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The Lost River: On The Trails of Saraswati

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The Indian subcontinent was the scene of dramatic upheavals a few thousand years ago. The Northwest region entered an arid phase, and erosion coupled with tectonic events played havoc with river courses. One of them disappeared. Celebrated as -Sarasvati' in the Rig Veda and the Mahabharata, this river was rediscovered in the early nineteenth century through topographic explorations by British officials. Recently, geological and climatological studies have probed its evolution and disappearance, while satellite imagery has traced the river's buried courses and isotope analyses have dated ancient waters still stored under the Thar Desert. In the same Northwest, the subcontinent's first urban society"the Indus civilization"flourished and declined. But it was not watered by the Indus alone: since Aurel Stein's expedition in the 1940s, hundreds of Harappan sites have been identified in the now dry Sarasvati's basin. The rich Harappan legacy in technologies, arts and culture sowed the seeds of Indian civilization as we know it now. Drawing from recent research in a wide range of disciplines, this book discusses differing viewpoints and proposes a harmonious synthesis"a fascinating tale of exploration that brings to life the vital role the -lost river of the Indian desert' played before its waters gurgled to a stop.

368 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 12, 2010

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About the author

Michel Danino

15 books79 followers
Michel Danino was born in France in 1956. At the age of 21, after four years of higher scientific studies, he decided to live in India, where he first took part in the English translation, editing and publication of books related to Sri Aurobindo and Mother. A student of Indian civilization, culture and history, he has lectured widely and published research papers in journals of archaeology and Indology. In 1996, he wrote a brief study of the Aryan problem in the Indian context, The Invasion That Never Was (2nd edition 2000), further enlarged a decade later in a French book (English version forthcoming). In 2010, he authored a comprehensive study of the Sarasvati River, The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati (Penguin India). Michel Danino's work for the protection of a Shola forest in the Nilgiris in the 1980s and 1990s led to the creation of Tamil Nadu's first joint forest management group involving local citizens. His other interests include nature photography and a multimedia project for the creation of quality educational material on India's heritage. He currently lives near Coimbatore in south India.

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Profile Image for Ashish Iyer.
761 reviews475 followers
April 26, 2022
Sárasvatī is not mythological but a true river as per latest scientific explorations. Michel Danino makes a very strong case for Harappan Civilization being Vaidik in nature and also gives historicity of Sarasvati in his book. It has done especially great job in breaking myths created by leftists. It explores geography, history, & mythology of The Sarasvati river, drawing from various sources like folklore, the Vedas, archaeology, local practices, history, geology, and meteorology.

Michel Danino explains
- Textual References to River Sarasvati starting from the Vedas
- The Colonial and Modern era search for River Sarasvati
- Evidence Consistency across search
- Harappan sites found on
- Threat to AIT narrative

Michel Danino, in meticulously researched in this fascinating book makes it clear why, in light of current data, earlier theories stand refuted. This book has lots of photographs, artifacts images, satellite images and maps. The hard work done by the author in gathering evidences from several different sources can be easily observed and appreciated throughout the book. It combines the evidences from literature, scriptures and other sources to throw a light on Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization. I was super amazed to read that so many of our folk traditions have a reference to the Sarasvati, its change of course and eventual drying in the deserts. This book is also available in Tamil and Malayalam.

Michel Danino is an author and historian with works such as the "The Lost River: On The Trail of the Sarasvati" to his credit. Influenced heavily by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, he left France for India in 1977, and has been living here ever since. I think he is currently teaching IIT Gandhinagar.
If you have heard Budget of 2020, you may recalled that Finance Minister allotted budget for Hastinapur, Dholavira, Adichanalur, Shivsagar and Rakhigarhi which was negleted for so long. This will also boost in Archaeological studies as well. FM also stated ‘shrenik’ being used in the Harappan era along with the mention of Saraswati Civilisation. 32% of the Mature Harappan sites have been found in the Saraswati basin. 28% in Gujarat. 11% in Baluchistan then in Sindh, Pakistan etc. Maximum % is in the Saraswati basin. Danino states that most school textbooks describe the ‘Indus Valley’ civilisation as it was known in the 1930s. It’s high time that we called it Sarasvati civilization.

Additional reading I did to un-brainwashed myself.

1. The Aryan Invasion Myth by A.L. Chavda
2. The Aryan Invasion Theory: The Final Nail in its Coffin by Stephen Knapp
3. The Sarasvati Civilization by G.D. Bakshi

And I have intention of reading:

1. Rivers of Rgveda: A Geographic Exploration by Jijith Nadumuri Ravi
2. Books by Shrikant Talageri
3. Still No Trace of an Aryan Invasion by Koenraad Elst
Profile Image for Abhinav Agarwal.
Author 3 books68 followers
September 1, 2013
Remarkable book that tells the remarkable history of a remarkable river that sustained a remarkable civilization!

It is rare that a book flows with the same ease and felicity as the river it seeks to describe. This is that rare book. The river Saraswati, when it flowed some five thousand years ago, gave birth to the most massive and advanced ancient civilization that existed. The almost million square kilometers of land that formed the Indus Saraswati Civilization saw the development of the most advanced urban planning in the ancient world, a system of standardized weights and measures that boggles the mind, a social order that was more egalitarian than has ever existed anywhere since. When the river stopped flowing - severely depleted by the "double desertion" of the Sutlej and Yamuna - it caused a massive abandonment of the Indus Saraswati sites, with its residents migrating to the Gangetic plains and elsewhere, giving birth to a new phase in the evolution of the Vedic dharma which saw its birth amidst the fertile plains of the Indus Saraswati. That the existence of this once mighty river is in dispute is itself a sordid tale of ideologies polluting academics. Michel Danino writes fluidly, engagingly - makes this book a page-turner.

