Social Scientist. v 29, no. 332-333 (Jan-Feb 2001) p. 46.


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IRFAN HABIB*

Imaging River Sarasvati: A Defence of Commonsense

In the current official and quasi-official effervescence over new-found truths about our past, that keep coming in a stream from resident and, especially, non-resident oracles, the Sarasvati river has come to occupy a pre-eminent perch. The Geological Society of India published a full-scale memoir, Vedic Sarasvati^ Bangalore, 1999, in which, among other innovative pieces, is included a paper by the late V.S. Wakankar, the oracle on archaeology. Wakankar here assumes that everything worthwhile could have originated only on the holy banks of the Sarasvati.

Thus, to begin with:

the upper Sarasvati region forms the nucleus of human evolution.1

In crediting the Ambala and Karnal Districts of Haryana with producing the first human beings, Wakankar expressly recalls to us the fossil of Ramapithecus found in the Siwaliks. He apparently had not read that Ramapithecus is the female of Sivapithecus, found subsequenty in Pakistan, and that both of them belong to that branch of the evolution tree which has led to the ape Orangutan, and not to you and me. Though even to help produce Orangutan is surely something.

While protesting against the "racist" views of "colonial" western scholars like Max Mueller, the US Swami David Frawley tells us that "the Indo-Europeans and other Aryan peoples were migrants from India, not that the Indo-Europeans were invaders into India". In this new version of the race theory, however, the Aryans did not simply go out from India, they went off from the banks of the Sarasvati. Thus Frawley speaks of "the pre-Indus period in India", namely that of the Yajurveda, "when the Sarasvati river was more prominent".2

If this pronouncement is given an honoured enough place in the

* Formerly Professor of History at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

**Paper presented at the 61st annual session of the Indian History Congress, Calcutta 2001

Social Scientist, Vol. 30, Nos. 1 - 2, Jan.-Feb. 2001



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