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Searching for Saraswati

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On March 31, 2015, The Hindu carried a report of a plan by the Haryana government to recreate the Saraswati river, apparently because the present river of the name Sarsuti does not possess features expected of what is presumed to have been a great river of sacred lore. At the place officially determined to be the site of origin of the stream, which falls in Haryana, extensive “excavation” is being undertaken to locate the exact spot where the river was formed.

While the practical impediments to the Haryana government’s seeming design to carry Saraswati to Prayag take one’s breath away, it will surely still not satisfy those who have a different vision for Saraswati, a vision opposite to what the holy legend at Prayag dictates. Seers like Acharya David Frawley, recent recipient of the Padma Bhushan, and ‘NASA scientist’ Navratna S. Rajaram, spokesman of the ‘Indo-American’ school of history, seem to spurn the connection with Prayag by assigning to Saraswati the duty rather of winning the Indus civilisation for India. For this patriotic purpose, the Saraswati must be conceived to have been, as late as 5,000 years ago, one of the great rivers of the world, flowing down to the Rann of Kutch, parallel to the Indus. The Indus Valley Civilisation, whose two major cities Mohenjo Daro and Harappa unfortunately lie in Pakistan, can then be renamed the Saraswati Civilisation and, on that ground, claimed for India.

The suggestion has therefore been made that the present Saraswati was once upon a time converted into a Himalayan river because for some period the Yamuna and Sutlej became its tributaries. However, should such a junction have occurred in historical times, the Saraswati itself would have been a tributary of the Yamuna or Sutlej rather than the other way around. Moreover, the scrutiny of alluvium from excavations in the Ghaghar plain by Marie-Agnes County’s team in 1983-87 ruled out the presence, within the present Holocene times (the last 10,000 years), of any large river coming down from the Himalayas into the area.

The Rigveda in its River Hymn (X. 75.5) puts Saraswati without any adjectives between the Yamuna and Shutudri (Sutlej). This suits the present Sarsuti. The Panchavimsha Brahmana and other early texts speak of the Saraswati’s disappearance at Vinashana, which means that it did not then join the Ghaghar, but ran in a more southerly direction, probably running past Sirsa (medieval name: Sarsati), the place obviously named after the river itself. Vinashana lay presumably further south within Haryana. The Manusmriti, 2.17, proclaimed the zone of Saraswati and Drishadvati (Chautang?) as the holy land of Brahmavarta; and so the course of Saraswati, as described above, would make Brahmavarta correspond exactly to Haryana.
From ancient tradition itself we thus have a depiction of the Saraswati that mocks neither geography nor history. Why, then, need anyone try to stretch Saraswati to either Allahabad or the Rann of Kutch? Obviously, purposes other than those of reason and common sense are at work.

Searching for Saraswati - The Hindu
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