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Written by Dr. S. Kalyanaraman
Update: 6$^th$ July 1995.
The objective of this rather long monograph is to promote
an understanding of and further researches into delineating
the courses of the `lost' Sarasvati river from Siwalik ranges
to the Rann of Kutch (sAgara) and to gain deeper
insights into an ancient civilization that flourished on the
Sarasvati and Indus river valleys circa 3200 BC.
The intent is to circulate this to geologists and
scholars interested in exploring further into
the ancient cultures which flourished on the Sarasvati river --
similar to those interested in exploring into the secrets of the
tombs of the Pharaohs of Egyptian civilization.
Those who have further questions or inquiries can contact
the scholars who have studied this subject deeply
(e.g. Prof. Gregory Possehl, at Upenn and others mentioned
in the bibliography). I shall be grateful to receive critical
Dr. S. Kalyanaraman
20/7 Warren Road, Mylapore, Madras 600004 India
Tel. 011-91-44-493-6288; Fax. 011-9144-499-6380
EMAIL (till august 95): email@example.com
ORGANIZATION OF THE MONOGRAPH
The monograph is organized in five parts:
1. Analysis of archaeological and other evidence on the extent of the
Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Indus-Sarasvati river valleys.
2. Extracts from bibliographical references (mainly Landsat
imagery analysis and studies in earth sciences) providing leads to
determing the course of the ancient, `lost' Sarasvati river.
3. Rigvedic(Rk,Rca,or rk) hymns on Sarasvati.
4. The `cult object' on Harappan seals
5. Frequently asked questions and some answers on this and related topics.
The monograph leads to a hypothesis which will require deeper studies
to decipher the script used on seals and sealings found in many sites:
Indus-Sarasvati civilization flourished circa 2500 to
1700 BC on the river valleys of Indus and Sarasvati. The drying-up
of the Sarasvati river led to migrations of people.
The search for the language of the times may have to be based on
identification of the ancient morphemes,
starting from a study of comparative morphemes
(with similar sounds and similar meanings) of the
present-day languages spoken in South Asia.
1. Analysis of archaeological and other evidence on the extent of the
Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Indus-Sarasvati river valleys.
I was pleasantly surprised to find in the National Atlas of India
(Hindi), Calcutta, 1957, Govt. of India publication;
Bharat-BhUracanA map depicting Sarasvati-Ghaggar in dotted lines
apparently to denote dried-up river beds!
Given the present state of archaeological knowledge gained
since the Harappan site discovery in the 1920's, it's time
to change the name of the maritime Harappan Civilization to
INDUS-SARASVATI CIVILIZATION. The rationale for this
suggestion based on locus, is provided and a number of research
areas are proposed, for consideration by indologists:
Prof. Ahmad Hasan Dani writes (Ed. INDUS CIVILIZATION -NEW
PERSPECTIVES, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, 1981, pp.3-
12): `The Indus Civilization is today famed for its two
cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro ... Harappa ... its
excavation also started as early as 1920-21 ... On comparing
the material from the two places Sir John Marshall argued
that the site of Harappa ``will probably never prove so
lucrative as that of Mohenjodaro, for the reason that it was
further removed from the main centre of the Indus culture in
Sind.'' (An. Rep. of the Arch. Survey of India, 1923-24,
pp.47-48). He opined that this civilization ``was developed
in the Indus Valley itself and was probably as distinctive
of that region, as the civilization of the Pharoahs was
distinctive of the Nile.'' To him goes the credit of coining
the term The Indus Civilization. But his geographic horizon
no longer holds good and the term deriving therefrom is open
to question ... . The wide-spread nature of the Indus
Civilization throughout Panjab and Sind had already expanded
the meaning of the original term. Still later in the post-
1947 period the Indus Civilization sites have been
discovered in large number outside the present Indus region
right up to the very borders of Yamuna in the north-east
(Alamgirpur on the Hindon, a tributary of the Yamuna about
30 miles north of Delhi), along the dried-up bed of the
river Ghaggar in northern part of Rajasthan, and in Gujrat
right upto the mouths of Narbada and Tapti rivers'.
Harappa was a `city' site; but the rivers had nurtured
a large number of `village' sites. I propose that on geographical
grounds and based on the cumulative knowledge gained about
this maritime civilization through the excavations of the
decades since 1950's which have discovered that the culture spanned
two great river valleys, the name of this most extensive
proto-historic civilization should be changed to
INDUS-SARASVATI CIVILIZATION. This suggestion is made
after careful, objective deliberation and introspection based
on research pursued for over 20 years.
``Evidence from many sources, including that of archaeological
remains associated with old river courses, indicates that a major
river, stemming mainly from the same sources as the present Sutlej,
flowed through Northern Rajasthan, Bahawalpur and Sind--
to the southeast of the present course of the Sutlej and the Indus --
in the third to second millennium BC. This river, known as the
Sarawati in its upper course, at different times either joined the
lower course of the Indus in Sind, or found its way independently
into the Arabian Sea via Rann of Kutch.'' (Allchin, B., Goudie, A.,
and Hegde, K., 1978, The prehistory and palaeogeography of the
Great Indian Desert, London, Academic Press, p. 198).
Ghaggar which reached the Hakra branch in Bahawalpur, is
traditionally identified with the Sarasvati river. [cf. Sir
Aurel Stein's explorations in the valley: Ancient India,
no.5, 1949, pp. 12-30; A. Ghosh discovered 25 Harappan sites
(Indian Archaeology--a Review, 1962-63) in the ``region
beginning right from the Pakistan border (eastwards) up to
midway between Hanumangarh (bhaTner or bhattinagara) and
Suratgarh in the Sarasvati valley and about 25 kms. east of
Bhadra in the Drishadvati valley''; Dr. Mughal discovered
more than 300 sites in the Bahawalpur area)]. Banawali
excavated by Bisht is 15 km. northwest of Fatehabad, near
the Sarasvati river and about 120 km. east of Kalibangan.
Bhagwanpura, Dist. Kurukshetra, is located on the right bank
of the Sarasvati river south of Rupar and is a site
excavated by Joshi.
The archaeology of Indus-Sarasvati sites can be superimposed
on the ancient geography of the region as gleaned from
literary texts. That a script was used in this civilization
can be linked to the name of a script used in historical
periods in the region (without any apriori assumptions that
the brAhmI script is derived from this ancient script).
Vedic and epic tradition on the river is concordant with the
archaeological/geographical (and now landsat satellite) attestations.
Etymologically, sarasvati means `abundance of lakes (saras)'. The
synonym of sarasvatI (goddess of vAk = speech or language)
is brAhmI which is the name given to the early scripts used
in aSOka's epigraphs of circa 300 B.C. .
The sUkta 6.61 of the Rigveda is a dedication to sarasvatI
river; sUkta 75 is the nadi sUkta dedicated to sindhu river.
The trio: drshadvatI, Apaya and sarasvatI are extolled in Rk
3.23.4. Other Rks dedicated to the river are: 1.3.10,
1.3.11, 1.3.12, 2.30.8, 7.95.1, 8.21.17 and 18. References
are made to yajnas performed by king citra on the banks of
the river.[Apaya may be a branch of the Chitang river; this may
also have yielded the sememe: ab, Ap = waters].
