Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Saraswati Civilisation

Author: Rajesh Singh

A fresh study by a group of international scientists confirms the dominant role of Saraswati river in sustaining the so-called Indus Valley Civilisation.

A new study titled, ‘Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilisation’, has concluded that the Indus Valley Civilisation died out because the monsoons which fed the rivers that supported the civilisation, migrated to the east. With the rivers drying out as a result, the civilisation collapsed some 4000 years ago. The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the US, the UK, India, Pakistan and Romania between 2003 and 2008. While the new finding puts to rest, at least for the moment, other theories of the civilisation’s demise, such as the shifting course of rivers due to tectonic changes or a fatal foreign invasion, it serves to strengthen the premise that the civilisation that we refer to as the Indus Valley Civilisation was largely located on the banks of and in the proximity of the Saraswati river.

More than 70 per cent of the sites that have been discovered to contain archaeological material dating to this civilisation’s period are located on the banks of the mythological — and now dried out — river. As experts have been repeatedly pointing out, nearly 2,000 of the 3,000 sites excavated so far are located outside the Indus belt that gives the civilisation its name.

In other words, the Indus Valley Civilisation was largely and in reality the Saraswati River Civilisation. Yet, in our collective consciousness, numbed by what we have been taught — and what we teach — we continue to relate this ancient civilisation exclusively with the Indus Valley. For decades since Independence, our Governments influenced by Leftist propaganda, brazenly refused to accept even the existence of the Saraswati river, let alone acknowledge the river’s role in shaping one of the world’s most ancient civilisations. In recent years, senior CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury had slammed the Archaeological Survey of India for “wasting” time and money to study the lost river. A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture which he headed in 2006, said, “The ASI has deviated in its working and has failed in spearheading a scientific discipline of archaeology. A scientific institution like the ASI did not proceed correctly in this matter.”

Yet, on occasion after occasion, scientific studies have proved that the Saraswati did exist as a mighty river. According to experts who have studied the map of all relevant underground channels that are intact to date and connected once upon a time with the river, the Saraswati was probably 1500 km long and 3-15 km wide.

The latest study, whose findings were published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, too is clear on the river’s existence and its role in sustaining the ancient civilisation. The report said that the Saraswati was “not Himalayan-fed by a perennial monsoon-supported water course.” It added that the rivers in the region (including Saraswati) were “indeed sizeable and highly active.”

Will the new findings lead to a fresh thinking on the part of the Government and an acknowledgement that the time has come to officially rename the Indus Valley Civilisation as the Saraswati-Indus Civilisation? But the UPA regime had been in denial mode for years, much like the Left has been for decades. As the then Union Minister for Culture, Jaipal Reddy told Parliament that excavations conducted so far had not revealed any trace of the lost river. Clearly, for him and his then Government, it meant that the river was the creation of fertile minds fed by mythological books with an even more fertile imagination. The UPA Government then went ahead and slashed the budget for the Saraswati River Heritage Project — which had been launched by the NDA regime. The project report had been prepared in September 2003, envisaging a cost of roughly Rs 32 crore on the scheme. The amount was ruthlessly pruned to less than five crore rupees. In effect, the project was shelved.

However, despite its best efforts to do so, the UPA could not completely ignore the facts that kept emerging about the reality of the river and the central role which it had played in the flourishing of the so-called Indus Valley Civilisation. In a significant shift from its earlier stand that probes conducted so far showed no evidence of the now invisible Saraswati river, the Government admitted half-way through its first tenure in office that scientists had discovered water channels indicating (to use the scientists’ quote) “beyond doubt” the existence of the “Vedic Saraswati river”. The Government’s submission came in response to an unstarred question in the Rajya Sabha on whether satellite images had “established the underground track of Saraswati, and if so, why should the precious water resources not be exploited to meet growing demands?”

The Union Water Resources Ministry had then quoted in writing the conclusion of a study jointly conducted by scientists of Indian Space Research Organisation, Jodhpur, and the Rajasthan Government’s Ground Water Department, published in the Journal of Indian Society of Remote Sensing. Besides other things, the authors had said that “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 age, beyond doubt indicate the existence of a mighty palaeo-drainage system of Vedic Saraswati river in this region… The description and magnanimity of these channels also matches with the river Saraswati described in the Vedic literature.”

Interestingly, the Archaeological Survey of India’s National Museum has been as forthright on the issue. This is what a text put up in the Harappan Gallery of the National Museum says: “Slowly and gradually these people evolved a civilisation called variously as the ‘Harappan civilisation’, the ‘Indus civilisation’, the ‘Indus Valley civilisation’ and the ‘Indus-Saraswati civilisation’.” The text further elaborates on the importance of the river: “It is now clear that the Harappan civilisation was the gift of two rivers — the Indus and the Saraswati — and not the Indus alone.”

