Saraswati River

The Sarasvati River is one of the main Rigvedic rivers mentioned in the scripture Rig Veda and later Vedic and post-Vedic texts.

The ‘Sapta Sindhu’ in Rig Veda refers to the rivers Saraswati, Satadru (Sutlej), Vipasa (Beas), Asikni (Chenab), Purushni (Ravi), Vitasta (Jhelum) and Sindhu (Indus). Among these, the Saraswati and the Sindhu were major rivers that flowed from the mountains right up to the sea.

For 2000 years, between 6000 and 4000 B.C., the Saraswati flowed as a great river.
The river, which had originated from Kapal tirith in the Himalayas in the west of Kailash, was flowing southward to Mansarovar and then taking a turn towards west.


• Hydrogeological evidences: Lunkaransar, Didwana and Sambhar, the Ranns of Jaisalmer, Pachpadra, etc. are a few of the notable lakes, formed as a result of the changes; some of them are highly saline today, the only proof to their freshwater descent being occurrences of gastropod shells in those lake beds.

• Archaeological evidences: Most of the archaeological sites of the-then civilisation are located on the Saraswati river basin. There are four Harappan and pre-Harappan sites in Punjab, in addition to the sites in Rajasthan and U.P. These sites are located at Rupar (present Ropar), Nihang Khan, Bara and Sirsa valley. Harappan culture flourished in the western part of Punjab around 2500 B.C. It is believed that the Harappans entered through the Indus Valley into Kalibangan valley on the left bank of Ghaggar (erstwhile Saraswati) and spread to Punjab along the Saraswati River. Carbon dating of the material at Kalibangan suggests that Harappan culture flourished around 2500 B.C. in India and existed for 1000 years. So the present day geomorphologic set up did not exist till 1500 B.C. and the Indus, the Sutlej and the Beas followed independent courses to the sea.

• Evidences from Remote Sensing and GIS: A remote sensing study of the Indian desert reveals numerous signatures of palaeochannels in the form of curvilinear and meandering courses, which is identified by the tonal variations. The Saraswati River could be traced through these palaeochannels as a migratory river. Its initial course flowed close to the Aravalli ranges and the successive six stages took west and northwesterly shifts till it coincides with the dry bed of the Ghaggar River.

Practice question:

1. Which of the following ancient names of the rivers is incorrectly matched?

a) Satadru - Sutlej

b) Vipasa - Jhelum

c) Asikni - Chenab

d) Purushni - Ravi

Ans: b
Exp: Satadru (Sutlej), Vipasa (Beas), Asikni (Chenab), Parosni (Ravi), Vitasta (Jhelum) and Sindhu (Indus).