One of the most beautiful rivers of Bundelkhand, in Madhya Pradesh, is the Ken. Unlike the many rivers that arise in the Vindhya Plateau and flow into the Narmada, Ken, like it’s sister river Betwa, flows north to join the Yamuna (at Chilla in Uttar Pradesh). During its 427-km-long journey, the Ken passes through some stunning landscape, the chief of which is the Panna National Park. Thanks to the river, Panna boasts of a unique ecosystem. Apart from the tigers that the park is famous for, the Ken is home to many beautiful bird species. However, the ‘cleanest river in central India’, as it’s often referred to, is under threat from a proposed river-linking project. If the Ken and the Betwa are linked, that would likely prove to be the death knell of one of the most bio-rich and beautiful areas in the country.

One cool dawn in December, I took a boat ride up the Ken for a spot of birdwatching. Sailing lazily along on this beautiful river, its hard not to get caught up in the romance of the age-old, quintessentially Indian landscape.

Our little boat awaits in the reeds by the river
Our little boat awaits in the reeds by the river
A tiny crab stands alert for intruders


Our boatman Raju steers the boat towards the main channel of the Ken
Our boatman Raju steers the boat towards the main channel of the Ken
A cormorant suns itself on a the river
A cormorant suns itself on a the river
A stork crouches before taking off in search of breakfast
A stork crouches before taking off in search of breakfast
Another cormorant stretches its wings to dry itself in the sunshine
Another cormorant stretches its wings to dry itself in the sunshine
An egret sits alone on a river rock stained with bird droppings
An egret sits alone on a river rock stained with bird droppings
A white-throated kingfisher peeks out
A white-throated kingfisher peeks out