Strabo, Geography: Indus River and Linguistic area

S. Kalyanaraman kalyan97 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Apr 1 14:09:06 UTC 1998

Thanks to Erik Seldeslachts for reminding us of the following quote:

In Strabo,Geography 15.1.19, there is a parallel piece of information
- drawn from Aristoboulos, a companion of Alexander -, which puts into
perspective the quotations above:

"He says that when he was sent upon a certain mission he saw a country
of more than a thousand cities, together with villages, that had been
deserted because
the Indus had abandoned its proper bed, and had turned aside into the
other bed on the left that was much deeper, and flowed with
precipitous descent like a cataract, so that the Indus no longer
watered by its overflows the abandoned country on the right, since
that country was now above the level, not only of the new stream, but
also of its overflows."

In Marshall's archaeological report, the Mihran (referred to by Strabo
as the abandoned channel of the
Indus) (or Sarasvati river as we now know) dry bed has been referred
to; in fact, Mohenjodaro was an island caught between the Indus left
bank and Mihran right bank channels. Beas was flowing into Sutlej;
Sutlej was flowing into Sarasvati at Shatrana in Punjab. (Satellite
images show the width of palaeo channels of Sarasvati river at this
place to be about 20 kms. and also signatures of migratory channels of
Sutlej as the latter tributary migrated westwards towards the Indus.)
The archaeological evidence of over 1000 archaeological sites
(settlements) on the banks of Sarasvati (Note the latest work by
Mughal, Ancient Cholistan, 1997) is dramatic. Ca. 3000 B.C. settlers
on the banks of this river used Harappa (accessible directly over land
from Kalibangan since Beas and Sutlej did not intervene at that time)
and Mohenjodaro were trading outposts supported by the 1000 + support
bases of settlements.

Alexander did travel up the Mihran during his campaign in Punjab; this
was a river mightier than the Indus...
Further work on the languages of the region will unravel the script of
the people.

Another hypothesis: Languages of the Aryans or Dravidians or Mundas
might have constituted an 'Indian linguistic area', at the time the
settlements flourished? cf. Emeneau's work...


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