NEW DELHI:Like the ending notes of a soulful song, soft and rhyming, the names Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati has always been associated with purity and holiness. Rig Veda lavishly praises Saraswati as ámbitame nádītame dévitame sárasvati—best mother, best river, best goddess. Every year millions of devotees make their sacrosanct annual trips to Ganga and Yamuna to wash away their sins but no one knows if the mythical Saraswati river is still flowing somewhere unnoticed and unknown. If MGNREGA workers employed by the BJP-run Haryana government are to be believed, the mythical and elusive Saraswati might have found its way up the earth.
Last Tuesday, a group of MGNREGA workers were jubilant at finding a source of water, which they religiously believed to be the sweet water of the Saraswati, while digging up earth. As the news travelled far wide, fervent digging was carried out three-kilometers from Adi Badri, which according to legend is believed to be source of river Saraswati. They were hailed by the locals and the district administration of having traced the river whose mention is found in the Rig Veda. The search for Saraswati is not something new, but for many years historians, archaeologists and politicians have invested energy, time and money to find the missing sister of the two Rig Vedic rivers. However, the debate over its existence has divided the world into polar camps—one firmly believing that it is still there, the other questioning whether the Rig Veda, an epic and literature, can be a trusted source of history. While, the jury may still be out if the water discovered was part of palaeo-channels of dried up ‘mythical’ river Saraswati, but ML Khattar-led-Haryana government is elated. In April this year, it had sanctioned Rs 50 crore to discover the ‘lost river’.
Since, the formation of Narendra Modi government at the centre and party rule in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat—the four states where Saraswati is believed by some archaeologists, and some of the historians, to have flowed over 4,000 years ago—the interest is being surely revived. In August last year, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati too had announced that she would launch an initiative to trace the river.
The Archaeological Survey of India too has done its bit. The excavations started by the country’s premier agency at Binjore, in district Ganganagar of Rajasthan, in November 2014, after the new government took over, have thrown up interesting artefacts, which links the area to similar sites in Bahawalpur in Punjab, the part of Hakra river civilisation.
“We found remains residential complexes of mud bricks with multi-structural phases, along with variety of pottery of Harappan affirnity. But it was like a village site, unlike the bigger Harrapan finds like in Kalibangan in Haryana which have citadel like structures,” a senior ASI official said.
Binjore is along the part of palaeo-channel of Saraswati, whose reference is found in the Rig Veda, and even has been established by geo-spatial investigations by ISRO.
The ASI took up the Binjore excavations as part finding habitation along the Saraswati river after a lull of several years during the UPA regime. The then culture minister Jagmohan during the NDA I regime had started the project to trace Saraswati, but was shelved later by subsequent government which termed it as saffronisation of history. The RSS’ history wing has been running a project for a number of years to trace this elusive river.
Archaeologists are doubtful that that their work was to trace the lost river. “We conduct excavations to find antiquities and habitations. According to some river Gaggar in present day Punjab and Haryana is believed to be Saraswati. It along with river Hakra in Pakistan has thrown up several important archaeological finds. The Indus valley civilisation is now referred as Gaggar-Hakra,” the official said.