Dr. V. S. Wakankar

Progress of the Saraswati Shodh Abhiyan

The Saraswati River flows into the plains at Adi Badri. The Abhiyan started from this point. It is at this point that rivers Sobh and a little further at Dhanipura, River Markanda meet River Saraswati. Here the team found some big sized ancient bricks. Further down at the confluence of River Aruna, the team found several old sculptures. One of them was the image of Surya (Sun God) which is mistakenly recognized as Shiva by the local people. At the confluence with River Soma is the place Bilaspur or (Vyaspur). It is believed that Shri Ganesh wrote Mahabharat as narrated by Vyas Rishi at this place. From here one could see the Shivalik range. Beyond this is the Mana Mountain from whose glaciers Saraswati has originated. It flows underground and emerges out in Markandeya ashram. There the team found a Ganesh idol with its trunk turned left. The team then reached Kapalmochan, where they found some idols from the Shunga and Gupta period, one of them being Gajalakshmi.

Leaving Jagadhari (Yugandhara) the team travelled to Yamuna-nagar. In Vedic period the Yamuna used to flow nearby.

From there the team reached Mustafabad (earlier Saraswat Nagar). Two inscriptions one in the archaeological museum of Gwalior and the other from Parmar King Bhoj refers to this place. From here the team reached Kurukshetra. In ancient times, there was a beautiful lakes full of lotuses. It is said that it is here that King Pururava met Urvashi.

Several discussions, seminar, press meet were held here. After visiting Narkatari, Jyotisar, Sannitsar, Bibipur, Markandeya ashram, Bhadrakali the team proceeded to Sthaneshwar (Thanesar). Here in the Gurudwara one can see the shoes worn by Guru Govindsingh.

It is noteworthy that several antiquities, coins, idols have been found by various researchers such as General Cunningham (1888-9), Rogers, D. B. Spooner, H. L. Shrivastava, and several others. Rajakarnaka fort, Polartheh, Bhagwanpura and Thaneshwar are the places which afforded rich haul of Antiquities.

At Pinjor Kalaka, Ahiyan (Ambala) and around Mansa Devi large number of pre-historic tools has been found during excavations. Pre Harappan painted smoked earthen ware have been found in the valleys of Saraswati and Drishadvati at Bhagwanpur, Banawali, Sirsa, Mitathal, Rajakarnaka fort, Daulatpur, Mirzapur, Soodh, Balu, Kunal, Agroha etc. (Ref Ugayugeen Kurukshetra – Shri Arun Kesarvani 1990 Pg 14-44).

10-12 Km from Markandeya Ashram is a place Samanabhau where it is believed that Vishwamitra and Parshuram did penance.

Later the team visited Pruthudak (Pahova) and Kapisthal (Kaithal). It is believed that Emperor Pruthus son of Vainraja performed a Yagna here. The team then proceeded to Soojma which is the place of Shukdev son of Vyas. From here the team came across Kolayat where Kapilmuni had an ashram. At Lokoddhar several sculptures were found, including a four headed Shiva Linga.

The team then proceeded to Kasoon and Jind (Duryodhana towards the end of Mahabharat war hid in a lake here), and further to Rakhigadh.

After studying the dried bed of River saraswati at Hissar, the team reached Udayantpuri (Fatehabad). Here was found an ancient Ashok pillar. There are Sanskrit Shlokas engraved on this pillar.

A big seminar was conducted at Sirsa. Only at Fatehabad one finds sweet water in well (probably Saraswati flows underground).

From here onwards started the journey in Rajasthan.

From Sirsa the team reached Nohar. Near hills in Sirsa the team found half burned grains of wheat and rice which were immediately dispatched for radio carbon dating at PRL Ahmedabad. Later the team found sculptures from Gupta period at Gogamadi. No antiquities of period before this were found. It is probable that this region was a sea bed earlier which had been lifted up.

The team then visited Hanumangadh, Kalibanga and Banawali. A Harappan seal was found at Banawali. It has a peculiar bull and Harappan inscription on it. The team proceeded to Bikaner. A Saraswati statue is found in the Bikaner museum.

Significant is the fact that in this area most of the well are 300-400 ft. deep. The team studied 20-30 meter long sand dunes in this area.

While travelling to Pokhran and Jaisalmer via Falore, the team found several plant fossils in large numbers. Near Binjadsar in a dried lake the team found tools from Middle Paleolithic and Palaeolithic as well as Upper Palaeolithic periods in large numbers.

Further near a Sun temple at Devaka the team found Acheulean stone axe and stone spear. When the team reached.

Gogakshetra the team found buried in the layers of Multani soil, fossils of fishes, Echinoid, etc. indicating this part was sea earlier. Further at Dakan gadha, in the granite stones, were found some rock shelters which had Mesolithic (6-10000 years old) paintings. This may have been an island in the sea.

Later travelling through Gujarat the team covered Abu, Ambaji, Siddhapur, Anahilwad pattan, Nanu Kutch, Lothal Sihor and finally the Abhiyan was terminated at dehotsarg desert near a River Saraswati temple after performing a Yagna.

Thus over a span of one month the team covered about 4000 kms.