Full review at http://blog.abhinavagarwal.net/2013/0...
Profile Image for Prashanth Bhat.
1,560 reviews93 followers
September 6, 2021
The lost river on the trail of the sarasvati - Michael danino

ಇದೊಂದು ಹುಡುಕಾಟದ ಕಥೆ‌ ಅಲ್ಲಲ್ಲ ಪತ್ತೇದಾರಿ ಕಥೆ ಉಹೂಂ ಅದೂ ಅಲ್ಲ ನಮ್ಮ ಚರಿತ್ರೆಯ ಮರೆತು ಹೋದ ಒಂದು ಕಾಲದ ಕಥೆ ಅದೂ ಅಲ್ಲ ಪುರಾಣ ಕಥೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಢಾಳಾಗಿ ಕಾಣಿಸಿಕೊಂಡ ಒಂದು ನದಿಯ ಕುರುಹಿನ ಪತ್ತೆಯ ಕಥೆ.
ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ಎಂಬ ನದಿಯ ಜಾಡು ಅರಸಿಕೊಂಡು ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಯ ಆಧಾರ, ಹರಪ್ಪಾ ಮೊಹಂಜೋದಾರೋ‌ ನಾಗರಿಕತೆ,‌ಸರ್ವೇ ದಾಖಲೆಗಳು,ಉಪಗ್ರಹ ಚಿತ್ರಗಳು, ಪುರಾಣ ಕಥೆಗಳು, ಜನರ ನಂಬಿಕೆಗಳು ,ಭೂ ಲಕ್ಷಣಗಳು ಹೀಗೆ ಎಲ್ಲವನ್ನೂ ಅಧ್ಯಯನ‌ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾ ಒಂದು ರೋಚಕ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯ ಹಾಗೆ ಸಾಗುವ ಕೃತಿ ಇದು.
ಭಾರತೀಯ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಆಸಕ್ತಿ ಹೊಂದಿದ ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಬ್ಬರೂ ಓದಲೇ ಬೇಕಾದದ್ದು.
ಇದನ್ನು ಪ್ರಸ್ತುತ ಪಡಿಸಿದ ರೀತಿಯೂ ಮೆಚ್ಚುಗೆಗೆ ಅರ್ಹ.
ಕಳೆದ ಮೂರು ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇದನ್ನು ಓದಿ ಓದಿ ಎಂದು ಒತ್ತಾಯ ಪಡಿಸಿ ಓದಿಸಿದ Nagaraja Udupa ಅವರಿಗೆ ಎಷ್ಟು ಕೃತಜ್ಞತೆ ಹೇಳಿದರೂ ಕಡಿಮೆಯೇ.
Profile Image for Ramaprasad KV.
Author 2 books45 followers
December 28, 2021
Although it might sound strange, here is my review of the book in Kannada (although the book is in English):

ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ನದಿಯ ಜಾಡಿನಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆದಿರುವ ನೂರೈವತ್ತಕ್ಕೂ ವರ್ಷಗ��ಿಗೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಹುಡುಕಾಟವನ್ನು, ಆ ದಾರಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿರುವ ಫಲಿತಾಂಶಗಳನ್ನು ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯರಿಗೂ ತಿಳಿಯುವ ಸುಲಭವಾದ ಶೈಲಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪರಿಚಯ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಡುತ್ತದೆ. ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಈ ವಿಷಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಓದು, ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಮಾಹಿತಿಯನ್ನು ಬಯಸುವಂತಹ ಓದುಗರಿಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಉಲ್ಲೇಖಗಳೂ ಬೇಕಾದಷ್ಟಿವೆ. ಪೆಂಗ್ವಿನ್ ಪ್ರಕಾಶನ ಹೊರತಂದಿರುವ ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕದ ಬೆಲೆ ರೂ.೩೯೯.

ರಾಜಾಸ್ಥಾನದ ಮರುಭೂಮಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹರಿಯುವ ಘಾಗ್ಗರ್ ನದಿಯ ಒಣ ಹರಿವಿರುವ ಪಾತ್ರದಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ಭಾರೀ ನದಿಯು ಹರಿಯುತ್ತಿತ್ತೆಂಬ ಸಂಶೋಧನೆ ೧೯ನೇ ಶತಮಾನದಲ್ಲೇ ನಡೆದಿತ್ತು. ಅದೇ ವೇದಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಹೆಸರಿಸಿರುವ ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ನದಿ, ಗುಪ್ತಗಾಮಿನಿ ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ಇರಬೇಕೆಂಬ ಊಹೆಯನ್ನು ಆಗಲೇ ಮಾಡಲಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಈಗ ಹನಿನೀರೂ ಇಲ್ಲದ ರಾಜಾಸ್ತಾನದ ಮರಳುಭೂಮಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಾಲ್ಕುಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ನಾಲ್ಕೈದು ಕಿಲೋಮೀಟರ್ ಗೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಪಾತ್ರವಿರುವ ನದಿಯೊಂದು ಹರಿಯುತ್ತಿತ್ತೆಂಬುದು ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯವಾದರೂ ನಿಜವಾದ ಸಂಗತಿ.

ಅಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿಂಧೂ ನದಿ ನಾಗರೀಕತೆ, ಹರಪ್ಪ ನಾಗರೀಕತೆ ಎಂದು ಯಾವುದನ್ನು ಕರೆಯುತ್ತೇವೋ, ಆ ನಾಗರೀಕತೆಯ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ನೆಲೆಗಳು ಇದ್ದದ್ದು ಹೀಗೆ ಒಣಗಿ ಹೋಗಿರುವ ನದಿಯ ಅಕ್ಕಪಕ್ಕದಲ್ಲೇ ಎನ್ನುವುದು ೨೦ನೇ ಶತಮಾನದಲ್ಲಿ, ಅದರಲ್ಲೂ ೧೯೫೦ - ೨೦೦೦ ದಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆದಿರುವ ಭೂಶೋಧನೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕಂಡು ಬಂದಿದೆ. ಸಿಂಧೂ ನದಿಯ, ಮತ್ತೆ,ಅದರ ಉಪನದಿಗಳು ಹರಿವ ಪಾಕೀಸ್ತಾನದ ಪಂಜಾಬ್ ಪ್ರಾಂತ್ಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಸುಮಾರು ೧೦% ರಷ್ಟು ನೆಲೆಗಳಿದ್ದರೆ, ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ನದೀ ತೀರದಲ್ಲಿ ಸುಮಾರು ೩೦%ಕ್ಕೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ನೆಲೆಗಳು, ಸುಮಾರಾಗಿ ಅಷ್ಟೇ ನೆಲೆಗಳು ಗುಜರಾತ್ ನ ಬಳಿಯೂ (ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ನದಿಯು ಸಮುದ್ರ ಸೇರುತ್ತಿದ್ದಿದ್ದು ಈ ಗುಜರಾತಿನ ಕಚ್ಛ್ ನ ’ರಣ’ ದಲ್ಲೇ)ಕಂಡುಬಂದಿವೆ. ಹಾಗಾಗಿ ಇದನ್ನು ಸಿಂಧೂ ನಾಗರೀಕತೆ (Indus civilization) ಎಂದು ಕರೆಯುವ ಬದಲು ಸರಸ್ವತೀ-ಸಿಂಧೂ ನಾಗರೀಕತೆ ಎಂದು ಕರೆಯುವುದು ಏಕೆ ಸರಿ ಎಂಬುದನ್ನು ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಮನದಟ್ಟು ಮಾಡಿಕೊಡುತ್ತದೆ.

