This article is about the now-vanished river Saraswati. Long ago this was a huge river.
The major rivers of the north west of the Indian subcontinent (Punjab, Sindh, Rajasthan, and Gujrat ) were : Saraswati, Sindhu (Indus ), Shatadru (Sutlej ) Vipasa (Beas), Parushni (Ravi ), Asikni (Chenab), Yamuna, Drishadwati ,and Lavanavati. All these rivers have changed their courses since Vedic times. Of these, three rivers: Saraswati, Drishadwati, and Lavanavati no longer exist.
In Vedic times the rivers Beas Jhelum, Ravi and Chenab joined the Sindhu to form one channel from Himalayas to the Arabian sea. Saraswati and her tributaries: Yamuna sutlej Drishadwati and Lavanavati formed the other channel from Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. Saraswati was a huge river . Her bed was as vast as 10 km in some places. In the early days, Saraswati river met the Arabian sea at the Rann of Kachh. After the level of Rann increased, she crossed the Rann to join the Arabian Sea at the gulf of Khambat. It was on the banks of this vast river system that the vedic ashrams thrived .It was the waters of the Saraswati that gave rise to vedic culture. Thus Saraswati was called the goddess of knowledge. The epitome of knowledge. Something like the Havard or the Oxford of modern times.
During the late Vedic period tectonic movements pushed up the Aravali hills, in northern Rajasthan, changed the drainage pattern of the Northwest India dramatically. Saraswati lost her major tributaries ie Yamuna and Sutlej. Sutlej turned west and joined the Beas-Sindhu system. Yamuna started migrating east to join Ganga. Yamuna now was basically caring the saraswati water and bringing it to the Ganges. Because the Yamuna was bringing the water of Saraswati to the Ganges, it was now becoming the confluence of the three rivers namely Yamuna, Ganga, Saraswati and hence the term "Tribeni Sangam"
Rig Veda , the oldest of the Vedas mentions about the river Saraswati in many of its verses. The one that is very pertinent here is as follows: "ambi tame devi tame nadi tame Saraswati........." which means that :You are the mother. You are the goddess. You are the river -Saraswati. If the Indians specially the Hindus just try to find a synonymous situation today they will find that Ganges fits the verse very perfectly as of date. Today Ganges has the same status that Saraswati had many many years ago. Ganges is the life line today of the entire country. Its fertile banks and the navigability have sustained human settlements for ages. The delta that the river makes before going into the sea has helped to maintain a healthy population of flora and fauna through out the Gangetic West Bengal, The Sundarbans, and the south of Bangla Desh. The river and its major tributaries like the Hooghly are the life line of many inhabitants in and around them as they are highly navigable and perennial in nature. The Saraswati was a similar but very much on a large scale, river some 9000 yrs to 11000 yrs before present. The very mention of this river in the rig Vedas at least proves that a intelligent civilization did exist during that period of time who knew about the river and its tributaries, and the civilization which thrived along its bank enjoyed all the benefits of being on the vicinity of the mighty river. In fact if we plot the various archaeological sites like the Lotahl, Kalibangan, Dwarka,and about 23 other archaeological sites on the map of undivided India Or the Indian Subcontinent we will see that these sites are mostly on the either banks of the legendary river Saraswati. Even today there is a channel which at places is more than a kilometer wide in Haryana which is severely cultivated and the locals call it the Saraswati. During monsoon this channel carries a small amount of water which is mostly captured for irrigation--The river per-se is not dead. We will see some of the Rig Vedic shlokas on the river Saraswati which will give us some idea about how the river was in its hay days.
1."maho arnah sarasvati pra cetayati ketuna dhiyo visva virajati" means sarasvati like a great ocean appears with her ray, and she rules all inspirations.
2."ni tva dadhe vara a prthivya ilayspade sudinatve ahnam;
Drsadvaty am manuse apayayam sarasvatyamrevad agne didhi" Means we set you down, oh sacred fire at the most holy place on earth, in the land of Ila, in the clear brightness of the day. On the drishadvati, the apaya and the Sarasvati river, shine out brilliantly for men.
3."ayasi puh visva apo mahina sindhur anyah,sucir yati girbhya a samudrat" means sarasvati is like a bronze city surpassing all other rivers and waters, pure in her course from the mountain to the sea.
From this one thing is for certain that the honor of the greatest and the holiest of the rivers was not bestowed to Ganga but upon Saraswati ,in fact the name of Ganga appears only once in the Rig Vedas. Saraswati features about sixty times.
