Story of River Sarasvati and early Indian Civilization



“Sarasvati” is mentioned in many Rigved hymn clearly as Celestial River which had route from Himalayas to Sindh. It was life giving river of civilization like Harappa and Mohan-jodaro which were flourished in river system of India (Known as Saptasindhu- seven rivers). Sarasvati has very deep routed in Hinduism. In many Vedic hymn still used as Goddess of life. In Puranas, she is transformed as goddess of wisdom, knowledge and science. She turns from river to mystical goddess of Hinduism.

Summary of Book

Early Story of River Sarasvati


The story of river “Sarasvati” is started from 1812 when lieutenant colonel James Tod is appointed as “political agent of Rajpootana”. He also told to collect cultural, historical and geographical detail of Rajasthan by east India Company. He completed the eleven volume work on given subject and died in 1835 at the age of 53 years. Jhon Ted is very affectionate with term “Ghaggar” which was folk term for River Sarasvati.


The etymology suggest that term “Ghaggar” has place in arthvaveda (4.15.12) and its consider as one of pilgrimage in Mahabharata (12.59.111). In Brahma Purana (25.64) is also mentioned as pilgrimage.

Major Colvin, 1833 was Superintendent of canal in British government, and had an report on restoration of ancient canals of Delhi territory. Colvin was agreed with Tod that Ghaggar is somehow local folk term for River Sarasvati. Major F. Mackeson, 1844 reported that he was looking for a mere province of Sind, through which he can do direct battalion movement through across Afghanistan. He found that between Sirsa (city near Delhi) and Suratgarh (city in Rajasthan, India) was well inhabited. He found many sign of early civilization inhabitation in long stretched area. He noted one remarkable feature that, Traversed to Bahawalpur is trace of some old river. He also found that there was signature of continuous lines of villages. Mackeson, found also significant sign of an old road which is precisely in Multan to Delhi in alignment and very much likely way of Invader during Muslim Invasion in India. In His studies, he found that Masud I, son of Gazani used the same way in 1037 yrs. to conquer more area in Punjab and massacre 10,000 people in his way. In years 1398 Tammur, used the same road through Afghanistan and killed complete population of Bhatnir which was larger in numbers. During his conquest to this area he mentioned about sarsuti at Delhi and his journey to Shavlik Hills (Origin place of Sarasvati River).


In 18th CE, William Jhons & Max Mullar learned the Sanskrit language and translated much text into English. In 1830, Rigved first time published for study purpose of western Indologist. In this book they pointed out origin of Sarasvati and asked for more vast research in this subject from British administrations. Ten years study of text and archeological study, it has been concluded that, stram today called Ghaggar or Sarsuti is same river mentioned in Rigved. And they concluded that, its raise from foot of Shavlik hills –Sirmur and took slope of plain and emerged from narrow corridor between Indus and Yamuna river system and touch Al badri* flow past Thanesar and Kurukshetra, received water of monsoon and join Ghaggar near village Rasula.

In 1885, a Gazetteer of India “In ancient times the lower portion of river seems to have borne the name of confluent the Sarasvati or sarsuti, join the main stream in Patiala territory. Gazetteer defined Sarasvati as

“Sacred river of Punjab, famous in early Brahmanical annals, we learn this river rises in low of sirmur hills (shivlik), emerges upon plain at zadh Badri, passed through Thanesar and Kurukshetra and in junction appear as Sarsuti crossed Rajpootana plains…”

Early Criticism


Richard Dixon Oldham in GSI (1879-1905), an early seismologist who had done extension study of great earthquake in 1897 (Assam).He concluded that, lost river actually turned westwards to join the Bias (Beas). He believed that part of Yamuna waters might be followed into Ghaggar-Hakra bad in Vedic times and known as different name. He expressed that case of Brahmaputra River, changing its course in 19th CE. But another researcher C.F.Oldham counter his argue with evidence, example he quote many verse from Rigved who produced the effect of river disappearance. He then traced the dry bed through Bahawalpur and found it’s known as folk name is Narra. This channel of river has same name in Hakra in further area. He concluded that Narra in Rann of kach is Hakra in all Rajsthaan to Bhatnair.

He had taken local folk help, which had tales about how river dry slowly.

