Maldevta walk – One of the few remaining places to see the age-old Dehradun Canal System

Maldevta is a tiny village located not very far from Dehradun. If you are driving on the Shahastradhara – Raipur road, you certainly will cross Maldevta. A new direct road being built from Dehradun to Dhanaulti also passes through this village. It is popular among the locals, especially on the weekends with numerous shacks that adorn the area.

Green fields with the Kalanga mountain range in the background

Interestingly, 2 important rivers in the area, the Song river and the Shahastradhara river (also called Badri Nadi), merge at this place. With green fields stretching far and wide, mighty hills surrounding it and the gushing waters of the 2 rivers, Maldevta is surely a blessed place.

The Shahastradhara canal (left) joining the Song Canal at Maldevta. Its a great walk along the canal with birds chirping around

In this blog, I take you through the canal system for which the whole city of Dehradun was once widely known. The foundations of the 1st canal (The Rajpur Canal) was laid in 1650s during the tenure of Rani Karnavati – the ruler of the Garhwal dynasty (Karanpur area in Dehradun has been named after her).  Over the next 200+ years, new canals continued to be built as well as the existing ones were upgraded. These canals crisscrossed through the city helping the citizens of the valley use the waters for personal and agriculture use. The 5 historical and most important canal systems around Dehradun were;

  • Bijapur Canal
  • Rajpur Canal
  • Kalanga Canal
  • Jakhan Canal
  • Katapathar Canal

The British did a lot of upgradation work on the canals after annexing Dehradun from the clutches of the Gorkhas (the Anglo-Gorkha war 1814-16). It was important for them as the regular supply of water would assure a good agriculture harvest, helping the British realise a greater economic value (through taxations).

Sir Proby Thomas Cautley – a Civil engineer, is credited with the upgradation of the Dehradun Canal systems. Indeed, his pioneering methods are well appreciated even today and his experiments in Dehradun later led him to eventually build one of the greatest canal systems in the world – the Upper Ganga Canal (UGC) at Haridwar.

Over the last few years, these canals have been closed to make way for road-expansion work and/or for creating real estate structures. However, there are places where the canal is still visible, and Maldevta is one of those few remaining places.

While driving from Raipur towards Maldevta, your first stop will be a small decrepit water mill (also known as Gharat) with the waters gushing through a stone-canal beneath. This is your first glimpse of the Kalanga canal. As you drive further towards Maldevta, the canal will continue to accompany you until you reach another water mill (just next to the bridge). This water mill was revived about 2 years’ back and its surely worth a visit. Water mills or gharats were once an integral part of the Doon valley but they have now surely lost their sheen with the emergence of the electric grinders that are easy of use and are technologically advanced.

The aqueduct at Maldevta – the Kalanga canal flows inside this to overcome the hollow of the Shahastradhara river below

An aqueduct (these are structures that are used to carry a water stream over a hollow or valley) is visible next to this mill and it’s a small detour from the main road. This walk is amazing as you walk over the aqueduct and then alongside the Kalanga canal until you reach ‘Do naali’. This is the area with abundance of these maggi/momo shacks and is a much revered places among the doonites on the weekends. “Dunaali” is a place where 2 canals meet i.e one coming from Shahastradhara and the other from the Song River. A walk along these canals is mesmerizing especially in the morning. The song canal is joined by another canal much further. This other canal draws the water from the Bandal river. The total distribution system of the Kalanga Canal is massive and adds upto 101.09 kms (reference – Uttarakhand Irrigation dept. website). Thus, Kalanga Canal draws its water from 3 river sources (Song, Shahastradhara and Bandal).

Sir Proby Cautley spent 3-4 years (in 1840s) in the area working on solutions to upgrade these canals and to irrigate the Doon valley. The concept of building an aqueduct was the 1st by Cautley over the Kalanga canal, the experience of which was later used by him to create a much longer aqueduct over the Ganga canal near Roorkee.  He extensively worked on the Bijapur canal too and even created dams. His great work on building the Dehradun canal network is praised even till date.

As I end this blog, I question as to why the place is known as Maldevta?. There’s a temple right next to the gushing waters of the canal that is known as Maldevta. It is said that this place fell on the trade route and people used to stop by before commencing the hill journey or towards the bhabar region. Since the place was largely used by the traders, they paid their obeisance here. Mal is a hindi word for Goods and therefore the temple became known as Maldevta.

There’s surely a calm sense of peace at this place which is very difficult to describe in words. This experience is surely worth a visit.


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