Yamuna is a multi-year river

Sarasvati River - Sarasvati River

River mentioned in the Vedas and ancient Indian epics
Cemetery H, Late Harappan, OCP, Copper Hoard, and Painted Gray Ware

The Sarasvati River ( IAST: sárasvatī nadī́ ) is a deified river, which in the Rig Veda and later Vedic and post-vedic Texts is mentioned. It played an important role in the Vedic religion and appeared in all but the fourth book of the Rig Veda.

As a physical river, it is described in the oldest texts of the Rig Veda as the "great and sacred river in northwestern India", but in the middle and late books of the Rig Vedic it is described as a small river ending with "a" Terminal Lake ( Samudra). "As the goddess Sarasvati, the other reference for the term" Sarasvati ", which developed into an identity of its own in post-Vedic times, she is also described as a mighty river and a mighty flood. The Sarasvati is also seen by Hindus as existing in a metaphysical form , in which it formed a confluence with the sacred rivers Ganges and Yamuna on the Triveni Sangam. According to Michael Witzel, the Vedic Sarasvati River overlays the heavenly Milky Way, which is regarded as "the way to immortality and to heavenly life after death".

Rig Vedic and later Vedic texts were used to suggest identification with today's rivers or ancient river beds. The nadistuti hymn in Rigveda (10.75) mentions the Sarasvati between the Yamuna in the east and the Sutlej in the west, while RV 7 .95.1-2 describes the Sarasvati as flowing to samudra, a word that is usually translated today as "ocean" , "but what could also mean" lake ". Later Vedic texts like the Tandya Brahmana and the Jaiminiya Brahmana as well as the Mahabharata mention that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert.

Since the late 19th century, scientists have suggested identifying the Rig Vedic Saraswati River with the Ghaggar-Hakra river system, which flows through northwest India and eastern Pakistan between Yamuna and Sutlej and ends in the Thar Desert. Recent geophysical investigations show that the supposedly downstream Ghaggar-Hakra-Paleochanal is actually a paleochanal of the Sutlej, which flowed into the Nara River, a delta channel of the Indus. This channel was abandoned 10,000 to 8,000 years ago when the Sutlej diverged its course and left the Ghaggar-Hakra as a system of monsoon-fed rivers that did not reach the sea.

The Indus Valley civilization flourished when the monsoons that fed the rivers waned about 5,000 years ago, and ISRO has observed key urban locations of the Indus Valley civilization in Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Banawali, and Rakhigarhi (Haryana) , Dholavira and Lothal (Gujarat) lay along this course. When the monsoons that fed the rivers further diminished the Hakra about 4,000 years ago, it became an intermittent river and urban Harappan civilization declined and was localized in smaller agricultural communities.

Identifying a powerful one physical Rig Vedic Sarasvati with the Ghaggar-Hakra system is therefore problematic because the Gagghar-Hakra dried up long before the Rig Veda was composed. In the words of Wilke and Moebus, the Sarasvati had been reduced to a "small, sad trickle in the desert" at the time when the Vedic people immigrated to the north-west of India. Rig Vedic references to a physical flow also indicate that the Sarasvati "had already lost its main water supply and must have ended up in a terminal lake (samudra) about 3000 years ago," which represents the current situation with the Sarasvatī losing most of the water to have. "Rig Vedic descriptions of the Sarasvati also do not fit the actual course of the Gagghar-Hakra.

"Sarasvati" can also be identified with the Helmand or Haraxvati River in southern Afghanistan, whose name in its Sanskrit form may have been reused as the name of the Ghaggar-Hakra River after the Vedic tribes moved to the Punjab. Sarasvati vom Rig Veda can also refer to two different rivers, with the family books referring to the Helmand River and the newer 10th Mandala refer to the Ghaggar-Hakra.

Identification with the Ghaggar-Hakra system took on a new meaning at the beginning of the 21st century, with some pointing to an earlier dating of the Rig Veda. The Indus Valley civilization was renamed "Sarasvati Culture", "Sarasvati Civilization", "Indus Sarasvati Civilization" or "Sindhu Sarasvati Civilization", suggesting that the Indus Valley and Vedic cultures can be equated; and rejection of the Indo-Aryan migration theory, which allowed Indo-European speaking people to migrate to South Asia for a longer period between 1900 and 1400 BC.