Sarasvati in different Indian ancient text


  1. 45 hymns in rigved, subscribed Sarasvati as an mighty river. Its name appears in 72 times and three complete hymns is dedicated to river.
  2. Pure Sarasvati acquires powerful symbolism in Vedic text, but slowely its not appear in later text like Yajurveda. It shows the insignificant of Sarasvati as mighty river is diminishing due to drying.
  3. Vedic sages, called saravati as mighty river but later symbolized it goddess of knowledge . it might be possible that all Vedas had been written near Sarasvati. Its also named as Vidyadevi. Some early text also suggest that Sarasvati is known as “Thuyathadi” in Mayanmaar and “benzaiten” in Japan.
  4. Rigved verse (10.75.5-6) this verse clearly said about structure of Sarasvati and its formation from its origin to Arabian see.


O ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri (Satluj),Parushni (ravi), hear my praise !! Hear my call, O asikni (Chenab), marudvridha (maruvardhvan), Vitasta (Jhelum) with arjikiya and sushoma.

First you united with Trishtama, with sasartu and Rasa and with svetya, O sindh with Kubha to Gomati with mehatnu to krumu with whom you proceed together.

  • Tarikh-I0Mubarak shahi, 15th CE Islamic chronical also testified the existence of Sarasvati River.


  1. Padama Purana referred Sarasvati as concert of Brahma and accepted that she reached to desert to deposited fire in it. This is indication of Sarasvati water flow towards Arabian Sea.
  2. Text, Harascharita, life of an King dynasty from (1CE to 7CE) in North west region, mentioned many occasion where Harsha father is worshiping the river Sarasvati.
  3. Savants like Baudhayana, Vasistha and Patanjali who lived from 5BCE-2BCE defined Aryavarta-land from east of Adarshanaand, in west a black forest near haridwar), south of the Himalayas and north of Pariyatra mountains, near Vidhya mountains.


Sarasvati in Eye of Indologists

  1. H.H. Wilson who translated Vishnu Puran in yr. 1840 wrote his introduction-

The earliest seat of Hindus within the confines of Hindustan was undoubtedly the eastern confines of the Panjab. The hjoly land of Manu and Puranas lies between the Drishadwati and Saraswati rivers, the Ghaggar and Sarsuti of our barbourous map.

  • Few years later in Max Muller’s book, History of ancient Sanskrit literature sought to identified the land of seven river’s which is frequently evokes as Sapthasindhava.
  • Orientalist M. Moneir-Williams endorse definition of sapthasindhava in 1875, with same location of Sarasvati. In Yr. 1881 he publishes book named “Vedic India” which reflected the view of early Indologist with a map of land of seven rivers included Sarasvati.
  • British Indologist, F.E. Pargiter Published his landmark study of Indian ancient History in 1885. Which says “River constitutes the boundary between Punjab & Ganga Jamuna Baisn”?
  • H.H. Gowen, US Orientalist also made his clear regards to Sarasvati. In his book History of Indian Literature (Yr. 1931), says


Often enough it seemed as though, like the river Sarasvati. The lost stream of the old sapta-sindhavas, the river of Indian thought had disappeared beneath the surface or had become lost in shallow marshes and morasses…But sooner or later, we see the stream reappear and then old ideas resume their way.

  • Yr. 1974 French sanskritist Louis Renou, publish book Classical India; acknowledge River Sarasvati with Map showing clear position of flow and its submerging into others stream.(fig2.6)
  • British scholar of Asian civilization, Arthur L. basham wrote in his well-known book


“When Rig Vedic hymns were written the focus of Aryan culture was the region between the Yamuna and sataluj, south of modern Ambala, and along the upper course of river Sarasvati. The latter river is now an insignificant stream, losing itself in the desert of Rajasthan, but it then flowed broad and strong”.


New Evidence which support Sarasvati River

In yr. 1952, Indian archeologist Amalananda ghosh, who conduct exploration of sarswati region, noticed an large number of shells, identified by Zoological survey of India. Some of them being freshwater shells must got deposited on the banks of the river when it was alive.

R.D. Oldham & few geologists have scoured this stretch of land between the Indus and gangetic systems. The most recent layers of alluvium date back the end of the last glacial age some 10,000 and 12,000 yrs ago. Running from west to east across the Punjab-Haryana plains in today’s India, we meet four seasonal streams raising the area between Bathinda and Patiala: The tree naiwal channel. Continuity with Ghaggar itself the dengri, markanda, sarsuti and chautang- ten major channels shows clear picture of ancient Sarasvati.

