Sarasvati (texts & arch.II)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sat May 23 12:02:24 UTC 1998

On Fri, 22 May 1998, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> Why limit this debate to a river that may or may not have been mighty,
> and may or may not have flown into the ocean? How about looking at the
> Rgvedic sarasvatI in a more generic sense, with reference to a delta
> region, with coastal lagoons and/or estuaries? Aren't these "ponds" too?

Yes, but the geographical limit of the Rgveda seems to be limited to the
area from the Himalayas to the borders of Sindh (Bhalanas ~ Bolan pass)
and from Afghanistan to the Yamuna/Ganga. No mentioning of the Indian
Ocean -- unless one wants to understand the mythological hundred-oared
ship of the  mythological figure Bhujyu (in the ocean of the night sky)
as the "ocean going ships of the Rgveda" (RV 1.116.3 sqq.)

> Then the reference to samudrANi would be to more saline environments,
> where saras is more "fresh-water" - one "flows" into the other,
> depending on tidal mechanisms.

Fine, but samudrANi "3, 4 etc. oceans"? : otherwise one would say, e.g.,
samudrau "2 oceans".

Where multiple oceans are mentioned they seem to be mythological like the
2 hindu-s of the Avesta. All in "Sur le chemin du ciel, Bulletin des
Etudes indiennes,2, Paris 1984.

> Wouldn't this also explain the sindhu as
> the "mother" of the sarasvatI?

typical of the RV: one can be the mother of X, and at the same time the
daughter of x. It only refers to a close connection of Sarasvati and
Sindhu (which also may be the -mythological- ocean if we compare Avestan
hendu). NB: Skt. sindhu mostly is masculine! No mother/daughter here!

Michael Witzel                       witzel at

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