Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saraswati River (FACTS & FIGURES )

THE MOTHER OF ALL RIVERS
The Saraswati River is believed to have drained the north and northwest region of India in ancient times, supporting over 1,6000 settlements. Although the river does not have a physical existence today, there are numerous references to it in the ancient Indian literature of the Vedic and post-Vedic period. Rig Veda, the most ancient of the four Vedas, describes Saraswati as a mighty river with many individually recognized tributaries. The sacred book calls Saraswati as the seventh river of the Sindhu-Saraswati river system, hence the name Saptsindhu for the region bounded by rivers Saraswati in the east and Sindhu (also Indus) in the west. Rig Veda hymns also describe life and times of the people residing in the Saraswati river valley. The awe and reverence the river inspired during the Vedic period is best summed by the three-word tribute to the river in the Rig Veda-Ambitamé, the best of the mothers; Naditamé, the best of the rivers; and Devitamé, the best of the goddesses.

GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
River Saraswati originated from the Har-ki-Dun glacier in West Garhwal, Bandarpunch massif in the Himalayas, along with the river Yamuna. The two rivers flowed parallel for some distance and later joined, proceeding south as the Vedic Saraswati. The seasonal rivers and rivulets, including Ghaggar, joined Saraswati as it followed the course of the present river through Punjab and Haryana. River Sutlej, the Vedic Shatadru, joined the river Saraswati as a tributary at Shatrana, approximately 25 km south of Patiala. Saraswati then followed the course of Ghaggar through Rajasthan and Hakra in Bhawalpur before emptying into the Rann of Kutch via Nara in Sindh province, running parallel to the Indus River. It has been established that the river Saraswati, carrying the waters of three perennial and numerous seasonal rivers, was a mighty river in the Vedic times and rightly deserved the Rig Veda title of Naditamé-the greatest of the rivers.

HISTORY AND MYTHOLOGY
During the Vedic period, Saraswati was recognized as the greatest of the River that nurtured the people living on its banks like a loving mother, and supported a number of learning centers and their resident scholars, ascetics, sages and seers like a benevolent deity.

In view of this, it may be safe to assume that the ancient Vedic literature was itself written on the banks of this river. By nurturing such a pursuit of divine knowledge, Saraswati appropriately assumes the status of the goddess of language, learning, arts and sciences-the best of the goddesses.

Post-Vedic literature, mainly the Mahabharata, has references to the drying river Saraswati. Mahabharata describes Balarama's pilgrimage from Dwarka to Mathura along the bed of this river. Later, during the middle ages, there are references to fissures and faults in the ground on the dry bed of river Saraswati. Invading armies of Islam marching from Sindh province to Delhi are reported to have taken a longer mountain route instead of the shorter route of the dry Saraswati bed because of the difficulties in crossing the fissure in the river bed. Recently, satellite images have also confirmed the existence of a large number of ground faults in the earthquake-prone northwest India that constituted the Saraswati-Sindhu valley. Such ground faults have caused the seepage of Saraswati water to underground channels, contributing to the legend of the Vedic Saraswati disappearing underground.

PRESENT-DAY RESEARCH

How and when was this mighty river lost? Researches have shown that the course of this river had links with the dry bed of Ghaggar River in the northeast (Ganganagar district) while in the southwest it met or cut across surviving courses of the Hakra and Nara rivers in Pakistan. In the northwestern part of Jaisalmer district, in spite of very low rainfall (less that 150 mm) and extreme weather conditions, groundwater is available at a depth of about 50-60 m along the course of the defunct river and wells in the vicinity do not dry up throughout the year. The groundwater in the area is rich in stable isotope content as compared to other Himalayan rivers. Groundwater samples exhibit negligible tritium content indicating absence of modern recharge. Radiocarbon data suggest the groundwater is a few thousand years old. The levels of Carbon-14 isotope decrease along the river course downstream indicating hydraulic continuity of the Saraswati buried channel from Kuria Beri to Ghantiyalji.

Evidence collected so far shows that the river disappeared due to a combination of reasons spread over a few hundred years possibly between 2000 and 1500 BC. The main reasons contributing to the drying of the river appear to be the loss of its important tributaries due to changes in river course, climate changes (like long periods of draught) and water seepage through earth faults, and fissures combined with the obstruction of river flow by shifting of sand due to high winds. The whole of northwest India, up to the Rann of Kutch, was subject to earthquake activity, resulting in raising of the ground, and creation of earth faults that contributed to the loss of water of this river.