Tectonic Events Evidence

The entire belt of Himalayas has been seismically active ever since the Indian subcontinental and cursing along in northeast direction at speed of 15cm/year. Colliding with Eurasia some fifty million years ago, forced to slide beneath the Eurasian plate, it uplifted the latter higher and higher (like mentioned in matsya & Varah avatar of Vishnu Puran). Mountain range continuous to slide, since Indian continental reach the rate of 6cm/years. Friction between landmass of Asia and Eurasia result the ripple in subcontinental. It can be seen easily by satellite images of Indian subcontinental northern west and east area. Among the latter kalibangan, where raikes explored the ghagar’s bed. Displayed a marked of cleavage in lower layers is proof of earthquake about 2700 BCE.

Indian archeologist Mr. Puri and Verma, in 2001 conclude that in response of this tectonic event must be opening of Yamuna tear (a glarier valley responsible for Yamuna and satluj water today) (fig. 3.2) through which the joined water of the Tons, bata and Yamuna escaped southwards, robbing the water of Sarasvati.

Satellite Photography

Yr. 1960 Arial photography of Haryana Punjab region make more precisely topographical surveys. In next decade many surveys has done to mapping the area of Sarasvati. Photograph taken by satellites of NASA’s LANDSAT series, followed by those of French SPOT series and more recently the IRS series were used to study Sarasvati basin. In 1980 Scientist, Yas Pal, Baldev sahai, R.K. Sood and D.P. Agrawal published an paper entitle “Remote sensing of Lost River Sarasvati” based on analysis of many photo of LANDSAT satellites. They detected that:

The ancient bed of Ghaggar has a constant width of 6 to 8 km from shatrana in Punjab to Marot in Pakistan. The bed stands out very clearly. The vast expanse of Ghaggar bed can be explained only by assuming that some major tributaries were following into it in past. Our studies thus show that the satluj was main tributary of Ghaggar and that subsequent the tectonic movement may have forced the satluj westward and Ghaggar dried.  The major river system contributing waters to Ghaggar may have been prior channel of Yamuna. Main feeders were weaned away by Indus and Ganga, respectively.

Three ISRO scientist (Mr. J.R. Sharma, A.K. Gupta and B.K. Bhadra) in 2006 the results of their researched based on multi-spectral data from the new generation of IRS satellite.

Fig. 3.6

First 4-10 Km wide Ghaggar-hakra drawn by earlier researcher except branch that runs past fort abbas and marot in Pakistan.

Second stretches a course of 40 km in east of it, although it is under progress of explorations. Second course of 4 to 6 km wide roughly follow international border up to jaislamer district, where it precisely connects with the palaeochannels identified by A.S. rajawat (and area of 2-4km bears witness to existence of river system). And his colleagues in the Tanot-Kishangarh area.

Third is a minor channel running west of second. The fourth and fifth courses start south of chautang anf hug of Aravlies.

Broad’s area of Luni’s basin these three courses are fairly narrow. The ISRO’s own map suggests that through the chautang a connection between Sarasvati and Luni’s system must have existed at some point.


Dating Ancient Water

In 1995, S.M. Rao and K.M. Kulkarni from BARC drew an sample from wells in various part of Rajasthan. They studied the proportion in isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in additional radiocarbon from dissolved carbon compound (such as limestone), they concluded that:

The groundwater of the area is enriched is stable isotope content…compared to Himalayans rivers. The ground water samples exhibit negligible tritium content indicating absence of modern recharge. Radiocarbon dates suggest that groundwater is a few thousand years old… (Uncorrected ages: 4950 to 4400 BP (before present)…

Once calibrated those dates would be approximately 3700 to 3200 BCE. Research of Mr. Rao and Kulakrni with RGWD (Rajasthan ground water department) purposed to do more research in area of Jaislamer and Bikaner. They excavated more than 100 sites and found underwater flow bed in such area around 30 to 40 meters below the ground.

In 1999, Indian scientist led by V. Soni in Jaisalmer region found some tube wells which was running from last 40 years, their output was stable and no sign was found water table receding. Later it was concluded that underwater flow of these regions are active.