BaudhAyana's DharmasUtra (I,1,2,9) describes MadhyadEsa as
lying to the east of the region where sarasvatI river
disappears, to the west of the black forest: kAlakavan, to
the north of the pAripAtra mountain and to the south of the
MahAbhArata (BhIshmaparva, 6.49,50): seven divyagangas:
nalinI, pAvanI, sarasvatI, jambu, sItA, gangA and sindhu.
The epic locates kurukshetra to the south of sarasvatI and
to the north of DrshadvatI (iii,83.204). [This area is
defined as Brahmavarta in Manu Smriti 2.17]. The doab
formed by these two rivers thus becomes the locus of the
Bharata war of kurukshetra (fought on five lakes: samanta-
pancaka; said to be the northern sacrificial altar of
brahmA: MB, Vana, lxxxiii). [Alberuni found, in 1000 A.D., a
holy lake in Kurukshetra]. The epic provides an account of
Balarama's sojourn along this river dotted with centers of
learning and austerities. [The dividing line of Drshadvati
is at Chunar near Varanasi; the modern name is Rakshi].
The dried-up bed -- wadi -- of sarasvatI might have constituted the
great road between hastinApur and dvArAvatI (dwAraka). Part
of this road would have constituted the road from Sind to
Delhi via Bahawalpur, MaroT, Anupgarh, Suratgarh, Dabli,
KAlibaggAN, BhaTner (Hanumgarh), Tibi and SIrsa
suggested by Major F. Mackeson in 1844 to the British
government (Report on the Route from Seersa to Bahawulpore,
JAS BENG., XLII, Pt.I, 1844, No. 145 to 153)]. A synonym of
sIrsa is sarsuti < sarasvatI; at this place, about 100 miles below
Rassauli, a fortress was built.
Hieun Tsang's reference to `five indies' is amplified by
Cunningham to define northern India to comprise the Punjab
proper including Kashmir and the adjoining hill states,
eastern Afghanistan beyond Indus and the Sutlej states to
the west of the sarasvatI river.
Geographically, the sarasvatI basin can be traced to the
currently known: ghaggar-nALI-hakDA-rainI-nArA-wAhindA-
mihrAn-purAN channels. Ghaggar might have been a stream that
rose in the Siwaliks and that joined the sarasvatI. This
network runs parallel to the Indus across Sind. The river
flowed from the Himalayas to the Rann of Kutch. [cf. Oldham,
C.F., JRAS, 1893, p.49 on the Lost river of the Indian
desert; Sir A. Burnes, Memoir n the Eastern Branch of the
River Indus, given an Account of the alterations produced on
it by an earthquake, also a Theory of the formation of the
Runn, TRANS. RAS, III,1834, pp. 550-88].
Geologically, the entire sarasvatI river bed, and the arm of the
Arabian sea (formerly spanning into saline Ranns of kutch) into
which the river fell are on an earth-quake belt; an earthquake
could have upraised this entire river-sea-bed profile,
drying up the river. [This may explain the formation of the
Thar desert on the left banks of the river in earlier
earthquakes; also, perhaps of the Thal desert in Pakistan.
Did some tracts of the thar desert support cultivation in
ancient times? Geological surveys do indicate subsoil water in some
tracts. Even today, over 2 million people in Rajasthan live in these tracts!
The Sanskrit name is maru-sthalI. cf. Tamil maruta-nilam??].
Was this event of the dried-up sarasvatI linkable to the 12
years of drought in the Santanu reign -- an anecdote in the Mahabharata?
Could this explain the migrations of the Indus-Sarasvati people to other parts
of the sub-continent?
Another possibility is that the head-waters of
sarasvatI were captured by sutlej (sutudrI) shrinking the
water-volume carried by sarasvatI. [cf. H.Raychaudhari,
The Sarasvati, in Science and Culture, VIII, 12, June 1943;
Studies in Indian Antiquities, Calcutta University, 1958,
pp. 121-41]. Yamuna is also considered a tributary of the
sarasvatI (Wadia, D.N., Geology of India, London, 1949, p.41).
Could the Indo-Aryan migrations, attested in a number of
scholarly studies, have been caused by the (gradual?)
drying-up of the river?
Linguistically, was this Indus\-Sarasvati a region which had
synthesized the Indo-Aryan (Gypsy, Dardic, Panjabi,
Gujarati), Dravidian (Brahui, Tamil) and Munda language
streams, before internal migrations began circa 1700 B.C.?
Was this a south asian linguistic area, circa 2500 B.C.? In
the lingua franca, was the river called khal = stream
(Tamil)? [khAyal (Malayalam); khADI (Gujarati); khAl
(Hindi)]? Was drshadvatI like gangA, a term absorbed from
Munda? [The absorptiion of the Dravidian retroflex sounds render
the Indo-Aryan tongues to be distinct from the IE;
also, cf. references to Indian sememes in Turner's comparative
indo-aryan dictionary and my south asian dictionary].
What are the dates of the formation of the Rann of Kutch?
What are the dates of the drying-up of the Sarasvati river?
Do the vivid landsat pictures of the lost river skirting the Indian desert
convey enough information to unravel the geological causes
of the drying-up?
Maybe, further researches to firm up these dates will hold a clue
to unravel the apparent discontinuity between Indus\-Sarasvati
proto-historic culture (circa 2500-1700 B.C.) and the linguistic
evidence of the historical periods (circa 300 B.C.) of the region.
[Recent excavations in Banawali and Dholavira seem to establish
the continuity of settlements bridging this apparent gap between
circa 1700 and 300 B.C. belying some theories about
the abrupt disappearance of the Harappan tradition,
say, caused by floods on the Indus?]
2. Extracts from bibliographical references (mainly Landsat
imagery analysis and studies in earth sciences) providing leads to
determing the course of the ancient, `lost' Sarasvati river.
The following extracts, principally from principally earth sciences and
LANDSAT literature establish the existence of Sarasvati river
contiguous to the Indus river valley and the area of Rann of Kutch
and the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat. This region is studded with
many Harappan culture sites.
Harappa is a site on the west bank of Ravi; Kalibangan is a site
on the right bank of Sutlej; Amri is a site on the west bank of
Indus (close to the Arabian sea); Banawali is located 15 km
northwest of Fatehbad, near the Sarasvati river and about
120 km east of Kalibangan; Lothal and Rangpur are sites
below the Rann of Kutch.
