The ancient channels identified by ISRO may be seen on the map prepared by ISRO based on an analysis of satellite images and ground truth.
UPA now admits
In a significant shift from its earlier stand that probes conducted so far showed no trace of the mythical river, the Union Government has recently admitted that scientists have discovered water channels indicating “beyond doubt” the existence of the “Vedic Saraswati.”
The Government’s fresh submission came in response to an unstarred question in Rajya Sabha on December 3 by Prakash Javadekar (BJP), who wanted to know whether satellite images had “established the underground track of Saraswati, and if so, why should the precious water resources not be exploited to meet growing demands.”
To this, the Union Water Resources Ministry quoted in writing the conclusion of a study jointly conducted by scientists of ISRO, Jodhpur and the Rajasthan Government’s Ground Water Department, published in the Journal of Indian Society of Remote Sensing. Besides other things, the authors had said that “clear signals of palaeo-channels on the satellite imagery in the form of a strong and powerful continuous drainage system in the North-West region and occurrence of archaeological sites of pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan ages beyond doubt indicate the existence of a mighty palaeo-drainage system of the Vedic Saraswati river in this region… The description and magnanimity of these channels also matches with the river Saraswati described in the Vedic literature.”
A leading educationist and currently chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Yash Pal, who had published in 1980 in his own words “a small paper on the existence of Saraswati river which attracted attention,” concurred with the view. “Surveys so far have brought out clearly the path the river had taken when in flow,” the national research professor told The Pioneer. He did a stint with ISRO (which has played a pivotal role in the probes so far) from 1973-1980 where he set up the Space Application Centre.
On whether the Union Government should assume a proactive role on the issue of reviving the river to tackle the water shortages, he said, “With advancement of technology more research should be conducted. The river was not lost yesterday; perhaps due to tectonic shifts it disappeared ten thousand years ago. We have to keep these issues in mind.”
All through its tenure until now, the UPA Government had denied the existence of the mystery river. Then Culture Minister Jaipal Reddy had told Parliament that excavations conducted so far at nine sites had not revealed any trace of the lost river Saraswati. He stated that the UPA Government had not extended the sanction for the project given by the NDA Government. Giving a progress report of the Saraswati River Heritage Project launched by the NDA Government, he had said that though the project report was prepared in September 2003 envisaging a cost of Rs 36.02 crore, it was later slashed to Rs 4.98 crore.
The Leftists, who commanded great influence over the first five years of the UPA regime, too, were dismissive of the evidences. Senior leaders even castigated probe agencies for ‘wasting’ time and money over the study of the mystery river. Three years ago, senior CPI(M) leader and Politburo member Sitaram Yechury slammed the ASI for its efforts.
A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, which he headed in 2006, said, “The ASI has deviated in its working and has failed in spearheading a scientific discipline of archaeology. A scientific institution like the ASI did not proceed correctly in this matter.”
These assertions had come despite mounting evidence of the river collected by central agencies such as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Geological Survey of India (GSI), Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Central Groundwater Authority (under the Water Resources Ministry). The Government had also failed to acknowledge expert opinion that the river’s revival could tackle the increasing water demands of more than 20 crore people in the North-West region of the country.
The first national impetus for research on Saraswati came during the NDA regime when the then Union Culture Minister Jagmohan in June 2002 announced excavations to trace the river’s course. He named a team of four experts - Baldeo Sahai of ISRO, Ahmedabad, archaeologist S Kalyan Raman, glaciologist Y K Puri and water consultant Madhav Chitle - for the task. But even earlier, States like Haryana had begun their study of the ‘underground river.’
Talking of the progress, SL Aggarwal, an official in Haryana Irrigation Department said, “Work on the 3.5 km stretch of river Saraswati between Jyotisar and Bibipur would be completed in one-and-a-half months and then we would be able to revive the ancient river and be able to use the water for irrigation purposes.” The Haryana Government recently sanctioned Rs 10.05 crore for the project of revival of the river, with the Oil and Natural Gas Commission carrying out geophysical and geoelectric surveys for drilling of wells in association with Kurukshetra University for exploratory purposes.
