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The Mighty Sarasvati

ámbitame nádītame dévitame sárasvati ” – (RV 2.41.16) . It means “Best Mother, best of Rivers, best of Goddesses, Sarasvatī”

A river that sustained one of the oldest civilizations , the river that saw the greatest of literary works created along her shores. A river that got lost from the combined minds of the people whose culture she originally sustained like a mother. Found this article and hoped to share it

Sarasvati River – The Sarasvati River in Hindu texts

Sarasvati River – Rig Veda

The Hindu Vedas mention a river named Sarasvatī. In Sanskrit saras means a pool or water body, and vatī (from vntī, the female form of the -vant suffix) means “she having lots of pools”. Sarasvati was the biggest and most important of the seven holy rivers of the Rig Veda. In the Rig Veda the Sarasvati River is mentioned over 60 times (e.g. Rig Veda 2.41.16; 6.61.8-13; 1.3.12.), and there are several references to the “seven rivers” (e. g. RV 2.12; RV 4.28; RV 8.24).

Most scholars agree that at least some of the references to the Sarasvati in the Rig Veda refer to the Ghaggar-Hakra River. It is however a matter of debate whether the name of the river was transferred from the Punjab to Afghanistan or vice versa.

The Rig Veda describes the Sarasvati as the best of all the rivers (RV 2.41.16-18; also 6.61.13; 7.95.2). Rig Veda 7.36.6 calls it “the Seventh, Mother of Floods” sárasvatī saptáthī síndhumātā. RV 2.41.16 ámbitame nádītame dévitame sárasvati “best mother, best river, best goddess” expresses the importance and reverence of the Vedic religion for the Sarasvati river.

In the Rig Veda (7.95.1-2, tr. Griffith) the Sarasvati is described as flowing to the ocean:

This stream Sarasvati with fostering current comes forth, our sure defence, our fort of iron. As on a car [= chariot], the flood flows on, surpassing in majesty and might all other waters. Pure in her course from mountains to the ocean, alone of streams Sarasvati hath listened. Thinking of wealth and the great world of creatures, she poured for Nahusa her milk and fatness.

The Rig Veda also describes the Sarasvati as a river that flows from the mountains to the Samudra, ocean (see RV 2.41.16-18; 7.95.2). Samudra is usually translated as “ocean” (e.g. Griffith, Macdonnel and Keith) and the word “samudra” means “with waves”. But a minority of scholars (e.g. Madhav Deshpande) translate the term Samudra as “river”. And some Rig-vedic verses (6.61.2) indicate that the Sarasvati river originated in the high Himalayas like the ancient “Sarasvati-Sutlej” river where she could “burst with her strong waves the ridges of the hills”, and not merely in the Himalayan foothills like the present-day Sarasvati-Ghaggar river.

Rig Veda 7.95.2. and other verses (e.g. 8.21.18 ) also tell that the Sarasvati region poured milk and “fatness” (ghee), indicating that cattle were herded in the region.

In the enumeration of the rivers in Rigveda 10.75.05, the order is Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri (= Sutlej). This verse enumerates all important rivers from the Ganges in the east to the Punjab in the west in a strict geographical order. The position of the Sarasvati between the Yamuna and the Sutlej in this Rigvedic verse is the same as that of the Ghaggar-Hakra river. Hence it is quite clear that one of the rivers given the name ‘Sarasvati’ flowed through Haryana and Rajasthan. The question is whether this is the primal ‘Sarasvati’.

There are Indus Valley Civilization archaeological sites on the Ghaggar and its continuation, but not further downstream than Bahawalpur province of Pakistan, as if the water could not be relied on for irrigation any further downstream. The Mahabharata says that the River Sarasvati ended in a desert, and that each year there was a religious ceremony at the confluence of Sutlej and Yamuna (probably in what is now Bahawalpur province) if either river flowed so far without drying up.

The water that got into the Sarasvati would tend to get less over time due to:-

  • Erosion of glacier which must be feeding Saraswati (Like Gangotri glacier feeds River Ganga, and Gangotri glacier is getting eroded slowly)
  • Loss of rain caused by deforestation and overgrazing in its headwaters area.
  • Loss of rain caused by deforestation and overgrazing generally, causing climate change.
  • Large amounts of its water being led off to irrigate fields.

The Sarasvati may have routinely flowed much further before agriculture and livestock domestication started, and the Rann of Kutch is likely the remains of its delta.

