Sarasvati (texts & arch.I)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sun May 24 14:32:40 UTC 1998

Prof. Vassilkov has just answered most of the points but since this and
the following messages were in my machine anyhow, here are my 2 cents:

On Sat, 23 May 1998, Sn. Subrahmanya wrote:
> I have found that there is a total lack of conclusive evidence
> of either a invasion/migration of Aryans into India.

That is, of course, one of the items we have to settle and the present
discussion is but a minute aspect of it. As I mentioned last time: we have
to make data from various sciences FIT each other, not pursue just one
thing, the Sarasvati. But the S. data *also* have to fit, therefore:

> If 3.33 tells us that the Satluj joined the Beas.
> One may argue that the info was passed down  but wouldnt that indicate
> that whoever observed it and passed it on was present  at that time ?

Exactly, the latter: RV 3.33 is a quasi-eye-witness account of the
crossing of the Beas and Sutlej by kind Sudas, composed by Visvamitra and
7.18 is a quasi-eye witness account of the 10-Kings'-Battle compsoed by
his arch-enemy, Vasistha.  (As is well known, Visvamitra was ousted as
purohita by the newcomer Vasistha. This is so well remembered that even in
the middle ages and more recently their decendants do not quote each
others RV poems....).

Of course, both Suuktas are in highly poetic format. Tricky. Many puns.
(H.-P. Schmidt has dealt with 7.18 in Indica, some 15 years ago.) How else
do you talk about your (defeated) enemies? : the Yadu become yaksu
"sacrificial animals", the Matsya are 'hooked' etc.

And since such hymns could not be changed after the fact (except for the
minute phonetical changes made by the redactors, Sakalya and others, we
have here, as I like to call it: a tape recording from the Vedic period.

> Archeological evidence shows that there has been a continous cultural
> evolution and there is no sign of any migration or invasion. So it seems
> that it is more logical to conclude that the people who first observed the
> Sutlej joining the Beas were the same people who put it into the Rgveda as well.

As I said. -- But as for archaeological evidence for an immigration of a
movable (groups of) tribes, that's tricky business. For example, even the
highly invasive Huns (375 AD+ in Europe) had not been located
archaeologically until some of their graves were found in Hungary a few
years ago...

To follow the "arch.line of argmentation":  until then, c. 1980, they did
not enter Europe, "there was no disturbance [of late Roman civ. which
continued, politically, for another 100 years]", but  *now* the Huns have
entered indeed!

So all we  are missing are a few Rgvedic graves... and they may even have
been found already. More below.

(Of course, we have massive literary evidence for the Huns, just as we
have it for the Indo-Aryans in the Rgveda, but that does not count in an
'archaeological' argument as made above, or as always pursued by J.
Shaffer -- more on this below.)

> >> ---------------------
> >(b) this is usually NOT the case in the rest of the Panjab with its
> >frequently shifting rivers. Much of what had been, say, near the ancient
> >Ravi or Beas has long been obliterated by these rivers... Also, many
> >Harappan sites might be under present towns, such as Lahore, and of
> >course, the modern town of Harappa....
> >
> But (b) is completely unjustified.
> ...The rivers of the Punjab just did not start to shift
> after or during IVC. They have been doing that for much longer time period.
> So it might be that the SIVC people did not even settle there because of
> the shifting rivers.

I am afraid this is arm chair sociology. Just supposition.  I forget the
number of sites surveyed by Mughal in the rest of the Panjab, but I
remember it was not a *small* number. I can find out. And they did settle
there: otherwise no Harappa, Mohenjo Daro etc. -- But these are large
sites.  Mughal mostly found small ones in undisturbed, dry Cholistan which
would have disappeared in many other locations.

> The reason there are more sites on the Sarasvati
> is precisely because it was comparitively more stable than the
> rivers in the Punjab.

The Sarasvati (Gh.-Hakra) never was stable as the multiple channels
especially in its upper courses show. All Panjab rivers are unstable,
inculuding even the Yamuna and further east.  As I said: the
Ghagghar-Hakra presents a SPECIAL case as it has been FOSSILE, dry and and
undisturbed since late Harrappan times.

THEREFORE you find a lot of sites there, on the Sarasvati/G-H. -- sites
which have been washed away in other places, leveled, ploughed over etc.

> As for your arguments about what is under Lahore ....
> One can also come up with all kinds of speculation about what is
> under Delhi or Kashi !
> We come to conclusions, based on available data, the rest is mere speculation.

We actually know this about the modern town of Harappa; Delhi has 7 sites
(Indarpat etc), and Benares 3 from North to South. Lahore, of course,
needs investigation.

Michael Witzel                       witzel at
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990

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