20th June 2015
Sanjay Sonawani’s Origins of the Vedic Religion: And Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation #1
I have a problematic habit: I question everything. When I start examining any issue I test all claims. That often means going to the original sources. But that's not all. I question the original sources for their methodology and integrity. I beat up all arguments and claims to death – till only the truth remains standing.
It is this approach that led me to throw out the Out of India Theory (OIT) within just a few days of starting reading up on the subject. I've already elaborated the "big picture" reasons why that theory is untenable. The common sense test was badly offended by the OIT.
That doesn't mean AIT is "correct". I've come out with a view that there is an In and Out Theory (call it IOT). That ideas can come and go (in various forms and shapes) is not remarkably interesting: just the way the world works.
In the process of "beating the arguments to death", I found that even stalwarts like MK Dhavalikar make massive deductions on the basis of facts that are not established. He is an archaeologist but his paper "Archaeology of the Aryans" necessarily makes use of the findings of numerous other disciplines. Unfortunately, he seems to take as "fact" things which are not necessarily facts. He doesn't "beat the arguments to death". He is a good archaeologist but a poor critical thinker. He needs to weigh the "facts" and attribute a "truth value" to them. Most importantly, he needs to assemble alternative explanations even for the well-established facts.
An example is his assertion: "It has now been scientifically established that the river dried up in the lower basin because of change of courses of its tributaries, viz Sutlej and the Yamuna, the former joining the Indus system and the latter, the Ganga".
I NEVER take anything as "scientifically well established" because I know how poorly most empirical science is conducted, and understand the limitations of data. (Climate "science" is absolutely bogus in most respects, for instance).
So I started testing this "well established fact".
And within minutes I found that this is a minefield. The assumptions made by people on the basis of a mere "satellite map" are frighteningly vast! Is this how people do science?!
In this process of investigating this a little bit further I chanced upon Sanjay Sonowal's 2015 book, Origins of the Vedic Religion: And Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation. I've now bought the book (readily available in kindle) and browsing through it.
Here's the section on the Sutlej-Jamuna issue. The man does have a critical mind. It would be worthwhile reading his book. I'll talk more about the book and its findings in the next few days/weeks. I am trying to assemble, separately, a set of facts that ARE true. These facts constrain all "theories" in this space, but definitely the Saraswati as a major river is not a "fact" to rely upon.
It is widely assumed by the Indian scholars that during the Harappan Phase, Yamuna and Satlej used to be tributaries of the Ghaggar river. It is said that the Yamuna and Satlej added ample water in the Ghaggar channel and made it a mighty river. This assumption has been derived from the satellite images that show the palaeo-channels of both the rivers. However, the satellite images do not define the minute topography and geological age of the river channels.
Did Satlej and Yamuna ever flow in the channel of the Ghaggar? We need to consider opinions of various scholars in this regard.
According to ‘Current Science’ report (2004) contributed by Indian and German scientists, “…the Saraswati did not carry glacier waters. The Ghaggar-Hakra area does not show mineral deposit of Himalayan glaciers, and thus it could not be a big, perennial, glacier fed river, but, rather, a smaller, seasonal, monsoon fed one. Based on sediment geochemistry and composition and geomorphologic and palaeoclimatic constraints that the Ghaggar-Hakra river was likely always Siwalik fed.”
Further, the report adds, “The suggestion of glacial sources and the Yamuna and Satluj rivers draining to the river Saraswati through Ghaggar before they were pirated by the Ganga and Indus respectively, are not supported by our isotopic data. If these hypotheses were correct, we would expect to find sediments derived from the Higher Himalayas in the Thar. Our data also do not support the idea that there was a change in the source area for the Ghaggar from a glaciated region to rainfall region.” 12
The report emphatically states that the Satlej and Yamuna being the tributaries of the Ghaggar, even in the remote past is a myth nourished by scholars neglecting the vital proof. According to the same report, the waning of the Ghaggar was only because of the declining of the rains, which was a gradual process, and not because of the capture of its tributaries by the other rivers or any tectonic events.
This means Satlej and Yamuna were never tributaries of Ghaggar, or at the least they were not feeding Ghaggar during the Harappan times, if taken into the considerations the other reports. Satlej and Yamuna are glacial fed rivers. Had they been feeding the Ghaggar in the past, the glacial mineral traces would have been detected in the sediments of the Ghaggar channel, but that is not the case according to the above-mentioned report. Rather, mighty rivers such as Satlej and Yamuna feeding a moderately small river even in the remote, pre-Harappan, past is a ridiculous idea.
