Satluj River

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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Indus and its tributaries

Satluj River or Sutlej River (Hindi: सतलुज, Punjabi: ਸਤਲੁਜ, Urdu: درياۓ ستلُج‎ ) is the longest of the five rivers that flow through the historic crossroads region of Punjab in northern India and Pakistan.

Variants of name

Location

It is located north of the Vindhya Range, south of the Hindu Kush segment of the Himalayas, and east of the Central Sulaiman Range in Pakistan.

Course

The Sutlej is sometimes known as the Red River. It is the easternmost tributary of the Indus River. Its source is Lake Rakshastal in Tibet. From there, under the Tibetan name Langqên Zangbo (Elephant River), it flows at first west-northwest for about 260 kms to the Shipki La pass, entering India in Himachal Pradesh state. It then turns slightly, heading west-southwest for about 360 kms to meet the Beas River near Makhu, Firozpur district, Punjab state.

Continuing west-southwest, the Sutlej enters Pakistan about 15 kms (9.3 mi) east of Bhedian Kalan, Kasur District, Punjab province, continuing southwest to water the ancient and historical former Bahawalpur princely state.

About 17 kms north of Uch Sharif, the Sutlej unites with the Chenab River, forming the Panjnad River, which finally flows into the Indus river about 100 kms west of the city of Bahawalpur. The area to the southeast on the Pakistani side of the Indian border is called the Cholistan Desert and, on the Indian side, the Thar Desert.

The Indus then flows through a gorge near Sukkur and the fertile plains region of Sindh, forming a large delta region between the border of Gujarat, India and Pakistan, finally terminating in the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi, Pakistan.

History

The Upper Sutlej Valley was once known as the Garuda Valley by the Zhangzhung, the ancient civilization of western Tibet. The Garuda Valley was the centre of their empire, which stretched many miles into the nearby Himalayas. The Zhangzhung built a towering palace in the Upper Sutlej Valley called Kyunglung, the ruins of which still exist today near the village of Moincêr, southwest of Mount Kailash (Mount Ti-se). Eventually, the Zhangzhung were conquered by the Tibetan Empire.

The boundaries of Greater Nepal extended westward to beyond Satluj River until the tide turned in 1809 and Kangra king repulsed Gorkha army eastward with help from Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Punjab).


The Sutlej was the main medium of transportation for the kings of that time. In the early 18th century, it was used to transport devdar woods for Bilaspur district, Hamirpur district, and other places along the Sutlej's banks.

References

  1. Asiatic Society of Bengal. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Volume 17, Part 1. p. 210, paragraph two.

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