Sarasvatī is the feminine nominative singular form of the adjective Sarasvat (which occurs in the Rigveda as the name of the keeper of the heavenly water), derived from 'sarasa' + 'vat', which means 'to have'. Saras, in turn, appears to be the combination of 'sa', a prefix meaning 'with' plus 'rasa', juice or juice or water, and is primarily defined as 'anything flowing or flowing' according to the Monier-Williams dictionary . Mayrhofer maintains a connection with the root * sar- 'run, flow' unlikely, but agrees that it could be a river that linked many lakes due to its abundant water flow volume.

Sarasvatī is possibly related to Avestan Harax v atī and may originally refer to Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā (modern Ardwisur Anahid ), the Zoroastrian mythological World river based on a common Indo-Iranian myth of a cosmic or mystical Sáras-vat-ī would indicate Flow. In the younger Avesta, Harax v ATi Arachosia, a region described to be rich in rivers, and its Old Persian is related Harauvati , which gave its name to today's Harut River in Afghanistan, has denoted the entire Helmand sink basin (the center of Arachosia).

Meaning in Hinduism

The Saraswati River was revered and considered important for Hindus, as it is said to have originated on the banks of this river together with its tributary Drishadwati in the Vedic state of Brahmavarta and Vedic Sanskrit had its origin and important Vedic scriptures such as the first part of Rig Veda and several Upanishads are said to have been composed by Vedic seers. In the Manusmriti, Brahmavarta is presented as the "pure" center of Vedic culture. Bridget and Raymond Allchin in The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan believed that "the earliest Aryan homeland in India-Pakistan (Aryavarta or Brahmavarta) was in the Punjab and in the valleys of the Sarasvati and Drishadvati rivers in the Rigveda period."


Map of Northern India in the Late Vedic Period

As a river

The Sarasvati River is mentioned except for the fourth book of the Vedas. Macdonell and Keith have in theirs Vedic index given a comprehensive overview of the Vedic references to the Sarasvati River. In the late Book 10, only two references are clearly made to the river: 10.64.9, which calls for the help of three "great rivers", Sindhu, Sarasvati and Sarayu; and 10.75.5, the geographical list of Nadistuti sukta.

In the oldest texts of the Rig Veda it is described as the "great and sacred river in northwestern India", but Michael Witzel notes that the Rig Veda indicates that the Sarswati "has already lost its main water supply and must have ended before about 3000 Years in a terminal lake (samudra). "Middle books 3 and 7 and late books 10" show the situation today in which the Sarasvatī has lost most of its water. " The Sarasvati gained a high status in the mythology of the Kuru Kingdom, where the Rig Veda was compiled.

As a goddess

Sarasvati is mentioned about fifty times in the hymns of the Rig Veda. It is mentioned in thirteen hymns of the late books (1 and 10) of the Rig Veda. All but two refer to Sarasvati as a goddess with no direct connection to a particular river.

The most important hymns in connection with the Sarasvati goddess are RV 6.61, RV 7.95 and RV 7.96. As a river goddess, she is described as a mighty flood and is clearly not an earthly river. According to Michael Witzel, the Vedic Sarasvati River overlays the heavenly Milky Way, which is seen as the "path to immortality and the heavenly afterlife". The description of Sarasvati as the river of heaven is interpreted to suggest its mythical nature.

In 10.30.12, her origin as a river goddess can explain her invocation as a protective deity in a hymn to the heavenly water. In 10.135.5, Indra drinking Soma is described by Sarasvati as refreshed. The invocations in 10.17 are addressed to Sarasvati as the goddess of the ancestors as well as the generation of today. In 1.13, 1.89, 10.85, 10.66 and 10.141 it is listed for other gods and goddesses, not for rivers. In 10.65 it is given together with "holy thoughts" ( dhī ) and "Munificence" ( puraṃdhi ) called which corresponds to her role as the goddess of knowledge and fertility.