India’s First Civilization

In late 1850 during the railway line construction between lahor to multan. A group of huge mounds located near a village called Harappa in Sahiwal district of Punjab, on the bank of former bed of ravi, 12 km away from south river course present.

Alexander Cunningham, who had visited that place 1853 and again 1856 returned as director of ASI in 1872. During his initial visit he found some massive ancient walls. Cunningham assumes that this site belongs to Buddhist times. Cunninggham was retired in 1899. Jhon Marshall had replaced him in early 1902. Marshell had worked with these structures with help of locals and Sanskrit scholars at that time. And manage to find out that these massive walls and structure belongs to Bronze Age and Iron Age. But he had been confused the dating between these artifacts cause as per his knowledge bronze age has started around 800 BCE. In 1913, he started excavating Taxila in northern Punjab (Pakistan now).

Takshashila was Hindu-Buddhist center of learning; it was founded around 600 BCE and lived a millennial till it was destroyed by Hans. He found many artifacts which were relating taxila to modern phase of Harappa.

In Feb-January 1917, Daya Ram sahani a Sanskrit scholar and epigraphist run an long excavation and found a part of pottery, portion of brick structure, long beads, numerous bangles and terracotta copy in January 1921. Below mentioned facts had been made by close observation of artefacts tested.

  1. Harappa’s bricks had, scientific proportion in width & length which is 1:2:4.
  2. All the artefacts belonged to a “Pre-Mauryan” epoch.
  3. Harappa’s seal was discovered which is very much similar like “Proto-Elamite” tablets found in Susa, Capital of Elam (Mesopotamian Civilization).

In year 1919, Rakhal Das Banerjee observed another archeological structure which is similar to Harappan sites which is 800Km away. This site was called as Mohenjo-Daro. In 1923, Marshall wrote to Banerjee, immensely interested result. Mohenjo-drao, has similar tablets, pottery artefacts and Bricks structure.

An Age Old Civilization.

 A timeline of the Indus and contemporary civilizations.

Boundaries of Civilization

In the time of 1947 partition, the known harrapan sites numbered about forty; with two exceptions which is later discovered after Pakistan formation. By 1960, number of these sites reaches 100, 800 in 1979, 1400 in 1984. In yr. 1999 these sites are almost outnumbered in 2600 sites. A waste study based on all sites inside India and Pakistan (some sites also found in Tajikistan) together is more than 800,000 sqkm. Its makes it largest civilization with contemporary civilizations, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia put together.

Its boundaries were reached out from Gangetic plane to far most edge of Mesopotamia civilization. Recently many outside also found in UAE, Oman, Qatar also which is similar in structure to Harappa’s. New discoveries shows a whole civilization which is much related to mature phase of Gangetic civilization of India is found in Cambodia near Mahindra Parvat. These shows Indian civilization was biggest and gigantic in size in ancient times.

 Mature Phase of Harappa’s Civilization.

Marshall proposed that Mohenjo-Daro had flourished between 3250 and 2750 BCE. But radio carbon dating process of artefacts suggests date near around 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. Seven centuries represent the mature phase of harappan civilization, which includes advance civil order, standardized bricks sizes and proportions, a standardized system of weight, steatite seals and specific arts forms expressed through figurines, painted pottery, ornaments and daily objects.

Mohenjo-Daro whose population has been estimated at 40,000-50,000. German archeologist Michel Jansen who conducted a detailed research on city urbanization said, the size of city can be 300 ha. Others city like, Rakhigarhi-105 ha, Banawali-10ha, Kalibagan-12ha, lothal-7ha & dholavira-48 ha.

Details about Some Indus Cities


BanaWali (Size-10 Ha, Location- Fatehabad, district of Haryana)-Fig. 7.1

According to Mr. R.S.Bisht, who excavates this site in 1970, Banwali was an important administrative headquarters or provincial capital and prosperous trading center along the Sarasvati during Indus times. This site occupied in Pre-Urban phase. The Most remarkable structure unearthed at Banawali’s acropolis is a small building shaped as a semi-ellipse.