ಹಾಗಿದ್ದರೆ, ಹೀಗೆ ನೂರಾರು ನೆಲೆಗಳನ್ನು ಹುಟ್ಟು ಹಾಕಿದ್ದ ಈ ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ನದಿ ಮಾಯವಾದದ್ದಾದರೂ ಹೇಗೆ? ಭೂಮಿಯ ಮೇಲ್ಪದರದಲ್ಲಿ ಬದಲಾವಣೆಯಾಗುವುದೂ, ಬಯಲು ಸೀಮೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹರಿಯುವ ನದಿಗಳು ತಮ್ಮ ಹರಿವನ್ನು ಬದಲಿಸುವುದೂ ಗೊತ್ತಿರುವ ಸಂಗತಿಯೇ. ಇನ್ನೂ ಕಳೆದ ವರ್ಷ ಕೂಡ ಬಿಹಾರದಲ್ಲಿ ಕೋಸೀ ನದಿ ತನ್ನ ಹರಿವನ್ನು ಬದಲಿಸಿದ್ದ ವಿಷಯ ಪತ್ರಿಕೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸುದ್ದಿ ಮಾಡಿತ್ತು. ಗಂಗಾ ನದಿಯ ದಡದಲ್ಲಿದ್ದ ಹಸ್ತಿನಾವತಿ ಈಗ ನದಿಯ ಹರಿವಿರುವ ಎಡೆಯಿಂದ ಹಲವಾರು ಮೈಲಿ ದೂರದಲ್ಲಿದೆ. ಈ ಎರಡೂ ಕಾರಣಗಳಿಂದ "ನದಿಗಳೆಲ್ಲೆಲ್ಲ ಅತ್ಯುತ್ತಮ"ವಾದದ್ದೆಂಬ ಹೊಗಳಿಕೆ ದಕ್ಕಿದ್ದ ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ಒಣಗಿ ಹೋದಳು.

ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ನದಿಗೆ ಎಡಗಡೆಯಿಂದ ಸೇರುವ ಮುಖ್ಯವಾದ ಉಪನದಿಯಾಗಿದ್ದ ಯಮುನೆ ಹಲವು ಹಂತಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ದಾರಿ ಬದಲಾಯಿಸಿ, ಗಂಗೆಗೆ ಸೇರಿಕೊಂಡಿತು. ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಕಡೆ ಸರಸ್ವತಿಗೆನೀರು ಪೂರಯಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಸಟ್ಲಜ್(ಶತದ್ರು)ಕೂಡಾ ದಾರಿ ಬದಲಿಸಿ ಬಿಯಾಸ್ (ವಿಪಾಶಾ) ನದಿಯ ಕಡೆಗೆ ತಿರುಗಿ ಕೊನೆಗೆ ಸಿಂಧೂ ನದಿಗೆ ಸೇರಿಕೊಂಡಿತು. ಹೀಗಾಗಿ ಹಿಮನದಿ (glacier) ಗಳ ಸೆಲೆ ಸರಸ್ವತಿಗೆ ತಪ್ಪಿ ಹೋಯಿತು. ಇನ್ನು ಬೇರೆ ಮೂಲಗಳಿಂದ ಬರುವ ಚೌತಂಗ್ (ದೃಶದ್ವತಿ) , ಮಾರ್ಕಂಡ ನದಿಗಳು, ಮಳೆಗಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸರಸ್ವತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನೀರು ಹರಿಸುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ಸಾಕಾಗುವುದಾದರೂ, ಮರುಭೂಮಿಯನ್ನು ದಾಟಿ ಮುಂದೆ ಹೋಗುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ಸಾಲದಾಯಿತು. ಈ ವಿಷಯವನ್ನೇ, ಮಹಾಭಾರತದಲ್ಲಿ, ಪುರಾಣಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ನದಿ "ವಿನಾಶನ" ಎಂಬಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾಯವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ ಎಂದು ಹೇಳಿದೆ ಎಂಬುದನ್ನಿಲ್ಲಿ ನೆನೆಯಬಹುದು. ಹೀಗೆ ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ನದಿಯು ಪಾತ್ರ ಬದಲಾಯಿಸಿದ್ದರಿಂದಲೇ ಕ್ರಿ.ಪೂ ೧೯೦೦೦ - ೧೮೦೦ ರ ಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಅಲ್ಲಿದ್ದ ನಗರಗಳಲ್ಲಿದ್ದ ಜನ ಆ ಊರುಗಳನ್ನು ತೊರೆದು ಬೇರೆಡೆಗೆ ಹೋಗುವಂತೆ ಮಾಡಿರಬೇಕು.

ಇದಲ್ಲದೇ ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕದಲ್ಲಿ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಹೊಸ ಹೊಳವನ್ನು ನಾನು ಕಂಡುಕೊಂಡೆ. ಇಲ್ಲಿಯವರೆಗೆ ಸಿಂಧೂ-ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ಲಿಪಿಯನ್ನು ಸರಿಯಾಗಿ ಹೀಗೇ ಎಂದು ಬಿಡಿಸಿ ಹೇಳಲು ಆಗಿಲ್ಲದಿದ್ದರೂ, ಆ ಲಿಪಿಯಲ್ಲಿಯೂ, ಮತ್ತೆ ಅಶೋಕನ ಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಮತ್ತೆ ಕಂಡುಬರುವ ಬ್ರಾಹ್ಮೀ ಲಿಪಿಗೂ ಇರುವ ಹೋಲಿಕೆಗಳನ್ನೂ, ಮತ್ತೆ ಮೊಹೆಂಜೊದಾರೋ-ಹರಪ್ಪ ಅಥವಾ ಕಾಲಿಬಂಗನ್ ಲೋಥಾಲ್ ಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕಂಡುಬರುವ ಕೆಲವು ಅಂಶಗಳು ಹೇಗೆ ನಂತರದ ಕಾಲದ ಭಾರತದಲ್ಲಿ ಮುಂದುವರೆದುಬಂದಿದೆ ಅನ್ನುವುದನ್ನು ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿ ತೋರಿಸಿಕೊಟ್ಟಿದೆ ಎಂದು ನನಗೆ ಅನ್ನಿಸಿತು.

ಇನ್ನೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ವಿಷಯ ನಾನು ಹೇಳೋದು ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿರೋಲ್ಲ. ನಿಮಗೆ ಈ ವಿಷಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಆಸಕ್ತಿ ಇದ್ದರೆ ಖಂಡಿತ ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಓದಿ ಅನ್ನೋ ಶಿಫಾರಸ್ಸು ಮಾತ್ರ ಮಾಡಬಲ್ಲೆ!
Profile Image for Kaśyap.
271 reviews123 followers
March 5, 2020
The sarasvati has been pulled down to the earth from the realm of legend. The river was 'lost', but not forgotten. And even as she dried up , she grew in vigour as an incarnation of Speech and Inspiration. Her last waters gurgling to a stop, the goddess took up her dwelling at the source of every true thought and word-a source unlikely to ever run dry. 'Your excellent waters fill this whole universe'.