Although Sarasvati originally appeared as the river goddess in the Vedic scriptures, she was rarely associated with the river in later Purana Hinduism. Instead, she emerged as the independent goddess of knowledge, learning, wisdom, music and the arts. The development of the river goddess to the goddess of knowledge began with later Brahmins who called her Vāgdevī , the goddess of language, possibly because of the central importance of language in the Vedic cult and the development of the cult on the banks of the river. It is also possible to postulate two originally independent goddesses who were merged into one in later Vedic times. Aurobindo, on the other hand, has suggested that "the symbolism of the Veda is revealed to the greatest clarity in the figure of the goddess Sarasvati ... She is clearly the goddess of the world, the goddess of a Divine inspiration ...".

Other Vedic texts

The disappearance of the Sarasvati is mentioned in post-Rigvedic literature. Also the origin of Sarasvati is identified as Plaksa Prasravana (Peepal Tree or Ashwattha Tree as known in India and Nepal).

In a supplementary chapter of the Vajasaneyi-Samhita of Yajurveda (34.11) Sarasvati is mentioned in a context that apparently means the Sindhu: "Five rivers that flow on their way rush on to Sarasvati, but then become Sarasvati, a five-fold river in the country. "" According to the medieval commentator Uvata, the five tributaries of the Sarasvati were the Punjab rivers Drishadvati, Satudri (Sutlej), Chandrabhaga (Chenab), Vipasa (Beas) and Iravati (Ravi).

The first indication of the disappearance of the lower reaches of the Sarasvati comes from the Brahmins, texts that are written in Vedic Sanskrit but go back to a later date than the Veda Samhitas. The Jaiminiya Brahmana (2.297) speaks of "diving under (upamajjana) of Sarasvati", and the Tandya Brahmana (or Pancavimsa Br.) Calls this "disappearance" (vinasana). The same text (25.10.11-16) reports that the Sarasvati is "meandering, so to speak" (kubjimati), since he could not maintain the sky he had sustained.

The Plaksa Prasravana (place of appearance / source of the river) can refer to a source in the Siwalik Mountains. The distance between the source and the Vinasana (place where the river disappears) is said to be 44 Ashwin (between several hundred and 1,600 miles) (Tandya Br. 25.10.16; cf. Av. 6.131.3; Pancavimsa Br.).

In the Latyayana Srautasutra (10.15-19) the Sarasvati seems to be a perennial river up to the Vinasana, which lies west of its confluence with the Drshadvati (Chautang). The Drshadvati is described as a seasonal stream (10.17), which means that it does not come from the Himalayas. Bhargava identified the Drashadwati River as today's Sahibi River, which originates from the Jaipur Hills in Rajasthan. The Asvalayana Srautasutra and Sankhayana Srautasutra contain verses that are similar to the Latyayana Srautasutra.

Postvedic texts

Wilke and Moebus note that the "historical river" Sarasvati was a "topographically tangible myth" that was already reduced to a "small, sad trickle in the desert" at the time the Hindu epics were composed. These post-Vedic texts regularly talk about the drying up of the river and begin to associate the goddess Sarasvati with the language rather than the river.


According to Mahabharata, the Sarasvati River dried up into a desert (in a place called Vinasana or Adarsana) and flows "impetuously" into the sea. MB.3.81.115 locates the state of Kurupradesh or the Kuru Kingdom south of the Sarasvati and north of the Drishadvati. The parched, seasonal Ghaggar River in Rajasthan and Haryana reflects the same geographic view described in the Mahabharata.

According to Hindu scriptures, Balrama made a journey along the banks of the Saraswati from Dwarka to Mathura during the Mahabharata. There were also ancient kingdoms (the era of the Mahajanapads) that were in parts of northern Rajasthan and named on the Saraswati River.


Several Puranas describe the Sarasvati River and also report that the river is divided into several lakes ( Saras ) was divided.

In the Skanda Purana, the Sarasvati comes from the Brahma water pot and flows from Plaksa in the Himalayas. It then turns west at Kedara and also flows underground. Five Sarasvati distributors are mentioned. The text regards Sarasvati as a form of Brahma's consort Brahmi. After the Vamana Purana 32.1-4, the Sarasvati ascended from the plaksa tree (pipal tree).

