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Saraswati river in Haryana used to flow till early 15th Century, finds a study by CERSR in KU

Author: JK Singh
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 18, 2021
URL:     https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/saraswati-river-in-haryana-used-to-flow-till-early-15th-century-finds-a-study-by-cersr-in-ku/articleshow/83625703.cms?utm_source= twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=TOIDesktop

A research study conducted by the Centre of Excellence for Research on the Saraswati River (CERSR) in Kurukshetra University (KU) has established that this river which is often termed as "mythical", flowed in Haryana till the early 15th Century i.e. 1402 AD.

CERSR director Prof AR Chaudhari who is working on Saraswati River since 2005 said that the findings of his study titled 'Saraswati River in northern India (Haryana) and its role in populating the Harappan civilization sites – A study based on remote sensing, sedimentology and strata chronology’, has been published in the prestigious peer-reviewed SCI International Journal of Archeological Prospection, published in the United Kingdom by John Wiley publishing group.

Prof Chaudhari said the motive of this study is to comprehend the chronology of events of the probable Saraswati River, especially the cause and the time period when the water stopped flowing in this river system in the foothills of Yamunanagar in Haryana.

In the study conducted by CERSR, it has been claimed that nearly all the paleo-channels of the Saraswati River system in Haryana and adjoining Rajasthan have been traced.

"The research has revealed that Saraswati River paleo-channels form a dense web of interconnecting channels which are continuously networked for more than 2,984 kilometres (km) in Haryana. The individual floodplain width of these channels varies from 1.5 to 13 km", said Prof Chaudhari.

Providing further details about the paleo-channels, Prof Chaudhari said, "Saraswati River system has two major paleo-channels. One passes through Yamunanagar, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Pehowa, Kaithal, Jind, Fatehabad and Sirsa before entering Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. The second channel represents the Drishadwati river, which is a Vedic time tributary of the Saraswati River, passes through Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat, Sonepat, Jind and Hisar districts before passing through Rawatsar in Rajasthan."

As per the research paper, six trenches varying in depth from 3 meters (m) to 10m were excavated on the identified paleo-channels covering a distance of about 120 km from foothill region of Yamunanagar to Pehowa in the Yamuna and Markanda rivers interfluve. Also, near two dozen sediment samples were selected for optical simulation luminescence (OSL) dating and accelerator mass spectroscopy (AMS) based Carbon 14 dating, out of the total collected 270 sediment samples.
"The age of the sediments was evaluated in conjunction with the textural and mineralogical characteristics of sediments. This study found that the Saraswati River was flowing in Haryana from before14±5 Kato as late as AD 1402 and then there was a sudden absence of flow in the channel thereafter", said Prof Chaudhari.

About the query of sudden absence, Prof Chaudhari said, "This abrupt change appears to be the consequence of sudden modification/diversion of contributing channels for constructing five canals (Old Mughal Canal ~ modern day - the Western Yamuna Canal – 325 km long) starting from foothills in Yamunanagar wherein there was a considerable anthropogenic re-routing of streams so as to make water available at Fatehabad and Hisar. The channels of the Drishadvati River and the Chautang streams have been extensively utilized for routing this canal."

"Besides this, natural factors comprising weakened Indian summer monsoon, shrinkage of glacial cover and meltwaters, channel avulsion and channel capture, climate change and tectonic disruption of the input channels in the lesser Himalayan terrain contributed towards the gradual decay and ultimate extinction of this mega river system", claimed the director of CERSR at KU.
CERSR team is working in close coordination with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited who have a memorandum of understanding with Haryana Sarasvati Heritage Development Board (HSHDB), which funds CERSR.

"The exploratory wells along Saraswati paleo-channel at Uncha Chandna yielded water which is more than 10,000 years old and the well at Pabni Kalan yielded water which is around 7000 years old. At both these locations, the water, based upon stable isotope 16O/18O ratios, is of glacial origin, which points towards the glacial origin of the Saraswati River as also of its perennial character. It is observed that one of the trenches which were got dug near Bhadrakali Temple in Kurukshetra documented the continuous fluvial activity of Saraswati River for more than 5,000 years", said Prof Chaudhari.

This study revealed that the old bathing ghats (banks) at Bilaspur and Saraswati Nagar in Yamunanagar district, at Bhadrakali Temple in Kurukshetra and at Saraswati Tirtha, Thehpolar and Satora in Pehowa and at Thana in Kaithal are located on the same Saraswati paleo-channel which goes from Adi Badri in Yamunanagar to Sirsa in Haryana and further beyond into Rajasthan.

In this study, the authors from the KU and Inter-University Accelerator Centre, New Delhi concluded that all the major archaeological sites in Haryana, namely, Siswal, Rakhigarhi, Banawali, Bhirrana, Kunal, Balu, Thana are located at a radial distance of less than 500m from the Saraswati or the Drishadwati River paleo-channels.
It has been found that the Harappan settlements in Haryana and Rajasthan nucleated and prospered in the fertile channel bars and interfluves of this river system. The presence of significant clay beds indicate that around 14,000 years, 6,000 years and 4,000 years ago there was a weakening of monsoons and drought conditions which resulted in near absence of flow in the channels.

In this study, the authors have concluded that there is a continuity in culture from the Mesolithic cultural phase dating 6500 to 5500 BC, through the Neolithic, the Early Harappan. The Mature Harappan and further ahead time period in Rakhigarhi and Bhirrana which is a testimony of the role of the Saraswati River system in sustaining the Harappan settlements in Haryana.

The government of Haryana established CERSR at KU in 2017, with a mandate to scientifically validate the Saraswati River System and its associated heritage. CERSR is being funded by HSHDB, Panchkula, whose chairman is Haryana chief minister (CM) Manohar Lal Khattar.

Presently, HSHDB is cleaning the channel of Saraswati River, with a motive to flow water in this channel from Adi Badri, Yamunanagar to Pehowa, Kurukshetra and further possibility in Haryana.

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