A non-government organisation (NGO), Saraswati Nadi Sodh Sansthan, has also been working for the revival of the ancient river through its entire track. Two seminars were held on this issue on October 22, 2008 and November 21, 2009 at Kurukshetra where representatives from ONGC, Geological Survey of India and Indian Space Research Organisation were invited.
Rajasthan too has been an active participant in the project. Some four decades ago the Archeological Survey of India (GSI) had conducted excavations at a village named Kalibanga in Srigananagar district of Rajasthan, unearthing a full- fledged township beneath a mound, locally called ‘Thed.’
The ASI researchers came to the conclusion that the sight belonged to the Harappan period. Subsequent studies revealed that this flourishing town was situated on the banks of the Saraswati which once flowed from this part of the Rajasthan desert.
About two decades ago, scientists at Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI) at Jodhpur launched a project to track down the traces. They concluded that the ancient channels were a dead river that could well be Saraswati. Interestingly, here, the ancient texts and the geographical history of the region were constant bases of reference of the studies.
Analyses of images earlier taken by the American satellite Landsat in the 1970’s clearly showed the presence of underground water in a definitive pattern in the Jaisalmer region. As part of the project, then, underground water researchers were asked to dig bore wells at places from where this lost river used to flow. They selected Chandan Lathi near Jaisalmer for this purpose.
To the surprise of researchers, the water found after digging the bore wells at places on the course of the river was not only sweet but available in plenty. Encouraged by this discovery, they dug two dozen bore well in the area, from where the river used to flow, and in all of them they found sweet water.
A few years later Dr Vakankar, a noted historian, as part his Itihas Sanklan Yojna, visited this and other sites linked with the river. Together with another expert Moropant Pingle, he concluded that the Saraswati used to flow from this part of Rajasthan, Sirsa in Haryana, Bhatinda in Punjab and Srigangangar district in Rajasthan.
With the Government indicating a shift in its position, it remains to be seen whether the research work by central agencies that had come to a near halt, will now resume.
-- With inputs from Lokpal Sethi in Jaipur and Nishu Mahajan in Chandigarh
“To begin with, one can straightaway ignore the ideas that the Sarasvati is a mythological river or that the Rigvedic Sarasvati has to be located in the Helmand area of Afghanistan. The notion that the Rigvedic Sarasvati means the Helmand was propounded by Edward Thomas in 1883 (Thomas 1883), but one has to realize that Thomas had no argument whatsoever except the similarity in sound between Haraiqaiti of the Zend-Avesta and Sarasvati of theRigveda, and the general premise that there was an ‘earlier Aryan Sarasvati’ than the one mentioned in the Rigveda: “ It seems as if they had retained, in their new home, a reminiscence of a similar combination of river and lake in other lands.” While looking for an area with this combination, which has also to be on plausible migration route of the Aryans, Thomas latches on to the following account of the Helmand river by J. P. Ferrier who published his Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan and Balochistan in 1856: “The water of the Helmand is cold, clear, fresh and sweet, and though a considerable portion is turned off for the purposes of irrigation, there is at all times sufficient for navigating it from Girishk to its mouth “ (Ferrier 1856: 428). This was enough to persuade Thomas that the Helmand River was the prototype of the of the Rigvedic Sarasvati. Thomas does not say that the Sarasvati as mentioned in the Rigveda was in Seistan, through which the Helmand River passes. He only says that the river in Seistan was the prototype of the Rigvedic river. The migrant Aryans transferred the name of the river, which they encountered on their way to India, to this Rigvedic river. R.D. Oldham rejected ‘the ingenuous (sic) explanation’ of Thomas as early as 1886 (R. D. Oldham 1886), and in 1917, Aurel Stein while discussing the identification of some Rigvedic rivers, did not even mention the opinion of Thomas (Stein 1917), (Chakrabarti and Saini 2009, pp. 1-2).”
