POTHOLED MIRACLE

The river Kukdi that flows by Nighoj village in Maharashtra has shaped up beautiful potholes in the riverbed that have fascinated geologists.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | Published:March 8, 2009 4:33 pm

The river Kukdi that flows by Nighoj village in Maharashtra has shaped up beautiful potholes in the riverbed that have fascinated geologists. The villagers,though,don’t understand what the fuss is about

EVERY year on Janmashtami,Nighoj village indulges in a little ritual. Over six lakh devotees pour into Nighoj,a village 75 kilometres from Pune in Ahmednagar district,to witness a “miracle”. At the stroke of midnight,villagers claim,an earthen pot filled with water emerges from the main well in the village,the pot is put on display for three days and after a grand procession,it’s immersed into the well so that it rises again the next year. Everyone here vouches for the miracle,saying nobody dares question goddess Malganga.

But the goddess herself would have seen bigger miracles—like the small gorges the river Kukdi,a tributary of the Bhima river,has formed over the years. The river,which flows by the village,takes a semi-circular turn less than 50 metres behind the temple,throwing up swirls and water currents that beat relentlessly against the hard basalt rockbed. The river has done this for countless years,giving rise to one of the most fascinating vignettes of geology in the Deccan plateau
—beautiful rock formations and several potholes formed by the water flowing through the stone.

The potholes—spread over three kilometres with an average depth of over 100 feet—give the basin the look of a canyon. “This is a geographical phenomenon where the pebbles that are carried by the river get locked in the cracks developed in the basalt rock riverbed. These pebbles,which rotate due to the water current,form pot shaped cavities in the basalt rock. This is what you see in Nighoj. The process is spread over thousands of years. The river Ghataprabha has formed similar potholes at Gokak in Karnataka,” says Tanuuja Marathe of the Department of Geology,Fergusson College.

Faith,the villagers say,can move mountains,so what’s a river? They don’t think much of the potholes,saying goddess Malganga is above everything else. They say they don’t understand why geologists,foreign researchers and photographers who frequently visit their village head straight to the riverbed,rather than visit the temple.

Last year,a team of researchers from National Geographic had visited Nighoj to study the potholes as well as to study the birds in the area. In 1997,Citizen magazine had reported about the potholes. But the villagers of Nighoj,primarily agriculturists who grow wheat,onion and sugarcane,are not impressed.

“We all believe that this village is blessed by the goddess. The goddess gave the villagers pots to cook in. But some of them started stealing the pots and the angry goddess put the pots in the riverbed. That’s how these holes were formed,” says Vilas Pawar,a villager,confidently.
Anjana Erande,a shepherd,says,“We call the potholes kund. We go there to wash clothes and to pray during the festivals.”

The tourism department of the Maharashtra government has labelled Nighoj as a tourism destination,which makes it eligible for development funds. Geetaram Kavad,sarpanch of Nihoj,says,“We received funds worth Rs 28 lakh in the first phase and Rs 25 lakh in the second. We have used the money to construct a road in the village.”

Umesh Sonawane,another villager,says,“We have been working hard towards developing the village as a tourism destination. We recently gathered funds worth Rs 3 crore and constructed a marble temple of Malganga Devi in the village.”

The villagers have more plans. “We plan to build a guesthouse for devotees who visit the village. Additionally,there will be 10 toilets and bathrooms,a water tank for uninterrupted water supply and a garden beside the guesthouse. We will also allocate space for a parking lot—at least 100 vehicles visit the village regularly,” says sarpanch Kavad.
So while the temple and the goddess get all the attention,the river Kuki flows by silently,its waters gently lapping against the potholes.

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