend or a folk tale. Stories from this region are in danger of disappearing completely as the Kinnauri language has no script and there is an urgent need to record its oral history at least.


    1. Welcome here, Sajeev and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. πŸ™‚
      I must admit that the photograph does not do justice to the colours seen at the confluence – they are unimaginable and must be seen.


  4. Lovely click and a delightful story! πŸ™‚ The ancient wisdom seems to always recommend slow and steady course of action. Yet, the popular modus operandi in modern times is “Faster, faster faster” This gets me worried.


  5. The only blue-grey combination I knew of till today was in school uniforms! Nature has proved that there is much, much more to it. From now on, I will look at any description of “dull grey” with pity and sceptism!.


    1. I didn’t want to use grey for describing Sutlej. The correct description would hace been the shade of liquid cement, but that didn’t look too good in a title. So grey it was.

      And I love the grey and blue combination and contrast πŸ™‚


  6. What a cute story! And the contrast between the colors is so sharp; I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this before!


    1. Hello AH. Welcome to my blog and thank you for stopping by and commenting. The confluence is visible because of the difference in colours of the two rivers. And the Sutlej, which was blue, has now turned grey due to dams and silting. 😦


    1. Apparently, even 15 years back you could not see the confluence as clearly as you can today. The reason is because of silting of the Sutlej. As for the story, fairy tales and folk tales and legends are what makes the world go around according to me πŸ™‚


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