It’s a happy confluence of science and faith. The sangam in Allahabad — the site of the ongoing Ardh Kumbh Mela and where the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers meet — has shifted westwards by about 900 metres over the last few decades.
Dr Ramesh Singh, a professor of civil engineering at Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, and his PhD student Anup Prasad analysed Landsat satellite data for 1975, 1990 and 2000 to prove that the confluence has moved.
The shifting of the site, say sadhus (ascetics), is auspicious and a good omen for mankind. Quoting the Padma Puran, an ancient Hindu text, Dr Girija Shastri of the Allahabad-based Jyotish Karmakand Evam Adhyatam Shodh Sansthan, an astrology research centre, said that a dip at the sangam when it flows westwards, washes off the sins of a billion years. “The shift is clearly visible. We have never seen it before,” he added.
Singh said the satellite data clearly shows the distinct change in the Ganga’s course as well as the confluence point. He said the Ganga that flowed east-west at the north of Allahabad suddenly changed course towards the north-south direction. There is no change in the course of the Yamuna.
He said the shifting of the confluence could be due to either of two reasons — active tectonics in the Allahabad region and the river ‘load’, ie, obstructions to its flow. Singh said that constant monitoring of the earth’s crust was necessary to pinpoint which of the two factors caused the shift.
Singh said geoscientists should monitor the phenomenon as it would help in estimating the geological stresses in the region. He added that it’s difficult to say whether the Ganga would return to its original course as the water flow is being regulated upstream.