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Search for the mythical Saraswati gains momentum
NEW DELHI: Efforts to revive the mythical Saraswati riverare gaining momentum.
The Rajasthan government has constituted the Rajasthan River Basin and Water Resources Planning Authority to revive the Saraswati river in the state besides looking into various issues connected with river basins including intra-basin river water transfer.
According to its Chairman Sriram Vedire, the authority would coordinate with top institutions like ISRO, Central Ground Water Board, State Ground Water Board andNational Institute of Hydrology and an agency working in the area of arid zone paleo-channels to analyse the facts for the purpose before preparing a detailed report in three to six months.
The Haryana government has also initiated digging work in April to find the Saraswati. It has now named the Haryana Saraswati Heritage Development Board to do field work in this regard. The board will maintain liaison with institutions like UNESCO and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Mentioned in the Rig Veda and other ancient literature, the river is believed to have once flowed, parallel to the Indus, through what is now desert before falling into the Arabian Sea.
It is believed to have disappeared between 5000 BC and 3000 BC due to tectonic events in the Himalayas.
French-born Indologist Michel Danino, who has authored “The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati” (2010), says partial revival of the upper course of the Saraswati (including the Markanda, Dangri, Ghaggar and other streams in this river system) is possible only through massive reforestation of the Shivalik Hills’ slopes and water harvesting in the plains.
“…We need more geological and hydrological studies to understand the river’s evolution. It would also be a good idea to draw lessons from the Saraswati’s disappearance and make sure Ganga and other Himalayan rivers do not suffer the same fate – which they might well if we continue to recklessly misuse our water resources,” Danino told PTI.
Meanwhile, Udaipur-based conservation Raza Tehsin cites the discovery of a snow trout in a subterranean cave in Rajasthan to suggest that the Saraswati might have flown through the state.
In May 1987, the fish was seen swimming near the entrance of the cave in Udaipur. It was caught and identified as belonging to the subfamily Schizoracinae.
“The occurrence of a Schizothoracine fish in the region south of Aravali hills in Rajasthan is intriguing. At present, there is no river or seasonal stream in this region connecting the drainage of the sub-Himalayan region of Punjab and Jammu Kashmir. Since the cave does not receive any surface drainage, the presence of Schizothoracine fish in the cave could be a case of geographical isolation,” says Tehsin.
Writing in the Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, he said, “If we recreate the geographical scenario of the region, several years back, then we can visualise that the drainage of Mewar was flowing towards west and maybe a tributary towards west was present to join the Saraswati. The fishes of Himalayan region constantly might have migrated from Saraswati river through its tributaries towards Mewar region.
“Due to some geological upheavals when the geographical isolation took place, the fishes from cold region were cut off from their main water body. Some species of fish survived in underground water bodies because the water beneath the surface remained comparatively cool. That is how this snow trout might have been isolated from the river’s tributary at the time of geographical isolation and survived all these years in the underwater body.
According to the central government, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has already conducted excavations under Saraswati Project since 2003 at these sites – Adibadri (in Yamuna Nagar district), Thanesar (Kurukshetra), Bhirana (Fatehbad), and Hansi (Hissar) in Haryana; Baror (Ganganagar), Tarkhanwala Dera (Ganganagar), Chak 86 (Ganganagar) and Karanpura (Hanumangarh) in Rajasthan; and Junikaran (Kachchha) and Khirsara (Kachchha) in Gujarat.
Danino says Saraswati is praised in the Rig Veda as a river flowing ‘from the mountain to the sea’ and between the Yamuna and the Sutlej.
“The only river matching this description is the Ghaggar-Hakra of Haryana, Punjab and Cholistan, now mostly a seasonal stream; its dry bed was explored from the 1810s to the 1840s by British surveyors and topographers.
“In 1855, an eminent French geographer, Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin, proposed the identification of the Ghaggar system with the Vedic Sarasvati, which was accepted by generations of Indologists (Max Muller, Wilson, Monier Williams, Keith, Pargiter), geographers (Siddiqi, Wilhelmy), geologists (Oldham) and archaeologists (Aurel Stein, Wheeler, Allchin, Possehl) – most of them Westerners. It is the only reasonable identification, in my opinion; the few alternatives proposed suffer from major flaws.”