sarasvatI (etymology)

Raoul Martens raoul at MARTENS.PP.SE
Sun May 31 11:21:41 UTC 1998

Referring to recent postings by Dominique Thillaud and Miquel Carrasquer,
although no indologist, I would like to direct attention to that Mayrhofer
has "saravati" & "sarah" = Eng. "reed"; a hint at that they may be related?
Also Monier-Willams & Walde seem to relate Skt "saras-" to "sarah" = "reed".
Cfr Skt "sararih" = Eng. "heron" a bird thriving in shallow or swampy water.
Analogous names abound in Bahlow's "Deutschlands geographische Namenwelt".

The Sarasvati river probably originated following the end of the last glacial
trend ca 11.000 BC when mighty glaciers in the Himalayas started melting. It's
becoming dry many thousands of years later could thus, at least partially, be
due to the diminishing or finally changing flow of water from the mountains.

Rajaram thinks that Sarasvati disappeared because of general extreme drought
some hundred years before 2000 BC which led to the downfall of both the Indus
Valley and the Akkadian cultures. However, Feuerstein et a. believe that Saras-
vati's disappearance in the Thar desert east of Indus was due to tectonic plate
displacements which changed the courses of its tributaries Yamuna and Sutlej.

Whatever the case, a great number of settlements along the former river bed, at
the shores of once shallow lakes with stagnant water which dried up, were aban-
doned. Misra (Eastern Anthropologist Vol. 45, 1992) says: "More than two-thirds
of all the settlements have been found along the Sarasvati River and a majority
of the remaining sites are in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. The Indus Valley proper
has less than one hundred sites of a total of about 2500."

Couldn't the Sarasvati name thus be related to the time before the final drying
up of the shallow and swampy lakes, where evidently many settlements existed?

Regards, Raoul Martens

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