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India’s ‘Mythical’ Sarasvati River: Find out what the Research Reveals about the Lost River

Recent discoveries say that the Ghaggar-Hakra was not a glacially fed river but probably a monsoon-fed river like all the rivers of central and peninsular India.

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Sarasvati River. Image source: indiafacts.org
  • Vedic Sanskrit and the first part of the Rig Veda are regarded to have originated along the banks of Saraswati in the 2nd millennium BCE
  • The new government launched efforts to trace the lost river as soon after coming to power in May 2014
  • The Ghaggar-Hakra was a much bigger river but it was well before the supposed arrival of the Indo-Aryans about 4,000 years ago

Praised by the Rig-Veda as ámbitame nádītame dévitame sárasvati, “best mother, best river, best goddess,” the great Saraswati river holds a very important place in the history of our land. Vedic Sanskrit and the first part of the Rig Veda are regarded to have originated along its banks in the 2nd millennium BCE . The Rig-Veda, and later Vedic and post-Vedic texts glorify this mighty river that flowed between Yamuna in the east and the Sutlej in the west. The Mahabharata mentions that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert.

While many believe that the river is just a myth, there are those who believe in the existence of the Sarasvati. They say that the river is represented by the Ghaggar and its tributaries in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat, and the Cholistan region in Pakistan. Some suggest that the Helmand river of southern Afghanistan corresponds to the Vedic Sarasvati .The truth about the Vedic Sarasvati is crucial in figuring out whether there was an Aryan invasion around 2000-1500 BCE, after the decline of the “native” Indus Valley Civilisation.

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The new government launched efforts to trace the lost river as soon after coming to power in May 2014. With millions spend, the dried-up palaeochannel of the Ghaggar is being explored and is being excavated. The recent discovery finds the river  in the Ghaggar-Hakra basin to be a monsoon-fed river like all the rivers of the central and peninsular region and not a glacial-fed river like the Indus, Ganga,  and their tributaries.

Anil Kumar Suri of Swarajya.com shares his viewpoint and understanding in light of the recent findings-

The Swarajya article discusses the recent findings of a team of geologists led by Peter Clift. Using a geochemical technique called uranium-lead (U-Pb) zircon dating, the team able to establish that the sediments from the various rivers – Indus, Beas, Sutlej, Hakra and Yamuna – could be distinguished from each other and that they were matched to that of the dry channels. They were also able to determine that no sediment from the Yamuna, Sutlej or Beas in the main channel of the Ghaggar that could be said to be less than 5,000 years old. All this implies that the Ghaggar-Hakra was a much bigger river but this would have been well before the supposed arrival of the Indo-Aryans around 4,000 years ago.

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The team discovered that the Ghaggar-Hakra was not a glacially fed river, unlike the Indus, Ganga and their tributaries, but probably a monsoon-fed river like all the rivers of central and peninsular India.

The shift in the cultivation pattern to adapt to the declining monsoon lead to the vanishing of the Sarasvati, suggests that the natives migrated to new lands and that there was no new population and no invasion

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    We should definitely make efforts to find out this river. According to Hindu mythology, the river is invisible.

  • AJ Krish

    There was no Aryan invasion as there is no way that the migrants from another land would know the landscape of Bharath from top to bottom and glorify them in an entirely new language. There is no reference of an invasion in the Rig Veda.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    If you go to Allahabad, there is a holy place known as ‘triveni sangam’ this is where 3 rivers, the Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati intersect at a point. The course of Ganga and Yamuna are quite distinct but Sarasvati is said to flow secretly.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    We should definitely make efforts to find out this river. According to Hindu mythology, the river is invisible.

  • AJ Krish

    There was no Aryan invasion as there is no way that the migrants from another land would know the landscape of Bharath from top to bottom and glorify them in an entirely new language. There is no reference of an invasion in the Rig Veda.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    If you go to Allahabad, there is a holy place known as ‘triveni sangam’ this is where 3 rivers, the Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati intersect at a point. The course of Ganga and Yamuna are quite distinct but Sarasvati is said to flow secretly.

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A Clean Ganga Not Possible Without Continuous Flow: Green

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made

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The Holy River Ganga in Haridwar, Source: Pixabay

By Bappaditya Chatterjee

The Centre’s efforts to rejuvenate the Hindu holy river have failed to impress environmentalists, who feel a clean Ganga will remain a distant dream due to the Modi government’s failure to ensure the continuous flow of the river.

“Nothing has been done for ensuring a continuous flow of the river and also for its rejuvenation by the Narendra Modi government. Continuity is of supreme importance as the holy river has been admitted in the Intensive Care Unit for many years. But the Centre is trying to treat its teeth,” said Magsaysay awardee and a member of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), Rajendra Singh.

Spending crores of rupees for beautification of ghats has been “wastage of the public exchequer” because “without ensuring a continuous flow, clean Ganga will continue to remain a distant dream”, said Rajendra Singh, who goes by the sobriquet “Waterman of India”.

 

Ganga, travel
River Ganga is one of the holiest rivers in India. Pixabay

Soon after assuming office, the Modi government rolled out its flagship “Namami Gange” mission at an estimated budget Rs 20,000 crore to clean and protect the Ganga.

 

Under Namami Gange, 254 projects worth Rs 24,672 crore have been sanctioned for various activities such as construction of sewage infrastructure, ghats, development of crematoria, river front development, river surface cleaning, institutional development, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, rural sanitation and public participation.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, 131 projects out of 254 were sanctioned for creating 3,076 MLD (million litre per day) new sewage treatment plants (STPs), rehabilitating 887 MLD of existing STPs and laying 4,942 km of sewer lines for battling pollution in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

 

River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river.
River Ganga is also the most polluted river.

Till November-end of the 2018-19 fiscal, the National Mission for Clean Ganga released Rs 1,532.59 crore to the states and the Central Public Sector Undertakings for implementing the programme and meeting establishment expenditure.

Rajendra Singh said: “Ganga wants freedom today. There is no need for any barrage or dam. We want building of dams and any constructions on the river be stopped.”

 

Echoing Singh, another member of the now dissolved NGRBA, K.J. Nath, said the flow of the river had been obstructed at many locations and its own space (flood plains) encroached upon at multiple places in the name of riverfront development.

However, Jayanta Bandyopadhayay, a former Professor of IIM-Calcutta and presently Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said the success or otherwise of initiatives and projects of any government in cleaning the Ganga cannot be judged in a five-year time frame.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Inaugurates Bogibeel Bridge Over Brahmaputra River

Managing a river like the Ganga, the lifeline of a very large number of people, is socio-technically a very complex issue and should be addressed with deep interdisciplinary knowledge, he added.

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made from the one dimensional perspective of rivers by engineers, political leaders, policymakers and others to a multidimensional and interdisciplinary one. (IANS)