Is Sarasvati a Mystical river? Or is it the present day Helmand river of Afghanistan or India’s Ghaggar? Does it really flow under the surface at the Sangam?

Did you see only two rivers at the Triveni Sangam, instead of three – The green water of the Yamuna, and the brown of the river Ganga? Did by any chance a baba  say that the third river, the Sarasvati is invisible to the human eye? He did, didn’t he?

So, Is the water really imaginary? Or

Was There a Mystical River Known As Sarasvati? 

From ages, the lost river of Sarasvati that flowed from the mountains to the oceans was called a mythical river. And since  none of the existing river in modern India fits the description of Sarasvati, often Historians called it just a figment of poetic imagination. But, is it really a myth or was there really a river called Sarasvati?

sarasvati river The Mystery Known as River Sarasvati !

The Sarasvati in the Vedas

The Rig Veda repeatedly talks and lauds about a river called the Sarasvati. It describes the river as the greatest of all the rivers. 45 of the Rig Veda showers praise on the river calling it as “the most impetuous of the rivers”. None other geographical feature or river even stands close to Saraswati.

rigveda saraswati river The Mystery Known as River Sarasvati !

Though the text refers Indus as the mighty river there is little significance given to it. Besides, river Ganga is barely mentioned twice. River Saraswati is even called the inspirer of the hyms and mentions that Rig Veda was composed on its banks.

Is Saraswati A Sleeping River? 

Since the river Saraswati cease to exists, many resisted to believe its existence calling it a myth. Besides, many thought it to be a sleeping river (supta nadi) which supports the belief that this sleeping river flows beneath the surface and joins the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna at Prayag (Allahabad).

sangam allahabad The Mystery Known as River Sarasvati !

Some other historians associate it with the Helmand (Harahvati in Avestan) river in Afghanistan mainly because what is S in Sanskrit is H in Avestan. So, on the basis of linguistic (or perhaps more than thta) Harahvati is also believed to be Sarasvati.

So, Is River Sarasvati the Present Day Helmand River? 

Prominent Archaeologists B.B. Lal observes  –

According to Rig Veda, Sarasvati lies between the Yamuna and Sutlej (imam me Gange Yamune Sarasvati Sutudri stotam sachata Parusnya – RV 10.75.5 ). Further, RV 3.23.4 mentions that the Drishadvati and Apaya were its tributaries (Drishadvatyam manusa Apayam Sarasvatyam revadagne didihi).

helmand river afghanistan The Mystery Known as River Sarasvati !

In addition, RV 7.95.2 clearly mentions that the Sarasvati flowed all the way from the mountains to the sea (ekachetat Sarasvati nadinam suchir yati giribhya a samudrat ).

Now, in Afghanistan neither there are rivers by the name of Yamuna and Sutlej, nor there are Drishadvati and Apaya. Also, there is no sea in Afghanistan. So how can the Rigvedic Sarasvati be placed there? All this evidence positive in the case of India and negative in the case of Afghanistan clinches that the Rigvedic Sarasvati is not the Helmand of Afghanistan.

The Vedas Give The Geographical Location of Sarasvati River 

In the Nadistuti Sukta (Hym to the rivers), the chief rivers are enumerated from east to west starting with the Ganga. This hym identifies the location of Sarasvati in between River Yamuna and Sutlej – And at present, there is only one river that fits the description mentioned in the Vedas, the Ghaggar. Although its river bed stands dry today, the ground surveys and satellite clearly indicates that it was once a huge river.

sarasvati river rig veda ghaggar mystical The Mystery Known as River Sarasvati !

Now, Did the Veda Mention a Drying Sarasvati? 

No it doesn’t. In fact, it mentions that the Sarasvati river entered the sea. Look at the stanza from Rig Veda BOOK VII

Coming together, glorious, loudly roaring

Sarasvati, Mother of Floods, the seventh 

With copious milk, with fair streams wrongly flowing

Fully swelled by the volume of their waters.”

But, the next generation texts describe how the river dried up.

sarasvati river dry yamuna The Mystery Known as River Sarasvati !

The Panchavamsa Brahman mentions that the river disappeared in the desert. In Modern day India we have rivers who are linguistically similar to this ancient river – Sarsuti, the seasonal tributary of the Ghaggar in Haryana and Saraswati, the seasonal river which arises from Aravallis and flows into the Runn of Kutch. 

With so many different theories, the Sarasvati is still surrounded by lots of myths – What according to you makes sense?

With Inputs from:

The Vedic River Sarasvati – A Myth or a Fact – A Geological Approach By S.R.N Murthy

Why Perpetuate Myths, Author B.B Lal Lecture at the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) – International Forum for India’s Heritage, New Delhi.

Rig Veda, Book VII, Hymn XXXVI, Stanza 6

Rig Veda By Ralph T.H. Griffith, Translator

Land of the Seven Rivers By Sanjeev Sanyal

Image Source: Sarasvati river, 2, 3Rigveda, Sangam, Helmand RIVER

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