A thoroughly researched work on the saraswati river and the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization. Part one deals with the geographical location of the saraswati river ,the topographical analysis of the river bed and the textual analysis of the vedic river and tradition. How the Ghagghar-hakra system came to identified as the Vedic Saraswati river, how the paleo beds show that part of the waters of both Yamuna and Sutlej once flowed into it making it a mighty river indeed. Infact a part of the saraswati river still seems to flow underground as our Puranas and legends say it does.

The second part deals with the Harappan civilization that once thrived on its banks. In fact the number of sites of this civilization on the Saraswati river are far more than the ones on the Sindhu river. Michel Danino here deals with the main sites on the Indian side.

The third part deals with the civilizational continuity and the remarkable continuity of religious beliefs and motifs in the Indian subcontinent from the Harappan civilization to the second urbanization on the Ganga plains and continuing upto the present day.

The ethos of the Indian civilization was shaped during the neolithic and chalcolithic periods. From the neolithic time till almost today there has never been in spite of spectacular changes in the course of time, a definite gap or break in the history of the Indian subcontinent.

Contrary to what the western indologists propose, there doesn't seem to be any evidence for the claim of two distinct Harappan and Aryan cultures. Both the Harappans and the Aryans lived on the banks of the Saraswati river and they are most likely the same people. Even the earliest cities on the Ganga plains show the same design and construction as those of the Harappan civilization. When the mighty Saraswati dried up, the people started moving southwards towards Godavari and eastwards towards Ganga. And it is here in the Ganga basin that the second urbanization has taken place.

I hope we can get an update on this book with the latest architectural genetic findings.

May purifying Sarasvati with all the plenitude of her forms of plenty, rich in substance by the thought, desire our sacrifice.
She, the inspirer of true intuitions, the awakener in consciousness to right thoughts, Sarasvati upholds our sacrifice.
Sarasvati by the perception awakens in consciousness the great flood and illumines entirely all the thoughts.
- Rig Veda
Profile Image for Ujjwala Singhania.
211 reviews47 followers
January 3, 2019
The more I read on India's past, the more fascinated I become. And The Lost River is one such book which digs deep into the millennia and brings out the past Indic civilizations to life. Michel Danino through his extensive research into the Indus-Sarasvati civilization paints a mesmerizing picture of a lost world which is mired into myths and controversies but grand nonetheless.
If one has read Land of the Seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal and wants to do a deep-dive, this is the book to go for.
315 reviews6 followers
January 10, 2021
I couldn't have picked a better book to kickstart my reading journey in 2021!
Even though Sarasvati vandana was one of the first hymns I'd learnt as a child, truth be told I never gave much thought to the invisible river. My understanding of where the river was and why it stopped flowing was non-existent. More importantly, I had no clue that this 'mythical' river gave birth to one of the most successful ancient societies in the world. And it is precisely this kind of ignorance that the book dispels.
It is a scholarly piece of work which even a non-scholar like me can read. Michel Danino systematically and thoroughly takes us through archaeological, geographical, scientific and literary evidences to piece together the origins of this mighty river. In between, he also touches the controversial topic of 'Aryan Invasion theory' and shows why the presence of this river in our history goes against this theory. I thoroughly enjoyed poring over the maps and illustrations provided right from early 18th century to today's satellite imagery to refine my understanding of the Sarasvati conundrum. Highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in Indian history.
Profile Image for Ajay.
241 reviews3 followers
May 18, 2019
This was fun reading this book. Loved it. Read this book in 1 day.
Profile Image for Rama Rao.
735 reviews103 followers
November 4, 2015
The Sindhumata: Searching for the trail of Holy River Sarasvati

The story of the lost river Sarasvati is still being debated by scholars. The current discussion includes evidences from several disciplines; archeology, hydrology, satellite imagery, geology, history and the Vedic literature: Most notably the Rigveda. Brahmanas and itihasas, particularly Mahabharata also offer additional evidence.

A brief summary of the book is as follows: Geological survey in the early 19th century in states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Cholistan where river Sarasvati is known have flown during Vedic times revealed numerous ruined settlements that belonged to either the Harappan civilization or a period prior to, or after Harappan era. The author reviews tremendous amount of literature and discusses all aspects of Sarasvati; where it flew and how it may have vanished. The overwhelming evidence suggests that ecological and environmental factors led to years of drought that drove the river to complete dryness. The Vedic literature and archeology have been combined to construct the best picture for lost river Sarasvati and other tributaries that watered and gave life to Indus civilization. It is on the banks of this river where great Vedic sages may have found solace, serenity and creativity that may have transpired into the hymns of Rigveda.

Rigveda showers praise in 45 hymns on Sarasvati, her name appears 72 times and three hymns are wholly dedicated to her. She is often invoked in the company of two sister-goddesses Ila and Bharati. The waters of river Sarasvati is said to be “great amongst great,” “the impetuous river,” “created vast,” “limitless,” “unbroken,” “swift-moving,” and “she surpasses in majesty and might of all other rivers.” And Sarasvati is indeed is the “mother of rivers (Sindumata).” One of the Vedic clans, the Purus, is said to have dwelled on her grassy banks during the Vedic times. In RV 2.41.16 she is called ámbitame nádītame dévitame sárasvati, "Best mother, Best River, Best goddess". RV 6.61.12 associates the Sarasvati River with the five tribes; and hymn 7.95.6 with the Paravatas and the Purus

Some scholars suggest that the Vedic Sarasvati River is the same as Ghaggar-Hakra River. Rigveda 10.75 mentions Sarasvati River flowing between the Yamuna in the east and the Sutlej in the west. According to the Mahabharata, the Sarasvati dried up in a desert (at a place named Vinasana or Adarsana) after having disappeared in the desert, but reappears in few other places and finally enters into a communion with the ocean. Many legends have been woven with respect to these descriptions of Sarasvati in Mahabharata and Puranas. Several Puranas describe the Sarasvati River, and also record that the river separated into a number of lakes. In the Skanda Purana, the Sarasvati originates from the water pot of Brahma and flows from Plaksa on the Himalayas. Though Sarasvati initially emerged as a river goddess in the Vedic scriptures, in the Puranas, she was rarely associated with the river. Instead she is described as an independent goddess of knowledge, learning, wisdom, music and the arts.

