Monday, August 12, 2013


Sindhu and Sarasvati: Battle for Akhand Bharat

by Vijaya Rajiva on 20 Jul 2013 12 Comments

The Sindhu and Sarasvati rivers were at the centre of Rig Vedic consciousness, closely followed by the Iravati (Ravi), Sutudri (Sutlej), Vipasa (Beas), Chandrabhaga (Chenab), Vitasta (Jhelum). Hence the reference to the land as Sapta Sindhu (seven rivers). The Sarasvati, mentioned some seventy times in the Rig Veda, dried up in post-Vedic times and was rediscovered in the last four decades through satellite imagery which spotted its paleo channels. This was a landmark breakthrough and provided Indic scholars the basis for challenging much of the traditional history of India as written by Western scholars and their followers in India.

As the Vedic peoples moved eastwards from the Punjab/Haryana region (where the Rig Veda was composed), they discovered new territories and rivers. Hence, the stotram for the water purification ceremony from the Puranas:

Gange cha yamune chaiva Godavari Sarasvati Narmada Sindhu Kaveri Jalasmin sammidham Kuru

O ye Rivers Gange, Yamune, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri! Reside together here in this water

There is a close bond between Sindhu and Sarasvati in Rig Vedic consciousness and the phrase ‘akhand bharat’ (undivided Bharat). Eminent historian and archaeologist Shivaji Singh has spelled this out in his definition of the word ‘aryam’ as characterising akhand bharat. Quoting the famous line from the Rig Veda, Krinvanto visvam aryam (Make the world aryam), he explains that aryam is that mindset, world view, attitude, which works for the spiritual and material welfare of humankind (Vedic Culture and its Continuity, 2010).

Elaborating, he points out that the word ‘aryam’ has nothing to do with the racist use of the word ‘aryan’ by Western scholarship, nor is it a linguistic construct. The battle for akhand bharat is thus a battle for the definition of sacred geography (the land from the Himalaya and the northwest to Kanyakumari in the south and from Dwaraka in the west to undivided Bengal in   the east) but also the more universal meaning of aryam.

The question arises as to whether the sacred geography of akhand bharat is closely linked to the sanctity of the Sindhu and the Sarasvati and the meaning of aryam, and if so, why and how.

The Meaning of Aryam or Aryattva

One of the clearest explanations of this ideal of Aryam is provided by Shivaji Singh: “The essence of Vedic culture lies in its perception of Aryattva, a virtue the achievement of which is considered to be necessary for civilised living. The slogan Krinvanto viswam aryam (Rig Veda 9.63.5) is an appeal to the divine almighty power to help achieve this ideal. Unfortunately, however, many historians have misunderstood this Aryattva”.

Scholars have often confused the Vedic Aryans with Indo Aryans, forgetting that the two concepts are different. ‘Arya’ being the self-designation of the Vedic people, ‘Vedic Aryan’ represents a historical reality. As against this, the term ‘Indo-Aryan’ is a linguistic construct denoting speakers of a sub-group of languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family, and being a construct, its validity is subject to verification.

Although language and culture are intimately connected, Arya does not denote a speaker of a particular language. In the Vedic view, a person speaking a Dravidian language is Arya if he possesses the virtue called Aryattva… (p10). Arya is defined one who is noble and refined in ideas and action, and these depend on a “world view characterised by a belief in certain concepts like Rta, Satya, Tapas, Yajna, Brahma etc.” (p10)

Aryattva is a blending of virtues that lead to the highest material and spiritual achievement. Rta simply means the order and harmony of the universe which the Rig Vedic Rishis saw in their physical environment, Nature. Yajna, the ritual of the fire, homa, is not only a tribute to the fire Deva, Agni, but embodies the orderly working of the universe reflected in Vedic astronomy. The intricate celestial relationships that the Rishis actually observed with the naked eye are clearly explained by BN Narahari Achar in ‘Sarasvati River and Chronology: Simulations using Planetarium Software’ (cited in Vedic River Sarasvati and Hindu Civilisation, 2008, ed. S Kalyanaraman).

