Scientific evidence for River Saraswati, says Uma Bharti – TNN & TOI

Saraswati River Map

Uma Bharti is the Union Cabinet Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation“BJP member Ratan Lal Kataria said the river was a symbol of India’s cultural heritage and completes the narrative of the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilization which grew up by its banks and by the banks of the other historic river Indus.” – TNN

The government has launched a fresh effort to unravel the ancient riddle about the existence of river Saraswati which finds reference in Vedic texts.

Though efforts have been made in the past by geologists and the scientific community, both during British period as well as in independent India, the river remains a mystery so much so that its mention in ancient texts has invariably been termed ‘mythological’.

“There is enough scientific evidence on the presence of the river Saraswati in some parts of the country through which it flowed about five to six thousand years ago … Saraswati is not a myth”, said the Union water resources and river development minister Uma Bharti on Tuesday.

Responding to a calling attention motion in Lok Sabha, Bharti said her government was taking up the issue very seriously “to trace the route of the river”.

She also informed the Lower House that the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) of her ministry has been directed “to test the water of a well located inside the Allahabad Fort” in order to trace the source and route of the lost river.

The motion was moved in the House by BJP member Ratan Lal Kataria who wanted the government to set up ‘Saraswati Research Institute’ for the “revival” of the river. He reminded the House of a promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, he claimed, during an election campaign in Kurkshetra vowed to bring to the surface the water of the subterranean river Saraswati.

Stating that a lot of research has been done on the river, particularly in Gujarat, Bharti said there were several rivers named Saraswati which emanated from the Himalayas, including one which mingled with the Triveni in Allahabad, another with Mandakini and the third with Alaknanda river.

She said there was also a river with the same name that passed through Haryana to Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Raising his demand, Kataria said the river was a symbol of India’s cultural heritage and completes the narrative of the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilization which grew up by its banks and by the banks of the other historic river Indus.

He said drilling of deep wells in parts of Gujarat had shown the existence of sweet water, which proved the existence of water flow.

Maintaining that research work on the river would also act as a search for lost civilizations and habitations, Kataria demanded the establishment of an authority to carry on the research. – The Times of India, 13 August 2014

Saraswati River

Myth to Reality: Sarasvati River is set to flow again – Atul Sethi – The Times of India – Dec 28, 2008

Atul Sethi“The idea that the ancient Sarasvati might be the modern-day seasonal river, Ghaggar, is not new. It was first put forward over 100 years ago by C.F. Oldham, an English engineer who observed that the dry bed of the Ghaggar appeared too broad for a seasonal river. He believed that the Ghaggar was, in fact, flowing on the bed of a bigger river that existed before. Archaeological excavations of the Indus Valley sites have also revealed numerous settlements along the Ghaggar, lending further credence to this theory.” – Atul Sethi

Almost 13 km from Kurukshetra lies the ancient village of Bhoresaidan – named after the Kaurava hero Bhurisrava, who was one of Duryodhana’s 11 distinguished senapatis during the Mahabharata war. A dusty road adjacent to the village leads to a yawning valley, flanked by rocks and covered with a soil that is a curious mix of various sedimentary deposits. Rajesh Purohit, deputy director of the Kurukshetra-based Sri Krishna Museum, bends to scoop up some of the soil. “This soil has a lot of history,” he says gravely. “After all, the river Sarasvati used to once flow here.”

Purohit’s contention is that the ‘valley’ is actually the bed of the Sarasvati, a fact which finds mention in numerous ancient literary texts, but whose existence has often been questioned by historians. “The discovery of the river bed,” he says, “proves beyond doubt that Sarasvati is not a myth.”

That myth may now be laid to rest forever as plans are afoot to revive a part of the course taken by this ancient river. The Haryana government has acquired almost 20 acres of land and work is under way on a 50 km-long channel in Kurukshetra, through which the river will flow again.

“The revival of the Sarasvati will benefit countless people in the region as it will augment ground water resources,” says Darshan Lal Jain of the Sarasvati Nadi Shodh Sansthan, which is working with the government on this project. The plan is not to line with the river’s course with bricks so that water can permeate the ground. With ground water levels dipping to as low as 150 feet, the river’s revival may be a boon for parched Haryana.

A boon that would not have been possible without the discovery of the river bed. “In 2004, an extraordinary phenomenon occurred,” recalls Purohit. “Water started oozing out from a palaeochannel (a dried river bed) at the Kapil Muni temple sarovar at Kalayat. We carried out studies of this water. Simultaneously, a scientific team studied its mineral composition.”

Scientists from ISRO also carried out studies using space imagery and discovered a number of fossil valleys in upper central Haryana. “Mapping images of the palaeo channels showed that they corresponded to the archaeological sites of Haryana,” says Purohit. “This means that these settlements came up near the river, as was the norm in those times and gives further proof that the river Sarasvati indeed existed,” he says.