LANDSAT PHOTOGRAPHS ANALYZED
Bimal Ghose et al (1979) use photographs taken in 1972. Plate V
traces the wide valley of the Sarasvati running from Suratgarh through
Anupgarh to Fort Abbas and Ahmadpur East. From Anupgarh another
wide belt of discontinuous patches of dark grey tone runs southwestward
upto Sakhi. From Sakhi, the remnant of a former valley can be traced
towards the west ... the imagery reveals the presence of a narrow zone of
saline/alkaline fields, partly obliterated by the overlying sand dunes,
extending upto Khangarh. To the south of Khangarh, a narrow strip of
green vegetation, producing a slightly darker tone than the surroundings,
can be identified. It runs from Islamgarh, through Dharmi Khu, Ghantial,
Shahgarh, Babuwali and Rajar to Mihal Mungra. This was the course of
the Sarasvati from the Himalaya to the Rann of Kutch after the river
severed relations with Luni. South of Mihal Mungra, the course could
be traced up to the present Hakra channel and there are indications of its
having even crossed the Hakra channel (Plate VI). This signifies that
the course of the old Saraswati might have been somewhere to the
west of the present Hakra ... The other major courses of the Saraswati
could be identified further to the west, through Mithra and Sandh,
the remnants of which are now known as the Raini and the Wahindaa rivers.
Here also the river shifted its course several times, and, at one time,
flowed to the east of the Wahinda river, through Mundo. Finally, the
river ceased to flow southward and met the Sutlej to the west of
Ramasamy, Bakliwal and Verma (1991) show satellite photographs
mosaiced, planimetrically controlled ... Figure 1 show the last tongue of the
Saraswati river ... The study of remotely sensed data in the desert tract
of Rajasthan shows that there are plenty of paleochannels with well
sprung-up tentacles throughout the desert (figure 3). On the northern
edge of the Thar-Great Indian desert at the Ganganagar-Anupgarh
plains a well-developed set of paleochannels are clearly discernible
in satellite photographs (figures 1 and 4). Bakliwal et al (1988) have
explained that these well sprung-up paleochannels are traces of the
mighty Saraswati river which once ruled the desert. Yashpal et al (1980)
have argued that the paleochannels observed in the Anupgarh plains are the
arm of the Saraswati river, which has been displaced by the present day
Gaggar river ... that the Saraswati river once flowed close to the Aravalli hill
ranges and met the Arabian Sea in the Rann of Kutch, that it has
migrated towards the west, the north-west and the north and has ultimately
got lost in the Anupgarh plains ...
Yash Pal et al (1980) present in Figure 3 a synoptic view provided by
the Landsat of the northwestern Indian subcontinent showing 6-8 km
wide paleochannel of the Saraswati ... ; Figure 4 shows the old bed
of the Sarasvati river ... Figure 7 shows a synoptic view of the Indus
valley showing possible course of the Sarasvati beyond Marot through
the Nara into the Rann of Kutch ...
RING STONES IN GULF OF CAMBAY IN ANCIENT TIME
Alex Rogers, 1870. A few remarks on the Geology of the country
surrounding the Gulf of Cambay in Western India,
Quarterly Journal of Geological Society of London,
26: 118-124 who was perhaps among the earliest observers of the
geology of the Gulf of Cambay (close to Lothal), points out that from the
geological formation of the country bordering on the Rann,
it appeared that the drainage of the PanjAb once flowed into it:
`` ... The rapid silting up of the Gulf of Cambay gives particular interest to
an inquiry into the geological conditions which probably shaped it in remote
ages ... (The head of the Gulf) comprises within itself te Great Runn of
Cutch ... primary or metamorphic rocks are traceable in its immediate vicinity
only in a small tract on its west coast ... even the highest points of the
granite peaks sho signs of weathering, and probably also of the erosive
action of waves ... Many considerations point to the existence in former
aagers of some large river flowing down from the north, and falling into the
Indian Ocean somewhere in the position of the present Gulf of Cambay: and it
is not improbable that that river may have been the Indus. It may have been
that the original course of the Indus from the Punjab was in a more
south-easterly direction than that of the present day ... (In this Gulf),
coinciding to a large extent with the black-soil belt, there can be clearly
traced a natural depression in the surface of the country for some twenty
miles from the head of the Gulf, terminating in a shallow lake of brackish
water called the Null ... Shells of the genus CERITHIUM, an estuarine form,
are found lying loose in the black soil many miles from this point (Bhogava);
and the records of the old Revenue Survey of Goozerat state that there were
formerly found in the Null large stones with holes through them, which had
evidently served as anchors for boats of some size ... [cf. the ring stones
found in Mohenjo-daro] ... there is historical and well-know proof of the
alteration of the level of the larger of these salt flats as the consequence
of an earthquake in AD 1819 ... only a much more violent action would have
separated the laterites of the high and low levels ... this rock, again,
appears at precisely the same level on the opposite sides of valleys in the
Concan and Deccan, giving ample proof of dunudation ... at the time (some of
the Vedas) were composed, the Suruswuttee, the most easterly of the Punjab
rivers, which now loses itsels in the desert of Rajpootana, flowed into the
Indian Ocean. This confirms to come extent the theory of the case of the
alluvial deposit at the head of the Gulf of Cambay.''
Raverty, H.G.Major, Bombay Army, 1893, The Mihran of Sind and its tributaries:
a geographical and historical study, Journal of Asiatic Society of
Bengal, Vol. lxi, Pt. 2, pp. 155-297:
`` ... to notice some of the numerous fluctuations in the courses of the Sindhu,
Ab-i-Sind, or Indus, and of the rivers of the Panj-ab. The changes in the
courses of two of these rivers, together with the drying up of the Hakra,
Wahindah, or Bahindah were so considerable that they reduced a vast
extent of once fruitful country to a howling wilderness, and thus several
flourishing cities and towns became ruined or deserted by their
inhabitants ... the old course of the Biah, or `Bias' previous to its junction
with the Sutlaj, when both rivers lost their names and became
Hariari , Nili or Gharah ... why the army of Islam marched along
the bases of the mountains, for the route was long, and the way
by Sasruti and Marut was nearer? He (Mangu Khan) was answered that the
numerous fissures on the banks of the river rendered the way impossible
for the army ... Sarasti is the ancient name of Sirsa: Sursuti is the name
of a river, the ancient Saraswati ... Sutlaj was a tributary of the Hakra or
Wahindah ... Hakra ... appears to be the modified form of Sagara,
the letter S being pronounced H in Rajputana and Sindh ... Sagar is the
Sanskrit for `ocean', `sea' etc., and it is still known as the Sind-Sagar near
the sea coast. Tod calls it the `Sankra', which is another form of the name;
and it is called Sankrah in the treaty entered into by Nadir Shah, and
Muhammad Shah, Badshah of Dihli, when ceding all the territory
west of it to the Persians ... Hakra did once run through the so-called
`Indian Desert' ... Ghag-gar, the Sursuti and the Chitang were also the
tributaries of Sind-Sagar or Wahindah or Hakra ... Mansuriyat ... this city
is situated among the branches of the Mihran river, and from that place
the river unites with the ocean by two channels. One is near the town
of Loharanj, and the other bends round towards the east in the
confines of Kaj (Kachch) and is called the Sind Shakar (Sind-Sagarah)
which means the The Sea of Sind. The river Sarasat unites with the ocean
to the east of Suminath. This last names river is, of course, the Saraswati,
which falls into he sea near Pattan Som-nath, not the classical river,
the tributary of the Ghag-ghar, described farther on, the sacred river
of the Brahmans ... At Thatha the Sind is called Mihran ...''