Satya (usually translated as Truth) represents the mirroring of the cosmic order in society and the individual’s alignment with this cosmic order. Likewise, Tapas or self-discipline (austerity) was practiced by the Rishis for the welfare of society and therefore the universal application of this to individuals who embody Aryam/Aryattva.

These ideals of virtuous living came to the consciousness of Vedic Rishis as they saw the heavens, the earth around them, the rivers, forests and lakes and all living creatures. Aryam was a holistic ideal which passed into Hindu consciousness and society as Dharma. A recent contemporary explanation of Dharma and Rta is provided by Shrinivas Tilak, A Reawakening to a secular Hindu nation (p13-16, 2008).

Dharma in Tilak’s interpretation (though not explicitly stated by him) is related to Aryam/ aryattva which is the social derivative of Rta as the Vedic seers envisioned it. Tilak provides a very lucid explanation of other aspects of Dharma.

The Vedic peoples engaged in international trade and were familiar with maritime travel and also engaged in the intellectual fields of mathematics and astronomy. The ideal of Aryam came to them on the banks of the Sindhu and Sarasvati. This was the basis of their spiritual bond with the two rivers.

Sacred Geography

Sindhu and Sarasvati were not only rivers that provided the livelihood of the Vedic peoples. In a previous article, the writer spoke of the role of the Sarasvati as the giver of ‘light’ (‘Sarasvati and the Resurgence of Hinduism’, Haindava Keralam, 08/05/2013). In the Rig Veda, Sarasvati is not only a river but the giver of ‘light’. Western scholars have traditionally dismissed the presence of the Goddesses (hereafter referred to as Devatas and Devis) in the Rig Veda and downplayed their importance.

Nevertheless, for a correct reading we have to see Sarasvati not only as a river Devi giving abundance and plenty to the Rig Vedic peoples, but also as the giver of ‘light.’ The very first book of the Rig Veda says : ‘…Sarasvati, the mighty flood, she with light illumines, She brightens every pious thought’ (Book 1, Hymn 3, Line 12, Griffith translation). The ‘light’ here refers to intellection and devotion and explains the origin of Sarasvati as patron of learning, knowledge, music, arts, etc. Book 1 is the work of Sage Agastya, also known for his famous Sarasvati Sthrotram (Ya kundendu tushaara, haara dhavala…) where he hails the Devi as the source of knowledge.

The ten books of the Rig Veda contain seventy references to Sarasvati. Of these, two are directly addressed to her, as one who gives prosperity and plenty. She is the mighty river that flows from the mountains to the sea. She is life giving water. There are some references to her as the origin of holy thoughts, but none as clear cut as the reference to the giver of ‘light’ by Agastya.

Hence, one can infer that the Rig Veda signalled the importance of knowledge. This fits in with NS Rajaram’s thesis that Vedic Mathematics was central to the civilisation and that the geometric/algebraic notions of the period influenced Old Babylonia and Egypt and thence the Greek philosopher Pythagoras whose theorem is well known to most readers (See ‘The Origins of Indo-Europeans’ and ‘The Third Wave’, Folks Magazine, Dec. 2012, Feb, March 2013).

Pythagoras (570 BC-495 BC) always wanted to visit India. There is a missing period of ten years in his life and scholars have speculated that he may have come to India during that time. He had, of course, visited Egypt and Babylonia. If he did come to India, it is reasonable to assume that he learned his Mathematics directly from India and not through Old Babylonia and Egypt.

It is not accidental that Sarasvati is deified as the source of ‘light.’ Rajaram points out that the mathematical formulae used for the bricks for the Vedic fire altar were borrowed by the Harappan civilisation (via the Sulba Sutras) whose peoples lived on the banks of the Sarasvati and Sindhu.