“In the 1893 article, C. F. Oldham forcefully brings the Rigvedic Sarasvati to the scene. Citing some major Rigvedic references he shows that in the Rigveda the Sarasvati is a large and rapidly flowing river from the mountains to the sea. He specifically cites RV V. 61.2 (the Sarasvati, “by her force and impetuous waves, has broken down the sides of the mountains like a digger of louts fibers”), RV Vii.95.1 (the Sarasvati, a fertilizing stream, a stronghold, an iron gate, “moving along as on a chariot, this river surpasses in greatness all other waters”) and RV Vii.95.2 (“she who goes pure from the mountains as far as the sea”). In this context, Oldham points out that in the Manvdharmastastra of Manu the Sarasvati goes no longer to the sea, and the Mahabharata mentions that the river became invisible at the Vinashana. The geographical position of the Sarasvati in relation to other rivers of the area has been clearly defined by RV X.75.5, i.e., the famous Nadistuti hymn which puts it between the Yamuna and the Sutlej. Oldham (1893;51) concludes that “it is tolerably certain that the Saraswati of the present day is the river mentioned in the Veda and the Mahabharata,” (Chakrabarti and Saini 2009, pp. 19-20.)”
“This publication (by Aurel Stein in 1917) is on the identification of the rivers mentioned in theNadistuti hymn of the Rigveda. The concerned rivers are the following: Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Sutudri, Parushni, Asikni, Maruvridha, Vitasta, Arjikiya, and Sushoma. The identity of the first four rives is subject to no doubt: “the order in which the first four are mentioned exactly agrees with their geographical sequence from the east to west.” Asikni has been carefully identified with Chenab or Chandrabhaga, although the Ans River which joins the Chenab above Raissi may carry, according to him, the lingering trace Asikni. Parushni is the Iravati, the present day Ravi, Sushoma has been identified with the Sohan River of the Potwar plateau. Stein identifies Maruvridha with the Maroowardhan River, which joins the right bank of the Chenab and is the united stream of Maru and Wardan. According to Stein, Arjikiya should be one of the chief tributaries of Vitasta on the right bank, but of the two such tributaries, Kishanganga, and Kumhar, he does not know which one to select (Chakrabarti and Saini 2009, p. 21, first parenthesis added).”
“There has also been a strong contrary opinion, especially among those who are not happy with the idea of continuity of the Indian culture, Irfan Habib’s article Imaging River Saraswati, a defence of commonsense (Habib 2001) is representative of the publications of this genre and largely dependent on the belief that the Rigvedic Sarasvati was originally the Helmand River of southwest Afghanistan, where the Aryans, on their march to India lived for some time, and later in India, they transferred the name of this favourite river of theirs to a stream of that name in the Kurukshetra area of Haryana. , more than a 1000 k of map-distance to the east from South Afghanistan. We have already commented on this identification and pointed out how R. D. Oldham and Aurel Stein both ignored it (Chakrabarti and Saini 2009, p.27).”
“From the archaeological point of view, the question of Sarasvati’s glacial/non-glacial origin is not of great significance. It is the river’s history in the plains which is of crucial significance in understanding the human settlements which flourished in its valley. Besides as Tripathi et. al.(2004) argue, there is isotopic homogeneity between Thar sands, aerosols, deposited loessic sediments and older Ghaggar alluvium, and this suggests the Ghaggar alluvium to be the most likely proximal source for the Thar sediments. The former is derived mostly from the non-glaciated sub Himalayan Tertiary sediments (Chakrabarti and Saini 2009, p. 30).”
“As far as we know, Raverty (1892) is perhaps the only scholar who on the basis of his mediaeval textual sources has been able to outline the major changes in the courses of the Panjab rivers throughout their documented history. One of his major credits also lies in delineating the old courses of the Sutlej and pointing out how the Sutlej was linked to the issue of the Sarasvati. We think that the idea that the Sutlej flowed in the channel of the Ghaggar-Sarasvati for a long stretch and that its desertion led to the drying up of the Ghaggar-Sarasvati River system has much to recommend. Raverty’s delineation of the river system still remains to be compared in detail with the evidence and interpretation derived from the satellite imageries. For instance, his references to the streams coming to the Hakra from the Jaisalmer side has been amply supported by the remote-sensing evidence which has located palaeo-channels on the western side of the Aravallis (Chakrabarti and Saini 2009, p. 36, parenthesis added).”
