Sarasvati (texts & arch.)

Sn. Subrahmanya sns at IX.NETCOM.COM
Thu May 21 15:15:48 UTC 1998

Pardon the long posting as I did not want to edit Prof.Witzels posting much
I have tried to divide it into sections so as to make it easier to read.

At 05:49 PM 5/20/98 -0400, Michael Witzel wrote:
>Yes, the Sarasvati, Edwin:
>That really is an old horse (Oldham 1887, Raverty 1893, Wilhelmy 1959,
>Yash Pal 1984), and we should look into her mouth :
Yes is a old horse, but it is only recently with Mughals
excavations that it has been found that the concentration of sites is
on the Sarasvati and not on the Indus.


>Indeed, in the Rgveda, the Sarasvati is well known and highly praised in
>as a great stream. And, indeed, once it is called a river flowing from
>the mountains to the 'sea' samudra (RV 7.95.2, cf. 7.6.7), i.e. apparently
>in the Ghagghar-Hakra-Nara channel (see Oldham 1887, Raverty 1893!!), ---
>unless the whole passage is not a reminiscence of the  E. Iranian
>Sarasvati (= Avestan: Haraxvaiti)  and the great Hamum lake (Kangsaoiia,
>cf. also Avestan texts on Vourukasha), into which the E.Ir. rivers flow,
>as *sam-udra.
>NOTE that Sarasvati/Haraxvaiti mean "(river) having ponds", certainly not
>a good name for a mighty stream; that this must at least refer to a slow
>flowing river with many bends and u-shaped cut-off ponds, or it may be a
>river disappearing in the Iranian/Indian desert with many ponds in its
>lower course.
>However, the Brahmana texts (JaimBr 2.297, PancavB 25.10.1)  clearly state
>that the Sarasvati disappears or "dives under" in the desert at a place
>called vinazana / upamajjana. (Later texts such as the Puranas theorize
>that it flows underground from there up to the confluence of the Yamuna
>and Ganga at Prayaga/Allahabad).
Your argument here is that the 7.95.2 refers to the "reminiscencing" of the
Haraxvavaiti but the later references is to the Sarasvati in India. We will
look at this later.


>Again, the present dry bed of the Ghagghar-Hakra is indeed cluttered with
>Harappan sites. But these settlements are *on* the actual flood plain of
>the old Sarasvati/Ghagghar-Hakra, which again speaks against an enormous
>river during the Harappan (or a supposed pre-Harappan Rgvedic) period. Or
>does one want to live in place that is flooded each summer?
You have your facts wrong here: The Satluj and Yamuna are perennial and
are fed by the Himalayan glaciers. The Ghaggar, Sarasvati, Markanda, Chautang
all arise in the Sivaliks and are non-perennial. Presently none of them
reach the sea (Yashpal,84)


>The estimates of archaeologists on the exact date of the drying up of much
>of the Sarasvati differ considerably: Mughal (1995) argues that the Hakra
>was a perennial river in the 4th and early 3rd millennium BC and that it
>had dried up about the end of the second. Other dates range from 2500-1700
The concentration of sites on the Sarasvati is very clear. All three - Early,
Mature and Late - Harappan sites are on the Sarasvati. So even if we are
accept that the river had dried up by 1400BC there is very clear
evidence of a continous civilization.
The reason some of the sites are ON the ancient bed is precisely because
they were built AFTER the water had been captured away from the Sarasvati
and the river became smaller !!


>While RV 7.95.2 (cf. 7.6.7) indeed speaks of the Sarasvati flowing to
>the/an ocean, this is not unambiguous, due to the various meanings of
>samudra "ocean" or "confluence of rivers" (debated for more than 100 years
>when the whole immigration/emigration debate was not known in its present
>form) see:  RV 6.72.3, and cf.  Klaus, Kosmographie,1989; --- RV style is
>generally quite hyperbolic: the Soma juice dripping through the sieve into
>a cup is not exactly "rivers" "rushing" to the "ocean"... What does a
>"Sarasvati flowing into an ocean" *really* mean??

A Sarasvati flowing into an ocean means a Sarasvati flowing into an ocean !