Leshnik, Lawrence S., 1968, The Harappan Port of Lothal: Another View,
American Anthropologist, 70, 1968, pp. 911-921:
`` ... The Volkerwanderung that brought the Harappans to Lothal
(2450 BC) is conceived of as a sea passage from the Indus ... This
dating is, however, questionable and exploration of the Kutch area
has brought to light a number of Harappan sites there (Joshi, J.P. 1966,
Exploration in Northern Kutch, Journal of the Oriental Institute,
Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, 16: 62-67), so the arrival-
by-sea theory will have to be reconsidered ... In Mohenjo-daro there is
a linear representation of a man using the shaduf, so that its presence
is documented for the Harappan civilization as well ... Marshall describes
the Mohenjo-daro ringstones as having slots that were used to fasten
stones to something that passed through the central aperture. This could
have been the arm of a shaduf, to which the stone weights were lashed by
rope or leather thongs. The shaduf is still employed near Lothal, although
the stones are no longer pierced, but simply secured with rope. Pierced
stones continue however to be used in this way in Eastern India ... A note
on the Lothal tank aas an irrigation reservoir ... ''
R.D. Oldham, 1886, On probable changes in the geography of the Punjab and its
rivers - a historico-geographical study, J. Asiatic Soc. Bengal, 55: 322-343:
`` ... we have now seen that a dry river bed can be traaced, practically
continuously, from Tohana in Hissar district to the Eastern Narra in Sind ...
C.F. Oldham, 1893, The Saraswati and the lost river of the Indian Desert,
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, pp. 48-76:
`` ... local legends assert (that Sarasvati) once flowed through the desert to
the sea. In confirmation of these traditions, the channel referred to, which
is called Hakra or Sotra, can be traced through the Bikanir and Bhawulpur
states into Sind, and thence onwards to the Rann of Kach ... attested by the
ruins everywhere overspread what is now an arid sandy waste. Throughout this
tract are scattered mounds, marking the sites of cities and towns. And there
are strongholds still remaining ... Amongst these ruins are found, not only
the huge bricks used by the Hindus in the remote past, but others of a much
later make ... Freshwater shells, exactly similar to those now seen in the
PanjAb rivers, are to be found in this old river-bed and upon its banks ...
After entering Sind the Hakra turns southward, and becomes continuous with
the old river-bed generally known as Narra. This channel, which bears also
the names of Hakra or Sagara, Wahind and Dahan, is to be traced onward to the
Rann of Kach ... Tha Hakra varies in different parts of its course from about
two to six miles in width, which is sufficient for a very large river ... The
only river near Marot was the Hakra ...
LOST COURSES OF THE SARASVATI
Bimal Ghose, Amal Kar and Zahid Husain, 1979, The lost courses of the
Sarasvati river in the Great Indian Desert: New evidence from Landsat
Imagery, Geographical Journal, 145: 446-451:
``Interpretation of LANDSAT imagery and field investigation in the western
part of Jaisalmer district in India have revealed some hitherto unknown
abandoned courses of the former Saraswati river. It has been suggested that
these courses were alive before the Saraswati occupied the Raini or the
Wahinda courses, and contributed to the alluviation of the region. The
subsurface water in the region is contributed mainly by the Himalayan
precipitation flowing subterraneously through the former courses of the
Saraswati ... .''
RIVER MIGRATIONS IN WESTERN INDIA
Ramasamy, SM, PC Bakliwal and RP Verma, 1991, Remote Sensing and River
migrations in Western India, Int. J. Remote Sensing, Vol. 12, No. 12,
``The art of remote sensing has opened up many vistas in the study of river
migration as satellite photographs, both in their normal and digitally
enhanced modes, vividly show the rivers and their migratory signatures. The
rivers migrate for various reasons amongst which tectonic movement is one of
the main causes ... The study has shown that Western India sow considerable
signs of Quaternary tectonics ...
`` ... (Landsat photographs, on a 1:1 000 000 scale) ... the palaeochannels were
interpreted, as exhibiting linear, curvilinear and loop-like features with
typical black ribbon-like stripes ... The Landsat imagery studies show that
the Indus river has a very wide flood plain on either side of its course up
to a maximum width of 100-120 km in the east and south-east. To have such a
wide flood plain on only one side shows that the Indus river has
preferentially migrated towards the north-west in the northern parts and
towards the west in the central and southern parts. The study of remotely
sensed data in the desert tract of Rajastan shows that there are plenty of
paleochannels with well sprung-up tentacles throughout the desert. On the
northern edge of the Thar-Great Indian desert at the Ganganagar-Anupgarh
plains a well-developed set of palaeochannels are clearly discernible in
satellite photographs. (Bakliwal PC , Ramasamy, SM, and Grover, AK, 1983, Use
of remote sensing in identification of possible areas for groundwater,
hydrocarbons and minerals in the Thar desert, Western India, Proceeding
volume of the International conference on prospecting in areas of desert
terrain. The Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Publications, 14-17 April,
Rabat, Morocco, 121-129) have explained that these well sprung-up
palaeochannels are traces of the mighty Saraswati river which once ruled the
desert ... . (these and) the present study show clearly that the Saraswati
river once flowed close to the Aravalli hill ranges and met the Arabian sea
in the Rann of Kutch, that it has migrated towards the west, the north-west
and the north and has ultimately got lost in the Anupgarh plains ...
`` ... When the Aravalli hills are traced back to the foothills of the
Himalayas the water divide of the Yamuna and Saraswati rivers becomes
apparent. Hence, it follows that the drifting of the Saraswati river from its
easterly flow towards the Great Indian Desert would have been initiated by
such a rise in the Aravalli mountains and that due to the subsequent
Luni-Sukri cymatogenic arching, the Saraswati migration towards the
north-west would have been accelerated ...
`` ... it seems that climatic changes have also played a subordinating role in
shifting the (Sarasvati) river towards the north. When the Saraswati flowed
in a southwesterly direction it was flowing against the northeasterly moving
sand advance in the Thar desert. It can be concluded, therefore, that the
Saraswati river could not overcome such a sand advance and hence that it
started drifting towards the north with a rotational migration in a clockwise
direction until ultimately it was buried in the Anupgarh plains ... ''
P.C. Bakliwal and A.K. Grover, 1988, Signatures and migration of Saraswati
river in Thar desert, Western India, Rec. Geol. Surv. Ind., 116: Pts. 3-8,
`` ... Remote sensing study of the Great Indian Desert reveals numerous
signatures of palaeochannels in the form of curvilinear and meandering
courses with feeble to contrasting tonal variations. The Saraswati river,
which is believed to be lost in the desert, could be traced through these
palaeochannels as a migratory river. Its initial course flowed close to the
Aravalli ranges and successive six stages took west and northwesterly shifts
till it coincides with the dry bed of Ghaggar river. The groundwater,
archaeological and pedological data with selected ground truths also
corroborate these findings. The migration of river Saraswati seems to be
caused by tectonic disturbances in Hardwar-Delhi ridge zone, Luni-Surki
lineament, Cambay Graben and Kutch fault facilitated by contrasting climatic
variations. The stream piracy by Yamuna river at later stage is responsible
for the ultimate loss of water and drying up of the Saraswati river ... ``
SECRETS OF THE THAR DESERT
Singhvi AK and Kar, Amal eds., 1992, Thar Desert in Rajasthan: Land,
Man and Environment, Bangalore, Geological Society of India, Bangalore:
`` ... In the south it (Thar desert) has a sharp natural boundary with the
world's largest saline waste - the Great Rann of Kahchh, while in the north
the riparian sub-Himalayan plains define its boundary ... Quaternary
continental sediments in the Thar desert of Rajasthan comprise a succession
of fluvial, fluvio-lacusrine and aeolian deposits ... The neogene tectonic
movements ... are considered as responsible for controlling the origin,
configuration and development of basins of deposition ... Occurrence of
aligned earthquake epicentres of different dates from 1879 to 1976 AD along
it (Luni-Sukri lineament from the Rann to the Sambhar lake) in the Kachchh
area suggests its neotectonic potentiality ...
