Legacy of river Sarasvati continues to fascinate scholars

River Sarasvati has been an engrossing subject of debate among historians and archaeological experts for more than a century and it continues to stir them intellectually even today. Did the river, along whose banks flourished the Harappan civilization, ever exist? Or was it a reality lost to the posterity after 2000 BCE?

It is in this context that one has to view Major General G D Bakshi's book 'The Sarasvati Civilization: A Paradigm Shift in Ancient Indian History', published by Garuda Prakashan and released at a function in New Delhi on July 28 as a seminal contribution to the compendium of scholarly research into a river system that finds frequent mention in early Vedic texts.

Dr Vasant Shinde, Vice Chancellor of Deccan University, in his foreword to Bakshi's book, said that multidisciplinary academic approaches adopted by scholars and involvement of archaeological agencies over the last decade have resulted in confirmation of the location of the river, which is today named as Ghaggar-Hakra in northwest India. It is now established scientifically that Saraswati river originated in lower Shivalik mountain ranges, running through present-day Punjab, Haryana, Western Rajasthan into Bahawalpur district in Pakistan down to the Kutch part of Gujarat before meeting the Arabian Sea.

Analysis of recent archaeological data indicates the presence of densely scattered human settlements during the early Harappan (5500 BCE-2600 BCE) and subsequent Harappan periods (2600-2000 BCE) along the banks of the river. But late Harappan settlements (after 1900 BCE) moved away from the main river course, indicating that the river most probably disappeared around 2000 BCE.

The quest for a lost river also raises several questions which Bakshi's book addresses: Who are we as Indians? Who were the Indo-Aryans who have laid the foundation for our present day Hindu culture in India? Were they aliens or indigenous? If aliens, where did they come from? Where is the mythical Aryan homeland?

Bakshi's book assumes significance as it has not only collated data in one place but also incorporates discoveries and scientific data available till date.

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