The Sindhu has been mentioned in the Rig Veda more than a dozen times, the most arresting being in Book X, where the power and might of the river are invoked. It would seem that this aspect overawed the Vedic peoples.

Verses from the Rig Veda make this abundantly clear:

1)      The singer, O ye Waters in Vivasvan’s place, shall tell your grandeur forth that is beyond compare. The Rivers have come forward triply, seven and seven. Sindhu in might surpasses all the streams that flow.

2)    Varuna cut the channels for thy forward course, O Sindhu, when thou rannest on to win the race. Thou speedest over precipitious ridges of the earth, when thou art Lord and Leader of these moving floods.

3)     His roar is lifted up to heaven above the earth: he puts forth endless vigour with a flash of light. Like floods of rain that fall in thunder from the cloud, so Sindhu rushes on bellowing like a bull.

4)    Like mothers to their calves, like milch kine with their milk, so, Sindhu, unto thee the roaring rivers run. Thou leadest as a warrior king thine army’s wings what time thou comest in the van of these swift streams.

(Rig Veda, Griffiths translation, Book 10.75.1-4)

Shivaji Singh says the Sindhu’s contribution to the Indian ethos is tremendous. The Rig Veda highly adores Sindhu for its benefactions, and the reverence for the river has continued down the ages. The water purifying mantra (ganga cha yamune chaiva…) still repeated at the very beginning of Hindu religious perfomances, stands witness to the fact that Sindhu has traditionally been considered as one of the seven most important rivers of the subcontinent. Changes and modifications in political boundaries cannot alter this fact. Culture is far more durable than Politics (email communication).

Sacred Space and Akhand Bharat

Akhand Bharat, then, in which Sindhu and Sarasvati are integral parts, is a sacred space unique to the subcontinent. Here live the Devas and Devatas that the Rig Vedic Rishis sighted and were commemorated by them in the Rig Veda. As time went by, some of the names changed and more names were added to the Hindu pantheon. They still continue to inhabit the land mass from the Himalaya to Cape Comorin and from west to east.

In a discussion of rashtra as a culturally nuanced space, Shrinivas Tilak observes: “As a culturally integrated unity, the idea of rashtra inevitably developed a nuanced network of ideology, outlook and traditions inspired and informed by the particular geo-morphological features of the Indian landmass.” (Rewakening to a secular Hindu nation, p.20)

This culturally integrated unity which Hindus call the motherland was given several thousand years ago by the Rishis of the Rig Veda who first lived on the banks of the Sindhu and the Sarasvati.

The writer is a political philosopher who taught at a Canadian university

User Comments Post a Comment
The Sarasvati River research goes back at least to the 1880s-- to the work of geologists Oldham and Rafferty. It was ignored by linguistics and race theorists who carried forward the European Indologists. This is why you see their successors in places like Harvard and JNU. These are the twin inheritors of the colonial-missionary prejudices which they peddled as scholarship.

What some of us especially Waldiya are doing is carrying forward the work of scientists, geologists. Oldham even observed that the Sarasvati described in the Rigveda must have followed a different course from the one in the Mahabharata. By comparing marine fossils in the Himalayas and in the plains he concluded they were of the same river.

AT NO TIME DID GEOLOGISTS LIKE OLDHAM DISMISS THE SARASVATI AS A MYTH as Romila Thapar and Witzel have been doing. They showed exemplary scientific spirit in trying to find on the ground what the ancient literature described. To them rivers like the Sarasvati were no more mythical than the Himalayas.

Arya is an adjective (attribute) and never a language group, a country or a race. Alanguage is always associated with a people living in a geographical area. That is why in my recent writings I refer to Indian language families as belonging to the Dravida (southern) and Gauda (northern) groups. This way there is no confusion.
N.S. Rajaram
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
Akanda Bharat indicates not only a geographical unity but political as well, because all the various kingdoms were ruled by the dharma sastras, which were equivalent to the Indian constitution of the present. It never mattered who ruled or what language the people spoke, but the rule should and would be following the dharma sastras. This was the ancient political and cultural unity of the whole of India, which the imperialist religionists still repudiate without any valid reason and for the sake of their superstition.

