Saturday, May 4, 2013

The immortal mystery of River Saraswati

The immortal mystery of River Saraswati

Rivers constitute the lifeline for any nation. All worlds’ great civilizations prospered on banks of river systems. The most ancient religion, Hinduism also considers rivers as sacred, singing their praises in the religious literature. This refers to names of many rivers that existed during the Vedic period (1500 - 500 BCE). One such river, Saraswati, found its glory in these scriptures. 

During Ice Age, the water of Himalayas was frozen. In the place of rivers, there were only masses of solid ice. Around ten thousand years back, when the climate became warmer, the Himalayas released seven mighty rivers. As per the Rig Veda, among these, the Saraswati and the Indus were major rivers, flowing parallel from the mountains to the Arabian Sea. According to the Mahabharata, after flowing as a great river for 2000 years, the Sarasvati disappeared in the desert, reappeared in some places and then joined the sea "impetuously". 

Described to be much bigger than the Indus River, the legend of the Saraswati has lived on. Centuries passed, but no one could find where this great river was. Some promoted it as an invisible river that still flows underground to meet the Ganges and the Yamuna at Allahabad. The confluence of these three rivers, which is not visible to the eye, passed Saraswati into the realm of folklore. Those, who kept this mysterious river alive in their imaginations, found their world when scientists mapped the course of an enormous dried up river beneath the sands of Thar Desert. This 3500-year-old palaeochannel is believed to be the mythical Saraswati. 

In 1893, CF Oldham, an English engineer rode his horse along the dry bed of a seasonal Rajasthani river. Oldham wondered why Ghaggar, despite being a small river, had the bed up to 3 km wide at places. He proposed that Ghaggar must have occupied the former course of a much larger river - the Saraswati. Supporting this belief, sweet water gushed out of the land when a devastating earthquake hit Kutch (Gujrat) in 2001. After being analyzed at a laboratory, this water was found to be more than 5000 years old. Since Kutch is an earthquake prone area, this strengthens expert’s belief that Saraswati is still flowing down deep, but does not have enough water to appear on the surface. 

Mystery of Saraswati

After a lot of geological and glaciological studies, experts concluded that if dried out channel belonged to Saraswati then her origin had to be the Yamdhar Glacier (Himalayas). She flowed as a beautiful stream, and then took a southwesterly course passing through the plains of Haryana and Rajasthan. In this long journey, Saraswati was believed to have Sutlej and the old Yamuna as tributaries. During her peak flow, today’s western Rajasthan was green and fertile. Great civilizations prospered in such amiable climate on riverbanks. Experts believe that the Indus Valley Civilization was largely located on the banks of and in the proximity of the Saraswati River. Between 2000 to 1800 BCE, a dry spell heralded the decline of the Indus Valley civilization, right after the disappearance of Saraswati in 3000 BC. 


Saraswati – The vanished River 

Around the beginning of Pleistocene, massive landslides and avalanches uplifted the Himalayas. Under such upheavals, the rivers were forced to change their courses, gradually or abruptly. Tributaries of Saraswati, the Sutlej diverted towards the Indus and the Yamuna towards the Ganges, following which Saraswati did not have enough water to reach the sea. Since the greenery of Rajasthan was lost, replaced by an arid desert, she dried up in the Thar Desert. The glorious civilization shifted possibly to the fertile plains of the Ganga and Yamuna. Saraswats community, which lived on the banks of the Saraswati over the millenniums, scattered all over India. Even today, Saraswats continue to follow their ancient culture, venerating the lost river as their cultural mother. 

In Libya, an ancient river channel has been discovered and revitalized into a man-made river. The same way, if Saraswati could also be rejuvenated, a mythological glory would come alive, breaking all time barriers.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can the vedic period be in 1500-500 BC, when the saraswathi dried up back in 3000 BC?

ANGAVI said...

There is no specific 'Vedic Period' in India for VEDA means KNOWLEDGE and the life on earth (especially in INDIA) always lived with rich knowledge of material & spiritual aspects of life. The Veda (Knowledge), in ancient India, has been passed on orally for millions of years by the human from one generation to another. The Vedic (educated / hi-tech urban / spiritually elevated /civilized) & Non-Vedic (uncivilized / in-human) civilizations always co-existed on our earth.

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