`` ... The dry bed of the Ghaggar is conspicuous on the satellite imagery of
north Rajasthan and adjoining parts of Pakistan as a continuous wide belt
running through Suragarh and Anupgarh in India to Fort Abbas and Ahmadpur
East (in Pakistan) [(Ghose et al., 1979, The lost courses of the Sarasvati
river in the Great Indian Desert - new evidence from Landsat imageries,
Geographical Journal, 145 (3): 446-451); Balkiwal, PC and Grover, AK, 1988,
Signatures and migration of Sarasvati river in Thar desert, western India,
Rec. Geol. Surv. India, 116 (3-8)]. Some south-flowing earlier courses of
this stream were detected through the western part of Jaisalmer district and
in the Bikaner-Sardarshahr tract further east. Buried courses of another
Himalayan stream, R. Drishadvati (which was also a tributary to the
Saraswati) were found in the Churu-Nagaur tract. The rivers had several
tributaries joining them from the Aravallis and other rocky areas within the
desert. Recent SEM analysis of the Quaternary sediments of the northeastern
part of the desert indicate considerable glacial, as well as fluvial,
transport of some of the sediments [Raghav, KS, 1991, Quaternary history of a
part of the northeast fringe of the Thar desert of India, Ann. Arid Zone,
30(4)]. The survival of the Saraswati-Drishadvati courses depended to a large
extent on the perennial supply of water from the mightier Sutlej (the Satadru
of Vedic literature) which shifted its course several times in the
sub-Himalayan plains due o neotectonism, change of grade etc. (Valdiya, KS,
1989, Neotectonic implication of collision of Indian and Asian plates, Ind.
J. Geology, 61: 1-13). A detailed account of former streams in the region is
provided by Kar (Kar, A., 1992, Drainage desiccation, water erosion and
desertification in northwest India, in: Desertification in the Thar, Sahara
and Sahel Regions, AK Sen ed., Scientific Publishers, Jodhpur). Some of the
buried stream segments are potential ground water aquifers.. The course of
the Saraswati to the west of Jaisalmer has an estimated reserve of about 3000
mcm water awaiting a judicious exploitation ...
`` ... Mughal M.R. (1982, Recent archaeological research in the Cholistan
desert, in: Harappan Civilization, GL Possehl, ed., Oxford, pp. 85-95) has
located a large number of settlements of the Hakra Ware culture, dating to
the fourth millennium BC., and of the Harappan culture, dated to the third
millennium BC, on this (Ghaggar-Hakra) river in Pakistan. Nearly two hundred
settlements of the Harappan culture have been located by Indian
archaeologists on the Ghaggar river and is tributaries in Punjab, Haryana and
northern Rajasthan [Ghosh, A., 1952, The Rajasthan Desert - its
archaeological aspect, Bulletin of the National Inst. Sci., I : 37-42; Bhan,
S., 1973, The sequence and spread of prehistoric cultures in the upper
Saraswati basin in: Radiocarbon and Indian Archaeology, DP Agrawal and A.
Ghosh eds., TIFR, Bombay, pp. 252-263] ... Kalibangan was abandoned at the
beginning of the second millennium BC., probably due to the drying up of the
river and shifting of the Sutlaj away from it (Lal. B.B., 1979, Kalibangan and
Indus civilization, in: Essays in Indian Protohistory, DP Agrawal and DK
Chakrabarti eds., BR Publ., Delhi, pp. 65-97).
Bhan, Suraj., 1973, The sequence and spread of prehistoric cultures in the upper
Saraswati basin in: Radiocarbon and Indian Archaeology, DP Agrawal and A.
Ghosh eds., TIFR, Bombay, pp. 252-263
`` ... The Kalibangan I culture (c. 2300 - 2100 BC) ... The Siswal A ware was
recovered from 16 sites in the south-western part of Haryana adjoining
northern Rajasthan. It extended to Jind and Paoli in the north-eat. The
comparative preponderance of the ware in the Drsadvati valley suggests
the preference of the pre-Harappan folk for smaller river valleys as in
north Rajasthan ... But the absence of the Late Harappan ware from north
Rajasthan and the adjoining regions o Haryana (south of Vanawali near
Fatehabad in the Sarasvati valley and Alipur Kharar near Hansi in the
Drsadvati valley) suggests the survival of the Harappa culture in our
region (as also in the north-eastern Panjab and western UP), after the
lower and mid zones of the Sarasvati basin had been deserted. The desertion
of the semi-arid zone of north Rajasthan and Bahawalpur by the
Harappans or the Harappa-influenced kindred folks, and their
subsequent expansion further north-east seems to have been forced
by the growing desiccation of the Sarasvati basin consequent upon
the changes in the courses of the Sarasvati, Drsadvati and the
Yamuna rivers. It was this second phase of the Harappan expansion
which was largely responsible for the colonization of the ancient
Madhya Desa which ensued with the settlements of Daulatpur I,
Alamgirpur I etc ... With more than 90 OCP or Late (degenerate)
Harappan sites reported from the doab it would be difficult to agree
with Agrawal (1967-68) that the doab was first colonized by the
iron-using PGW people.''
Yash Pal, Baldev Sahai, R.K.Sood and D.P. Agrawal, Space Applications Centre,
and PRL, Ahmedabad, 1980, Remote sensing of the `lost' Sarasvati river,:
Proc. Indan Acad. Sci. (Earth and Planetary Sci.), Vol. 89, No. 3, Nov. 1980,
`` ... delineation of the palaeochannels of the Satluj, the Yamuna and the
Ghaggar to trace the `lost' Sarasvat. Study of Landsat imagery shows that
the Satluj once flowed into the Ghaggar; it is also probable the Yamuna too
was flowing into the Ghaggar river at the same time. The bed of this river is
traceable upto Marot, from where it is likely to have extended through
Hakra/Nara bed to the Rann of Kutch. The present dried bed of the Ghaggar was
thus part of a major river, anciently known as Sarasvati. Analysis of
satellite imagery supports the above hypothesis regarding the course of the
`lost' Sarasvati ...