The hymns in Rg veda also describes the lives of people residing in the saraswati valley and there are many Indian literature that contains references of many places of learning all along the banks of this mighty river. Therefore in Rg veda, which is the earlier part of the vedic literature we see that the river has been immortalised by the very sholka "ambitame naditame devitame saraswati" because this was the very river which nurtured the people who lived along the banks of this river and supported a very vibrant intellectual society with its places of learning, having their own resident scholars sages and seers. It is highly possible then that the very vedas were written, at least the Rg veda, along the banks of this river.
But the later part of the vedic literature, to be more precise the Mahabharat, refers to the saraswati as the dying river. It describes balarams pilgrimage from Dwarka to Mathura along the drying river. There are references to balaram"s visit to various rishi ashrams along the banks of the once great river but dying at the time of the Mahabharat. There were references to large fissures and fault in the ground of the dry bed of the river Saraswati. This has been confirmed by Landsat imagery which has found large numbers of fissures and faults in the earthquake prone Northwest India that constituted the saraswati--Sindhu Valley. Such ground faults caused the seepage of water of the saraswati into under ground channels thus refering to the saraswati as the dying river.
Refer to the map that is shown below, This map shows the River Saraswati in its full glory. The dotted lines are the later changes that came about in the river due to plate techtonic movements in the earths crust, changing the courses of many tributaries and causing ground fissures and faults, there by robbing the river of its water which came from the tributaries feeding the river and the disappearance of the water in the underground channels. More than 1400 sites have been discovered of the IVC. Most of these sites are on the Indian territory and only a few about One third are on the Pakistan side. Important among them is the site at Guneriwala in pakistan. Manda in J&K, Ropar in Punjab, Banawali and Rakhigarhi in Hariyana, Alamgirpur near Meerut, Kalibangan in Rajasthan, Lothal, Dholavira, and Surkotada in Gujrat and Daimabad in Maharashtra. When these are plotted along the map these sites seem to crowd along the dry bed of the river Ghagger in Punjab Hariyana, and Rajasthan and river Hakra and Nara in Bhawalpur and sind in Pakistan and ending in the Rann of Kutch in Gujrat. Ghaggar is the same river which is called the Hakra when it enters Bhawalpur in Pakistan and continues as Nara in the Sindh Province. Dr. Naresh Gupta in his book "Sarasvati: Legend or History" has described the find in details and I would request my readers to read that book to get a thorough insight into the legendary river. The demise of the Saraswati, was near fatal to the people and civilization thriving on the banks of the river. The scarcity of water forced the people to migrate. Saraswati-Sindhu civilization did not vanish but there was shift of population after the economy around the river collapsed. The civilization moved to the east to the Ganga Yamuna Plains, west northwest and south to Godavari plains.The Mittani and the kassites are probably the Saraswati civilization of west . They also worship vedic gods.
At lothal site a huge dock capable of handling ocean going and river navigable ships have been excavated. Also dough nut shaped anchors have been found at this site and other sites indicating internal and external maritime trade and also that rivers were used to navigate large ships to and from sea. Therefore the river used for this purpose have to be huge and should be perrenial and should have the capacity to displace a huge quantity of water. Saraswati was a similar type of river. This river was more than seven kilometer wide.
In 1980 the palaeochannels of Saraswati was discovered by Professor Yashpal using landsat imagery.In 1996 professor Valdiya traced the course of river Saraswati from west garhwal in the himalayas to the Gulf of Khambat in Gujarat using Hydro-geological studies. These two sources come to the same conclusion regarding the course of this mighty river. According to this the river Saraswati followed the course of the mordern rivers Ghaggar, Hakra and Nara where most of the IVC sites are located. In 1997 Hindustan times dated Feb 17 carried the research result of Dr S.M. Rao and Dr.K.M.Kulkarni of Bhaba Atomic Research Center. They tracked the course of the old Saraswati from its source in the Himalayas and its flow through Rajastan Bhawalpur and Sindh to the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat by using the same landsat imagery. They undertook what is known as isotope hydrology study wherein using low levels of Tritium, which is a naturally occurring radioactive isotope they collected evidence to prove that waters trapped in the underground channels below the ancient course of the river Saraswati belonged to that river itself. Times Of India dated 02.05.2001 carried an article regarding the research which has been on the past so many years roughly 15 years ago. The concerted efforts of about 200 scientists brought back this legendary river to life. Reality. Rig Vedic river Saraswati "ambitame, naditame devitame saraswati" was no cock and bull story but a ground reality. This river originated from Har-ki-dhun Glacier in the west Garhwal, Bandarpunch massifs in the Himalayas along with river Yamuna. The two rivers flowed parallel for some distance later joined together and then proceeded south as the vedic mighty river Saraswati. Seasonal rivers and rivulets including Ghaggar, joined Saraswati as it followed the course of the present river Ghaggar through mordern punjab and Haryana. The Sutlej and the Shatdru, another vedic river, joined Saraswati as a tributary at shatrana approximately 25 kilometers south of patiala. Saraswati then followed the course of the Ghaggar through Rajasthan and Hakra in Bhawalpur before emptying into the Rann of Kutch Via Nara in the Sindh province running parallel to the Indus river. Therefore this river which carried the waters of three perennial rivers and numerous seasonal rivers was a mighty river indeed "naditame" which means 'the greatest river'.