"If we de-link the question of the rise and fall of the Indus civilization from the opinion of the environmental determinist, of whom there seem to be too many today, we have to admit that the relevant river courses ceased to be perennial not primarily because of the onset of aridity but because, as some earlier scholars argued, the Sutlej which was the main supplier of water volume through the Ghaggar-Sarasvati-Hakra channel, shifted and joined the Indus River drainage. The Yamuna was likely to have played a role in the fate of the Drishadvati system, which must have been seriously affected by the shifting of the palaeo-Yamuna to its present flow through Delhi.
Finally, the question which cannot be escaped is: what happened to the free-flowing Sarasvati of the Rigveda? If there could be no free-flowing Sarasvati after aridity set in the first half of the third millennium BC (2700 BC or 3000 BC—this amounts to the first half of the third millennium BC), the image of a mighty and free-flowing Sarasvati can only belong to an earlier period.
The concerned literature repeatedly mentions the idea that, with the onset of aridity, people began to migrate towards the east, i.e., Haryana, Panjab, and the Ganga plain. On the other hand, if we take a total view of the vast Indus-Ghaggar-Hakra plain stretching from the sea to the Siwaliks, and if we confess our ignorance about the details and comparative chronology of the way the sites of the Harappan tradition were disposed over this landscape, we shall possibly be more honest with ourselves and admit that it is too early to hypothesize great migrations form the west to the east in the Harappan context (Charkrabarti and Saini 2009, p. 38).”
Charkrabarti, D. K. and Saini, S. (2009). The problem of the Sarasvati River and notes on the archaeological geography of Haryana and Indian Panjab. New Delhi: Aryan Books International. ISBN: 978-81-7305-381-8 (HB)
Sarasvati Sarovar (Ad Badri, Yamunanagar, Haryana -- location where the Himalayan river emerges into the plains), 80m X 80m Oct. 2004 using 11 check-dams constructed by the Forestry Dept. Haryana.
The recent article "Harappan collapse" by Peter Clift contributes specifically by confirming scientifically that Ghaggar-Hakra river (Sarasvati) ceased to flow in the period 3000 to 2000 BC around Fort Abbas in the Pakistani Punjab, based on radiocarbon dating of freshwater gastropod shells and wood from the pits excavated by his team of geologists. He also mentions that this find is confirmed by Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) method.
Man and Environment XXXIII (2): 71-87 (2008) Abstract
Scholars have known of major palaeochannels that stretch across Haryana and Rajasthan in India and into Cholistan in Pakistan for over 130 years. They are generally believed to be the traces of a substantial glacier fed river (or rivers) that once flowed across these northern plains and this reconstruction is seemingly confirmed by the existence of numerous archaeological sites along these relic water courses. This co-occurrence has led to the suggestion that this river was instrumental in supporting some of the major sites of the Harappan Civilisation, and the drying of this river is believed to have been one of the critical factors in the abandonment of sites, and ultimately the collapse of the Harappan urban system. The relationship between prehistoric settlement and the landscape has major importance for our understanding of prehistoric cultural development in the northwestern plains of India. This preliminary report outlines the first stage of a broader analysis of the relationship between archaeological settment sites and their geographical and landscape context in western UP and Haryana. These areas have a geographical relationship to the present courses of the perennial Yamuna and Hindon Rivers and of the ephemeral Ghaggar, Sarsuti and Chautang Rivers and associated nullahs.
Send me an email for a pdf copy of the full text, firstname.lastname@example.org
The fall of the Harappan Civilization has been associated with rapid weakening of summer monsoon rains. New work now shows that changing river patterns may also have played an important part in their demise. Peter Clift* reports.
Geoscientist 19.9 September 2009
Earlier palaeoclimate work has suggested a link between the end of settlement in major urban centres and a rapid weakening of summer monsoon rains. However, life may prosper in arid environments as long as it can be sustained by large river systems. The Leverhulme Trust has therefore funded a new study involving a diverse international group of scientists to explore the role that drainage reorganisation in the Indus Valley may have had on societal change at that time.
Today, the Ghaggur in India is a very small river, within a modest mountain catchment.