The Padma Purana proclaimed:

Those who bathe and drink where Gangā, Yamunā and Sarasvati join together enjoy liberation. There is no doubt about that. "


  • In Manu Smriti, the sage Manu, who escaped a flood, founded the Vedic culture between the Sarasvati and Drishadvati rivers. The Sarasvati River was thus the western border of Brahmavarta: "The land between Sarasvati and Drishadvati is created by God; this land is Brahmavarta."
  • Similarly, the Vasistha Dharma Sutra I.8-9 and 12-13 locates Aryavarta east of the disappearance of the Sarasvati in the desert, west of Kalakavana, north of the mountains of Pariyatra and Vindhya, and in the south of the Himalayas. Patanjali's Mahābhāṣya defines Aryavarta like the Vasistha Dharma Sutra.
  • The Baudhayana Dharma Sutra gives similar definitions, stating that Aryavarta is the land west of Kalakavana, east of Adarsana (where the Sarasvati disappears into the desert), south of the Himalayas, and north of the Vindhyas.

Contemporary religious significance

Triveni Sangam, Allahabad - the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the "invisible" Sarasvati.

Diana Eck notes that the power and importance of the Sarasvati for India today lies in their continued symbolic presence at the confluence of rivers across India. Although it is "materially absent", it is the third river to join the confluence of rivers, making the water three times sacred.

After the Vedic Sarasvati were dried, new myths arose about the rivers. Sarasvati is described as flowing in the underworld and rising to the surface in some places. The Sarasvati River existed for centuries in a "subtle or mythical" form, as it does not correspond to any of the major rivers of today's South Asia. It is believed that the confluence ( Sangam ) or the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in Triveni Sangam, Allahabad, also converges with the invisible Sarasvati River, which is believed to flow underground. This is in spite of the fact that Allahabad is a considerable distance from the possible historical routes of an actual Sarasvati River.

The Kumbh Mela hosts a mass bathing festival in Triveni Sangam every 12 years, which is literally the "confluence of the three rivers". The belief that Sarasvati unites at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers comes from the Puranic scriptures and describes the "mighty legacy" left by the Vedic river after its disappearance. Faith is interpreted as "symbolic". The three rivers Sarasvati, Yamuna, Ganga are considered consorts of the Hindu Trinity (Trimurti) Brahma, Vishnu (as Krishna) and Shiva.

In a lesser known configuration, Sarasvati is said to be Trivial The confluence of the Hiranya and Kapila Rivers forms in Somnath. There are several others Triveni in India, where two physical rivers are connected by the "invisible" Sarasvati, adding to the sanctity of the confluence.

Romila Thapar notes that "after the river was mythologized by the memory of the earlier river, its name - Sarasvati - could be applied to many rivers, which happened in different parts of the [Indian] subcontinent."

Some of today's rivers are also called Sarasvati after the Vedic Sarasvati:

  • Sarsuti is the current name of a river that comes from a submontane region (district Ambala) and flows into the Ghaggar in the PEPSU near Shatrana. In the vicinity of Sadulgarh (Hanumangarh) the Naiwala Canal, a dried up canal of the Sutlej, flows into the Ghaggar. Near Suratgarh the Ghaggar flows into the dried up Drishadvati River.
  • Sarasvati is the name of a river that originated in the Aravalli Mountains in Rajasthan and flows through Sidhpur and Patan before plunging into the Rann of Kutch.
  • The Saraswati River, a tributary of the Alaknanda River, has its source near Badrinath
  • The Saraswati River in Bengal, formerly a distributor of the Hooghly River, has dried up since the 17th century.

Identification theories

Attempts have been made to identify the mythical Sarasvati of the Vedas with physical rivers since the 19th century. Many think that the Vedic Sarasvati River once flowed east of the Indus (Sindhu). Scientists, geologists and scholars have identified the Sarasvati with many rivers that are today or no longer in existence.

In attempting to identify the Sarasvati, two theories are popular. Several scientists have identified the river with what is now the Ghaggar-Hakra River, or dried up part of it, which is located in northwest India and Pakistan. A second popular theory associates the river with the Helmand River, or an ancient river in what is now the Helmand Valley in Afghanistan.

Others see Sarasvati as a mythical river, an allegory, not a "thing".

