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Vedic Sarasvati River

The Hindu Vedas mention a river named Sarasvati. In Sanskrit 'saras' means a lake or water body, and 'vati', means a female associated with it.

The river has been identified with various present-day or historical rivers, particularly the Ghaggar-Hakra river in India and Pakistan. Alternative suggestions include the Helmand River in Afghanistan, which historically bore the name 'sarasvati'. There is also a river in Iran which has been given this name. Sometimes it also means the heavenly 'river' milky way and and it is personifid as a goddess. The goddess Sarasvati developed independently from the river itself. There is also a present-day Saraswati River in India which appears to be one of the branches of the ancient river.

The identification of the 'original' Saraswati river has become embroiled in debates about the age of the Vedas and of the relation between Aryan culture and the Indus Valley civilization. In the enumeration of the rivers in Rigveda 10.75, the order is Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri. Hence it is quite clear that one of the rivers given the name 'Sarasvati' flowed through Haryana and Rajasthan. The question is whether this is the primal 'Sarasvati'. The Rigveda declares that this Saravati rises in the mountains and ends up in the sea. Recent finding suggest the Ghaggar-Hakra river did once flow in great strength, and was of major importance to the Indus Valley civilization, but that it dried up due to the redirection of its tributaries, at the latest in 1900 BC but perhaps much earlier. Clearly this is of great importance in establishing the date of the Rigveda.