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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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Activists Gather Along to Demand Cleaning of River Yamuna

Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution that claimed human lives

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Yamuna
Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution at Yamuna that claimed human lives. Earlier, there had been cases of only animals falling sick after consuming the toxic water. Wikimedia Commons

Green activists have gathered along the banks of the Yamuna demanding early clean up of the river, which is the lifeline for millions of people in north India.

The region was hit by a tragedy 10 days ago when hundreds of pilgrims on Braj Yatra were swept away while crossing the river in a pontoon bridge. The fragile plastic rope they were holding on to didn’t prove strong enough and many began to drown after a virtual stampede.

Though all the pilgrims were saved from drowning, many of them gulped down the toxic river water as they attempted to keep themselves afloat. While two pilgrims died later, hundreds had to be hospitalised and some of them are still under treatment at private hospitals.

Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution that claimed human lives. Earlier, there had been cases of only animals falling sick after consuming the toxic water.

The state government, however, has denied the charges of negligence and of failing to prevent pilgrims from crossing the Yamuna.

Yamuna
Green activists have gathered along the banks of the Yamuna demanding early clean up of the river, which is the lifeline for millions of people in north India. Wikimedia Commons

“These pilgrims on a yatra tried to cross the river Yamuna on the Palwal-Aligarh border, holding on to a fragile rope that did not prove strong and many drowned after a stampede. Hundreds lost control and toop sips of the polluted water,” an activist told IANS on Monday.

“An alarm was raised and scores were hospitalised in Mathura, Vrindavan, Kosi and Naujheel for treatment. So far, two have died, many are still critical. The district administration and the police should be taken to task for allowing devotees to cross the river, when dangers were staring at the face,” he said.

More than 20 pilgrims are still in a serious state. An organiser of the yatra, led by Padamshri Ramesh Baba of Barsana, accused officials of the Haryana government, who had failed to repair the pontoon bridge in time.

Reports claimed that a plastic rope tied to tractors on both sides of the river was provided to support pilgrims for wading through the river.

“People of short height could not prevent water from entering their mouths. When one pilgrim was seen drowning, a number of them ran to rescue him. This resulted in a stampede,” a source said.

What is shocking for locals is the rank apathy of the administration.

“Today (Tuesday) being Yama Dwitiya, thousands of pilgrims will come for the special Yamuna bath,” the source added.

Yamuna
The state government, however, has denied the charges of negligence and of failing to prevent pilgrims from crossing the Yamuna. Pixabay

Neither the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh nor the local MP Hema Malini have addressed this problem of river pollution, despite repeated demands and assurances, agitated locals said.

The stink from the river causes nausea and puts off the pilgrims who choose to return to their hotels and dharamshalas for the ritual bath.

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The river is already dead in Vrindavan, declares Jagan Nath Poddar of the Friends of Vrindavan forum. With hardly any fresh water flowing, the stink at the ghats and the heaps of garbage are proving a nightmarish experience, the locals added.

The Yamuna river is regarded as very sacred by Hindus. (IANS)