The identification with the Ghaggar-Hakra-System gained a new meaning at the beginning of the 21st century, which indicated an earlier dating of the Rig Veda and the Indus Valley civilization in "Sarasvati culture", "Sarasvati civilization", " Indus civilization "renamed. Sarasvati Civilization "or" Sindhu Sarasvati Civilization ", which suggests that the cultures of the Indus Valley and the Vedas can be equated.

Rig Vedic course

The Rig Veda contains several hymns giving an indication of the flow of the geography of the river and an identification of the Sarasvati, as described in the later books of the Rig Veda with the Ghaggra-Hakra:

  • RV 3 .23.4 mentions the Sarasvati River together with the Drsadvati River and the Āpayā River.
  • RV 6 .52.6 describes the Sarasvati as swollen (pinvamānā) by the rivers (Sindhubhih).
  • RV 7 .36.6, "sárasvatī saptáthī síndhumātā" can be translated as "Sarasvati the Seventh, mother of the floods", but also as "whose mother the Sindhu is", which would indicate that the Sarasvati is a tributary of the Indus here.
  • RV 7 .95.1-2 describes the Sarasvati as fluent in samudra, a word that today is normally translated as "ocean", but could also mean "lake".
  • RV 10.75.5, the late Rigveda Nadistuti sukta, lists all important rivers from the Ganges in the east to the Indus in the west in a clear geographical order. The sequence "Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri" places the Sarasvati between the Yamuna and the Sutlej, which is consistent with the Ghaggar identification.

However, the Rig Veda also contains references to an identification with the Helmand in Afghanistan:

  • The Sarasvati River is considered to be a large river with perennial water that does not apply to Hakra and Ghaggar.
  • The Rig Veda seems to contain descriptions of several Sarasvatis. The earliest Sararvati is said to be similar to Helmand in Afghanistan, who is called Harakhwati in the Harvestā.
  • Verses in RV 6 .61 indicate that the Sarasvati River comes from the hills or mountains (Giri), where it "bursts the ridges (Giri) with its strong waves". It is a matter of interpretation whether this only refers to the foothills of the Himalayas, in which the current Sarasvati (Sarsuti) river flows, or to higher mountains.

The Rig Veda was composed in the second half of the late Harappan period. According to Shaffer, the reason for the dominance of the Sarasvati in Rigveda is the shift of the late Harappan population (1900-1300 BC) east to Haryana.

Ghaggar-Hakra River

Today's Ghaggar-Hakra River is a seasonal river in India and Pakistan that only flows during the monsoon season. However, satellite imagery owned by ISRO and ONGC has confirmed that the main course of a river flows through what is now the Ghaggar River. The alleged paleo canal of the Hakra is actually a paleo canal of the Sutlej that flows into the Nara river bed, currently a delta canal cq-paleo canal of the Indus. At least 10,000 years ago, long before the rise of the Harappan civilization, the Sutlej redirected its course and left the Ghaggar-Hakra as a monsoon-fed river. Beginning of the 2nd millennium BC The monsoons decreased and the Ghaggar-Hakra river system dried up, which affected the Harappan civilization.

Paleo canals and old course

While there is general agreement that the courses of the rivers in the Indus Basin have changed their course frequently, the exact order of these changes and their dating has been problematic.

Pre-Holocene diversion from Sutlej and Yamuna

Older publications indicate that the Sutlej and the Yamuna flowed into the Hakra well into the ripe Harappan period, thus enabling the supply of the monsoon-fed Ghaggar in abundance. The Sutlej and Yamuna then changed course between 2500 BC. BC and 1900 BC BC, either due to tectonic events or "slightly changed gradients in the extremely flat plains", which led to the drying up of the Hakra in the Thar desert. Recent publications have shown that the Sutlej and Yamuna shifted course well before the Harappan period, leaving behind the monsoon-fed Ghaggar-Hakra that dried up during the late Harappan period.

Clift et al. (2012) have shown, using the dating of zircon sand grains, that underground river channels near the Indus Valley Civilization sites in Cholistan immediately below the suspected Ghaggar-Hakra Canal have a sediment affinity not with the Ghagger-Hakra, but with the Beas River in Cholistan show the western locations and the Sutlej and the Yamuna in the eastern. This suggests that the Yamuna itself, or a canal of the Yamuna along with a canal of the Sutlej, existed between 47,000 BC. BC and 10,000 BC Could have flowed west at some point. The Yamuna drainage may have been lost from the Ghaggar-Hakra long before the beginning of the Indus civilization.

