‘This is Gangamoola. It is the highest point from where the water flows. In the rainy season, it flows like a small stream. From this source, three rivers originate and flow into the forest – you can see the three rivers after we have covered some more distance. The earliest sign of the Tunga is on the left side and the Bhadra on the right. There are many sacred ponds and small temples here, like Nagatheertha and Varahatheertha.’

Vikram asked, ‘Is there any difference in their waters, between the Tunga and the Bhadra? After all, they are from the same source.’

‘Yes, the Tunga flows a little more quietly and the water is a little sweet, whereas the Bhadra is
a bit more forceful and her water tastes different,’ said Seshu.

‘Oh, I had imagined a big waterfall, like Jog Falls! But this is not as expansive. I have seen the Tungabhadra in Harihar; it is quite wide there,’ said Nooni.

‘Most rivers are born as a small source of continuous water. When it flows down, many rivulets join it. It later goes on expanding and with force as it moves downwards. It gets wider by the time it reaches its destination, and the force is less. Maybe that is why we say that all successful people have humble origins.’

‘Maybe,’ agreed Vikram.

The water flowed below them. For some time, Nooni sat there speechless, imagining how the Ganga originated from Gangotri to become a mighty river! All rivers start from droplets and then take their mighty shape.

‘Why is it called Gangamoola?’ Nooni asked Seshu.

‘A river is essential for civilization to exist and to prosper. That is the reason ancient civilisations around the world were built along riverbanks. Take the Indus Valley Civilization as an example,
which was built on the bank of the river Indus or Sindhu, or the Egyptian civilization, which developed along the river Nile. That is the reason the Ganga is revered in India. So we worship
every river as another form of the Ganga. Moola means “origin”. So Gangamoola means “origin of
the river”. The river may not be the Ganga, but it is a practice. Even the river Godavari originates
near Nashik, in a mountain, but that place is also called Gangadwar.’

Nooni wanted to read more about the Tunga River. She immediately decided that she would choose it as the subject of her school project. Seshu was now a knowledge bank for Nooni.

‘Seshu Uncle, what happens to these droplets of water?’ she asked.

‘Below this point, the stream goes into the thick forest, and probably somewhere there, it splits into three rivers. The Tunga, the Bhadra and the Netravathi.’

They sat there for some time, shared the snacks they had brought along, drank kashaya and
rested for a while. Nooni took some photographs.

Meanwhile, Mahadeva told Seshu about Nooni’s discovery of the stepwell. Seshu was very impressed. ‘I have heard about the Somanahalli stepwell and plan to go sometime. But I didn’t know that was you.’

After they had finished their snacks, Nooni checked to make sure they had not littered the place and packed all the wrappers and waste in a bag.

‘I appreciate your concern for the animals and the forest. Very few people think about them.
Many tourists leave behind their trash, like plastic and other stuff, which is hazardous to this place,’
said Seshu, smiling. The children then thanked him for giving them his insights as he took them around Gangamoola.

By the time they started back for Balepura, it was late evening. On their drive back, Nooni was still basking in her fascination for rivers. The visit to Gangamoola had shaken her up.

The concept of a river is so great, she thought to herself. It flows from the origin without knowing where it goes, depending on the inclination of the land. It serves all beings on Earth – humans, birds, animals, reptiles, farmlands and much more.

She recalled Seshu calling the Tunga ‘Amma’. Amma is the one who gives everything to children,
and so is the river giving everything to human beings. If the Tunga wasn’t flowing through the
Western Ghats, it would have no flora or fauna. It would just be mountains of rocks and not a
heritage site!

She realised that if it had not been there, neither would be her ancestral home, her people,
the homestay, the temples . . . anything. What a difference a river makes to the land!

The Magic of the Lost Story

Excerpted with permission from The Magic of the Lost Story, Sudha Murty, Puffin.