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Saraswati Saga

Saraswati Saga

Author: Narendra Kaushik from Kurukshetra
Publication: Udayindia.org
Date: August 27, 2011
URL: http://www.udayindia.org/content_27august2011/spotlight.html

From the looks of it, it appears to be one of those numerous muddy puddles of rain water which sprout out of nowhere in the lowlands on either side of National highways during every monsoon season in the country. Located next to a bridge on GT road, near Pipli, a village-pretending-to-be-a-town on the highway near Kurukshetra, the city, which once hosted the great Mahabharata war, and surrounded by erect eucalyptuses and overgrowth, the slimy puddle seems to be unremarkable and undisturbed except by kids who may occasionally throw lumps of mud into it to enjoy the ripples.

But scout the surface around the puddle and you will get to know that it is also an appropriate proof of what is wrong with implementation of policies in the country. A few-hundred-metres-long swamp which has filled up the farmland in its neighbourhood is evidence of how history gets converted into a four-letter acronym myth-in modern India. How living and unadulterated chronicles of times gone by are consigned to dustbin after falsely associating them with Hindutava revivalism.

Forgotten & Forsaken

The puddle and the two concrete platforms that stand next to it were part of Saraswati revival project Haryana State Government embarked on a few years back. The platforms adorned sculptures of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, and Rantuk Yaksha, one of the godly figures which defined the four corners of the 20-yojana-long (one yojana equals around 8 miles) Mahabharata battlefield, when Haryana government launched a project in 2008 to bring the mighty river back to life again. Today, the platforms stand vandalised and stripped off the bronze sculptures.

Apparently, the robbers took advantage of the government neglect and slipped out the idols. Today, the area has turned into marshy land where cannabis and other wild plants are grown. The 52 kilometre long channel or course which Haryana government dug up in 2008 to release water again is dry and layered with weeds.

Haryana government proposal to revive over 75 kilometre long course of the river is held up because Oil and Natural Gas Limited (ONGC) is sitting on its request to dig two deep bore wells for supplying fresh water to the river channel. "Haryana government takes interest in the project. But it is stuck up with the ONGC for 3 years. People stole the sculptures. The project is almost defunct for all practical reasons," says Darshan Lal Jain who has been pursuing the project for several years through an NGO (Non-government Organization) called Saraswati River Research Organization. Jain who looked at the project as a panacea for providing drinking water and tourism today sounds a bit dispirited. His desire to see the river flowing again in his lifetime is getting diminished by the day.

The ONGC entered into an agreement with Haryana government about half a decade ago to explore the course of the river which finds a mention in Vedas, Mahabharata and several other Hindu scriptures. Subsequently, Haryana government convinced farmers on a 52 kilometre-long stretch to vacate their lands for flow of fresh water and launched the project near Pipli, a town on National highway-I near Kurukshetra. The government not only installed bronze sculptures of Saraswati and Rantuk Yaksha, a godly figure associated with Mahabharata, at the site but also fixed colour lights, swings and dug up the pond in 2008.

Denials & Admission UPA style

The project is hanging fire despite the UPA having finally admitted in June this year that there was evidence that the Vedic river once flew through Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat before falling into the Arabian Sea. After having been in a denial mode for several years, Union Ministry for Water Resources admitted writing in Rajya Sabha, the upper House of the Parliament that the river's existence was conclusion of a study jointly conducted by scientists of ISRO, Jodhpur and Rajasthan Government's Ground Water Department, published in the Journal of Indian Society of Remote Sensing. The Journal had written on the basis of interaction with ISRO and the Ground Water Department that there were "clear signals of Palaeo-channels on the satellite imagery in the form of a strong and powerful continuous drainage system in the North-West region and occurrence of archaeological sites of pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan ages beyond doubt indicate the existence of a mighty palaeo-drainage system of the Vedic Saraswati river in this region… The description and magnanimity of these channels also match with the river Saraswati described in the Vedic literature."

The UPA was in a denial mode since 2004 when it assumed power at the centre. Earlier it also scrapped the Saraswati River Heritage Project which was launched by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government. It scrapped the project on the grounds that it was undertaken to establish that a Vedic civilization preceded Harappa or the Harappan culture was Vedic. In short, the UPA and its then outside supporter Communists saw in the excavations a saffron design. It is to be noted that under the then Culture Minister Jagmohan, the ASI had undertaken excavations at 10 places-Adi Badri, Thanesar, Sandhauli, Bhirrana, Hansi (all in Haryana), Baror, Tarkhanwala Dhera, Chak 86 (all in Rajasthan), Dholavira and Juni Karan in Gujarat. The project's action taken report had then claimed that during the excavation, remains from the pre-Harappan, Harappan and even medieval times have been discovered.

Saraswati in Scriptures

More than the archaeological and satellite proof of river's existence, the UPA and pseudo secularists have refused to accept the evidence stored in the various ancient scriptures. There are several references to the river in Mahabharata to the Saraswati River. The epic for instance mentions that Pandavas hid in Kamyaka forest for some time during initial years of their 14-year-long banishment. Kamyaka was located on the west of Kurukshetra plain and on the banks of river Saraswati. They returned to Kamyaka second time from Dwaita woods, a rich forest again on the bank of the river, which was in full flow this time due to heavy rains. Sage Markandeya lived next to Markanda river which was supposed to be tributary of the Saraswati River.