Currently, there has been a surge of activity due to renewed interest in finding the trail of Holy Sarasvati. In 2015, the Indian government has set up a Sarasvati Research Institute in the state of Haryana at Mughalwali, near Adibadri. A channel of about three miles long has been marked out as Sarasvati Marg. The digging at Adibadri has resulted in some positive results and raising the hopes that Sarasvati flows underground.

This work is an exhaustive review of available literature and I very much enjoyed reading the book. The maps showing the path of ancient rivers and how it evolved over centuries with prehistoric settlements is nicely illustrated. Most notable settlement on its bank was Kalibangan where numerous archeological expeditions have yielded voluminous data on this mature Harappan civilization. The last chapter summarizes the book very effectively. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the trail of lost river Sarasvati, Indus valley civilization, and Rigveda.
Profile Image for Shahina.
58 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2011
He's managed to make something as mundane as 'data' weave romanticism here. A journey creating a magical web through seemingly everything....right from the verses in the Rig Veda to the hyperbole (borowing a word from the author here) of the stories in the Mahabharata....from the painstakingly complex geographical and archaeological studies to the references strewn all over in folk-lore...
....And the mighty Saraswati flows amidst all the objections and counter-theories present today on her once famed existence and inspires yet again.

"In 45 of its hymns, the Rig Veda showers praise on the Saraswati; her name appears 72 times, and three hymns are wholly dedicated to her...
the river's name may equally be rendered as 'she of the stream, the flowing movement', to quote Sri Aurobindo's translation."

"....the wife of Uthaya, a rishi, was snatched away by God Varuna while she was bathing in the Yamuna. In order to pressurize Varuna, who dwelled in the waters and ruled over that element, to return his wife, Uthaya caused 600,000 lakes of the region to disappear, and command Saraswati 'to become invisible', to 'leave this region and go to the desert'. .....And at any rate Saraswati did 'go to the desert'."

Passion is the main thread in this book; the author's, the archaeologists' and the explorers' who went in search of the mighty river that disappeared. He even takes you to the times of the Indus (Indus-Saraswati) civilization and walks you through the Harappan streets...evidence after evidence of the continuity in the civilization and the backbone behind it all, one mighty river that some even dismiss as just an imagination of the rishis!
Profile Image for Nishu Thakur.
108 reviews
July 24, 2021
This is an excellent book and in case you want to read on Indus-Saraswati civilization pick it up. It's important to read this book because for a long time so-called historians of the left cabal attempted to cancel the existence of the Saraswati river.
July 25, 2021
Such a fascinating and well researched book on the the Saraswati. Loved the way the author has researched all sides of the the arguments for the existence of the river and presented his side of the story with well researched facts.
Profile Image for Riju Ganguly.
Author 31 books1,393 followers
July 18, 2019
Readers and critics often talk about historical thrillers. Sometimes they invent sub-genres like archaeological thrillers or mythological thrillers, while trying to pigeonhole some unputdownable action-driven story dotted with physical or metaphorical blasts from the past.
Here comes something which, to quote the great Amitabh Bachchan, stands taller than all such fictional works akin to रिश्ते में तो हम तुम्हारे बाप लगते हैं!
This is history as a crime thriller! Let me describe the situation in such terms.
The Estate:
There used to be a massive river, fed by perennial sources, bringing life and sustaining civilisation over a very large area. One day geographical whims and other factors started killing it. Slowly it withered and eventually died, forcing its children to move away, but not without its loving memory. They mixed with others, resettled and gave their memories a written shape, while developing new features in their culture due to changing geography. Eventually, known history came to consider them as the starting point of history.
The Inheritance:
Archaeological, seismic and hydrological studies submitted irrefutable proofs to show that the successors now inhabiting over a vast region had originated from the area and the people nourished by that once mighty river, and NOT from some imaginary people who were otherwise being equated with rulers and heroes.
The Crime:
Some people panicked. They were apparently well respected, but had come to define their positions more through rhetoric and ideology than evidence. An intricate web of lies and deceit had been spun in the meanwhile, to ensure divide and rule, by declaring North Indians as invading Aryans and South Indians and tribal people as the 'original residents'. Now that web started getting unraveled due to hard facts brought out by satellite-imagery and excavations. So those esteemed Marxist historians, notably Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and R.S. Sharma swung into action. They received support from other people with vested interests. As a result, versions of history which have got discredited more than sixty years ago continued being taught in schools forcing billion plus people to forget their past and their own heritage.
The Fightback?
For that you have to read this book. This incredibly meticulous and well-argued book clearly establishes:
1) There was a Saraswati river, fed by numerous streams and also feeding lakes, other rivers and above all, the people who had once set up one of the greatest civilisations in the history of mankind.
2) Those who had composed the Rig Veda and post-Vedic literature were intricately aware of its existence and the role that it had played once.
3) The civilisation still being described as the 'Indus Valley Civilisation' is actually an Indus-Saraswati civilisation at least, if not the Saraswati Civilisation.
4) As a result of the gradual decay and death of Saraswati, that Civilisation withered, forcing the people to migrate eastward, while retaining many-many customs which are being practiced even today!
5) The so-called Aryans were actually descendants of those who had lived during the Indus-Saraswati Civilization.
If you are an Indian, please read this book.
If you have even the slightest interest in history, please read this book.
If you are opposed to the teaching of lies and falsehoods just to suit the interest of rulers practicing 'divide and rule', please read this book.
It's actually a classic!
98 reviews
May 17, 2020
I don't know why Michel Danino doesn't write more books. This guy is really amazing. Love this book. Love every bit of it. Just read it already.
Profile Image for Idyll.
165 reviews26 followers
April 6, 2021
Saraswati was a mighty river. It was as large as the Indus and the Ganges systems. The ancient Hindu scriptures, like the Vedas, reverenced it above all other rivers. It fostered the Indus Valley civilization. Everytime it mercurially shifted its course, it dispatched old cities and created new ones by connecting and disconnecting with the neighboring Himalayan rivers flowing down to the marginal seas...

... It was amply written about in both literary and archeological tomes, oftentimes with evolutionary and hydrological precision (impressive even by current day standards);
Other well-known rivers continue to flow on its path today; traditions tied to the river continue to be followed in the places where the river once flowed. Still, the Saraswati River was presumed to have been mythological, because the proof of its existence was muddled up with traditional stories, and all geological evidence of its existence was buried beyond the reach of scientists... until recently!

Now, satellite imagery confirms that the River Saraswati did exist, and substantiates many of its hydrological properties that were recorded in the old texts; Scientists are now sifting through the old archeological material, religious texts, and folk stories, and separating the errors from the truths, the erratums from the political plugs, the nonsense from the non-science, the non-science from the science... in general, challenging some previously divined truths, and also crediting some previously dismissed views.