If I am not incorrect here, Aryavartha indicates a region beyond Akanda Bharat, where the dharma sastras prevails.
George Augustine
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
I meant Aryavartha "also" indicates a region beyond Bharat ...
George Augustine
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
@George Augustine

Thankyou for reinforcing the point that the unity of the country lay in following the dharmashastras.

As far as Aryavarta is concerned, yes it extended not only to Afghanistan ,but also some of the regions immediately beyond.

Dr. Kalyanraman's book Rashtram gives a map on the very first page or two of the entire spread of Hindu Rashtram, as far as the Far East. Very interesting.
Dr.Vijaya Rajiva
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
\\\AT NO TIME DID GEOLOGISTS LIKE OLDHAM DISMISS THE SARASVATI AS A MYTH as Romila Thapar and Witzel have been doing. \\\

I remember from old articles of Dr.Rajiva as to what sort of scholarship Mr.Witzel had displayed in Hindusthan when he loitered around places...... giving lectures in vilayati English on Rig Veda........ and counting the knots of the carpet when confronted with queries by replying with blink.

The JNU historians had a common rule. Anything Hindu shall be derided. It is time when we are supposed to even seriously consider the views of these biased historians with pre conceived notions. Status quoists would continue to toe their line.

Exploration of holy scriptures by people having knowledge in the traditional and modern fields of studies open the flood gates of truth and the flood of rta and satya flowing from the floodgates of genuine knowledge would simply wash away rocks of bias and prejudice planted on the way of rivers of Aryan Wisdom by anti indu thugs who posed as historians for decades together.

Welcome the new breeze of knowledge.
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
Dr Rajaram's clarification of why he uses the adjective Gauda to describe North Indian languages as against the well used one Dravida for the southern ones is very valid. He likes to avoid the use of Arya exclusively for the Northern languages when Aryata can be seen to be the ideal that the entire Bharata was seekingsince very old times. He thus avoids providinggunnecessary fodder for those who would like to break the country into Aryan and non-Aryan!
Ancient Tamil literature does use the word Aryan to describe without further division, all people north of the Vindhyas. Thus Chera and Pandya conquests at different times of Northern kings uses the description Aryan purely geographically. They could do it since there were no separatist connotations associated with the word.
On the other hand, a modern Tamil poet and freedom fighter, Subrahmanya Bharati referred to the entire Indian land as Arya Nadu.
Partha Desikan
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
Dr Rajiva’s article is a very eloquent [and timely] reminder to the Hindus of the close bond that exists between Sindhu (which symbolically subsumes all the rivers of India from Sarasvati, Ganga, Kaveri and on), Hindu (which stands for all the inhabitants of Bharat), and [akhanda] Bharat (which stands for the landmass stretching from Purushapura (Peshavar) to Panduranga (once a small town in north Vietnam) and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Sindhu is so sacred and foundational to Hindus because it is constitutive and expressive of their identity as a people and as a nation (rashtram = Bharatamata). Furthermore, this identity is adhibhautika (Bharatamata as matribhumi), adhiyajnika (Bharatamata as karmabhumi), and Adhytmika (Bharatamata a mokshabhumi).

For thousands of years Hindus have consistently sought to keep their bond with Sindhu alive through a variety of means. Its political expression is to be found in the will of Nathuram Godse (assassin of Mahatma Gandhi) who advised his brother to preserve Nathuram’s ashes after he was hanged (November 15, 1949) and scatter them in the Sindhu only when India becomes akhanda again. A few years later on May 10, 1957 in a speech marking the centenary of the beginning of India’s War of Independence from Britain, Veer Savarkar invited the people and the Government of India to rename the Arabian Sea as Sindhusagara or Sindhusamudra.