The Vedic Sarasvati river finally stopped flowing when the Sutlej and the upper Yamuna changed their courses. Some scholars believe that a great earthquake in plains of punjab must have resulted in changing the course of Sutlej and Yamuna. Today, we find that river Sutlej has a sharp turn in her course near Ropar in Haryana.

A river flowing into an aggrading flood plain tends to gradually build up with silt the land round its course, until at the next big flood the river finds it easier to flow into lower land further away from its old course. See Hwang Ho for a river known for spectacular destructive changes of course.

The Rigveda says that this Sarasvati rises in the mountains and ends up in the sea (e.g. RV 7.95.2 quoted above); it describes a man sailing up the Sarasvati from the sea to the mountains; but that may have been an unusual feat when one year’s very heavy monsoon rains filled the Sarasvati so full that it flooded normally dry channels and reached the sea.

It is thought that the main feeders of the River Sarasvati were:-

  • The upper Yamuna, which then turned west near Paonta Saheb where it leaves the hills.
  • The Sutlej, which then flowed further east.

Sometimes Sarasvati also means the heavenly ‘river’ – i.e. the Milky Way – and it is also personified as a goddess.

The Rig Veda refers to seven sacred or important rivers (Sapta Sindhu). In RV 10.64.8. and 6.61.2. three groups of seven sacred rivers are refered to (maybe the Indus-system, the Sarasvati-system and the Ganga-system).

Sarasvati River – Other Hindu texts

Later texts like the Mahabharata narrate that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert.

The Brahmanas, which are considered later texts than the Rig Veda, mention that the Sarasvati flowed through a desert; the Puranas like Bhagavata Purana mention her too and the Mahabharata says that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert, possibly the Thar Desert (Mhb. 3.130.3; 6.7.47; 6.37.1-4., 9.34.81, 9.36.1-2.).

In the Manu Samhita (II.17-18), the sage Manu, escaping from a flood, founded the Vedic culture between the Sarasvati and Drishadvati rivers. In the Shatapatha Brahmana there is a description of the God Agni burning out rivers, which may be a reference to the drying up of rivers.

The Mahabharata states that Vasishtha committed suicide by throwing himself into the Sutlej and that the Sutlej then broke up in a 100 channels (Yash Pal in S.P. Gupta 1995: 175). This myth seems to be related with the changing of the course of the Sutlej river. Recent research indicates that the Sutlej flowed into the Ghaggar-Hakra river in ancient times. According to Hindu mythology, the Sarasvati flows in a subterranenan channel and joins the Yamuna and the Ganga in the “Triveni Sangam” at Prayag (Allahabad).

When the Mahabharata War began, Saraswati was already becoming dry. That is why when Balaram, elder brother of Krishna, decided to remain neutral and refused to participate in the war, took a journey along the banks of Saraswati and visited a number of holy places during the wartime.
The goddess Sarasvati was originally a personification of this river, and later developed an identity and meaning independently from the river.

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February 6, 2009 Posted by | Aryan Invasion Theory | , , , | Leave a comment

Aryan Invasion Theory – A chat with Max Muller

Max Muller

Max Muller

Wanting to find what exactly the Aryan invasion Theory was, I decided that asking anyone apart from Max Muller would only give me a contorted and personalized view of the Theory, so I sought out the “great” man , to explain is theory so that I could understand it a little better.

We exchanged the pleasantries and I I ventured into the topi and asked him to explain the AIT for me. Here are the excerpts from the chat that we had.

Max Muller(MM): Long time ago around 2500 years after the earth was created by god….

Me: Er…Am sorry sir, but did I really hear what i just heared ? (heck if I hadnt heared wat I heared I am hallucinating isn’t it), that the world was created in 1500+2500 = 4000 B.C.??

MM: Yes you dimwit, don’t u know your “history”?? Don’t you know that the bible says that earth was created in 4004 BC? I knew it, I knew that you dark skinned people are fools, I really believe in what my good friend Macaulay says about converting you people to become “European in thought and Indians in looks”. You fools can’t think for your selves.

Me: Hail Hitler, I mean Muller ..Please continue (I get confused with names of people who propose German racial superiority)

MM: Ok let me recap for you because I know you would have forgotten where I started. I know that, because I saw the film about losing your memory in 15 minutes ….err… I forgot the name of the movie, and I concluded that every one of you Indians is like that. And no, you cannot change my conclusion and we are also going to put this theory of mine about Indians having very short memories into your text books, so that your future generation learns about it.

