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|April 29, 1998||
Pune archaeologists hope the Saraswati will unlock mysteries of the past
Were the Rig Vedic people Aryans or non-Aryans?
Archaeologists at the Deccan College in Pune propose to resolve this intriguing question once and for all by undertaking a project aimed at identifying the actual cultural sequence of the ancient river Saraswati which finds frequent mention in the Rig Veda.
There are different hypotheses as regards the identity of the people who thrived on the banks of the Saraswati, with one school of thought insisting that it was the Aryans and the other believing that they were non-Aryans.
Archaeologists at the Deccan College, however, affirm that recent archaeological excavations indicate that it were, in fact, the Harappans who had settled on the banks of the Saraswati and who had subsequently migrated to other parts after the river went dry around 2000 BC. They emphasise that the Rig Vega was contemporaneous with the Harappan period and the Harappans, as such, were Rig Vedic people.
A team of archaeologists from the Deccan College, headed by Dr Vasant Shinde, has conducted a preliminary survey at Baror in Hanumangad district of Rajasthan as initial spadework to identify the cultural sequence of the Saraswati. The team proposes to conduct extensive excavations there from September which is expected to throw much light on the identity of the people who thrived on its banks.
The Rig Veda-Harappan-Saraswati connection appears very strong for a number of reasons, says Dr Shinde. For one, the Rig Veda mentions flourishing townships on the banks the Saraswati that are characterised by strong fortifications. The archaeologist points out that strong fortifications were a distinctive feature of Harappa -- which has been established beyond doubt from excavations at various Harappan sites like Kalibanga and Dhola Vira.
Furthermore, the Rig Veda mentions that people inhabiting the banks of the Saraswati were fire worshippers. Excavations at Kalibanga, which is also located in Hanumangad district of Rajasthan, have unearthed a number of altars, which go to show that the Rig Veda-Harappan-Saraswati connection is indeed very deep.
Archaeologists had not made any systematic efforts towards identifying the actual cultural sequence of the Saraswati in the past because of which the identity of the people who inhabited its banks has remained a subject of controversy, says Dr Shinde.
Former director general of the Archaeological Survey of India, A Ghosh, had some time during 1955 done some pioneering work in this regard. The discovery of some Harappan sites around the river Ghaggar, which flowed through Haryana, Rajasthan and a little part of Kutch, had led Ghosh to surmise that Ghaggar could have formed part of the Saraswati. Ghaggar had gone dry around the same time around when the Saraswati had stopped flowing on the surface.
After Ghosh, K T Frenchman from the Deccan College had endeavoured to carry on his work. Around 1970, archaeologists arrived at the conclusion that the river Haqra, by which name the Ghaggar was known after it entered Pakistan, was part of the Saraswati, informs Dr Shinde.
Apart from these stray ventures, however, there was no systematic effort at identifying the cultural sequence of the Saraswati.
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