Saraswati River

India's Miracle River

The Saraswati was a mighty river with three sources in the Himalayas. The river bed is believed to have been as vast as 10 km in some places. The river course was dotted with lakes and ponds. The main epics and literatures of the Vedic period mentions Saraswati. The Rig Veda describes Saraswati as the biggest and most important of the seven holy rivers, even larger than the Sindhu (Indus). Ancient sites in Kunal and Banawali were on the banks of the river bed of Saraswati.

One of the major water causeways in north-west India, this legendary river is believed to have originated from the Harkidun glacier of the Himalayan slopes in west Garhwal (Uttaranchal) and made its course towards the southwest through Haryana and Punjab. In its long journey, the Saraswati is believed to have had three tributaries - the rivers Sutluj and Yamuna, and the Drishadvati. The Yamuna (erstwhile Chambal) is said to have captured the Saraswati source at Paontasaheb in Punjab. Deprived of the perennial source of molten glaciers from the Himalayas, the Saraswati started drying up. The sandstorm phenomenon also accounted for the submergence of the river bed by sandstorms. During the period of the Mahabharata itself the Saraswati had started drying up.

Markanda, Chautang and Ghaggar are the living tributaries of Saraswati. There is also a river Saraswati in Gujarat which flows from the south end of Aravalli Hills into the eastern end of the Rann of Kutch.

Flowing through Punjab and then Rajasthan, the Saraswati is said to have disappeared into the Thar Desert. It is believed that the redirection of the Sutluj and Yamuna made way for the drying up of Saraswati.

The river has been identified with various present-day or historical rivers, particularly the Ghaggar-Hakra river in India and Pakistan; this course continues into the Raini Nala riverbed. The dry vast bed called the Hakra-Nara channels lie in western Rajasthan.

Even after her disappearance, many rivers were later named after the legendary Saraswati. River Argandab (now in Afghanistan) was named Saraswati. The lower channels of the river Luni in Gujarat were also renamed as Saraswati. Another river originating in the Himalayas, (one of the sources of the Vedic Saraswati), but flowing down in Assam, is also called Saraswati.

Updated on 10th June, 2015

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