When the Aravallis range is traced north to the Himalayas, there is evidence of rise in the ground level on the line of Aravallis. This change in the ground level appears to have caused the turning of the river Yamuna eastwards to join the Ganges at Allahabad. This river capturing denied the waters of Yamuna to Saraswati. Another blow to the river Saraswati was struck when Sutlej took a sharp U-turn at Ropar moving to flow parallel to the river Beas, the Vedic Vipasa. Having lost both of its perennial tributaries, i.e., Yamuna and Sutlej, river Saraswati would have been a drying river in around 2000 BC. It is probable that desertification of Rajasthan would have taken place at that time. As supported by the hydro-geological evidence, the ground faults and sand movement would have caused the seepage of the remaining waters of river Saraswati to underground channels, leaving a dry riverbed.

Last part of the legend is that the Saraswati meets the Ganges and Yamuna at the confluence (Sangam) at Allahabad (Prayag). Neither archæological finds nor satellite images support any evidence of the River Saraswati ever flowing east towards Allahabad, either over the ground or underground. Some modern scholars interpret the capture of Saraswati waters by Yamuna also to mean the confluence of Yamuna and Saraswati jointly with Ganges at Allahabad. If this is accepted, meeting of Sutlej with Beas has equal claim to the confluence of three River, i.e., Sutlej, Beas, and Saraswati.

Source: http://india.mapsofindia.com/culture/indian-rivers/saraswati-river.html

Saraswati, Hindu Goddess of Learning

Saraswati River is believed to have drained the north and northwest region of India, including Haryana and Punjab, in ancient times, supporting a large number of settlements. There are numerous references to the river Saraswati in the ancient Indian literature of the Vedic and post-Vedic period. Rig Veda, the most ancient of the four Vedas, describes Saraswati as a mighty river with many individually recognized tributaries. The sacred book calls Saraswati as the seventh river of the Sindhu-Saraswati river system, hence the name 'Saptsindhu' for the region bounded by rivers Saraswati in the east and Sindhu (Indus) in the west. Rig Veda hymns also describe life and times of the people residing in the Saraswati river valley. Rig Veda describes Saraswati as Ambitamé, the best of the mothers; Naditamé, the best of the rivers; and Devitamé, the best of the goddesses. Ancient sites in Kunal and Banawali, in district Fatehbad, has been found on the banks of the dried river bed of Saraswati.

Saraswati is believed to have originated from the Har-ki-Dun glacier in west Garhwal (Uttaranchal). It flowed parallel to the river Yamuna for some distance and later joined it, proceeding south as the Vedic Saraswati. The seasonal rivers and rivulets, including Ghaggar, joined Saraswati as it followed the course of the present river through Punjab and Haryana. River Sutluj, the Vedic Shatadru, joined the river Saraswati as a tributary at Shatrana, approximately 25 km south of Patiala. Saraswati then followed the course of Ghaggar through Rajasthan, Gujarat and Hakra in Bhawalpur before emptying into the Rann of Kutch via Nara in Sindh province, running parallel to the Indus River. It has been established that the river Saraswati, carrying the waters of three perennial and numerous seasonal rivers, was a mighty river in the Vedic times.

As of today, a part of the river exists as Ghaggar in Haryana; the rest of it has disappeared in the fringes of the desert of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Sindh. The perennial rivers Sutluj and Yamuna were once the tributaries of the Saraswati. It is believed that subsequently some tectonic movements may have forced the Sutluj and Yamuna to change course and hence Saraswati dried up in a period spread over a few hundred years possibly between 2000 and 1500 BC. It is probable that desertification of Rajasthan would have taken place at that time. The present dried bed of the Ghaggar was thus part of a major river, anciently known as Saraswati. Analysis of satellite imagery supports the above hypothesis regarding the course of the 'lost' Saraswati.

Source: http://www.haryana-online.com/saraswati.htm

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saraswati River : A Myth / A Reality

The Sarasvati River is mentioned a total of 72 times in the Rigveda, appearing in all books except for book four.

Sarasvati is mentioned both as the chief of the Sapta Sindhu, the seven holy rivers of the early Rigveda, and listed in the geographical list of ten rivers in the Nadistuti sukta of the late Rigveda, and it is the only river with hymns entirely dedicated to it, RV 6.61, 7.95 and 7.96.

The Rigveda describes the Sarasvati as the best of all the rivers (RV 2.41.16-18; also 6.61.8-13; 7.95.2). Rigveda 7.36.6 calls it "the Seventh, Mother of Floods" sáraswatī saptáthī síndhumātā[3]. RV 2.41.16 ámbitame nádītame dévitame sáraswati "best mother, best river, best goddess" expresses the importance and reverence of the Vedic religion for the Sarasvati river, and states that all generations abide on the Sarasvati. Other hymns that praise the Sarasvati River include RV 6.61; 7.96 and 10.17.

