ISSN 2330-717X

The Rediscovery Of River Sarasvati: Sarasvati Civilization – Essay

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I joined Meritorious School, Amritsar in 2017 as the Principal. Ten new Meritorious Schools were established for students by the Government Schools of Punjab.  I thought of making four houses towards generating the competitive spirit amongst the students. Punjab the erstwhile land of five rivers does not have those rivers now due to independence and reorganisation of the states.

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Thinking of having four houses on the names of rivers of the present day Punjab I got stuck coming up with a river name for the fourth house, the other three being Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. At this stage I remembered a mantra which mentions about the seven famous rivers and one of them being the mythological river Sarasvati.

I went on to Google to find out the course of this ancient river, and to my luck it was revealed that the river flowed south of Patiala. Satellite imageries and other research excavations have now proved that course of the Sarasvati river is from the Shivalik Himalayas on to Punjab, Haryana (Ghaggar river), Rajasthan, Gujarat Rann of Kutch and culminating into the Arabian Sea. This led me to naming the fourth house as Sarasvati.

ॐ गङ्गे च यमुने चैव गोदावरि सरस्वति ।
नर्मदे सिन्धु कावेरि जलेऽस्मिन् संनिधिं कुरु ॥

“Om the Ganges, Jamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri, these waters (of the seven sacred rivers of the Indian Subcontinent) are brought together (in order to make the water sacred, a reflection of both the wonders of the external waters of Earth and the internal rivers, the nadis, of our spiritual bodies)”.

Having named the houses, after a few months I started to read about the existence of the River Sarasvati and its exact course down from the Himalayas and civilizations that existed along its banks. One day in the newspapers I came across Rakhigarhi in Hissar district, which further increased my interest into knowing about the Rakhigarhi excavations and other related details about the heritage and the civilizations of ancient times.

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Later, I joined an Online Heritage course that also talked about River Sarasvati, and this rekindled my interest once again into the river and the important places along its course. River Sarasvati existed almost 7,000 years back whereas the Indus river civilizations existed about 5,000 ago. We learned and talked about the Mohenjo Daro and the Harappan Indus Valley Civilizations in our school days, but now we note that Rakhigarhi is believed to be seven times larger than Mohenjo Daro is now in Pakistan.

With these revelations, I thought that I need to learn more about Rakhigarhi and compare them to Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Rakhigarhi is a village in Hissar District in the state of Haryana. It is the site of a pre-Indus Valley Civilization settlement going back to almost over 7,000 years. Later, it was also part of the mature Indus Valley Civilization, dating back by 5000 years. The site is located in the Sarasvati river plain, some 27 km from the seasonal River Ghaggar.

Rakhigarhi encompasses a set of seven mounds, and there are many more settlement mounds in the immediate vicinity. Not all of them were occupied at the same time. It is estimated Rakhigarhi spreads almost in an area of 550 hectares. In January 2014, the discovery of additional mounds resulted in it becoming the largest Indus Valley Civilization site, overtaking Mohenjo-Daro (300 Hectares).

Rakhigarhi excavations have proved that it was occupied earlier than Harappa times and has evidence of paved roads, drainage system, large rainwater collection, storage system, terracotta bricks, statue production, and skilled working of bronze and precious metals have been uncovered. A large granary has also been found which appears to be a public granary.

Jewellery, including bangles made from terracotta, conch shells, gold, and semi-precious stones, have also been found. A bronze vessel has been found which is decorated with gold and silver. A gold foundry with about 3,000 unpolished semi-precious stones has been found. Many tools used for polishing these stones and a furnace were found there. “This month the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), made one of its biggest discoveries  with the excavation of a 5000 year old jewellery making factory”.

A burial site has been found with 11 skeletons, with their heads placed in the north direction. Near the heads of these skeletons, utensils for everyday use were kept. The three female skeletons have shell bangles on their left wrists. Near one female skeleton, a gold armlet has been found. In addition semi-precious stones have been found lying near the head, suggesting that they were part of some sort of necklace.

There are many other important archaeological sites in this old Sarasvati river plain area. Among them are Kalibangan, Kunal, Haryana, Balu, Haryana, Bhirrana, and Banawali.

The rediscovery of the lost mythological river Sarasvati is a milestone in the study and interpretation of ancient Indian history. Sarasvati was a mighty river almost 5,000 km from the Himalayas and culminating into the Arabian Sea through Rann of Kutch. The then mighty Sarasvati was fed by the glacial meltwaters of the Yamuna and Sutlej. This river was in its prime about 5,000 to 6,000 years back.

Geological studies have indicated that tectonic plates shifts some five thousand years ago caused the Yamuna and the Sutlej tributaries to shift courses and join the Ganga and Indus, respectively. This led to this perennial glacier fed Sarasvati turning into a monsoonal river. As the monsoons declined, followed by a 12 year draught, it dried out altogether and went underground beyond Jaisalmer.

The findings have led to a large number of fresh historiogeography questions to be answered on the Ancient Indian History by the Western Historians who believe and have written about the Aryan Invasion on India, Mesopotamian and Egypt being earlier the ‘Cradle of Civilizations’ — or was it the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization along with Rakhigarhi and Baghpat (UP) as findings now can consider as the Cradle as it predates the Mesopotamian and Egypt Civilizations. Rig Veda also mentions about the civilization along the present rediscovered course of River Sarasvati.

“Hope these findings with the turn of the century have encouraged few Indian Historians to rewrite the Ancient Indian History and set the centuries old record with evidence that Indus Valley and Sarasvati Civilizations are the oldest and truly are the ‘Cradle of World Civilization’ and let Indians take pride in our Heritage.”

अम्बितमेनदीतमेदेवितमेसरस्वति।अप्रशस्त इव स्मसि प्रशस्तिम्ब नस्कृधि।।

“O ‘Mother Sarasvati the greatest of all mothers,

Greatest of all rivers, Greatest of all Goddesses.

O ‘Mother we are ignorant. Grant us knowledge and wisdom.”   (RV 2.41.16)

Sources:

 ‘The Sarasvati Civilization’ by Maj Gen GD Bakshi

‘The Wonder that was India’ by AL Basham

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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