This book is a comprehensive compendium of the search for the lost river, and the research of the found River Saraswati, and the civilizations that lived along it.

Danino presents its story more thoroughly than any other book has done thus far (for laypeople).... Except, its dryness ironically rivals that of River Saraswati today! Still, I waded through the book's slough, imagining the river's once awe-inspiring stature, because it was written conscientiously and with untiring diligence.

I read only recently that, among other things, the purpose of science is also to come up with questions that have never been asked before. This books shares some new questions that archeologists have only just begun to ask, and that says a lot about how far we have come with exploring the River Saraswati, and how many more questions there are to ask (and with some luck, answer). In archeology, guided speculation is an important component of discovery.

I hope the next edition of this book includes many maps and colorful images alongside the text, to help readers unfamiliar with the geography of the area to string along with the story better.

The author shares a lot of detail on the past and present work by archeologists to find and excavate Indus-Saraswati sites. But, I would have liked to see the places alongside the 1500 kms of River Saraswati come to life in a more vivid way, by tying archeology to anthropology, and the civilization to the river. I would have also liked to see more story-telling, and more scientific, political and social contexts of the current archeological investigations.

Because this book is dry, I recommend that the reader read the last two chapters, that is, 'Part 3: Section 11: The Saraswati's Testimony', and the 'Epilogue: Saraswati Turns Invisible', before diving into the book. That way, you kind of jump into the pool knowing how deep the water is. :)

(This book would make a fantastic documentary film.)
Profile Image for Krishna Dinamani.
24 reviews9 followers
May 22, 2021
Nice book detailing on River Sarsvati. This all sources of its mention. Also does detailed disprove of Aryan invasion or migration theory.

I had rough idea of this book since have gone through author's videos online. But it is good to understand in detail.
Profile Image for Anonymous.
153 reviews12 followers
January 30, 2023
Saraswati: The goddess of vach, speech and knowledge. Ever wondered why the river was named so? Could it be that most ashramas were located on the bank of the river, most prominent sages also lived along the river which is attributed to the naming.. the trickles, ripples and bubbles of the flowing water somehow provided a suitable environment for thinking-learning process?

The author has compiled and cited works of Indologists along with references from Ramayana And Mahabharata to prove the existence of the now extinct Saraswati river along with many maps.
He gradually moves from establishing the existence through citation to changing course of the rivers in the region such as Yamuna, Satluj, Ghaggar, Chautang, Markanda et cetera citing references from Mahabharata, tectonic events and aerial photography. Also suggesting subterranean palaeochannels in ten districts of Rajasthan including Jaisalmer and Bikaner districts.

Part 2
In part two the author goes back to the INDUS VALLEY civilisation excavating the subsequent events beginning from Major F. Mackeson in 1849 to Cunningham in 1872 to John Marshall and companions in early 20th century. The findings equate the civilisation with earliest Elamite (Sumerians) and suggests to Regionalisation era (mid-4th millennium BCE) characterised by interactions between the contemporaries leading to agglomeration. French Archaeologist in 1960s have come across Mehrgarh (250ha) in Baluchistan dating back to 7000 BCE. Author notes that most of the sites were discovered post independence in the regions of Sind, Punjab and Baluchistan of Pakistan. Mohenjo daro as per Michael Jensen is considered to one of the largest urban settlements of the ancient integration era (ref. Jim Shaffer) with about 300 hectares of area. Also points out that the Bhirrana, Ganweriwala and Kalibangan regions on Hakra and plausible Saraswati river bed had considerable settlements while Bhirrana with 5th millennium radiocarbon dates refer to antecedents of Harappan culture.
REM Wheeler’s stratigraphic excavation of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa put a trademark on Indian archaeology. The Indus cities priortised citizen living standards which is evident in their meticulously planned drainage, garbage disposal system and ample availability of water along with standardised signs, weights, seals et cetera. The quality of bricks used and the foundation of walls supporting two upper storeys, manufacturing-metallurgical setups as well as internal and international trade with other Bronze age civilisations along Makran coast, Dilmun, Magan(Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait) Ur, Kish (Mesopotamia) to the west; Bacteria, Shortughai, Margiana (Turkmenistan) of Oxus civilisation to the north.
Due to lack of proper evidences, scholars such as Gregory Possehl, BB Lal, DK Chakrabarti believe in a structure of confederacy of regional powers sharing a common interests and culture than a centralised administrative unit. Another unique highlight of the civilisation is lack of evidences of military violence. But we can not put this into concrete as only 5-10% sites have been excavated till now. Author connects the Harappan sites with Saraswati with Kalibangan site which was discovered earlier in 1917 by Luigi Pio Tessitori.

Post Partition of India
Another important contribution was made by Sir Aurel Stein in the early 1940s which facilitated further studies after the partition when most sites went to Pakistan. Following Stein’s work ambitiously, director general of ASI -Amalanand Ghosh and team discovered around 100 more sites in 1950s of which 25 resembled to Harappa and 75 were of later cultures ie. Painted Grey Ware. He was the first one to identify the sites as Saraswati valley. Further Suraj Bhan in 1960, KN Dikshit in 1963, among others made further explorations in the region. Lothal was excavated by SR Rao in 1954. JP Joshi discovered Dholavira in 1966. Apart from 2378 sites in the region, 44 Harappan sites have been discovered in Ganga Yamuna doab marking Ganges as the eastern limit of the civilisation as Tapti the southern. Throughout the location and count of the sites the author dictates the Saraswati Valley or Indus-Saraswati civilisation as proposed by SP Gupta (1989), JM Kenoyer (1998), Jane McIntosh among others. Archaeology also suggests that in early phase Yamuna and Sutlej were also among Saraswati’s tributaries. While the reason for drying up of the Saraswati has been identified as tectonic shifts leading to change in course of major tributaries cutting off the water supply to Saraswati (Gregory Possehl, KS Valdiya, Wilhelmy, VN Mishra). Thus establishing the Ghaggar-Hakra basin as the RigVedic Saraswati.

About the COLLAPSE of the civilisation, there three prevalent school of thoughts being Aryan invasion, Political or economic turmoil and Natural disaster. Researches show that the region had moved from wet to arid due to cutoff of water in Hakra river by 3000BCE, while the intensity of south-west monsoon also started declining towards 2200 BCE. Along with the evidences of fossil remains of animals found at sites like Kalibangan suggest a humid climate in the region against the desert conditions at present.
The flooding and shifting of the Indus course is a prominent theory as well which was caused due to additional water from Beas and Sutlej away from Saraswati. Distribution of sites from Early to late phase suggests the above theories.