Rigveda 7.95.2. and other verses (e.g. 8.21.18) also tell that the Sarasvati poured "milk and ghee." Rivers are often likened to cows in the Rigveda, for example in 3.33.1cd,

Like two bright mother cows who lick their youngling, Vipas and Sutudri speed down their waters.

Some Rigvedic verses (6.61.2-13) indicate that the Sarasvati river originated in high mountains, where she could "burst with her strong waves the ridges of the hills", and not merely in the Himalayan foothills like the present-day Sarasvati (Sarsuti) river. The Sarasvati is described as a river swollen (pinvamana) by many rivers (sindhubhih) (RV 6.52.6).

In RV 8.21.18ab mentions a number of petty kings dwelling along the course of Sarasvati,

Citra is King, and only kinglings [rājaka] are the rest who dwell beside Sarasvati. The Sarasvati River is also associated with the five tribes (e.g. RV 6.61.12), with the Paravatas (RV 2.41) and with the Purus (RV 7.95; 7.96).

Another reference to the Sarasvati is in the geographical enumeration of the rivers in the late Rigvedic Nadistuti sukta (10.75.5, this verse enumerates all important rivers from the Ganges in the east to the Punjab in the west in a strict geographical order), as "Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri", the Sarasvati is placed between the Yamuna and the Sutlej, consistent with the Ghaggar identification. It is clear, therefore, that even if she has unmistakably lost much of her former prominence, Sarasvati remains characterized as a river goddess throughout the Rigveda.

In RV 3.23.4, the Sarasvati River is mentioned together with the Drsadvati River.

In some hymns, the Indus river seems to be more important than the Sarasavati, especially in the Nadistuti sukta. In RV 8.26.18, the Sindhu is the most conveying or attractive of the rivers.

In the Rig Veda (7.95.1-2, tr. Griffith) the Sarasvati is described as flowing to the samudra, which is usually translated as ocean.

This stream Sarasvati with fostering current comes forth, our sure defence, our fort of iron.
As on a car, the flood flows on, surpassing in majesty and might all other waters.
Pure in her course from mountains to the ocean, alone of streams Sarasvati hath listened.
Thinking of wealth and the great world of creatures, she poured for Nahusa her milk and fatness.

The name Sarasvati already in the Rigveda does not always relate to a river and its personification exclusively; and in some hymns, the goddess Saraswati (the Hindu goddess of knowledge) is becoming abstracted from the river.

In the 1 and 10 of the Rigveda, the Sarasvati is mentioned in 13 hymns (1.3, 13, 89, 164; 10.17, 30, 64, 65, 66, 75, 110, 131, 141). Only two of these references are unambiguously to the river, 10.64.9 calling for the aid of three "great rivers", Sindhu, Sarasvati and Sarayu, and the geographical Nadistuti list (10.75.5) discussed above. The others invoke Sarasvati as a goddess without direct connection to a specific river. In 10.30.12, her origin as a river goddess may cause the rishi invokes her as protective deity as he composes a hymn to the celestial waters. Similarly, in 10.135.5, as Indra drinks Soma he is described as refreshed by Sarasvati. The invocations in 10.17 address Sarasvati as a goddess of the forefathers as well as of the present generation. In 1.13, 1.89, 10.85, 10.66 and 10.141, she is listed with other gods and goddesses, not with rivers. In 10.65, she is invoked together with "holy thoughts" (dhī) and "munificence" (puraṃdhi), consistent with her role as the goddess of both knowledge and fertility

Both 19th century fieldwork and recent satellite imagery suggest that the Ghaggar-Hakra river in the undetermined past had the Sutlej and the Yamuna as its tributaries. Geological changes diverted the Sutlej towards the Indus and the Yamuna towards the Ganga, and the formerly great river (the Rann of Kutch is likely the remains of its delta) did not have enough water to reach the sea anymore and dried up in the Thar desert. This change is estimated by geologists to have occurred between 5000 and 3000 BC,[18] that is, before the Mature Harappan period. It is sometimes proposed that the Sarasvati of the early Rigveda corresponds to the Ghaggar-Hakra before these changes took place (the "Old Ghaggar"), and the late Vedic end Epic Sarasvati disappearing in the desert to the Ghaggar-Hakra following the diversion of Sutlej and Yamuna, but the 4th millennium date of the event far predates even high estimates of the age of the Rigveda.