There is another interesting aspect to the new study by the group of international scientists that deserves mention. The report has discounted the possibility of ‘foreign invasion’ as one of the causes of the ancient civilisation’s decline. But, long before this report was published, NS Rajaram, who wrote the book, Saraswati River and the Vedic Civilisation, had noted that the discovery of the Saraswati river had “dealt a severe blow” to the theory that the Aryans had invaded India, which then had the Harappan Civilisation. The theory supposes that the Harappans were non-Vedic since the Vedic age began with the coming of the Aryans.

But, since the Saraswati flowed during the Vedic period, the Vedic era ought to have coincided with the Harappan age. Rajaram says in his book that the Harappan civilisation “was none other than the great river (Saraswati) described in the Rig Veda. This means that the Harappans were Vedic.”

Not just that, experts have pointed out for long that there is no evidence of an invasion, much less from the Aryans who ‘came from outside’. Rajaram, like many others had concluded that the drying up of the Saraswati river and not some ‘invasion’ was the principal cause for the civilisation’s decline.

However, the latest study by the international group leaves a question mark on the origins of the river. The report claims that Saraswati was not a Himalayan river. But, several experts believe that the river originated from the Har-ki-Dun glacier in Gharwal. Let’s wait for the final word.

(The accompanying visual is a reconstruction of the gateway and drain at Harappa by Chris Sloan. Courtesy: Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison and


Comment Link 06 June 2012 posted by Navaratna Rajaram
There is nothing new here, only the scholarly world has caughgt up with it. David Frawley and highlighted all this and gave also a reason for the 300 year drought that brought down not only the Harappan (Sarasvati) but also civilizations from Egypt to China. It was probably due to a 300 year drought that struck in a belt from the Aegean to China.

This was documented in the book VEDIC ARYANS AND THE ORIGINS OF CIVILIZATION by Navaratna Rajaram and David Frawley (1995). It saw three editions.

Later, in 2000, the late Natwar Jha and I (N.S. Rajaram) in our book THE DECIPHERED INDUS SCRIPT convincingly showed that the Sarasvati (Harappan) civilization was Vedic and its language related to Vedic Sanskrit.

This drew the wrath of anti-Hindu forces led by Romila Thapar who brought in the Hindu hater Michael Witzel to launch a personal attack against me and Jha, in the Communist magazine FRONTLINE.

Visit for details and also Professor D.K. Chakravarti of Cambridge writing about these leftists on history.

 Source: Received by email from
S. Kalyanaraman

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Art of Losing the Good Stuff

Having booted out Buddhism, we settled instead for our colourful, effective and easy-to-follow Puranic faith

The Indus Valley script will remain an enigma because the white man is gone and the Hindu is neither interested in nor capable of decoding his past.

Aakar Patel

We exported Theravada from the south and civilized Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Cold and austere (observe how calm Lankans and Thai are), godless and illuminating, for me, Theravada is real Buddhism.Past glory: The Buddha statue at the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. By Karthikeyan Pandian/Wikimedia Commons

We had no use for it and exported it till all stock ran out. From the north, we exported Mahayana, civilizing Japan, China, Tibet and Bhutan with magic about bodhisattvas. How they converted our mumbo-jumbo into cultural gold is a mystery.

It is true, however, that the Japanese didn’t absorb the poisonous Indian message of maya. They look at the world empirically, and their Buddhist sites and rituals are different from ours. These nations accept their debt to us and it is remarkable how liked Indians are in many of these places.

Anyway, we had no use for Mahayana either and it is gone from here. From the West we imported Islam. I suspect a profit was not made on the transactions.

What export do we have to offer the world today? Looking at what I pay for visas, I’m convinced India’s main export is the illegal immigrant. But one cannot say what is obvious without hurting Indians, so I won’t. Having booted out Buddhism, we settled instead for our colourful, effective and easy-to-follow Puranic faith. My understanding of its essence is as follows:

Hindu: “God, gimme!”

God: “First gimme!”