`` ... Satluj and Yamuna are perennial rivers ... the rivers Ghaggar, Sarasvati,
Markanda and Chautang all rise from the Siwalik Hills and are non-perennial.
They flow mainly during the monsoon. At present none of them reaches the sea
or joins any major river as a tributary ...
`` ... The sharp westward right-angled bend in the course of Satluj is
suggestive of its diversion in the past, as at the point of river capture or
stream diversion similar elbows develop ... There is a sudden widening of the
Ghaggar Valley about 25 km. south of Patiala ... can be explained only if a
major tributary was joining Ghaggar at this place. The satellite imagery does
show a major palaeochannel joining the Ghaggar here ... Our observations are
supported by the field data of Singh (Gurdev Singh, 1952, The Geographer,
5,27) who mentions a channel starting near Ropar and leading towards Tohana
(29.35N, 75.55E). The area along this old course of the Satluj is called
`dhaia' meaning an upland or high bank ... It might have required only a
little tectonic movement to disturb its previous course and force it into its
present channel ... Our studies show that the Satluj was the main tributary of
the Ghaggar and that subsequently the tectonic movements may have forced the
Satluj westward and the Ghaggar dried. Wilhelmy (H., 1969, Z. Geomorphol.
Suppl., 8, 76) considered ... the second alternative, i.e., river capture. The
Satudri (Satluj) might have been a tributary of the Vipasa (Beas) and through
headward erosion captured the waters of the river coming down the Himalayas
near Ropar. Tectonic movements may have aided the river capture ... .
`` ... the Landsat imagery of the Indus system and it appears that the
confluence of the Satluj with the Indus may not be an ancient feature. The
palaeochannel of the river Beas, which is quite conspicuous in Landsat
imagery, joined the Indus independent of the Satluj. There is a distinct
palaeochannel which seems to suggest that the Satluj flowed through the Nara
directly into the Rann of Kutch ...
`` ... The ancient bed of the Ghaggar has a constant width of about 6 to 8 km.
from Shatrana in Punjab to Marot in Pakistan. The bed stands out very clearly
having a dark tone in the black-and-white imagery and reddish one in false
colour composites. There is a clear palaeochannel southeast of the river
Markanda which joins the ancient bed of the Ghaggar near Shatrana ... Another
channel which corresponds to the present Chautang (Drishadvati) seems to join
the Ghaggar near Suratgarh. Near Anupgarh the ancient Ghaggar bed bifurcates
and both the plaeochannels come to an abrupt end; the upper one terminates
near Marot and the lower one near Beriwala. These two terminal channels of
the Ghaggar seem to disappear in a depression which is suggested by salt
encrustation and the physiography of the area ...
`` ... Palaeo-Yamuna was alive during the Painted Grey Ware (PGW) period (c.
800-400 BC) as indicated by the distribution of the PGW sites on its banks
(Gupta SP etal., 1977, Ecology and archaeology of Western India eds. DP
Agrawal and BM Pande, New Delhi, Concept Pub., p. 79). Both the Chautang and
the Ghaggar beds have archaeological mounds on their banks (Pande BM, ibid,
p.55). The Ghaggar continued to be a live river during the pre-Harappan (c.
2500-2200 BC) and the Harappan times (c. 2200-1700 BC). Even during the PGW
times, there is some indication of habitation along the palaeochannel, though
the PGW mounds follow a very narrow river bed, perhaps indicating a dwindling
water supply. The archaeological evidence for dating the Chautang is not very
definite yet, though the late Harappan mounds along it appear to be a clear
indication that it was a living river during at least the late Harappan time
(c. 1700-1000 BC) ...
`` ... For miles and miles around Marot one finds numerous place names with a
suffix toba, which in the local language means a playa (or rann) ... It is
obviously improbable for such a mighty river to vanish into a shallow
depression (or khadins in the local languages) in its heyday. There is,
therefore, a good possibility that the Ghaggar flowed into the Nara and
further into the Rann of Kutch without joining the Indus ...
`` ... If the bore-hole samples from these areas are analysed, one is sure to
come across mineralogical compositions reflecting the signatures of the
ancient Satluj and the Palaeo-Yamuna when they flowed through the Sarasvati
bed ... A multidisciplinary approach employing archaeological, mineralogical,
chemical and thermoluminescence, combined with remote sensing techniques can
provide a clear and consistent history of these changes in the palaeochannels
of northwestern sub-continent in an absolute time-frame.''
R.L. Raikes (a hydrologist) and R.K. Karanth (a geologist) found at
Kalibangan (in 1967) through a drilling program, that at a depth of 11 m.
below the present flood-plain level, a coarse, greyish sand very similar in
mineral content to that found in the bed of the present-day Yamuna. It
extended over a width at least four times that of the bed of the present-day
Yamuna and down to a depth, at one point at least, of 30 m. ..the material in
short is typical flood-plain deposit of the kind being laid down today at a
rate of about 2 m. per thousand years. (R.L. Raikes, 1968, Kalibangan: Death
from Natural causes, Antiquity, 42, pp. 286-291).
Gurdip Singh, 1971, Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in Oceania, 6,
177-189: The Indus Valley Culture seen in the context of post-glacial
climatic and ecological studies in North-West India: suggests that `` ... the
significant increase in rainfall at the beginning of the third millennium BC,
attested by palaeoecological evidence, played an important part in the sudden
expansion of the Neolithic-Chalcolithic cultures in north-west India,
ultimately leading to the prosperity of the Indus culture ... The present
evidence would suggest that the onset of aridity in the region around 1800 BC
probably resulted in the weakening of the Harappan culture in the arid and
semi-arid parts of north-wes India ... ''
Amal Kar and Bimal Ghose, 1984, Geographical Journal, The Drishadvati river
system of India: an assessment and new findings, 150: 221-229:
`` ... there are indications that the riveer formerly flowed southwards,
through the desert, and was supplied from streams originating in the
Aravallis, thus explaining the distribution of alluvium in the region ...
Drishadvati ... means a stream with a pebbly bed ... The interfluve between the
Saraswati and the Drishadvati used to be known as Brahmavarta and was
sacred ... Sir Alexander Cunningham (1871, The ancient geography of India,
repr. 1979, Indological Book House, Varanasi) first identified the
Drishadvati with the modern Rakshi ... ``
Aurel Stein, 1942, A survey of ancient sites along the `lost' Sarasvati
River, Geographical Journal, 99: 173-182:
`` ... the sketch-map based on the latest survey shows how great is the
contrast between the very scanty volume of water brought down by the Ghaggar
and the width of its dry bed within Bikaner territory; over more than 100
miles it is nowhere less than 2 miles and in places 4 miles or more. This bed
is lined on both sides by dunes varying in height ... the Ghaggar bed above
Hanumagarh, one notes that the number of mounds marking ancient sites long
abandoned is here distinctly smaller than farther down the old river bed ...