Shri. A. V. Sankaran in his article "Saraswati the ancient river lost in the desert" chronologically summarizes the issue.

  1. 10,000 years ago Rajasthan was green and fertile due to wet climate
  2. River Saraswati was a major river up to 9,000 years ago.
  3. 6000 years later (i.e. about 3000 years ago) the Saraswati dwindled and dried up.
  4. During Vedic period Saraswati coursed through the region between modern Yamuna and Sutlej.
  5. Though Saraswati is lost, the Markanda, Chautagna and Ghaggar rivers still exist.
  6. River Saraswati originated from glaciers in Bandapunch masiff at Naitwar in western Garhwal. It descended at Adi Badri at Bhavanpur / Balchapur and took a south westerly course passing through Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  7. River Saraswati had 3 tributaries-Sutlej (Shatadru), Drishadvati (Ghaggar) and Vedic Yamuna.
  8. Together they flowed along channel presently identified as the Ghaggar also called Hakra (in Rajasthan) and Nara (in Sind)
  9. Its tributaries either shifted or were captured by neighboring rivers.
  10. Saraswati remained here and there in the form of ponds / lakes. (e.g. Lunkaransar, Didwana, Sambhar, Jaisalmer, Pachpadra lakes)
  11. A lot of evidences has been generated by studies on palaeo-climate, oxygen isotope studies, thermoluminiscent studies of wind borne and river borne sands, radio carbon dating of lake bed deposits as well as archaeological studies.
  12. Currently with the help of digital enhancement studies, radio imagery from Satellite IRS-1C (1995) subsurface features and palaeochannels below sands of the Thar Desert have been found.
  13. No palaeochannel links have been found between the Indus (Sindhu) and Saraswati, thus establishing that they were independent rivers.
  14. No direct head water connection or re-charge of these underground water from present-day Himalayas
  15. Near Patiala there seems to be sudden widening of the river Ghaggar (Saraswati) possibly due to convergence of the Sutlej and Yamuna.
  16. Subsequently the Sutlej shifted westwards near Ropar to join Indus. This along with depletion of water in the Ghaggar were the major events responsible for the vanishing of River Saraswati

Significance of findings related to river Saraswati by various independent researchers

  1. Amal Ghosh discovered 25 Harappan sites in the region from Pakistan border to Hanumangarh / Suratgarh far away from River Indus.
  2. Dr. R. Mughal discovered >300 sites in Bahawalpur area.
  3. Banawali excavated by Bisht is 15km north west of Fatehbad.
  4. Kuruskhetra is located on the right bank of River Saraswati south of Ropar.
  5. Dr. S. M. Rao and Dr. K. M. Kulkarni, working in tandem with Ground Water Department of Rajasthan and Central Arid Zone Research Institute discovered many underground fresh water channels with low levels of tritium indicating old age of the water, a naturally occurring radio isotope. They have calculated that this water is > 8000 years old.
  6. Pottery with 100 holes, used during the worship of Vedic gods Siniwali and Rudra found at many places along the banks of this river.
  7. In the dry beds of Vijandasar Lake, were found Palaeolithic and Mesolithic tools. Near the sun temple near Devaka was found a stone axe from the Acheulian period.
  8. In Bikaner regions are mounds of 20-30 meters of sand which need to be excavated.
  9. A Harappan seal was found at Banavali. It has a bull and Harappan script. Several such objects were found at Banavali, Rangmahal and Kalibanga.
  10. Agricultural fields of barley found near the banks of the lost river near Kalibanga.
  11. A Yagnakund in good condition was found during excavation at Kalibanga. Similar yagnakunds have been found in Harappa, Lothal and Surkotada.
  12. An often narrated reasoning to support the theory that Aryan came from outside is that no remains of horses have been found in the Indus Valley. This is now negated by the findings of bones of horses and earthen horse toys in large numbers in Saraswati Valley.
  13. Rock shelters with rock paintings of 6-10000 years old were found in Dakan Gadda granite shelters.
  14. Another theory that Aryan came from outside and defeated local residents and drove them out has been proposed by Mortimer Wheeler and Stuart Piggot. However no arrow heads, swords or pieces there of or broken chariots etc. have been found in this region to support this theory.
  15. In the Aitareya Brahamana, there is a mention of shinning walls build around the Yagna kundas to scare away demons who came to disrupt the Havana’s. In Kalibangan around the sacrificial places (Yagnakund) were found ruins of such walls.

Extensive work done by archaeologists in the past have shown the presence of 380-400 sites (pre-post Harappan).

This is what prompted Dr. V. S. Wakankar to suggest re-naming of "Indus Valley Civilization" to "Sara-swat civilization".

During this project, the team visited several such sites. Details are as mentioned below. These sites were broadly categorized as 1) Pre-Harappan 2) Harappan period and 3) Post Harappan.

District State PreHarappan sites Harappan sites Post Harappan sites Total sites
Sangrur Punjab 6 5 9 20
Bhatinda Punjab 11 14 10 32
Kurukshetra Haryana 2 7 61 70
Hissar Haryana 27 21 26 74
Jind Haryana 43 9 95 147
Hanumangadh Rajasthan 8 28 - 32
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