Ajit Singh et al. (2017) show that the paleocanal of the Ghaggar-Hakra is a former course of the Sutlej, which was redirected to its present course long before the development of the Harappan civilization between 15,000 and 8,000 years ago. Ajit Singh et al. conclude that urban populations did not settle along a perennial river, but rather a monsoon-fed seasonal river that was not exposed to devastating floods.

Khonde et al. (2017) confirm that the Great Rann of Kutch received sediments from a source other than the Indus. 10,000 years ago. Likewise, Dave et al. (2019) state that "[o] ur results disprove the proposed link between ancient settlements and great rivers from the Himalayas, indicating that the great paleo-fluvial system that traverses this region long before the founding of the Harappan Civilization has ceased. "

IVC and monsoons mitigation

Many Indus Valley (Harrapan) civilizations reside on the banks of and near the Ghaggar-Hakra river system due to the "high monsoon rains" that fed the Ghaggar-Hakra in the mature Harappan period.

Giosan et al. Do in their study River landscapes of the Harappan civilization It is clear that the Ghaggar-Hakra river system was not a large Himalayan river fed by glaciers, but a monsoon-fed river. They concluded that the Indus Valley civilization flourished when the monsoons that fed the rivers waned about 5,000 years ago. As the monsoons that fed the rivers that sustained civilization continued to decline and the rivers dried up as a result, the IVC declined about 4,000 years ago. This particularly affected the Ghaggar-Hakra system, which became an intermittent flow and was largely abandoned. Localized late IVC settlements are located in an easterly direction towards the wetter regions of the Indogangetic Plain where the decentralized late Harappan phase took place.

The same widespread drought in the third millennium BC Also led to water scarcity and ecological changes in the Eurasian steppes, which led to a change in vegetation and triggered "greater mobility and a transition to nomadic cattle ranching". These migrations eventually led to Indo-Aryan migrations to South Asia.

Identification with the Sarasvati

A number of archaeologists and geologists have identified the Sarasvati River with what is now the Ghaggar-Hakra River, or the parched part of it, although it had dried up and become a small seasonal river before Vedic times.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of scholars, archaeologists and geologists identified the Vedic Sarasvati River with the Ghaggar-Hakra River, such as Christian Lassen (1800-1876), Max Müller (1823-1900), Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943), CF Oldham and Jane Macintosh. Danino notes that "the Sarasvati's 1500 km long bed" was "rediscovered" in the 19th century. According to Danino, "most of the Indologists" in the 19th century were convinced that "the bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra was the relic of the Sarasvati".

Recent archaeologists and geologists such as Philip and Virdi (2006), KS Valdiya (2013) have identified the Sarasvati with Ghaggar. According to Gregory Possehl, "linguistic, archaeological and historical data show that the Sarasvati of the Vedas is the modern ghaggar or hakra."

According to RUS Prasad, "we find [...] a considerable number of opinions among scholars, archaeologists and geologists who believe that the Sarasvati are from the Shivalik hills [...] and descended through Adi Badri". located in the foothills of the Shivaliks, on the plains [...] and finally flowed into the Arabian Sea in the Rann of Kutch “. According to Valdiya, "it is plausible to conclude that the Ghagghar was once known as" Sarsutī "," which is "a corruption of" Sarasvati "," because "there is a fortress called" Sarsutī "in Sirsā on the banks of the Ghagghar. This ancient fortress is in a dilapidated state and celebrates and honors the river Sarsutī . "

Textual and historical objections

Ashoke Mukherjee (2001) criticizes attempts to identify the Rigvedic Sarasvati. Mukherjee notes that many historians and archaeologists, both Indians and foreigners, have concluded that the word "Sarasvati" (literally "full of water") is not a noun but a specific "thing". However, Mukherjee believes that "Sarasvati" was originally used by the Rig Vedic as an adjective for the Indus as a great river and later evolved into a "noun". Mukherjee concludes that the Vedic poets did not see the Paleo-Sarasvati and that what they described in the Vedic verses relates to something else. He also suggests that in the post-Vedic and Puranic traditions, Sarasvati's "disappearance", which refers to "sinking in the sand", was created as a complementary myth to explain the visible nonexistence on the river.