How could it once have been a much larger stream? We believe it is possible
that the river was once swelled by other headwater catchments that are now
diverted into other directions. The neighbouring Yamuna and Sutlej Rivers are
the most likely candidates for this, and could well have been captured from the
Ghaggur during the Holocene. If either or both of these streams formerly flowed
into the Ghaggur channel then the river could have been very much larger than
it appears today.
Initial analyses of the sands sampled in pits on
the course of the Ghaggur-Hakkra River at Fort Abbas have shown a significant
number of grains with young U-Pb age signatures. At first sight this would seem
to require a huge swing in the Indus River, since they were deposited more than
5000 years ago. Although it is possible that the Indus flowed this far east (c.
200km further east than its present course) it seems more likely that the sands
found have been reworked from the sand dunes of the Thar Desert, which directly
abut the river valley.
The science of Single Grain Provenance
Full caption: This probability density plot shows the most likely ages for zircon ages in four of the biggest source terrains in the western Himalaya. Young grains are unique to the Karakoram and Transhimalaya, while even here differences do occur. Grains younger than 10Ma or older than 110Ma (insert) are only found in the Karakoram. Although the Lesser and Greater Himalaya have significant overlap, there are nevertheless ages that are typical of each range and allow a first-order sediment budget to be made.
The Indus Valley
Civilisation (mature period 2600–1900 BCE) flourished around the Indus River
basin and encompassed most of what is now Pakistan (mainly the provinces of
Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan), as well as Indian states Gujarat, Haryana,
Punjab and Rajasthan. IVC remains have been found in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan
and Iran. The mature phase of this civilisation is technically known as the
Harappan Civilisation, after the first of its cities to be unearthed - Harappa
The full paper of Peter Clift (pdf) can be read at
Excerpt of 5 page article at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/19997044/geoscientistharappa2009 Please email me for a copy. Kalyan97@gmail.com (Geoscientist 19.1 September 2009)
Sarasvati Nadi in Haryana by Bidyut K. Bhadra, AK Gupta, JR Sharma (Journal Geological Society of India, Feb. 2009)
Renovated portion of Sarasvati ghat at Pehowa (Prthudaka of Mahabharata)(2000)
Nadi tame, (Best of rivers), Vedic Sarasvati Nadi
1School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi 110 067, India
2IFM-GEOMAR, Leibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Wischhofstrasse, 1-3, D-24148 Kiel, Germany (Current Science, Vol. 87, No. 8, 25 Oct. 2004)
Locus : Vedic Sarasvati
Vedic Saraswati: scientific signatures on its origin from the Himalaya, causes for its complete disappearance in Indian sub-continent and settlement pattern in its basin: VMK Puri (July 2008)
Sub-surface water oozing at Kalayat village, Jind Dist., Haryana, in Dec. 2005: Possible connection with Sarasvati palaeo-channel -- BK Bhadra, AK Gupta & JR Sharma, Journal of the Indian Soiety of Remote Sensing, Vol. 68, Dec. 2006
Mythological observations and scientific evaluation of the lost Saraswati river -- D.S. Chauhan (pp. 35-45)
On probable changes in the geography of the Punjab and its rivers – an historico-geographical study: R.D. Oldham (pp.81-88)
Neotectonic controls on the migration of Sarasvati river of the Great Indian Desert: SM Ramasamy (pp. 153-162)
Water supply and history: Harappa and the Beas regional survey (2008) (Reproduced with permission from Antiquity)
Mother divinity: River Sarasvati, hindu civilization, traditions and metaphors created by Rishi-s and artisans: S. Kalyanaraman (2008)
Impact of Vedic Sarasvati River researches
Late quaternary drainage disorganization in Vedic Sarasvati river basin (2001) Source: Roy, A.B. and Jakhar, S.R. (2001)," Late quaternary drainage disorganization and migration and extinction of Vedic Saraswati", Current Science, Vol.81, Number9, pp.1188-95.
Sarasvati -- the ancient river lost in the desert (1999) Source: Sankaran, A.V.," Saraswati-the ancient river lost in the desert" Current Science, Vol. 77, No. 8, pp.1054-1060.