(I thought I caught a glimpse of the great man going into a nostalgic trip, so I had to wake him up)

MM: Ahem, I was thinking about something similar that happened a long time back. Anyway, as I was saying, around 1500 BC a group of Nomadic tribesmen, of fair skin, blue eyes and tall body structure.. Well to cut it short a group of smart blondes (I wanted to ask whether some jokes going round about blondes are true, but I did not want to interrupt the great man) on horse driven chariot’s came to (I wanted to ask him how they came precisely to the Indus Valley where there was a civilization and nowhere else, but I wanted to it for later) the Indus valley where there was a great civilization of the dark skinned Dravidians. It was a really great civilization, with Roads, cities, drainage system, a strong administrative system etc, but they did not have the horse chariot like we Aryans had, I mean like the Aryans had. See I told you that you Indians were fools and did not even have the brains to domesticate a horse.

Me: But Mr. Muller they had such a great civilization

MM: Oh shut up So what if they had a great civilization? They did not domesticate a horse, so they must be stupid. And now let me continue my flawless theory.

Me: But there are cave paintings which depict a horse and a rider even before the mighty Aryans came……

MM: Will you shut up and let me continue? Ok these Aryans came from Europe and ransacked the whole place. And made the Dravidians run for their life. You know they were scared to shit to such an extent that they ran all the way into South India !! Poor buggers Ha ha ha.

Me: But Sir, was there an exodus of these Aryans from Europe? Because, it would take a hell a lot of people to over throw an already existing civilization, that too the ones who had forts around their towns. (I really wanted to check if he had any idea if the south at that time was empty or populated with any other civilization, but then the great man had to continue.)

MM: No, it’s was just a few hordes of them but why do they need lots of soldiers to defeat the dark skinned fools? Anyways this tribe of Aryans then settled down all over the place in India, except in the cities and town that they won over.

Me: But sir why would an invading tribe not settle down in the town that they had captured?

MM: How can a smart group of barbaric people occupy town and cities created by dark skinned fools ? Ok lets continue, these tribes settled down all over the northwest of India and started to preach the vedas that they had bought with them.

Me: The Vedas were bought along with them sir? Wow it must have been mighty difficult to fight with a sword in one hand and a book in the other, and that too doing a balancing act on a Horse!! But sir, I also heard that Sanskrit is one of the most grammatically correct languages and is even considered to be the best suited as a computer language. How can a nomadic tribe create such an exquisite language?

(He was thinking for some time and then responded)

MM: This is a propaganda by the rightwing , hindutva faction who wants to make Sanskrit as the world language, do not believe them.

(I couldn’t believe my ears, I did finally realize that anything remotely concerned with India and its ancient history is considered rightwing. So I just let it go.)

Me: Oh Well Ok Sir. So the barbaric tribe came from Europe they bought their books with them, chased the aboriginal people of India into the south and became Indians? But then sir, why is there a uniformity of the Aryan religion all over India, even though the Dravidians were chased off ?

MM: Oh that was a parting gift from the smart blondes, they gave the fleeing Dravidians a photocopy of their religious text and asked them to read it, if they wanted to be smart like them. That’s how the Dravidians started to follow the Aryan religion.

By Now my head was WHIRLING like a washing machine, I had to stop, so I asked his permission to leave for the day and requested a appointment sometime later so as to clear a lot of other doubts. He agreed, so when I get a chance to speak to him again I will clear a few more doubts and will update them on this blog.

*********Update*********

The Aryan Invasion theory in all seriousness is as follows.

According to the theory, a Caucasian race of nomadic warriors known as the Aryans, originating in the Caucasus mountains in Central Asia, invaded Northern India and Iran, somewhere between 1800 and 1500 BC. The Invaders entered the Indian sub-continent from the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush mountains possibly on horseback, bringing with them the domesticated horse into the sub-continent. The theory further proposes that this race displaced the indigenous Dravidian people and their Indus Valley Culture, and that the bulk of the indigenous people moved to the Southern reaches of the subcontinent. The Aryans brought with them their own Vedic religion, which was codified in the Vedas around the 1500 to 1200 BC. Upon arrival in India, the Aryans abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and intermixed with the Dravidians remaining in the north of India. The victory of the Aryans over the Indus Valley Civilization was quick and complete, resulting in the complete domination of Aryan culture and language over the northern part of the subcontinent and considerable influence on parts of the south.

February 2, 2009 Posted by | Aryan Invasion Theory, Free Speech & Thought, Humour | , , , | 2 Comments