Romila Thapar describes the identification as controversial and rejects it. She notes that the descriptions of Sarasvati flowing through the high mountains do not coincide with Ghaggar's course, and suggests that Sarasvati is Haraxvati from Afghanistan. Wilke and Moebus suggest that identification is problematic because the Ghaggar-Hakra River had already dried up by the time the Vedas were composed, let alone the migration of the Vedas to northern India.

Rajesh Kocchar further notes that even if the Sutlej and the Yamuna had expired in the Ghaggar during the Rig Vedic, it would still not fit the descriptions of the Rig Vedic because "the snow-capped Satluj and the Yamuna would strengthen the lower Ghaggar The upper Ghaggar would still be as puny as it is today. "

Helmand River

The Helmand River in Afghanistan, known as the Avestan in ancient Iran Harax v atī and Harahvaiti is known , referred to by some as the old Sarasvati River.

An alternative suggestion for the identity of the early Rigvedic Sarasvati River is the Helmand River and its tributary Arghandab in the Arachosia region of Afghanistan, separated from the Indus watershed by the Sanglakh Range. The Helmand wore historically next to Avestan Haetumant the name Haraxvaiti who have favourited Avestan form associated with Sanskrit Sarasvati is related . The Avesta extols the Helmand in a manner similar to that used in the Rig Veda in relation to the Sarasvati: "The rich, glorious Haetumant swells its white waves and rolls down its copious tide." In contrast to the Rigvedic Sarasvati, the Helmand never achieved the status of a deity despite the praise in the Avesta.

Identifying the river Sarasvati with the flow Helmand was first proposed by Thomas (1886), a few years later by Alfred Hillebrandt. In the same year the geologist RD Oldham refuted this Afghan Sarasvatī thesis. The Indologist AB Keith (1879–1944) also disagreed with this theory and stated that there is no conclusive evidence to identify the Sarasvati with the Helmand River.

According to Konrad Klaus (1989), the geographic location of the Sarasvati and Helmand rivers is similar. Both flow into end lakes: The Helmand flows into a swamp on the Iranian plateau (the extensive wetland and lake system of Hamun-i-Helmand). This corresponds to the Rigvedic description of Sarasvati, who for Samudra flows what in his opinion meant "confluence", "lake", "heavenly lake", "ocean" at the time; The current meaning of "terrestrial ocean" was not even felt in the Pali Canon.

After a detailed analysis of the Vedic texts and the geological environment of the rivers, Rajesh Kocchar comes to the conclusion that two Sarasvati rivers are mentioned in the Rigveda. The early Rigveda Sarasvati he Naditama Sarasvati is described in the Suktas 2.41, 7.36 etc. of the family books of the Rigveda and flows into it Samudra off . The description of the Naditama Sarasvati in Rigveda corresponds to the physical characteristics of the Helmand River in Afghanistan, more precisely its tributary Harut, its older name Harax v atī was in Avestan. The later Rigveda Sarasvati he Vinasana Sarasvati is described in the Rigvedic Nadistuti sukta (10.75), which was composed centuries later after the bearers of the Rigveda culture migrated east to the western Ganges plain about 600 km east. The Sarasvati by this time had become a mythical "vanished" river, and the name was transferred to the Ghaggar, which disappeared into the desert. The later Rigvedic Sarasvati is only found in the post-Rig Vedic Brahmanas, which are supposed to disappear in the sand. According to Kocchar, Ganga and Yamuna were small streams near the Harut River. As the Vedas moved east to Punjab, they named the new rivers they encountered after the old rivers they knew from Helmand and the Vinasana Sarasvati could correspond to the Ghaggar-Hakra river.

Romila Thapar (2004) declares the Ghaggar's identification with the Sarasvati to be controversial. In addition, the early references to the Sarasvati could be the Haraxvati level in Afghanistan. The identification with the Ghaggar is problematic, since the Sarasvati is supposed to make its way through high mountains that are not the landscape of the Ghaggar.