Period : Circa 2600-1700 BC (Early Harappan and Harappan Culture)

History and description : This site at village Banwali is on the dry bed of ancient river Sarasvati. The excavations have yielded three-fold culture sequence: Pre-Harappan (Early-Harappan), Harappan and Bara (post Harappan). This site was excavated by Dr. R.S.Bhist of Archaeological Survey of India.

Pre-Harappan assemblage (2600-2400 BC) is repreesented by the existence of well-planned houses and a fortification wall made of moulded bricks. In the pottery of this period, pre-Harappan painted motifs tended to become simpler sparse and use of white pigment becomes less popular progressively. The finer variety of the pottery comparable with Harappan ceramic included dish-on-stand, basin, trough, jars and bowls. The other finds included beads of semi-precious stones, terracotta, steatite and bangles of clay, shell, faience and copper.


Harappan Culture (2400-1900 BC) is marked by the presence of a well-planned fortified township laid in a radial pattern. The sophisticated red ware decorated with animal and floral designs comprises dish-on-stand, ‘S’-shaped jar, perforated jar, vase, cooking handis, beaker, basin and goblet etc. A terracotta plough model is important as it is a complete specimen found so far in Harappan Culture. Other remarkable finds are beads and bangles of semi-precious stones, terracotta and shell, chert blades, weights and sportsmen of ivory and bone, beads and foil in gold, terracotta animal figurines, inscribed steatite seals and terracotta seals, copper fish-hooks, charred barley grains etc.

Bara Culture (1900-1700 BC) is represented by the most distinguished pottery, which is sturdy and heavy, made of fine clay, baked carefully and dressed with deep toned oily gloss. The smaller finds are very few and excluded all classical Harappan items except terracotta nodules and cakes.

Kalibangan (Size-11.5 Ha, 200 km downstream from Banawali)


kalibangaThis 11.5 Ha site is strategical location at the confluence of the Sarasvati and drishadevti rivers and must be played major roles as a way station and monitor of overhead communications of harappan peoples.


This site was well planned urban city with acropolis of 120X240m, ration of 2:1. Its lower town is measured at least 360x240m. Lower town’s streets formed a well-planned and carefully maintained grid; their widths, starting from narrowest, were 1.8m, 3.6m, 5.4m and 7.2m in perfect geometric progression of 1:2:3:4.

Lothal (Size-7 Ha, 70 Km southwest from Ahamdabad, Gujarat)

Lothal (Copy).jpg

This 7 Ha city of Lothal was built with 12 to 21m thick wall. Clearly show high class of masonry work by harappan. It’s similar like banawali in respect of town, acropolis. It has wide street, well designed drains, and raw of twelve bathing platforms in perfectly straight line. The acropolis also boast a large building identified as warehouse, with square platform where we can visualize the goods being packed, tied, sealed, lifted on shoulders of collies and finally taken away. We have found sixty five sealing.

The Most remarkable structure is town eastern side. It is a 217m x 36m basin which indicated the ration of 1:6 and built with 1.5-1.8m thick walls. S.R. Rao, the excavator of that structure considers it first dockyard in human history. This alternative water reservoirs used for tying small boats which transports the good with river.

Dholavira (Size-47 Ha, Location-Rann of Kachch)


This site was discovered by J.P. Joshi in 1966 on khadir, Rann of kachch and excavation completed two decade later, under the direction of R.S. Bisht, this site had quite a few surprises in store for the archaeological world. Dholavira appears to be one of the most exciting discoveries of the past half century. Excited for three reasons:-

  1. It has unique town planning, first time in history, 47 ha fortified area four time bigger that of Kalibangan. The city is backed by two small streams. Its acropolis is inside the city and consist a small size castle. This castle dimension is 120X120m. Every other city has only two major areas. Upper town and lower town, but dholavira has three major portion, Upper town, Middle town and Lower town. It has huge stadium or ceremonial ground (283m X 47.5 m) in middle of town.
  2. Dholavira is only harappan site where stone was used on such a scale. Stone dressing was done with chisels of hard-ended bronze, and we will have some inking of the task involved if we remember that castle’s fortification up to 18.5 m wide in places, were made of mud bricks flanked by high stone walls.
  3. Water conservation is dholavira’s third hall mark. The city had few wells, with most imposing of them being in castle, but great care was taken to them. The largest measured about 73 X 29 Meter. and 33 X 9 Meter. Dholavira has huge and complex stone structure for water drainage.






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