Part 3
In order to prove a coherence between the Indus-Saraswati civilisation and Ganges civilisation or vedic culture later, the author presents similarities in measurement, scale, weights, planning, architecture, signs, symbols, motifs, toys, games of the different cultures which are considered to be the earlier’s legacy. It is also suggested that the Indus symbols might have developed into Brahmi script towards the 1st millennium BCE. The author also dismisses the Aryan Invasion theory due to lack of physical evidence.

A crucial question arises if the Saraswati had dried up by Late harappan period ie. 1900BCE, and it has mentions in Rig Veda- the earliest veda, then isn’t it imperative that the Rig Veda and the Mahabharata must have occurred before the said period of composition (ref. Max Müller) and when the Saraswati was flowing full (not later than 3000 BCE)? The author addresses many such confusions and theories citing scholarly works.
60 reviews
July 1, 2013
A scholarly work, that draws on a mountain of prior research, the author's own research and conclusions drawn from these.

Be aware: this book is not the 'story of the Sarasvati'; it explores the mythology, history, geography of the river drawing from various sources: the vedas, epics, folklore, local customs/practices, archaeology, history, meteorology, geology etc., For those wanting to delve deeper, the author gives copious footnotes and further notes and references in an extensive appendix.

The Sarasvati has a deep culturual and historical significance to the people of India. For anyone interested in understanding our roots, our history, the book is a must read. Inspite of being a 'research' work, the book is easy to read and is written in a format that the lay man can understand and comprehend.

The author also gives a glimpse into the rich past of India, something that the history taught in our schools and colleges unfortunately does not. The architectural (and by extension technological) superiority of the Indus valley civilisation (the author actually feels it should be the Sarasvati valley civilisation!), the extensive trade links the civilisation had with other far flung countries, the economic prosperity of its peoples are all very well captured.

Definitely a must read, for the history buff, for the researcher and for all Indians interested in their roots and rich past.
February 28, 2012
A very well researched book, that draws from different fields from archeology, hydrography, history, DNA analysis, soil and climate analysis as well as Local legends to trace the history of the Saraswati river and establish that the Indian civilization has been a continuous and living civilization for over 9000 years. The narrative though is not at all a drab technical book, but rather exicting. An enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Deepu George.
234 reviews25 followers
September 16, 2019
A well written book on the indus valley civilisation ,the Saptasindhu , the civilisation on the Ganges... the relationship between thse two ... how and why indus valley civilisation is not a lost one but the beginning of the great 8ndian civilisation. To me it is a must read for those who love history
Profile Image for Jagdish Ghuge.
7 reviews73 followers
July 23, 2021
Writer tells you about many archeological, geographical and literary evidences of the river, which was very interesting to read in relation with the harappan civilization.. The harappan culture did not vanish, but maintained some continuity even in Aryan (?) era.
But the book was published in 2010, and in the last 10 years genetic evidences have taken the discoveries to a new level ( Tony Joeph's book Early Indians ) which I found missing in this book.
143 reviews8 followers
February 12, 2014
The Vedic civilization of India flourished in the North-West of the country in the area presently included in the Indian and Pakistani Punjab. The Vedic hymns talk of Indus and six other rivers. Five of these six have been unequivocally identified with rivers flowing today: in fact they give the area its name - Punjab means 'five waters'. Saraswati, the sixth one, is not there today. Indian lore talks of its disappearance and there are various theories about where it flowed, if and when it flowed at all.

In this well written and extremely readable short book Michel Danino makes a convincing case for identification of the vanished Saraswati with a seasonal stream called Ghaggar flowing in Punjab and Haryana states of India. A smaller stream that joins Ghaggar in fact carries the name Sarsuti, which is a corruption of Saraswati. In making his case Danino follows a multi-disciplinary approach covering the Vedas and other Indian scriptures, folklore, geological and archaeological evidence supplemented by modern scientific studies based on radio-isotope dating. He also draws upon and cites work done by British and Indian archaeologists from the nineteenth century onwards.

In brief Danino's thesis is that a mighty river called Saraswati did flow in this area during Vedic times. Its central channel roughly followed the present day Ghaggar, Hakra and Nara. It drew substantial part of waters from Sutlej and Yamuna, whose original courses were different from the present ones. The Harappan civilization flourished on its banks - as attested by the vast number of Harappan sites.

Somewhere in the third millennium BCE geological activity resulted in the change of courses of Sutlej and Yamuna, and the loss of their waters led to progressive drying up of the Saraswati. Danino has traced different stages in the disappearance of the river based on the multi-disciplinary evidence collected by him. A fascinating part of the evidence is the movement of habitations from the mature Harappan stage to the late Harappan stage upstream of the river, as the downstream portions dried up earlier.

The case made by Danino is very convincing, but it impacts on a controversy covered in one of his earlier books - the Aryan Invasion Theory. According to the accepted version of Indian history the Aryans entered India from Iran around 1500 BCE. They were a pastoral, nomadic people who destroyed the urban Harappan civilization and gave rise to the Vedic civilization followed by the Classical Indian Civilization. Many Indian historians have challenged this thesis. This question has got mixed up with politics. There is a strong movement in India, with political implications, that projects India itself as the source and cradle of its civilization. It rejects the foreign origin of the Aryans. People opposed to this movement on political, academic and ideological grounds stick to the established invasion theory. The debate is often acrimonious and rarely objective. Danino, fortunately, makes a balanced and open-minded contribution to this debate.

Danino's thesis flies in the face of the Aryan Invasion Theory. The Vedas, which are identified clearly with the Aryans, sing praises of Sarswati and describe it as a mighty river - implying clearly that the Vedas were composed when Saraswati was in full flow. But archaeological evidence establishes that the Harappan civilization also flourished at the same time. The evidence of the river thus strongly supports the identification of Vedic civilization with the Harappan one.

To Danino's credit he presents the reader with a detailed survey of arguments opposed to his own thesis. He presents his counter-arguments but has the grace to accept that the question is far from settled.

The book is well written and reads like a thriller. It was hard to put down once I got halfway through. I finished it just about three days.
Profile Image for Abhishek.
76 reviews6 followers
November 3, 2019
The river Saraswathi has been in the collective memory of the Indian civilization since time immemorial. Revered as one of the mightiest rivers in the Rig Veda and prayed to as Goddess Saraswathi, it has transcended generations across millennia to remain in our consciousness. In this landmark work, Michel Danino tells us the gripping tale of the origin, rise, and fall of this mighty river and its renaissance in the 21st century.

The book is titled "The Lost River" precisely because it was lost for millennia. British archaeologists stumbled upon bricks and structures which belonged to the highly sophisticated cities built by the people of the Indus Valley Civilization. This prompted a series of excavations, which led to a new understanding of our own history.