The identification of the Vedic Sarasvati River with the Ghaggar-Hakra River was already accepted by Christian Lassen[19] and Max Müller[20]. However, an alternate view has located the early Sarasvati River in Afghanistan. The identity of the dried-up Ghaggar-Hakra with the late Vedic and post-Vedic Sarasvati is widely accepted. The identification of the early Rigvedic Sarasvati with the Old Ghaggar is another matter, and the subject of dispute. Kochhar (1999) lists a number of reasons conflicting with the identification:

* The Sutlej (Sutudri) is known from the early Rigveda, but there is no evidence that it flowed into the Sarasvati ; RV 3.33 rather connects it with the Beas (Vipas), the present-day tributary of the Sutlej
* the former confluence of Sutlej and Yamuna with the Old Ghaggar was at about 30°N 76°E, in the Himalayan foothills (below 1,300m). Further upstream, the "mountainous" part of the Old Ghaggar would have been as unimpressive as it is today, not any different from the other rivers of the Shivaliks.
* Since the upper Yamuna was much mightier than the upper Ghaggar, it would be unexpected for the river to continue the name of the weaker tributary after the confluence.
* The late Vedic tradition associates not only the Yamuna but also the Ganga with the Sarasvati. By no stretch of imagination could it be argued that the Ganga ever flowed into the Old Ghaggar, so that the testimony connecting the Yamuna with the Sarasvati loses weight.
* In the region of the early Rigvedic Sarasvati, there are other rivers that independently go to the sea. This is not the case along the Old Ghaggar, where all rivers to the east join the Ganga, and all rivers to the west join the Indus.
* The Sarasvati hymns of the early Rigveda are older than the Indus hymns. If the early Sarasvati were the Old Ghaggar, a westward expansion of the Vedic territory from the Ghaggar to the Indus would be expected, while in fact western settlements are invariably dated to earlier times, suggesting an eastward expansion.

Sarsuti is the present-day name of a river originating in a submontane region (Ambala district) and joining the Ghaggar near Shatrana in PEPSU. Near Sadulgarh (Hanumangarh) the Naiwala channel, a dried out channel of the Sutlej, joins the Ghaggar. Near Suratgarh the Ghaggar is then joined by the dried up Drishadvati river.

Sarasvati is the name of a river originating in the Aravalli mountain range in Rajasthan, passing through Sidhpur and Patan before submerging in the Rann of Kutch.

Sarasvati River

Vedic Saraswati
The major rivers of north-west (Punjab, Sindh, Rajasthan & Gujrat) were: Saraswati, Sindhu (Indus), Shatadru (Sutlej), Vipasa (Beas), Vitasa (Jhelum), Parushni (Ravi), Asikni (Chenab), Yamuna, Drishadwati and Lavanavati. All rivers have changed their courses since Vedic times. Of these, three rivers: Saraswati, Drishadwati and Lavanavati no longer exist.

In Vedic times: the rivers Beas, Jhelum, Ravi & Chenab joined Sindhu, to form one channel from Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.

Saraswati and her tributary rivers: Yamuna, Sutlej, Drishadvati and Lavanavati formed the other channel from Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. Saraswati was a mighty river with three sources in the Himalayas. Her bed was as vast as 10 km in some places. The river course was dotted with lakes and ponds.

In the very early days, Saraswati met the Arabian Sea at the Rann of Kachh. After the level of Rann increased, she crossed the Rann to join Arabian Sea at the gulf of Khambat.

Course of Saraswati


Here is the proposed course of the northwestern rivers during Vedic times:







Saraswati: The Goddess of Knowledge
The vedic people had realised the importance of water, and called it life. Obviously the water providing pure streams were no less than a mother, who nurtured life on its banks.

It was on the banks of Saraswati, that the Vedic ashrams thrived. It was on the waters of Saraswati that the vedic culture grew. She was thus called the goddess of knowledge. (Remember goddess Saraswati is always portrayed with water in background, blooming lotus, white swans, and bathing elephants.)

The Rg Veda praises the river as:
ambitambe naditambe devitambe saraswati
The best of mothers, best of rivers, best of godesses, Oh Saraswati!

Saraswati-Sindhu civilization:

80% of the sites have been found on the dry banks of river Saraswati, and hence the name Saraswati-Sindhu.

It is suggested that the urbanised and trade oriented Saraswati-Sindhu civilization (3100-1900 BC) suceeded the earlier Vedic civilisation. They built their civilization on the Vedic knowledge. How else could they build towns, navigate the seas, achieve large scale production, have quality standards, and have commercial relations with the Mesopotomia & Egypt cultures? It was the Vedic study that provided them the required knowledge of geometry, algebra, geography, ship building, and navigation.

