The True Source of the Jehlum

Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia (which I somehow managed to recommend and put-down in the same post) also helped to clear up a quandary regarding the origin of the Jehlum.

Most historical and modern traditions consider the Verinag pool as the source of the Jehlum (except for a handful of purists who maintain that the honour belongs to the nearby Vyethvathur spring).

The outflow from Verinag forms a small stream that flows for around three kilometres before merging with the more sizeable Sandrin stream near Chinigund. Near Khanabal the Sandrin stream meets the confluent flow of the Bringi and Arpath streams before merging with the Lidder near Sifan to give rise to the Jehlum river.

The headwaters of the Sandrin, however, lie many miles further away from the sangam (confluence) of the Verinag and Sandrin streams. Numerous nars (mountain streams), arising from the snowfields of the mountainous ring between the Hansraj, Kaukut and Sundar Kanthi peaks, merge to form the Sandrin stream which flows in a north-westerly direction for more than 20 kilometres till it meets the Verinag stream.

So why is the Sandrin, or rather its first and farthest tributary, the Chhitar Nar, not traditionally considered to be the source of the Jehlum?

Alice Albinia faced a similar conundrum on reaching Senge Khabab (The Lion’s Mouth – the traditional source of the Indus) at the end of her quest, and wondered why the Dorjungla or other tributaries arising farther away were not considered to be the source of the Indus.

The explanation comes via Sven Hedin – the Swedish adventurer-explorer who explored the Transhimalaya and discovered the source of the Indus. Alice Albinia relates that Sven Hedin was told by his Tibetan guides that the Senge Khabab, arising from underground springs, was considered the true source as it emitted the same amount of water in summer and winter (unlike the other snowmelt-dependent tributaries that waxed and waned from season to season).

This fits in well with our own tradition that the reliable Verinag spring is considered to be the actual source of the Jehlum and not the snowmelt-dependent mountain streams rising farther away in the hills. I am inclined to agree.