In a research paper, published in “Geology”, Peter D Clift et al states, “…although loss of the Yamuna from the Indus is likely to have occurred as early as 49 ka and no later than 10 ka. Capture of the Yamuna to the east and the Sutlej to the north rerouted water away from the area of the Harappan centers, but this change significantly predated their final collapse…… Throughout the Holocene, including the Harappan period this river was fed only by seasonal monsoon rain in the east. This rain-fed Ghaggar-Hakra was active until after 4.5 ka and was then covered by dunes before 1.4 ka. What this means is that the Ghaggar-Hakra, unlike any of the major Indus tributaries, was not fed by snow melt, which begins in Spring and may be unpredictable, but was entirely reliant on swelling its banks from the summer monsoon.” 13
According to Sanjeev Gupta (Imperial College London), the river sediments ceased in the tract of the palaeo channel after 14,000 BCE, long before the Indus civilisation era had began. He reached this conclusion after his team did extensive drilling in the 30-40 m thick sand body in the subsurface beneath a tract of the Ghaggar-Hakra palaeochannel adjacent to the Indus city of Kalibangan.14
The Project Palaeo-Environmental Research Group — FB conducted field research and analysis of satellite imagery to identify the former course of the Ghaggar river and determined the causes and the dates of its avulsion. Contrary to its description in the Rig Veda text, field evidence demonstrates that the Ghaggar was not a large river, but a small one capable of providing water for agriculture only during the monsoon season.15
Sedimentary Geologist Suvrat Kher, referring to the research of Clift and his colleagues, states on his blog that the Yamuna and Satlej stopped feeding the Ghaggar long before 50,000 and 10,000 years respectively. While doing in-depth analysis of the critical issue, he clearly states that, “…I have stressed that this attempt to link a hypothesis of a mighty Saraswati to the presence of Aryans is misguided and the one that has caused harm to the public understanding of the topic and to what constitutes good science. Many geologists and archaeologists accepted the validity of a glacial Saraswati without critically weighing the evidence. Taking their cue, in web forums and books, supporters of a glacial Sarasvati have popularised the hypothesis of a late river avulsion and often presented it as irrefutable evidence favoring the indigenous Aryan theory.” 16 This statement speaks for itself.
The research paper published in “The current Science” which was mentioned earlier, also concludes that, ‘If the snowline did not drop to the Sub-Himalayan ranges even during glaciations and the glaciers continuously occurred only in the HHC, a higher rainfall for the huge erosion of Sub-Himalayan lithologies and to sustain the rivers was essential. Our isotope data provide a scientific basis for the absence of a glacial-fed, perennial Himalayan river in the Harappan domain, i.e. the River Ghaggar is not the Saraswati as far as its origin in the glaciated Himalayas is concerned.” 17 (Emphasis mine.)
From the abovementioned facts, we can conclude the following:
1. The Ghaggar is not the mythical river Saraswati.
2. The possibility of the mighty Satlej and Yamuna being the tributaries of the comparatively minor monsoon-fed rivers is unlikely.
3. Even if considered, though unlikely, that the Satlej and Yamuna were flowing through the Ghaggar Channel before they changed their course, it was quite long before when even the early phase of the Harappa culture had began.
4. The decline of the Harappan culture was gradual for several centuries due to the climatic changes and was not a sudden event as thought by some scholars.
5. At the least, equating the Ghaggar with Saraswati cannot become the basis of indigenous Aryan theory.
It appears that the problem with some was also to find anyhow the location of the Vedic people in the vicinity of IGC sites to stake the big claim that they were authors of the magnificent civilisation. Scholars like Kazanas seriously try to place the date of the Rig Veda in third millennium BC to coincide with the previously supposed date of Yamuna and Satlej changing their course, but the hypothesis is ridiculous in the light of the geological findings. 18 C
For the time being, let us leave aside the geological proofs, which clearly indicates that the Ghaggar could never have been Rig Vedic Saraswati, and consider different other points of view as to why the Ghaggar could not have been Saraswati.
In addition, we have already discussed that the Ghaggar river never was a lost river, like Saraswati. It always flowed, though seasonably, in summer showers, though its water discharge had reduced considerably because of the weak monsoons. Desertion of the Harappan sites was a gradual process that might have continued intermittently over hundreds of years. No foreign aggression or sudden natural or social calamity in the vicinity has been recorded. Still there are other socio-cultural evidences as well which misfits the Ghaggar as a candidate for being the lost Saraswati.