Guru Nanak’s Bein(g)

Frontman: Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal emerges from the waters with a clump of weeds and straws uprooted from under the Bein.

On a mellow chilly wintry day the tree-laden banks of the Kali Bein, in the midst of the pandemic, are exceptionally calm and tranquil. Laughter from a lone bunch of tourists and an occasional whirl of a bike engine are the only sounds making inroads into silence and interrupting sweet crooning of the birds. The Bein flows gleefully ndash; its characteristic dark waters canopied by the shadows of the sky-embracing trees swaying on the banks look like an abstract painting, limned by nature’s lily hands.

Free-flowing: A beautiful view of the holy Kali Bein of Sultanpur Lodhi, Kapurthala. It is also a key source of water to the Kanjli Wetlands, a Ramsar site.

The holy town of Sultanpur Lodhi could have lost it all almost 21 years ago. Thanks to the efforts undertaken by Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal who spearheaded the Kar Sewa movement that led to the cleaning up of the stream’s bed and himself waded shoulder-deep to uproot weeds, muck from the water hyacinth-ridden Bein. Eventually, water released from the Mukerian Hydel Project got the river running through the town. However, today there are some fresh threats such as modernisation, development and tourism on the horizon for the recently-revived Bein.

Keep up the good work: Between the years 2000 and 2003, thousands of volunteers led by Balbir Singh Seechewal worked day and night to revive the failing Bein. Three years of painstaking work led to the cleaning of the riverbed.

The geography

Originating from the natural springs at the Dhanoa village, the Kali Bein flows for 165 km ending at the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej rivers at the Harike Pattan. A historical well at its originating point has been neglected long due to a dispute over its ownership. Its deep springs and overflowing waters are now reduced to several feet of murky waters. However, the Bein has been kept alive by the Mukerian Hydel Channel. It is also the key source of water to the Kanjli Wetlands, a Ramsar site.

Got it all: Banks are ornamented by pots, vases, plants and a hult on the site of the Guru Nanak gallery.

Guru Nanak Dev’s first love

Guru Nanak Dev’s loved the rivulet for this is where he drank life’s nectar and attained enlightenment. It’s believed that he took a dip into the Kali Bein and emerged out three days later — enlightened. While the first Sikh Guru disappeared one morning near the beri at the site of the present-day Ber Sahib gurdwara, the spot where he stepped out, is now marked by the Sant Ghat gurdwara, built to commemorate the historic event. The mool mantar was also recited at the same site. This spot is now getting another addition ndash; the Mool Mantar Sthan, a huge circular building which shall house a multimedia museum and a museum of Guru Nanak Dev.

Coming up soon: The under-construction Mool Mantar Sthan that is due to come up on the banks. A multi-media museum depicting the life of Guru Nanak Dev will also be established at the site.

Doomsday nearing?

The rampant colonisation of its previously untouched and pristine banks is stoking concerns. The kar sewa and subsequent Seechewal model of groundwater revival attracted a string of stalwarts such as former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and so on.

Well said: The natural spring at the Dhanoa village which is the originating point of the holy rivulet.

On the 550th Parkash Utsav of Guru Nanak Dev, lakhs of devotees took a dip. The occasion also marked several new projects, bridges, plantation and beautification work in the town and on the banks. In 2000, when Sant Seechewal started the clean-up task, the banks were totally concrete-free only surrounded by fields. But now, it is spotted with bustling markets, several colonies and gurdwaras and a bunch of new upcoming buildings on both sides.

Help me! The hyacinth-ridden Kali Bein before the year 2000. It was choked by weeds, straws and discarded carcasses, which were all fished out during the Kar Sewa initiative. As many as 3,000 kar sewaks volunteered in the cleaning process.

While beautification works did their part — ornamented banks, steps, stonewalls, earthen pot-lined fixtures, lamps, a museum and a plethora of plants and benches — some unwanted fixtures have also sprouted. There is a bustling market on one side with restaurants venting chimneys right into Bein’s face and residential colonies obscuring the pathways.

Environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal says: “The Bein is pristine and there is a need to reduce the carbon footprint around it. Rampant development will lead to further pollution in future. We have been raising issues about the construction of new buildings, sites and places but it goes on unabated.”

Guru Nanak’s Bein(g)