Contemporary political and religious significance

Desiccation and dating of the Vedas

The Vedic description of the goddess Sarasvati as a mighty river and the Vedic and Puranic statements about the drying up and immersion of the Sarasvati have been used by some as a point of reference for a revised dating of Vedic culture. Some see these descriptions as a mighty river as evidence of an earlier dating of the Rig Veda, which identifies the Vedic culture with the Harappan culture, which flourished at the time when the Gaggar-Hakra had not dried up, and rejected the Indo-Aryan Migration theory suggesting migration around 1500 BC Postulated.

Michel Danino sets the composition of the Vedas for this in the third millennium BC. One, a millennium earlier than the conventional dates. Danino notes that it is incompatible to accept the Rig Veda accounts as a mighty river as a factual description and to date the drying up at the end of the third millennium. According to Danino, this suggests that the Vedic people lived in the third millennium BC. Was present in northern India, a conclusion that is controversial among professional archaeologists. Danino states that in the northwest during the second millennium BC there was There is no "intrusive material culture", no biological continuity in the skeletal remains and no cultural continuity. Danino then explains that when the "Sarasvati testimony is added, the simplest and most natural conclusion is that Vedic culture was present in the region in the third millennium".

Danino admits that this requires "examining its tentacular effects on linguistics, archeoastronomy, anthropology, and genetics, among a few other areas".

Identification with the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley civilization is sometimes referred to by Hindutva revisionists as the "Sarasvati culture", "Sarasvati civilization", "Indus Ghaggar-Hakra civilization", "Indus Sarasvati civilization", or "Sindhu Sarasvati civilization" denotes and refers to the Sarasvati River mentioned in the Vedas and equation of the Vedic culture with the Indus Valley civilization. From this point of view, the Harappan civilization flourished primarily on the banks of the Ghaggar-Hakra, not on the Indus. For example, Danino notes that his proposed dating of the Vedas goes back to the third millennium BC. Coincides with the mature phase of the Indus Valley civilization and that it is "tempting" to equate the Indus Valley and Vedic cultures.

Romila Thapar points out that an alleged equation of the Indus Valley civilization and the bearers of Vedic culture stands in stark contrast to not only linguistic but also archaeological evidence. She notes that the essential features of Indus Valley urbanism such as planned cities, complex fortifications, elaborate drainage systems, the use of clay and fire bricks, monumental buildings and extensive manual activities are completely absent in the Rigveda. Similarly, the Rig Veda lacks conceptual familiarity with key aspects of organized urban life (e.g. unrelated work, facets or objects of an exchange system, or complex weights and measures) and it does not mention objects that are found in large numbers in places of civilization found in the Indus valley, such as terracotta figures, sculptural representations of human bodies or seals.

Hetalben Sindhav notes that the claims made by a large number of Ghaggar-Hakra locations are politically motivated and exaggerated. While the Indus remained an active river, the Ghaggar-Hakra dried up, leaving mant sites undisturbed. Sidhav further notes that the Ghaggar-Hakra was a tributary of the Indus, so the proposed Sarasvati nomenclature is superfluous. According to archaeologist Shereen Ratnagar, many ghaggar-hakra sites in India are actually those of local cultures. Some websites have links with the Harappan civilization, but only a few are fully developed Harappan civilizations. In addition, around 90% of the discovered Indus lettering seals and inscribed objects were found in locations in Pakistan along the Indus, while other locations only made up the remaining 10%.


In 2015, Reuters reported that "Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh believe that evidence of the physical existence of the Vedic River would strengthen their concept of a golden age of Hindu India before invasions by Muslims and Christians." The government of the Bharatiya Janata Party had therefore instructed archaeologists to search for the river.

According to the government of the Indian state of Haryana, research and satellite imagery of the area have confirmed that they found the lost river when water was discovered while digging the dry river bed in Yamunanagar. The government-formed Saraswati Heritage Development Board (SHDB) carried out a test run on July 30, 2016, during which the river bed was filled with 100 cusecs of water pumped into an excavated canal from tube wells in the village of Uncha Chandna in Yamunanagar. The water is expected to fill the canal up to the 40-kilometer Kurukshetra. Once it has been confirmed that the water flow will not be obstructed, the government proposes that another 100 cusecs flow after a fortnight. There are also plans to build three dams on the river route to keep it flowing.

See also




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