Incidentally, the debate about the existence of the Sarasvati has been continuing for a long time although lately, most historians have begun to concede that the river perhaps did exist. However, they still continue to debate the name by which the river was known, the route that it took and the reasons for its disappearance. “There is no doubt that the Sarasvati river existed. However, opinion is divided on whether it was known as the Sarasvati or the Ghaggar,” says S. Kalyanraman of the Sarasvati Research and Education Trust (SRET).

The idea that the ancient Sarasvati might be the modern-day seasonal river, Ghaggar, is not new. It was first put forward over 100 years ago by C.F. Oldham, an English engineer who observed that the dry bed of the Ghaggar appeared too broad for a seasonal river. He believed that the Ghaggar was, in fact, flowing on the bed of a bigger river that existed before. Archaeological excavations of the Indus Valley sites have also revealed numerous settlements along the Ghaggar, lending further credence to this theory.

But then, how did this river disappear? “Primarily due to tectonic shifts,” says K.S. Valdiya of the Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.

“Tectonic uplifts caused the deflection of the waters of the Yamuna and Sutlej, which contributed the bulk of the expanse of the river. In a way, it was a case of ‘river piracy’,” says Valdiya, who recently delivered the keynote address at a conference on the Sarasvati that was organised by SRET.

Whatever the reason for its disappearance, this river sutra is far from over. And when this ancient river does start to flow again, everyone will be watching. After all, it is not every day that a river is reborn. – The Times of India, 28 December 2008

7 Responses

  1. You may be interested in the related topic http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/misinterpretations-in-searching-for-saraswati/article7123050.ece
    Misinterpretations in ‘Searching for Saraswati’
    Michel Danino weighs in on searching for Saraswati by Prof Irfan Habib

  2. Indian government aims to clean River Ganga in three years – Sravanth Verma – Digital Journal – 23 August 2014

    New Delhi – India’s newly-elected Narendra Modi-led government had made a poll promise of cleaning the polluted holy river, Ganga. It has now set a deadline of three years to clean up the river, according to water resources minister Uma Bharti.

    The action plan is set to begin in six months. “We want to rejuvenate it in three years. In three years, we want to establish the Environmental flow (E-Flow). We want to resolve the issue of pollution on the banks of River Ganga and the pollution caused by industries and sewage,” said Bharti, who also holds a specially created Ganga Rejuvenation portfolio. She was briefing reporters on the sidelines of an international seminar on Water Risk and Stewardship in India.

    Bharti also confirmed plans for the Ganga’s major tributary, the river Yamuna, which flows through New Delhi. She said officials of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) would meet the Ministry of Water Resources to sort out various issues. “I had a meeting with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and discussed cleaning of Yamuna river which is flowing in the national capital. A wing has been set up with DDA for the purpose. The officials of the wing will meet us for sorting out issues concerned,” she said. Bharti also said that 2015-16 would be observed as the year of water conservation. “We are ready to interlink rivers keeping environment in mind and we can do it in 10 years,” she said. However, certain water conservationists have urged caution on certain aspects of the Ganga development plan.

    The Ganga is one of the holiest rivers in the Hindu way of life, and it considered to be good karma to take a dip in its waters. In the past few decades however, population explosion throughout its length and the growth of industries have led to the discharge of municipal and industrial waste into the river, turning it into one of the most polluted water bodies in India. The Modi government had made a poll issue of developing the Ganga, and restoring it to its former glory, as described in the Hindu scriptures.

  3. India can do without the hunt for the Saraswati – Hindustan Times – August 14, 2014

    While it would be wrong to grade Union ministries on a scale of importance (each ministry is a vital cog in the government machinery), one can safely say that the ministry for water resources — which is now known as the ministry for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation — should figure quite high up on such a list. The reasons are not far to seek: It deals with a super critical resource that affects the life of people and has the ability to make or break any government’s growth and development agenda. So when Uma Bharti took over the ministry, one expected her to focus her energies on the water-related challenges that India has been facing for years: Drinking water crisis, river pollution and lack of overall long-term availability of replenishable water resources, to name just a view. Then there is the question of internal and external riparian disputes and also flood control in rivers like Kosi in Bihar. Instead of tackling these challenges, which would only increase thanks to climate change, the minister is spending her time on trying to verify the existence of the mythical river Saraswati.

    Though efforts in the past by geologists and the scientific community to trace the river had come to a naught, the minister seems convinced that it can be found. Ms Bharti also informed the Lok Sabha that she has asked the Central Ground Water Board “to test the water of a well located inside the Allahabad fort” in order to trace the source and route of the lost river. The motion was moved in the House by BJP MP Ratan Lal Kataria who wanted the government to set up a ‘Saraswati Research Institute’.

    As the minister, her team of officials and MPs like Mr Kataria resume their over-enthusiastic search for the Sarawati, here’s a bucket list of challenges that they have to tackle without losing precious time: The mammoth task of cleaning up of the Ganga (the Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the government for not doing enough), providing safe drinking water to citizens (60% have no access), implementing water harvesting laws and recycling waste water. There are hundreds more, but for now it seems the minister is fixated on only one, which should not even figure on any priority list.

