River Sarasvati: Atomic scientists reconfirm location

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 8 22:53:13 UTC 2000

My statement seems to have provoked a flurry of responses. Perhaps I should
clarify a bit, in light of Prof. Witzel's remarks.

Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU>

>Vedic Sarasvati--Evolutionary History of a Lost River of Northwestern
>India, eds. B.P.Radhakrishna and S.S.Merh, Memoir 42 of the Geological
>Society of India, PB 1922, Gavipuram, P.O., Bangalore 560019.
>While the contributors of first 1/3 of the book --  almost all Indian
>Sanskritists  -- know *exactly* where and what the Vedic Sarasvati was;

Most list readers may not have read this book, so a little elaboration might
help. Do these contributors place Vedic Sarasvati exactly through Punjab and
Rajasthan, or do they place it exactly further west, in modern Afghanistan,
or exactly somewhere else?

>the contributors of the second 2/3  -- almost all Indian natural scientists
>-- are much more circumspect, stress the MANY "Sarasvati" palaeo-channels
>of the past few ten thousand years, and also indicate the MANY
>incertainties connected with the problem, for example the --so far--

That is one reason to listen to the scientists carefully. It is in the
nature of properly trained scientists to maintain a degree of skepticism and
a willingness to constantly re-evaluate data. If many paleo-channels are
what the ground data indicate, that is what the scientists will say. They
might want to call it Sarasvati, in order to provoke some official interest
and obtain government funding for their work, but that is besides the point.
And if it is shown convincingly that this old river which shifted course
many times and left evidence of many channels *is not* and *cannot be* the
Vedic Sarasvati, I daresay the scientists will be willing to drop the name.

That is why, the original comment by Dominik,

>>I'm afraid that I neither trust nor believe anything said by atomic
>>scientists about humanistic subjects (or most other subjects).  Let's try
>>to keep this list scholarly, shall we!

seems quite biased to me. Perhaps it was meant to provoke, and directed
towards some particular list-members. However, it pits "scholars"
(humanists?) and "scientists" against each other in highly general terms. I
agree that most scientists may not have the requisite training to say
anything much about Indological subjects. That is no reason, however, to
dismiss what they say about hard physical data. And for that matter, with
all due respect, a number of those who claim formal training in Indology
have not been above making highly unscholarly remarks in the past.
Meanwhile, it is not as if the contributions of list-members with scientific
backgrounds have been of zero or negative value.

To refuse to talk, claiming a monopoly on scholarliness, seems to me highly
short-sighted. Think about it. As of now, only those who believe in the
indigenous origin of Vedic culture are willing to talk to the scientists. As
a result, they know very little of other kinds of data that may have some
bearing on their conclusions. Those on the other side of the Indus-Sarasvati
debate can hardly blame the scientists if you refuse to listen/talk to them
and if you refuse to point out the merits of your own position.

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