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New study challenges argument on existence of Saraswati river

A study conducted by the Centre of Excellence for Research on the Saraswati River (CERSR) at Kurukshetra University has concluded that all major archaeological sites in Haryana - Siswal, Rakhigarhi, Banawali, Bhirrana, Kunal, Balu, Thana – were located at a radial distance of less than 500m from the paleochannels of Saraswati or the Drishadwati rivers
By Hitender Rao, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON JUN 17, 2021 12:28 AM IST

A study conducted by the Centre of Excellence for Research on the Saraswati River (CERSR) at Kurukshetra University has concluded that all major archaeological sites in Haryana - Siswal, Rakhigarhi, Banawali, Bhirrana, Kunal, Balu, Thana – were located at a radial distance of less than 500m from the paleochannels of Saraswati or the Drishadwati rivers.

A paleochannel is a deposit of sediment filling the course of an ancient river.

The study was conducted to find out why only Saraswati river which was spatially sandwiched between Yamuna and Sutlej rivers went into oblivion while all other rivers mentioned in the Rig Veda still exist.

The findings of this study have been published in United Kingdom’s peer reviewed SCI International Journal of Archeological Prospection by John Wiley Publishing Group.

CERSR director Prof Akshey Rajan Chaudhri, who conducted the study to understand disappearance of Saraswati, said the new findings have shattered the belief that Saraswati river was a paleochannel of old Sutlej river.

“This is not a fact. A general belief has been made that Saraswati river was merely 10,000 years old. Research carried out on Ghaggar-Hakra (GH) system which is a further extension of Saraswati river system revealed that the GH system was more than 86,000 years old,” he said.

‘HARAPPAN SETTLEMENTS PROSPERED DUE TO SARASWATI’

Prof Chaudhri said the Harappan settlements in Haryana and Rajasthan nucleated and prospered in the fertile channel bars and interfluves of this river system.

“The presence of significant clay beds indicates that around 14,000 years, 6,000 years and 4,000 years ago there was a weakening of monsoon and drought conditions which resulted in near absence of flow in the channels,” said Prof Chaudhri, who is also the chairman of the geology department.

The study ‘Saraswati River in Northern India (Haryana) and its Role in Populating the Harappan Civilisation Sites’ has revealed that Saraswati river paleochannels formed a dense web of inter-connecting channels which were continuously networked for over 2,984km in Haryana.

“Saraswati river system has two major paleochannels. One passes through Yamunanagar, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Pehowa, Kaithal, Jind, Fatehabad and Sirsa before entering Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. The other which represented Drishadwati river, a Vedic period tributary of Saraswati, passed through Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat, Sonepat, Jind and Hisar districts before passing through Rawatsar in Rajasthan,” said Prof Chaudhri.

‘DIVERSION OF CONTRIBUTING CHANNELS CAUSED ABSENCE OF FLOW’

The study found that Saraswati river was flowing in Haryana until 1402 AD and then there was a sudden absence of flow in the channel thereafter.

This abrupt change appears to be consequence of sudden modification or diversion of contributing channels for constructing five canals (western Yamuna canal) starting from the foothills in Yamunanagar wherein there was a considerable anthropogenic rerouting of streams so as to make water available in Fatehabad and Hisar.

“The channels of the Drishadvati river and the Chautang stream have been extensively utilised for routing this canal,” Prof Chaudhri said.

“Apart from this, natural factors comprising weakened summer monsoon, shrinkage of glacial cover and melt waters, channel avulsion and channel capture, climate change and tectonic disruption of the input channels in the lesser Himalayan terrain also contributed towards the gradual decay and ultimate extinction of this mega river system,” he said.

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