  4. Manmohan Singh & Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati
    A delegation led by Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati comprising of environmentalists and others meeting the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, under the auspices of the Ganga Seva Abhiyan, in New Delhi on October 16, 2008.


    Uma Bharti should stop fooling around and do her job as Union Cabinet Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. Her party promised to clean the Ganga as a priority project when it assumed office. But now the project has been pushed aside and an attempt is being made to divert public attention with the Minister’s ‘scientific discovery’ of the Saraswati.

    Perhaps the Dwarka Acharya who has worked for years for a clean Ganga, should get on his war horse and remind the Government of its duty vis-a-vis the Ganga cleaning project and the promises it made to the Indian people at Varanasi.

  5. They should not sit in Delhi to work out the cleaning of Ganga. The entire ministry has to come to Varanasi and operate from there for the entire route of Ganga. Delhi is highly disconnected from real action.

  6. Sewer emptying into the Ganga

    Supreme Court: Government showing no urgency to clean Ganga – OneIndia – New Delhi – Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    New Delhi, Aug 13: Taking a potshot at the government on cleaning the Ganga, the Supreme Court Wednesday said that no urgency was seen in protecting the river. “You are showing no urgency to protect Ganga,” an apex court bench headed by Justice T.S. Thakur said as Solicitor General Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the centre, sought two weeks adjournment on the issue. The court told the solicitor general: “Are you saving the holy river. You are showing no urgency in this matter. But only in other matters.” Some of the issues that ought to be on backburner are being put on the frontburner, the court said as it sought a status report on the government’s action plan to clean the Ganga along with the road map on the action to be taken and the steps in that direction.


    Modi's Ganga Puja

    Will Narendra Modi be able to infuse new life into a dead Ganga? – Reetu Sharma – OneIndia – Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Cleaning up of the Ganga found top slot in Budget 2014 – Narendra Modi government’s maiden Budget and special emphasis was laid on cleaning the 2,525-km river. Even a separate ministry for the river Ganga under Uma Bharti was formed.

    But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court pulled up the Modi government over the cleaning of the river Ganga which was also in the BJP’s election manifesto. Telling Centre to keep the issue of cleaning Ganga on front burner, the apex court said that the government is not showing any urgency in Ganga protection measures.

    What Supreme Court has said

    • Taking a potshot at the government on cleaning the Ganga, the Supreme Court said no urgency was seen in protecting the river.
    • The court told the solicitor general: “Are you saving the holy river. You are showing no urgency in this matter. But only in other matters.”
    • The SC has asked the Centre to furnish a roadmap for cleaning river Ganga and submit it within two weeks.

    What BJP manifesto for 2014 said for Ganga

    • BJP commits to ensure the cleanliness, purity and uninterrupted flow of the Ganga on priority.
    • A massive ‘Clean Rivers Programme’ will be launched across the country driven by people’s participation.

    What Modi Government proposed in Budget 2014

    • The finance minister earmarked Rs 2,037 crore for the cleanup and conservation of the river Ganga.
    • An integrated Ganga development project called the ‘Namami Gange’ was also announced in the Budget 2014.
    • Setting up of an “NRI Fund for Ganga” was also announced to finance special projects related to the river.
    • A sum of Rs 100 crore has been earmarked for development and beautification of Ghats (river fronts) on river Ganga.
    • A special ministry for cleaning river Ganga was created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which is being headed by Uma Bharti.

    Money spent so far

    • Since the Central Government started GAP in 1985, a total of Rs 916 crores had been spent till 2009 for the purpose of cleaning Ganga.
    • In 2009, it was announced that Rs 15,000 crores more will be spent for the Clean Ganga campaign under the river development fund.
    • The last three decades have seen an allocation of over Rs 20,000 crore through the two phases of Ganga Action Plan (GAP I & II) to clean up the river.

    The Ganga cleaning programmes so far

    • Ganga Action Plan (GAP) 1 & 2
    • National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)
    • Ganga River Basin Management Plan (GRBMP)
    • Various Save Ganga schemes were also launched in these years. The reason behind pollution in the river

    The reason behind pollution in the river

    • According to the Government of India, 2.9 billion litres of sewage is discharged daily into the Ganga.
    • According to a report, in addition to cremation, sewage of 27 class I cities and towns and effluents from 137 major industries are the main source of pollution of the river.
    • Domestic waste such as defecation, untreated industrial waste, and pollution during religious events are major reasons.
    • Every day 1.7 billion litres of such waste run into the river.
    • Sewage constitutes the largest portion (80 per cent) of the pollution load followed by pollution caused by industrial discharge agricultural activities.

    • Uma Bharti says the Supreme Court’s criticism about lack of progress in cleaning the Ganga, was directed at the previous government, not her’s!

      The SC had every opportunity to upbraid the previous government about lack of progress on the Ganga project when it was in power. Its present criticism is directed at her government and Uma Bharti should have the grace and humility to accept it. After all it is her ministry that must report to the SC with a status report on the government’s Ganga action plan in two weeks—not the previous ministry.

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