(mounds) known as ther or theri ... Archaeological facts prove cultivation,
and with it settled occupation, to have been abandoned much earlier on the
Hakra than on the Ghaggar ... trial excavation at Sandhanawala Ther, 3 miles
to the north-west of Fort Abbas ... some serds with incised characters which
appear on many inscribed seals from Mohenjodaro and Harappa, chief sites of
the Indus Valley cultre ... The great height and sise of several thers
indicate prolonged settlement ... the evidence shows that down to historical
times the Ghaggar carried water for irrigation under existing climatic
conditions much farther than it does now. This makes it intelligible how the
Sarasvati has come in hymns of the Rigveda to be praised as a great river ...
upper portion of the ancient bed ... drying up during historical times ...
hastened by diversion of flood water for irrigation brought about by more
settled conditions and the resulting pressure of population. Lower down on
the Hakra the main change was due to the Sutlej having in late prehistoric
times abandoned the bed which before had joined the Ghaggar: the resul of a
law affecting all rivers whose course lies over alluvial plains ...
D. A. Holmes, 1968, The recent history of the Indus, Geographical Journal,
``.. Lambrick (H.T., 1967, The Indus Flood-plain and the `Indus'
civilization, Geographical Journal, 133,4: 483-95) believes that the union of
the Sutlej with the Beas (and thence with the Indus) in the West Punjab had
already occurred prior to the time of Alexander. It must be assumed that the
Nara was continuing to flow as a result of seasonal overspill from both the
Indus and the Sutlej, the latter floods using the now dry Ghaggar channel
(which is a remnant of the Sutlej-Nara system) ... ''
3. Rigvedic(Rk,Rca,or rk) hymns on Sarasvati.
The Rigvedic(rk) sources which refer to Sarasvati river are as follows:
yastE stanah SaSayo yo mayobhUyemna viSvA pushyasi vAryANi
yo ratnadhA vasuvidyah sudatrah sarasvati tamiha dhAtave kah
Oh Sarasvati offer that breast of yours for our nourishment here which is
on your body, which spreads happiness by which you nourish (those who
praise you) with all the choicest things, the one which holds all the
beautiful things, which knows the enemies' wealth and which offers
pAvakA nah sarasvatI vAjebhirvAjinIvatI
yajnam vashTu dhiyAvasuh (RV 1.3.10)
May Sarasvati be our purifier may she who holds food offer us food,
the holder of wealth
may desire yajna.
cOdayitrI sUnrtAnAm cetantI sumatInAm
yajnam dadhe sarasvatI (RV 1.3.13)
The Sarasvati inspirer of good acts and good thoughts holds yajna.
maho arNah sarasvatI pra cetayati ketunA
dhiyO viSvA vi rAjati (RV 1.3.12)
Sarasvati is known, by the flag (course) of great water. All prayers shine
sarasvatI tvamasmAm aviDDhi marutvatI jeshi SatrUn
tyam cicchardhantam tavishIyamANamindro hanti vrshabham
SaNDikAnAm (RV 2.30.8)
Oh Sarasvati you protect us. You who are joined with Maruts, who are
a great fighter conquer our enemies. Indra kills that famous and powerful
of Shandikas who despised us.
iyam SushmebhirvisaravAyi rujatsAnu giriNAm tavishebhirurnibhih
pArAvatahnImavase suvrktibhih sarasvatImAr vivAsemadhItibhih
We serve the Sarasvati who with flames and tides destroyed the peaks
of mountains (the fortified towns) like one who plucks lotuses, with
good prayers and with good nets for food. [ ... by her force and her
impetuous waves, has broken down the sides of the mountains
like a digger of lotus fibres.]
ni tvA dadhe vara A prthivyA iLAyAspade sudinatve ahmAm
drshadvatyAm mAnusha ApayAyAm sarasvatyAm revadagne didIhi
Oh Agni, you were placed on the earth on an auspicious day on the best
of the places on the earth. Blaze with wealth among the men
(on the banks of) Drshadvati, Apaya and Sarasvati.
imam me gaDe yamune sarasvatI Satudri stomam sacatA parushNyA
asivanyA marudvrdhe citastayArjIkIye SrNutdyA sushomayA
Oh Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Sutudri with Parshi, Marudvridha
with Asikni; Arjikiya with Vitasta and Sushnoma hear this praise.
ambitamA ... naditamA (RV. 2.41.16)
best of mothers ... best of rivers ... Ascertaining the wishes of the great
sages the best of rivers (the Sarasvati) incorporated AruNA with her
own body; formerly the flow (of the AruNA) was hidden.
Afterwards (the Sarasvati) inundated the divine AruNA wih its own waters.
A yat sAkam yaSay vAvaSnAh sarasvati saptathI sindhumAtA
yAh sushvayanta sudughah sudhArA abhi svena payasA pIpyanah
May the seventh (stream), Sarasvati, the mother of the Sindhu and those
rivers that flow copious and fertilizing, bestowing abundance of food,
and nourishing (the people) by their waters, come at once together.
prakshodasA dhAyasA sasr eshA sarasvatI dharUNamAyasI pUh
prabAbadhana ratthyeva yAti vishvA apo mahina sindhuranyA
This Sarasvati, firm as a city made of Ayas (copper) flows rapidly
with all sustaining water, sweeping away in its might all other waters,
as a charioteer (clears the road). Alternative:
AyasIh pUh : (Sarasvati is) like a great fortified town.
[With her fertilizing stream the Sarasvati comes forth. (She is to us)
a stronghold, an iron gate. Moving along, as on a chariot, this river
surpasses in greatness all other waters.]
ekAchetat sarasvatI nadInAm SuchIryati giribhya A samudrAt
rAyaSchetantI bhuanasya bhurer ghrtam payo dudue nAhushAya
Sarasvati, chief and purest of rivers, flowing from the mountains
to the ocean, understood the request of Nahusha and distributing
riches among the many existing things, milked for him butter and water.
[Alone among all rivers Sarasvati listened, she who goes pure from
the mountains as far as the sea. She who knows of the manifold wealth
of the world has poured out to man her fat milk.]
[cf. Max Mueller, Sacred Books of the East, xxxii.60: ``Here we see
Samudra used clearly in the sense of sea, the Indian sea, and we have
at the same time a new indication of the distance which separates the
Vedic age from the late Sanskrit literature. Though it may not be
possible to determine, by geological evidence, the time of the changes
which modified the southern areas of the Punjab and caused the
Saraswati to disappear in the desert, still the faact remains that the
loss of the Saraswati is later than the Vedic age, and that, at that time,
the waters of the Saraswati reached the sea.'']
cf. RV 10.64.9
4. THE `CULT OBJECT' ON HARAPPAN SEALS
What was this `cult object' which occurs on Harappan seals `called' in the
lingua franca of circa 2500-1700 BC? What does it connote?
Using the `rebus' principle for decipherment of glyphs is a method that
proved successful in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. This principle
has been modified and extended to cope with the Harappan glyphs
(e.g. svastika) and other pictorial motifs (e.g. unicorn, `cult object',
animals occupying the `field' of the seals with inscribed sign sequences).
