Sarasvati or Saraswati – river which lies at the center of many ethos of the Indian history and culture. A river that lends its name to the Goddess of learning. And whose existence has been a question for some time? It has been a subject of investigation for the archeologists, geologists, and historians. Having heard about it in our stories and in our mythology, the question whether it existed or was just a figment of someone’s imagination is quite natural.
Michel Danino, a Frenchman living in India and a student of Indian civilization has compiled this book The Lost River through the various aspects of research around Saraswati River. He quotes the Rig-Veda for the references to the river. Along with the folk stories that talk about a mighty river that used to flow once. He quotes the various archeologists and explorers who walked the path of the river to discover some pointers that led them to believe the once upon a time existence of this river. He talks about the various techniques used to verify the facts. Like analyzing the water below the said channels of the river. The study of pollens found in these channels. The radiocarbon dating, satellite imaging, and the fact that in a fairly saline area there are sweet water wells.
He tells about the water channels, which have been dormant for many millenniums. He talks about the known natural events like earthquakes and tectonic changes. Takes you through the etymology of various names that lie in this path. And how each of them may be derived from the mighty river. All in all, he has tried to cover both the cultural resources and the discoveries through scientific means to create a complete picture of The Lost River.
He takes you through various maps and photographs showcasing the potential course of Saraswati between Sutlej and Indus, almost parallel to Indus. He shows you various settlements, most of them urban, that have been discovered in the channels of Saraswati. Talks about various theories like Ghaggar-Hakra was the original Saraswati. He takes you through the various time zones in history. And based on the pieces of evidence, suggests what were the potential periods when the river was active, flowing and nurturing. He tries to look at the potential changes that would have occurred after the river vanished.
He talks about the Harappan civilization, most of the stuff that you may already know. But then he talks about the potentially continued civilization. And brings out the traditions, myths, and symbols that have continued from the Harappan days till now. This is a very interesting point. And may change our view of ourselves, as we knew till now. He has also taken contradictory views from various people engaged in the field. And leaves the details with you to decide what to believe in. More importantly, he tells you about the recent developments in the field. And the ongoing studies, which most history books will not tell you.
The Lost River book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of this mystical river.