>Be that as it may, however, a *neglected* contemporary piece of evidence
>comes from RV 3.33, which, on internal grounds, describes a situation of
>only a few years before RV 7.95.2 (see my forthc. paper).  RV 3.33 *must*
>speak of an already smaller Sarasvati as it refers to the confluence of
>the Beas and Sutlej (Vipaaz,Zutudrii).
>That means: the Beas had already captured the Sutlej away from the
>Sarasvati. The later RV (books 3, 7 and the late book 10) thus depict the
>present day situation, with the Sarasvati having lost most of its waters
>to the Beas and probably also to the Yamuna; it was no longer the larger
>river it *may* have been in the earlier Rgvedic period (and remembered in
>RV 7.95).

You contradict yourself completely here.  Initially you stated that 7.95.2
probably is a reminiscencing of the Haraxvaiti. But if the earlier RV3.33
refers to the smaller Sarasvati in India then how can you argue that 7.95.2
refers to the reminiscensing of the Haraxvaiti ???
Again, If 7.95.2 is a remembering of the Sarasvati(and not the Haraxvaiti)
then does it not mean that the Aryans were already in the SIVC when the
Sarasvati was bigger ???

>This INTERNAL evidence, and the otherwise accepted date of the Rgveda at
>c.1500-1200 BC, also agrees remarkably well with the new evidence from
>Bahawalpur/Cholistan (Mughal 1995, who discovered all the now famous
>multitudes of Harappan/Indus sites on the Hakra). He indicates that the
>area along the lower Hakra (Sarasvati) was abandoned after c. 1400 BC by
>its (post-Indus civ.) people, who moved eastwards, due to lack of water,
>not due to "invading Aryans" (as J.Shaffer also says). The area was not
>settled again until the establishment of some Painted Gray Ware (PGW)
>settlements there (800 BC), when we indeed hear of sparse settlements in
>the west (AitBr 3.45). More data in Taitt.Br. and Pancavimsa Br...
>This also agrees with the scenario developed recently (Witzel 1995): early
>Indo-Aryan immigration (*maximally* starting at the end of the Indus civ.,
>1900 BC, and down to c.1400 BC) of the Yadu-Turvaza, Anu-Druhyu into the
>Panjab, and immigration of the Bharata tribe (from across the Indus, well
>remembered at JaimBr 3.238) only after that, when the major part of the
>Sarasvati waters had been captured by the Sutlej/Beas (and the Yamuna).

As already shown your Internal evidence infact negates your arguments.
Considering that you date the Rgveda to between 1500-1200BC.
Dont you find it strange that the Aryans were "reminiscencing" about a
Haraxvaiti which they  had left atleast a few hundred years ago...and
then when they talk of a river going underground you say that they decided
to call a already long dead or almost dead river which goes nowhere as their
Sarasvati (and calling it the river that flows from the mountains to the sea
when bigger rivers are around ?


>This scenario, consistent with the geological, archaeological and textual
>evidence is in striking contrast to that of the Indian homeland theory.
>(for example, of a pre-Indus civ. Rgveda).
>(And I am not even talking about copper (ayas) in the RV which would be
>*globally* out of date in a pre-Harappan Rgveda).
Again..your facts are wrong. Please look up the following
RC Agrawala, 1984,
Aravalli, the Major source of copper for Indus and Indus related cultures
D.P.Agrwal, 1984
Metal technology of the Harappans.
Frontiers of the Indus Civilization.

>A few final points:
>> It is also interesting that scholars who argue that Max Muller's works are
>> outdated have no qualms in still accepting a chronology that was proposed by
>> him.
>Everybody knows, and he himself says, that it was a guess, but it was a
>shrewd one, as the above data again indicate. Also, we must remember the
>contemporary data of the Mitanni, at c.1380 BC -- which he did not yet

You are completely ignoring the much earlier presence
of clearly Vedic  names and vocabulary in west Asia, and there is nothing
Iranian about them. More of this later, as this message is  alrady very long.

So in conclusion, I am afraid there are big holes in
both the facts and logic that you have proposed.


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