I have reproduced an article verbatim which was published in the Indian Express of 5th April 1999 to the give an idea to my readers, as to why such a huge civilization perished. We are so feudalistic that we still teach our students that it was the Aryan Invasion that destroyed IVC ( Indus Valley Civilization ) which the British imperialists imposed upon us, the unsuspecting and the gullible lot. Conclusively this pushes the date of the vedic civilization to 6000 years or more, back from the present.
Indus Valley civilisation destroyed by tectonic changes: Scientists
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA Â HYDERABAD, APRIL 4: Contrary to popular belief that the Indus Valley civilisation was destroyed by invading Aryans, archaeological and paleoclimatic studies reveal that tectonic upheavals led to the destruction of Mohenjodaro settlements, according to a scientist with the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) here.Environmental changes, marked by shifting river courses, changing drainage patterns, tectonic disturbances, earthquakes, floods and monsoon fluctuations, had resulted in the disappearance and reconstruction of Mohenjodaro several times between 7,400 BC and 1800 BC, Dr J G Negi, emeritus professor at NGRI, told PTI here.
The geomorphological and temperature changes had led to cyclical increase or decrease of rainfall, which had a profound impact on ascent and decline of human civilisations and migrations in different parts of the world, he said.It was evident from pollen grain studies of Sehwan lake (in Rajasthan) that there were at least 10 cycles of floods preceded by earthquakes and other tectonic disturbances in the region around the Indus Valley civilisation during which Mohenjodaro was destructed and reconstructed, the geologist pointed out.
The movement of rivers away from the towns or destruction of vegetation due to monsoons might have ravaged the Harappan township around 1500 BC, Negi said.
The long-held belief that the Dravidian cultural sites of Harappa and Mohenjodaro were destroyed by Aryans from the North-West stands demolished with the increasing archaeological and climatological studies worldwide, Negi said.
The growing evidence suggests that the Indus Valley civilisation was destroyed not by invaders but by environmental changes, the most important of them being the drying up of the Saraswati river which found prominent mention in the Rig Veda, the geologist said.
The Rig Vedic description of Saraswati as a massive river and a source of livelihood matches well with the highest rainfall period around 3,800 BC but by 1,800 BC, the rainfall had almost stopped in the region followed by a dry period which led to migration to the banks of the Ganga, he said.
Quoting from extensive studies on pollen remains of the lakes of North-West India to gauge monsoon fluctuations in the last 10,000 years, Negi said there was a massive earthquake around 2,000 BC, obstructing the course of the Indus river, thereby leading to major geographical changes.
The tectonic disturbances at that time had created Sehwan lake extending upstream to Mohenjodaro by more than 140 kilometres, he said.
There were evidences of repeated destruction and reconstruction of Mohenjodaro (at least five cycles) due to the appearance and disappearance of Sehwan lake, the geologist observed.
Copyright 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.
The exact epoch in which Saraswati stopped flowing, into Arabian sea, and began to loose her way in the thirsty sand of the desert of rajasthan, is not very clear. Nevertheless, Ramaswamy, bakliwal and Verma are quite satisfied that it was not in the "Holocene" but in the late Pliocene-about 12000 years. The same approximate date has also been suggested by Bimal Ghose, Anil Kar and Zahrid Jussain in a study for the central Arid Zone Research Institute Jodhpur. If all these scientist are interpreting the data correctly Rig veda was a reality and saraswati was a reality and not a myth. The vedic civilization was therefore a civilization much earlier than thought.
Mysterious origin of Civilization------Graham Hancock
The Celestial key to the Veda---------Dr. B.G.Siddharth