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Kali Bein River

The Kali Bein is one of the most important river (more as rivulet) of Punjab. The total length of the river is 160 kilometers as it emerges in Hoshiarpur in Punjab and flows via Sultanpur Lodhi and Kapurthala to meet Sutlej River at Harike Pattan. The near extinction river has now been given a new life by the efforts started by Sant Balbir Singh Sancherwal back in 2000. The river suffered from excessive clutters and filth. The Sikh tradition of kar sewa (free voluntary service) and Daswandh (common 10% earning donation) helped save the situation. Volunteers and locals led both physical work and fund raising for equipment needed to clean the river waters. People from more than two dozen villages pitched in to save the Kali Bein that now runs and improved its course.

History and Etymology

It is said that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, performed his morning ablutions in the Kali Bein River. He would sit under a “ber” tree, which he himself planted to meditate. This meditation lasted for more than 14 years, 9 months and 13 days. It is near the banks of the Kali Bein that Guru Nanak is said to have his direct communication with the divine, the God. 5 centuries ago, one day, it is this rivulet that Guru Nanak took a dip for bath and disappeared forever. Two days later, he appeared upstream at what is now known as “Sant Ghat” and his first words were “Naa ko Hindu na Musalmaan” meaning that there is no Hindu or Muslim. It was here along the banks of Kali Bein that Guruji had composed the holy Japji Sahib and it is the same place that he started his Udasis from.

All of this happened on the banks of the Kali Bein and that old “ber” tree is still believed to be the same that stands along Gurudwara Ber Sahib.

Apart from being closely connected to the life of Guru Nanak, the Kali Bein River has been the lifeline of the Daoba region in Punjab. The growth in population and factories alongside the river had made it highly polluted and closed it down to near extinction. Kali Bein drains 43 towns and villages today.


The 160 kilometers long Kali Bein River springs from the lands around Dhanao Village in Hoshiarpur District of Punjab. The excessive seeping of minerals is what that brought the river its name. The mineral and high water density gives a black reflection to the eyes of the viewer. In the days of Emperor Akbar, some stretches of this river were beautified with brick lining walls and flower beds, trees and bushes. At one point of time, Kali Bein merged at the confluence of Ravi and Beas but after Beas changed its course, there was little resource available to Kali Bein and the hard times started.

By the year 2000, modernization and industrialization along the banks had made the river a cesspool. The waters became stagnant and full of effluents due to unmindful dumping and discharge from the industries. The government also played a part in the mess. It was the Sikh religious practices led by Sant Balbir Singh Sancherwal that the holy drive started. Many Sikh volunteers started out to physically clean out the mess. Donations in the form of money, equipment and physical labor helped clear the cluttered riverbed full of water hyacinth, deep silt deposits and building riverbanks alongside to guard against erosion. The public awareness campaign led by the volunteers had inspired the dwellers alongside to dump their sewage elsewhere. The Times Magazines has profiled Sant Balbir as one of the 30 “Heroes of Environment.”

The success story had been inspired deeply by the teachings of Guru Nanak who had many a times preached the importance of pure air, water, and earth. To Guruji, air is equated with teacher, water has been equated to father and earth to being the mother.

The Cleaning Story

The clean up drive for Kali Bein River was done in four phases.

  • The first phase included manual cleaning of silt and water hyacinth starting from the historical town of Sultanpur Lodhi.
  • The second phase work was done along the banks of Dhanao to Hoshiarpur.
  • The third phase saw the Sultanpur Lodhi work to resume along the Talwandi Bridge and engaging in installing sewer systems.
  • The fourth phase saw the river being de-silted from Harike to Sultanpur Lodhi and brings the Beas water upward.

In 2011 however, the river dried up and as an effort to restore the water, the Punjab government demanded the release fresh water into Kali Bein.

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