WHAT DOES THE `CULT OBJECT' LOOK LIKE?
It is a portable device that could be carried with hands aloft the shoulder
of the carrier, as evidenced in Harappan tablets where this object occurs
also as a field symbol by itself (without the ubiquitous `unicorn'). The
structure has two elements.
It depicts a `flow' or a `churning motion' on the upper element.
The upper element ends in a tapering, sharp-pointed edge as it is rests
(or just floats) on the lower element.
The lower element is a bowl which also depicts some `spilling' or `drops'
or alternatively, some `smoke or dust' and `dotted droplets'.
Mahadevan calls the structure a `filter' and sees echoes of `soma process.
I call it a `drill-lathe-stove', the lapidary's tools of trade. The upper element
looks like a drill used by the lapidary to drill holes in, say, faience beads.
The lower element is the stove to bake the inscribed object.
The rationale for this interpretation is as follows: The upper element is the
sharp-pointed drill bit depicted with zig-zag lines in a churning motion.
The lower element is a portable stove depicted with flames or smoke
emanating and bits of `drilled' articles depicted with dotted circles around
WHAT WAS THE `CULT OBJECT' CALLED?
WHAT DOES THE HOMONYM `MEAN' IN HARAPPAN ECONOMY?
There is a word in Gujarati (and cognate words of South asian languages
which can be semantically clustered) which connotes both a `drill-lathe'
and a `portable stove'. The word is sangaDi.
Rebus: jangaDi is an extraordinarily specific, technical-professional term
in Gujarati. It connotes an armored guard who accompanies the treasure
brought into or taken out of the treasury. A cognate Sanskritized
morpheme is jagada = a guard. cf. also jagati = pedestal.
5. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND SOME ANSWERS
What is the saraswati river civilization?
After the discovery of the first archaeological site
at Harappa in 1920, the civilization was referred to
as Harappan culture. With the discovery of another
major site at Mohenjo-daro in the same decade, it was
re-christened as Indus civilization. Since 1950's a
number of new type sites have been located. In
particular, the sites of Rupar, Kalibangan, Lothal,
Dholavira and Banawali. The characteristic feature of
the location of these sites is that these are on the
banks of or very close to the `lost' sarasvati river.
Hence, the civilization should be re-christened as
Indus\-Sarasvati civilization. Sarasvati river is
extolled in the Rigvedas(Rks).
Does the river exist in part and rest of
it has disappeared?
A part of the river exists as Ghaggar in Haryana; the
rest of it has disappeared in the fringes of the
maru-sthalI or the thar desert.
Where were the geological excavations done?
Landsat pictures have revealed the traces of the lost
river right upto Hakra river and the Rann of Kutch.
Geological surveys in a number of locations along the
`lost' river course have established the existence of
a river flowing down from the Siwalik ranges and also
the changes in the courses of the Indus tributaries
and the Yamuna rivers. As Yamuna and Sutlej captured
the water sources, Sarasvati might have dried up,
aided by the upraisings of land caused by earthquakes.
What was found in the process?
The cumulative knowledge gained through geology, landsat
and archaeological finds establishes the vast expanse
of this great civilization. Kalibangan and Lothal may
not be as grandiose as the urban Harappa but are
typical Indus\-Sarasvati civilization sites.
How does it relate to Harappan civilization?
Seals of the type found in Harappa and Mohenjo-daro
are also found in the Sarasvati river sites.
Kalibangan also shows a ploughed field and
What `message' would you like to carry to
persons of the group?
More researches need to be done in identifying the
civilization that flourished along the sarasvati
river. Balarama's sojourn along this river up from the
Rann of Kutch is depicted in the Mahabharata. This has
to be studied further. Sanskrit literature will have
abundant material on the importance of sarasvati.
Siddha-mAtrka is the name of the BrAhmi script. BrAhmi
is another name for Sarasvati. Without apriori
assumption that brAhmI was derived from the
Indus\-Sarasvati seal inscription script, it should be
possible to postulate a hypothesis that sarasvati
river played a significant part in the sustenance of
the civilization circa 2500 to 1700 B.C. This may mean
a new paradigm in our protohistoric studies. Aryans
and Dravidians and perhaps Mundas lived in harmony in
this civilization. The so-called indo-aryan and
so-called dravidian languages may have originated from
the common lingua franca spoken by these people on the
Indus and Sarasvati river valleys. Thus, common words
of Tamil can be found in Sanskrit/Vedic. I have
established that the Dravidian etymological dictionary
with 5000 entries can cease to exist since many of
these words have cognates in vedic/munda and many
south asian languages.
What research is going on to find the
remains of the civilization?
Hopefully, this perspective should lead to more
intensive geological and archaeological work on the
banks of the lost river which has hundreds of
What kind of critical comments you are
expecting from `general public'?
There should be an awareness that there is an
essential unity that binds the south asian culture.
Scholars should help build up on these strands of
What would people do to help you out
in your research or book, if such is in the process?
People should provide with info on cultural habits of
the peoples of the region traversed by the rivers. For
e.g. the festival bhogi celebrated on winter solstice
is not only a South Indian festival. Bhogali bihu is
celebrated in Assam; RohRi in Punjab. What is the
ancient significance of this day? What are the
practices followed by the womenfolk and
agriculturists? Is something done about land rights on
this day or is it just restricted to the distribution
of winter crop produce?
Why is Sarasvati revered as goddess of speech?
What are the anecdotes linked to Brahma?
Why are so many brahma temples found
along this river?
What kind of research is already done?
A number of claims of decipherment of Indus\-Sarasvati
script have been made. Mahadevan counted upto 40 such
claims in 1992. Each new claim renders every one of
the 40+ claims suspect. The problem is acute because
we do not have a `rosetta stone' or multilingual
inscriptions to authenticate the correctness of a
decipherment. The next problem is the sample is rather
small -- only 2500+ inscriptions have been reported.
The next larger problem is the so-called cleavage
between the so-called Indo-Aryan and so-called
Dravidian languages which has led to two distinct
language groups in decipherment claims. [Is this
cleavage valid in `semantic' terms? Any Prakrit
dictionary will attest to thousands of words common to
both language streams?]
Which are the supporting organizations?
Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia has a group working
on this problem. Prof. Asko Parpola in Helsinki Univ.
is a keen enthusiast. Mahadevan in Madras has
dedicated his entire life to this problem. Univ. of
Aachen has a team working on the architectural aspects
What kind of research can foreign
Areas which can be supported are: research into
languages of south asia and comparative lexemes and
grammatical features; archaeological explorations,
more landsat analyses and geological drillings of more
sites along the sarasvati river.
How will your earlier message about `cult'
item fit in this series?
The earlier message is intended to re-kindle an
interest among a large group of scholars to indicate
if there are words in the south asian languages which
may fit with the pictorial motif. From an artistic
point of view, is the interpretation valid? Are there
alternative readings? What indeed were the
Indus\-Sarasvati people trying to convey through such
Are there words similar to Gujrati sangADi in other
South asian languages and what do the words mean?
Dr. S. Kalyanaraman
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