The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati | Book Review

Title: The Lost River: On the Trail of the Saraswati

Author: Michel DaninoPublication: Penguin

Price: Flipkart

|Imam me Gange Yamune Sarasvati Sutudri Stomam sacata parusnya a|

This verse comes directly from the Rig Veda. These are the fifth and sixth verses of the Nadistuti Sukta Hymn (Praise of the Rivers) which means, “O Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri (Satluj), and Parushni (Ravi), hear my praise!”

We were told that Sarasvati never existed. And this book decimates that myth. That’s what most of us have heard. It never existed. It was a creation of the hallucinating minds of the snake charming Indians.

“If Sarasvati were ‘the river in the abstract’, why place it specifically after the Ganga and the Yamuna and before the Satluj?” (Page 270)

The Lost River Sarasvati by Michel Danino

The Lost River Sarasvati

Michel Danino has uncovered many mysteries with this book. This book flows as effortlessly as the river it seeks to discover.

The Aryan Theory, the Dravidian divide, the story of migrants coming from Europe to write our scriptures, and several other conspiracy theories fail miserably here. And most importantly, Danino brings back Sarasvati to life that was pushed into the darkness by hundred years of forced ignorance.

I will place this book in the same category as Exploring Pangi Himalaya’s: A World Beyond Civilization. It is not just another travel book but it is a scholarly work that will take you back in time; 5000 years back. When the Sarasvati flowed fluently, when the deserts of Rajasthan were bustling with life and greenery, and when these Rivers meant a lot more than just an irrigation channel.

And why call it a travel book? That’s because it showcases work done by hundreds of researchers, historians, and expeditionists who traveled across the length and breadth of pre and post Independence India, in search of [arguably] the most sacred Indian river.

To start with, Danino explains why Sarasvati was the lifeline of the Indian deserts and how those deserts were not always hot, arid, and lifeless.

“And curiously, an astonishing number of names of towns and villages in western Rajasthan have names ending in the word ‘sar’. Sar means Lakes.” (Page 43)

River Sarasvati once ran parallel to the Indus. It was the only river that flowed without any discontinuity and breakage in between, unbroken as Danino puts it. Here Danino takes another leaf out of the Rig Veda: “Giribhya a Samudrat”, which means pure in her course from the mountains to the sea, unbroken. Sarasvati was the only river that ran unbroken from its mountainous origins to the oceans.

Danino also brings to light several historical sites of religious and archaeological importance like Bhatnir in Rajasthan, Pheowa in Haryana, and surprisingly Adi Badri in Himachal Pradesh.

“The Sarsuti, then, rises in the Sirmur Hills that are a part of the Shivaliks; it touches the plains near Ad Badri…” (Page18)

Ad Bdri is a place located 15KM from North of Bilaspur at Kolar (Nahan) at the Haryana-Himachal Border. It is a pilgrimage centre with temples dedicated to Narayan, Kedarnath, and Mantra Devi.

The Lost River Sarasvati

Map of Sapt-Sindu: The Land of Seven Rivers

This book first studies the excavation history at the sites where from this mysterious river once passed. From Thanesar in Haryana to Cholistan in Pakistan. The author explains studies conducted by various scholars that started as early as 1788 (Memoirs of a Map of Hindoostan by James Rennel). After carefully scrutinizing revelations of these excavation studies, the author successfully and convincingly proves that naming it just Indus Valley Civilization was a mistake.

A whopping Thirty Two percent of the (mature) excavated sites are in the Sarasvati basin, which is approximately four times as many as in the Sind region. Secondly, the overall number of Harappan sites in the Sarasvati region comes out to be 2378 out of 3781 total. Thus the correct name should be Indus Sarasvati Civilization, the author suggests and rightly so.

As we move forward and read about the Religion and beliefs of the Harappans, we get to know that they were not uncivilized and primitive, as Max Muller and company want us to believe.

Ever since Max Muller made it a dogma that the Rig Veda reflected a ‘primitive’, ‘nomadic’ and ‘pastoral’ culture, those labels have stuck, despite much contrary evidence provided by the text itself.

The architecture, house planning, and even sanitation was well managed at these sites. They adopted numbers and ratios described in various Hindu scriptures like the ratio 5:4 from VastuShastra, angula unit system from Arthshastra, specific proportions from Brihat Samhita in their daily life. From building construction to town planning. The way of life was undoubtedly Vedic.

The Lost River Michel Danino-001

Swastika Symbol Found at Different Sites

All those civilizations were in contact with each other; globalization is not exactly new concept! It does suggest that the Harappans were the ones who took the initiative to reach out. (Page 111)

The Sarasvati’s Testimony

And then lastly, as we move towards the conclusion part, the author decimates the Aryan Invasion theory bit by bit. The Invasion theory claims that the Aryans (western invaders) wrote our Vedas. Vedas clearly suggest that these were written on the banks of the River Sarasvati, that too when it was flowing subtly from the mountains to the oceans, unbroken. Now here is the catch.

“Until now, Aryans have eluded all archaeological definition. So far, no type of artefact, no class of pottery has been discovered that would enable us to say: ‘Aryans came this way; here is a typically Aryan sword or goblet.” (Page 257)

We find no conclusive evidence that suggested Aryan presence through our excavations or script or religious practices. And most importantly we are made to believe that the Vedas were not composed by the native Indians but also that these were composed around or even before 2500 BCE. The answer, as Danino explains, lies again in the Rig Veda.

The hymn from the seventh mandala of the Rig Veda must, therefore, have been composed before 2500 BCE – a whole millennium earlier than the conventional dates.

River Sarasvati finds its name mentioned 72 times in 45 hymns of the Rig Veda. And the sages even called it Sindhumata, the mother of the waters and rivers. It was certainly not a figment of someone’s imagination. Nobody was hallucinating, the river Sarasvati was for real.

This book is a must read for everyone who takes pride in our history and wisdom of our sages. Because if we don’t value our history and studies done by our scholars, nobody will.

And in the end, “So why not use the term ‘Indus Sarasvati Civilization’? The real reason is that, much like Ganga losing her way in Shiva’s hair, the Sarasvati found herself entangled in the Aryan [Invasion] controversy.”

5 Comments
  1. Provides a thought provoking insight into history of India. Every time I chant Imam me Gange yamune . . . . . . I am reminded of the great heritage through which we have descended. Jail Bharat.

  2. So the Saraswats are originated from the banks of this river and migrated to various places such as present Kashmir, Panjab, Gujarat and one faction probably in Ramas period of Treta yuga to Gouda Desha in present UP_Bihar and then to GOA remigrated under the guidance of Parashuram; to be identified as Gouda Saraswats!!!.

  3. I would like to know if I could use some of the images from the book, The Lost River in my book, Into India? I need a good image like the one on page 52, to show the Sapta Sindhou. This is where the book opens. Would Mr. Danino like to review my book? Thank you for your response. Kevin McKee

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