The Shanti Stupa at Dhauli Giri in Orissa where it is believed that Ashok, full of remorse after the Kalinga War in 261 BC, renounced violence and turned to Buddhism. By Debashis Pradhan/Wikimedia Commons

Exactly 175 years ago next Thursday, an Englishman told us of the existence of the Indian king who began all of this civilizing. A king who was short, ugly and with a little paunch, according to writer Charles Allen, but whose title was “lovely-to-behold”. A man in whose kitchen two peacocks (every day) and a deer (most days) were slaughtered for curry, according to his own regretful admission. A man whose monuments Hiuen Tsang, the Buddhist monk from China, recorded 900 years after his death. An Indian credited in the Lankan texts with sending Tathagata’s message to them. A king whose name is mentioned once and dismissed in the Vishnu Puran. A man whose name means “without sorrow”, but whose most famous act was one from sorrow, after he butchered the Oriyas at Kalinga. A man Indians knew nothing about till James Prinsep unveiled him on 7 June 1837, at the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta.

That evening, Prinsep announced that he had deciphered the Brahmi script, in which mysterious and uniform inscriptions were found all over India, but not understood. One can imagine the excitement in him, and in his audience, as Prinsep read out the single most commonly found line on rock edicts that were planted in triumph from Afghanistan to Bengal—on pillars in territory governed by Alexander the Great’s Greeks, where the European submitted for the first and only time to the Indian.

That night, after 23 centuries, from the time of classical Athens, our greatest ruler called out to us again: “Devanampiya Piyadasi raja evam aha(King Priyadarshi, whom the gods love, says this).”

I stared at the line a long time when I first happened across it, and was not surprised when tears welled up and blurred it. Jawaharlal Nehru must have been as moved, for Ashok’s wheel is on our flag, and his superb lion capital (when did we lose that talent for sculpture?) is the symbol of our republic.

Nehru was moved further, for he named his only daughter Priyadarshini, after Ashok. What a gift Prinsep gave us. Functionally literate, but really only numerate, our learned Brahmins ignored the writing for 2,000 years. They were unable to find meaning in, unwilling even to observe, this spindly script. Prinsep, who was not a linguist, unlocked it quite easily by locating its vowels.

The Indus Valley script will remain an enigma because the white man is gone and the Hindu is neither interested in nor capable of decoding his past. The foreigner must do this work for him. Rudyard Kipling knew this and rubs it in with pride and glee in Kim, when the Lahore Museum’s English director educates the stupefied lama about the treasures of his faith. Nothing has changed since then.

Today, Scot William Dalrymple will instruct us about our last emperor. Frenchman Christophe Jaffrelot writes the history of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rise. German von Stietencron teaches us how to identify which king built what temple. Finn Asko Parpola reveals to us that the Harappan script is actually proto-Dravidian. I could go on but there’s no point.
Why are we such a pathetic and helpless race today?

We were not in Ashok’s time. The determination and single-mindedness of the men who, for a thousand years, bore into the hard rock halfway up a mountain at Ajanta are not identifiable as Indian.

The slow trajectory of Buddha’s appropriation into the Puranic faith is stamped in stone there. First, the stupas in the oldest caves, then, the anthropomorphic statues we’re familiar with and then, when you drive down the road to Ellora, the total absorption into the fold of avatars. Game over.

But even then, the resilience, the quality, was there. Generations ofbaniyas—Hindu, Jain and Buddhist—funded the massive sculpting project at Ellora.

Today, Indians at Ellora only litter and scratch. These places are noisy, vulgar picnic spots, not monuments that terrify us into looking at ourselves.

It’s even worse across the border. A decade or so ago, writer Avirook Sen and I were driving from Multan to Islamabad when we stopped at Harappa to see the Indus Valley Civilization’s mighty site. It was heart-stoppingly beautiful and utterly deserted. The man at the counter punched out two tickets for foreigners and had them at the ready even before we reached him (Pakistan shares our brilliant policy of penalizing tourists who brave a visit to our nations). How did he know we weren’t Pakistanis? “Pakistanis don’t come here,” he said.

Somewhere near the middle of the two-and-a-half-dozen caves at Ajanta is one that is fully excavated but not finished. It has no sculpture, its walls and pillars are rough, ready for workmen to shape them. Shorn of the finished look of the others, the visitor will immediately register how much work went into the project.

When I saw it, I understood that it was deliberately left half finished. It is an act of insolence, of justifiable arrogance. This, it says to us, is what we are capable of. What about you?

It is terrifying, because today we cannot even keep our neighbourhoods clean.

When one points out that we make no contribution to science, the answer is that India gave the world zero. I don’t disagree with that statement.

Having vomited out all this, it occurs to me that there is another way of looking at it. If we view this less emotionally, and in a purely Darwinian sense, I am absolutely wrong.

The truth is that the Indian subcontinent cannot be seen as a failure. There are 1.6 billion of us here, sending down our genes more rapidly than any other race in history. We may live a parasitical life, off borrowed learning from the West and with nothing to offer of our own. But we are by numbers the most successful people in history.
So what if our days of civilizing the world are behind us.

Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist.
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