Traditionally, however, the emphasis has been on the cultural, religious, or literary forms. Thus, during the medieval times when the bond had begun to weaken, some writers of Dharmashastras added Sindhu as a suffix to their works: for instance, we have Vivekasindhu of Mukundaraj (1128-1200 CE), Nirnayasindhu of Kamalakara Bhatta (1610-1640?), and Dharmasindhu of Kashinatha Upadhyaya (ca. 1790?).

The custom of Hindus performing the annual tarpan vidhi (rendering homage to departed ancestors = pitars) on the banks of Sindhu continued until India was partitioned. Governments of India and Pakistan must now come to an agreement so that this custom may be revived. We also need to participate in large numbers in the annual festival of Sindhu Darshan celebrated in Leh and revive the ritual of circumambulating Sindhu (Sindhuparikrama).

Contemporary Indian novelists, poets, and artists have done their part in keeping our bond with Sindhu alive. In his remarkable novel “Return of the Aryans” (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1994) Bhagwan Gidwani, for instance, narrates the story of how the Hindu civilization began and flourished on the banks of Sindhu, Sarasvati, Ganga, and in the land of Tamala (modern Tamilnadu). He weaves the story of these sister civilizations round a remarkable character named Sindhu Putra whose birth is shrouded in mystery, but Gidwani would have us believe that it was around the year 5068 BCE and whose passion was to unite the people that inhabited Bharatavarsha as Hindus.
Shrinivas Tilak
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
Sindhu and Saraswati are part of the common heritage of all of us Hindusthanis,presently living in Myanmar,Bangladesh,Bhutan,Tibet,Nepal,Sri Lanka,India,Pakistan,Afghanistan and beyond.....
Pak and Afghan angst is the result of oil money from Gulf.Once that source dries up [ 2050?],expect a cultural reunion.
[Hindus living in TN,AP and Kerala to note! ] ,post 2020, we will enter an age of great unification through the teachings of Vedas and findings of archaeology.Likes of Romila Thapar will become history[!]
Jitendra Desai
July 20, 2013 Report Abuse
@Shrinivas Tilak

The customs on the Sindhu should be revived as soon as possible.

Yes, Bhagvan Gidwani has written about the Sindhputra etc. So also novelist Raja Rao, who as early as the 60s wrote in his novel The Serpent and the Rope about here on the banks. . . . was our philosophy born and Sanskrit the pure. . . . He was thinking of the Sindhu.
Dr.Vijaya Rajiva
July 21, 2013 Report Abuse
@Jitendra Desai

The importance of reclaiming the Sindhu will come forcefully to us when we realise that there is currently an attempt by Pakistani writers to claim that Pakistanis are the inheritors of the Sindhu Sarasvati Civilisation.

If you go to Haindava there is an excellent refutation of this by Dr. Koenraad Elst in an article 'Paki come home.'
Dr.Vijaya Rajiva
July 21, 2013 Report Abuse
@ Dr.Vijaya Rajiva, Thanks for your response.Pakistanis will soon realise that they are part of Hindu genetic stock.For the moment, we can tell them that we are 125 crore souls to reclaim Sindhu while they are 18 crore minus Jihadis,Salafis,Wahabis,Deobandis,Tablighis and their ilk.
Will read this article from Haindava Keralam right now.
Jitendra Desai
July 21, 2013 Report Abuse
Correction to typo : it is sannidhim
Dr.Vijaya Rajiva
July 24, 2013

1 comment:

  1. Dear Author,

    "was rediscovered in the last four decades"
    Sarasvati had already been discovered 200 years ago by the British officers. Only the formal confession is now being made by the modern academia and the Government.
    I would put it as 'identity was formally acknowledged in the last four decades'.

    Thanks for the article.