The Saraswati-Sindhu Civilization represents itself in, about 300 cities (plus so many supporting towns & villages). Huge cities had populations of 100,000. They had two or three storied houses built with bricks of uniform size. The cities had underground sewage system. Networked with grid of roads. Cities had giant reservoirs for water. (Today, only one or two Indian cities can boast to be like those built 5,000 years ago!)

Source: http://www.geocities.com

The Saraswati: Where lies the mystery

Climatic change and neotectonic movements have led to migration and abandonment of several rivers and drainage systems. Some of them are ‘lost’ because of the overburden of silt. But several evidences left by them usually help in proving the existence of a geomorphic feature in a particular location, which attract the attention of the interested people to discover the past. In India, the river Saraswati reflects such a fascinating history, supported by geological, hydrological and archaeological evidences as well as the records of the most modern tools, such as remote sensing and GIS. With the aid of remote sensing through orbiting satellites, the mystery of the river is more or less solved.

History behind the mystery

The satellite imagery of Saraswati river


Geological record indicates that during the late Pleistocene glaciation, the water of the Himalayas was frozen and that in the place of rivers, there were only glaciers, masses of solid ice. When the climate became warmer, the glaciers began to break up and the frozen water held by them surged forth in great floods, inundating the alluvial plains in front of the mountains. The melting of glaciers has also been referred in Rig Vedic literature, in mythological terms. It was the first interglacial period in Holocene marking the break-up of glaciers and release of the pent-up waters that flowed out in seven mighty river channels referred as the ‘Sapta Sindhu’ in the Rig Veda, traced from east to west. The ‘Sapta Sindhu’ refers to the rivers Saraswati, Satadru (Sutlej), Vipasa (Beas), Asikni (Chenab), Parosni (Ravi), Vitasta (Jhelum) and Sindhu (Indus). Among these, the Saraswati and the Sindhu were major rivers that flowed from the mountains right up to the sea. The hymns in praise of the Saraswati are probably some of the oldest, composed more than 8000 years ago.

For 2000 years, between 6000 and 4000 B.C., the Saraswati flowed as a great river. R. D. Oldham (1886) was the first geologist who argued logically pointing to the great changes in the drainage pattern of the rivers of Punjab and western Rajasthan converting a once fertile region into a desert. According to geological and glaciological studies, the Saraswati was supposed to have originated in Bandapunch massif (Saraswati-Rupin glacier confluence at Naitwar in western Garhwal).

The river, which had originated from Kapal tirith in the Himalayas in the west of Kailash, was flowing southward to Mansarovar and then taking a turn towards west. Even today the Saraswati flows from the south of Mana pass which meets river Alaknanda, 3 km away in the south of Mana village. Descending through Adibadri, Bhavanipur and Balchapur in the foothills to the plains, the river took roughly a southwesterly course, passing through the plains of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and finally it is believed to have debounched into the ancient Arabian Sea at the Great Rann of Kutch. In this long journey, the Saraswati is believed to have had three tributaries, Shatadru (Sutlej) originating from Mount Kailas, Drishadvati from Siwalik Hills and the old Yamuna. They flowed together along a channel, presently known as the Ghaggar River, which is known as Hakra River in Rajasthan and Nara in Sindh. Some experts consider these two rivers as a single river whereas others consider the upper course of the Saraswati as Ghaggar and the lower course as the Hakra River, while some others call the Saraswati of the weak and declining stage as the Ghaggar.

Ancient courses of Saraswati river in Bahawalpur province (Cholistan desert)


he river was obliterated within a short span, in the Quarternary period of the Cenozoic era, through a combination of destructive catastrophic events. The decline of the river appears to have commenced between 5000 and 3000 B.C., probably precipitated by a major tectonic event in the Siwalik Hills of Sirmur region. Geological studies reveal that the massive landslides and avalanches were caused by destabilising tectonic events which occurred around the beginning of Pleistocene, about 1.7 million years ago in the entire Siwalik domain, extending from Potwar in Pakistan to Assam in India. Those disturbances, linked to uplift of the Himalayas, continued intermittently. Presumably, one of these events must have severed the glacier connection and cut off the supply of melt water from the glacier to this river; as a result, the Saraswati became non-perennial and dependent on monsoon rains. The diversion of the river water through separation of its tributaries led to the conversion of the river as disconnected lakes and pools; ultimately it was reduced to a dry channel bed. Therefore, the river Saraswati has not disappeared but only dried up in some stretches.

Source : http://www.gisdevelopment.net