Besides, Nadistuti hymn in Rigveda mentions that Saraswati was located between Yamuna in the east and Sutlej in the west. Later Vedic scriptures like Tandya and Jaiminiya Brahmanas mention that Saraswati dried up in the desert. The river, in fact, had started drying up during Mahabharata (3067 BC) itself and disappeared completely by 1500 BC. Mahabharata describes Balram's pilgrimage to the river before the war broke out between the Pandavas and Kurukshetra. He returned to the battlefield on the day Duryodhana was killed by Bheema. There are references to the fissures and faults in the dry bed of the river in the middle ages texts. The invading armies of Islam marching from the Sindh province to Delhi are said to have a longer mountain route instead of the dry river bed due to difficulties in crossing the large cracks. More than this satellite images have confirmed the existence of a large number of ground faults in the earthquake-prone northwest of India which constituted the Saraswati-Sindhu valley.

River in Revenue Maps and Satellite imagery
In 1995, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) found water in the Rajasthan desert at depths of merely 50 to 60 metres, making agriculture possible even in extreme summer. The Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), Jodhpur, mapped the defunct course of a river through satellite and aerial photographs and field studies. Obviously it was none other than Saraswati.

But none of this can match the hard evidence you come across in the form of small revenue maps which were traditionally maintained by Patwaris. The maps covering 38 villages clearly delineate the course of invisible Saraswati. This means that Saraswati's course has been known to mapmakers from the time the river flowed from Adi Badri to the Arabian Sea to the time it disappeared following tectonic disturbances in earth's crust. It was known as Saraswati in Haryana, Ghaggar in Rajasthan (after its confluence with Ghaggar), Hakra in Cholistan and Nara in Sindh (Pakistan). It was part of Sapt Sindhu, the seven rivers, which flew from Himalayas into the plains. Yamuna and Satluj were then tributaries of Saraswati. Due to tectonic disturbances, Yamuna started flowing towards East and Satluj started flowing from Southeast (into Saraswati) to Southwest near Ropar causing final drying up of what Rigveda calls Ambi tame, nadi tame, devi tame (greatest of mothers, rivers and goddesses).

Evidence on Ground

Even more incontrovertible than this is the proof which exists on the ground in Bid Pipli, the village on national highway, Kheri Markanda, a village situated about 2 kilometres from Kurukshetra and Pehowa, a town in Kurukshetra which is famous for being a Hindu pilgrimage. In Bid Pipli, the course of Saraswati is still filled up with water. During the monsoon, the river comes alive when water from upstream Baban flows next to the village and further to Kurukshetra. It frequently floods the nearby villages and parts of Kurukshetra. In Kheri Markanda too, the river turns into a drain. Unfortunately, Kurukshetra administration releases sewerage into the drain now. Pehowa is the place where the river is said to have converted into a pond where Hindus have performed pind daan (a ritual for liberation of souls of their dead relatives). Saraswati is worshipped here as a goddess. There is a big Saraswati temple here and the pundits who have seats near the pond and the temple claim to have histories of many families. This site was called 'Prithudaka' in the epics of Mahabharata named after the King Prithu, a Saraswati tribe king, who prayed for the salvation of his father's soul here. Sister-in-law of Harshvardhan, who ruled over a large part of northern India first from Thanesar and then Kannuaj, committed sati on the bank's river.

Some time back, the geologists and hydrologists found more evidence when subsurface water gushed out of a pond of the famous Kapil Muni Ashram in Kalayat (Haryana). A multi-disciplinary scientific team studied the oozing water and the sand that accompanied it. Dr. A R Chaudhri of Kurukshetra University found a suite of angular heavy minerals having their source in higher Himalayan region. Dr. A K Gupta and Dr B K Bhadra of ISRO identified fossil valleys of Vedic Saraswati in the area from the study of space imageries and concluded that this water was of the Saraswati River. Rajesh Purohit, then curator of Srikrishna museum, conducted geomorphologic studies and concluded that this water belonged to Vedic Saraswati that has been described in Rigveda and other scriptures. Later on, he along with his team discovered the actual river bed near Jyotisar (Kurukshetra).

The ONGC, the oil exploration giant which is involved in exploring the river, has found strong evidence that it once flew next to Jaisalmer, the tourist town in Rajasthan. The ONGC has dug up over a dozen deep wells there. These wells have plenty of sweet water. Earlier images taken by an American satellite clearly showed the presence of underground water in a definitive pattern in Jaisalmer. The bore wells are said to have been named after the river which once flowed for 1500 km and was at places around 15 km wide.

Interestingly farmers have voluntarily vacated their farms on a 52 km stretch when they heard about Haryana Government's project on revival of the river. Darshan Lal Jain, who has been pursuing the revival project for long through an NGO called Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan (Saraswati River Research Organization), wants the government to hurry up the revival. According to him, the revived river could provide drinking and irrigation water to several districts in Haryana. Jain demands formation of Saraswati Development Authority or Board to fast pace the project.

Purohit who recently got transferred to Allahabad begs the detractors to shut up, have a look at the plethora of evidence available with the ASI, Geological Survey of India, ONGC, Indian Space Research Organization and other research groups and stop calling the river mythical or mythological. "Myth won't be a myth if it is supported by scientific evidence. Saraswati exists now. It existed in the past," he signs off.

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