The author leaves no stone unturned in terms of the research he's done to present the facts in this book. Every aspect from its origin, possible reasons for its decline due to Sutlej and Yamuna being diverted, the various phases of the Harappan civilization - early, mature and post-Urban, the comparison between the Rig Veda vis-a-vis the geography of the landscape, evidence from numerous archaeological excavations, both Indian and foreign, planning of the cities and the consistency of their ratios across the region, flora and fauna.. the list goes on!

The Harappan lifestyle was remarkably egalitarian, unlike contemporary civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt. They had flourishing trade from their numerous ports. The lack of evidence of invasion from the east decimates any possibility of the Aryan Invasion Theory. He also lucidly explains the unbroken continuity from the Harappan civilization to that of the Gangetic one. Some of these examples which were fascinating to me were the kolam art forms, the seals carrying Pashupati and the bull, and the ratio of buildings that continue to this day.

The great mystery surrounding the Harappan and the Vedic civilization is that the former had great art, trade, and structures while the latter had a great literary tradition. While the Vedas speak of the geography, which correlates to the Harappan society, some unclear aspects require multi-disciplinary research. Only then can we conclusively answer the question of whether they were one and the same.

We are also presented with counterclaims on the existence of the Saraswathi river, and why they are incorrect. With detailed maps and pictures, the book makes for a vivid reimagining of the life and times of the Indus or rather Saraswathi Valley people and provides a comprehensive and analytical view into our past. A must-read for everyone who wishes to know the true origins of the Indic civilization.
38 reviews2 followers
September 4, 2018
I've long wondered what prompts western Indologists to move away from everything they've been brought up in and embrace a completely different ethos and culture. Those acquainted with his work/writings would know Michel Danino as an abiding Indologist, if ever there was one, especially having been here in India since turning 21. In "The Lost River", he tackles the myth and the trail of River Saraswati by going into one heck of a wild goose chase.

The story of Saraswati had always fascinated me, not really from a religious angle (I'm not the ritualistic kind), but from a socio-cultural historical angle, if you may. A myth can't propagate so long without some grounding somewhere (eg: the boulders of Hampi a.k.a Kishkindha and the Bali-Sugreeva fight which talks of each party hurling rocks at the other) and that's what Michel goes for.

With the aid of hundreds of research reports, findings, artifacts, pictures, maps - all of various vintage, he takes us through the journey of reconstructing the past and retracing the river bed, right through the series of settlements in the middle of Thar desert, which on the face of it, have no reason to be there in the first place!

Whatever be your existing biases when you approach this book, you can never refute the diligence by which Michel has researched on the topic, specifically all those field visits. He repeatedly goes for the kill regarding the "Aryan Invasion Theory" by showing architectural similarities in construction right into eastern UP proving there has been a continuity in the people. The reality for him is that the region has been a melting pot of so many visitors who streamed in throughout and made the country their home instead of a single invasion creating a major break.

The conclusion is straightforward - Saraswati was part of the great river tradition of India and has every right to be the 7th in the Sapta Sindhu poem of Rig Veda along with Sindhu and the five rivers of Punjab which joins it. On the other hand, Saraswati really has nothing to do with the Triveni Sangamam at Allahabad, but was a much larger avatar of the current Ghaggar-Hakra rainfed river.

The cause of Saraswati's demise? - shifting sands and perennial water sources being lost when Sutlej moved to join Sindhu and Yamuna moved to join Ganga, slowly drying up this fascinating river around 4000 years ago.
9 reviews4 followers
November 11, 2014
Bathed in detailed analysis, this book will make you jump onto the time machine and date yourself back into the Great Harappan Civilization era. Sarasvati, the mythical river which was believed to have been a work of exaggerated imagination was actually a 'reality' just like you and me. The river, which was truly responsible for the rig Vedic writings, the growth of the oldest civilization on earth, doesn't exist today in its actual form because of weird works of nature. That which was once a huge water body now has been transformed into a vast stretch of salt marsh (Rann of Kutch). Flipping the pages of the book will break open many such surprises for you..

Beautifully illustrated with detailed river maps, well deduced facts from renowned historians and archaeologists, The Lost River: on The Trail of Saravati is a summation of a reality of ancient past which have been eroded from our human memories. The book refreshes our minds with stage wise explanation keeping intact all relevant perspective that should have been taken into account while establishing the real facts behind Sarasvati. A mighty river beside which our ancestors flourished has vanished from the earth's cover not for any unknown reason. With the lapse of time who knows similar might be the fate of our sacred Ganges. And this time it might not be a natural calamity but a human catastrophe! it's time we relook at the perils of deforestation and ill effects of global warming!
Profile Image for Avinash K.
179 reviews30 followers
September 8, 2013
Awesome! After reading a three volume tome of Ramayana, I was intrigued by the amount of geography that was there in that. I stumbled on this book by chance and picked it up. It was a treat!
Starts off with chapters which alludes British/French geographical and hydro-graphical observations to stanzas in vedic texts and lays down a solid argument for the existence and possible path of the river. Then moves to describe the civilization that flourished and later declined. Discusses the prevalent town planning / general life in fair detail. Posits how though the civilization disappeared, much knowledge and substance seems to have been transferred and relates this to the hydro-graphical changes in what is today the (broad) interfluve of the Indus and the Ganges. So much for Aryan invasion and disappearance with out a trace. All arguments are well supported; within and by way of external reference. It was also great to know that there is so much interest and work being done to understand the great civilization nurtured by the Indus and the Saraswati. Something one wouldn't realize by following Discovery and NG.
January 19, 2018
A fascinating read about a river shrouded in mystery for the common man. While traditional lore repeatedly speaks of the glory of the Sarasvati, there are only few facts that are commonly known. Michel Danino weaves together evidence from archeological, geological, chemical and satellite data; correlating it with interpretations from the ancient texts and popular culture; and narrates a wonderful story about the lost river. He presents evidence regarding what could have been the course of the river in the sub-continent and traces its journey until the time the river disappeared. The most interesting part of the book is where is talks about the people and their civilization that the river supported, and about their legacy that lives on to date.
May 30, 2017
I took this book up after reading a book on Indus (Empires of Indus) by Alice Albinia. And had same expectations from this book but it came out to be of a slightly different Genre. This book is more Factual and Historical. Yet, A must read if you are interested in Ancient Indian Civilizations. It provides facts and assertions to support the existence and actual location of the River that is considered Mythical on some grounds. Author has presented a lot of opinions and theories, debating each of them and finally presenting his own view. He has done extensive research and put in a lot of dedication into this book.

Although, its not a page turner and travel oriented which is the reason it took so long to complete.
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