Gowda Saraswat Brahmin

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The history of Saraswats is a record of their struggle for existence and a chain of migrations, the longest and the most widespread among any groups in India. Even after generations and centuries they preserve their culture and traditions intact. Their traditions are unique and tolerant that they worship Shakti, Shiva and Vaishnava deities as well.[1]


The exact origin of the Saraswat Brahmins is difficult to ascertain. The Saraswat Brahmins are mentioned in the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and even the Bhavisyottara Purana. According to Puranas, they are Aryan migrants from Central Asia who came to the Indian sub-continent through the Hindu-Kush mountains and the Khyber pass to south in about 2000-1500 BC.

Most of them settled along the banks of Saraswati river. There were more than 1200 such settlements of migrants. They settled to an agrarian life, supplemented by cattle grazing. These settlers came to be known as Saraswats. Education was of great importance to the Saraswats and so they taught their young the Sanskrit language and enlightened themselves from the Rig Veda. Although they spoke Sanskrit in public, they innovated a simplified version of Sanskrit called Brahmani which they spoke only at home. This language was the grass-root for the present day Konkani language. Over the years along the Saraswati, the Saraswats established the concept of Kuladevatas or Family gods, and began worshipping them.

Saraswat Muni They accepted the Great Sage Saraswat Muni (son of Rishi Dadichi), living on the banks of Saraswati as their Guru. There were about 60,000 (Shatsahasara) Brahmins who were his disciples. When a severe famine which lasted for about 12 years hit the region and the crops were not enough to feed everyone, the survival of the Saraswats was at stake. Many of the sects started migrating to the present India. Those whose could not migrate or choose not to, at the advice of their Guru who was pragmatic, they started to feed on fish from the Saraswati river for survival, When they could find no apparent solution to their vexing problem. Thus some of the sects of saraswath bhramins became one of few fish-eating Brahmins ever known. This settlement was in the land between the saraswati and Drishadvati rivers. It is to be understood that most of sects that migrated remained pure vegetarians. Migration of Saraswath Brahmin even from within India was mostly due to fact they could not give up their strict code brahmanical life and the migrations where mostly to protect the community from giving up their identity, culture and way of life.

A story : The fish eating habit of Saraswat Brahmins finds mention even in Ramanyana. Before performing Rajasuya yagna, Shri Rama asked Lakshmana to invite all the Brahmins for the yagna. Lakshmana invited everybody, except Gowda Saraswat Brahmins. When asked, Lakshmana explained that he observed them eating fish, which was considered non-vegetarian and therefore they could not be Brahmins. Shri Rama was puzzled and asked Lakshmana to elaborate what he saw. Lakshmana explained how the Brahmins would catch the fish, separate the head and tail from the fish, then using vedic mantras rejoined the head and tail. They would then release the fish in water. The fish would live again. The Brahmins ate the middle portion of the fish. Shri Rama was impressed. Since the Brahmins were not killing the fish, he felt that no sin was committed. Shri Rama instructed Lakshmana to invite Saraswat Brahmins to the Rajasuya Yagna.

Brahmins in India ? The Brahmins in India were divided into two major groups based on geographical origin of the people. The Brahmin groups that lived to the north of the Vindhyas were referred to as Gowda Brahmins, whereas the Brahmins who lived to the south of the Vindhyas were referred to as Dravida Brahmins. Each group was further divided into five sections according to the regions of their settlement.

The five (Pancha) Gowda Brahmin groups were Saraswats, Kanyakubjas, Gaudas, Utkals, and Maithilas. The five (pancha) Dravida Brahmin groups were Andhras, Maharashtras, Dravidas or Tamils, Karnata, and Kerala Brahmins.

Gowda Saraswat Brahmins (Devanagari: गौड सारस्वत ब्राह्मण) are a Hindu Brahmin community in India and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community. They are popularly referred to as GSBs. They are Konkani people and primarily speak Konkani as their mother tongue.

They claim their origin to the Brahmins who lived on the banks of the now-extinct river Saraswati of upper Punjab or Kashmir. They derived their name from either the river Saraswati or from their spiritual leader, the sage Saraswat Muni(sage) who lived on the banks of Saraswati. These Brahmins were one of the Pancha Gowda Brahmin groups who lived north of the Vindhyas. They belonged to Smarta tradition and primarily worshiped the five deities: Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya and Ganesha. Throughout the course of history, the Saraswat Brahmins have migrated to a variety of locations and are found mostly in Western coast of India.[2]

Gowda or Gowdar is used as surnames by people belonging to Hindu communities in Karnataka, Andhrapradesh and Tamil Nadu whose ancestors were once head of the village or community. Examples: Basavana Gowda, Kempe Gowda, Junje Gowda, Dase Gowda, etc. H.V.Nanjundayya has derived the word from Grama or Gava meaning a village and Munda meaning head, thus a Gamunda being the head of the village. Edgar Thurston, (Castes and Tribes of Southern India), the popular Kannada linguist Shamba Joshi and others propose a derivation from the Sanskrit - go (cow) and govala (cowherd) (Govala->Goula->Gowda).[3][4]

Legendary history[edit]

Saraswat Muni (who was a devotee of goddess Saraswati) once needed disciples to spread his teachings and knowledge to the world. However, he could not get students who were capable of the task. So he prayed to Goddess Saraswati to help him. Pleased with his devotion the Goddess gave him fourteen sons. Each of them had a name and the same is used by his descendents as their surname. The sons had characteristics according to their names. They were taught by the sage and sent around the world with certain objectives.

The Saraswat Brahmins are mentioned in the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and the Bhavisyottara Purana. They may have come from Central Asia and Southern Germany to the Indian sub-continent through the Hindu-Kush mountains and the Khyber pass to south in about 2000–1500 BC or they were indigenous.[2] The meaning of 'Saraswat' has more than one origin. One refers to 'offspring of Saraswati'[citation needed] the goddess of learning applied usually to learned and scholarly people. It may denote the residents of Saraswati river basin. The Brahmins of this region who are referred to as 'Saraswats' in Mahabharata and Puranas were learned in Vedic lore.[citation needed] They concentrated on studying subjects like astronomy, metaphysics, medicine and allied subjects and disseminating knowledge.[citation needed] To trace the Gauda Saraswat Brahmins' ancestry from Kashmir to Goa, story of famous seer "Saraswata" is considered: When there was a famine in north India, he continued to recite Vedic texts by consuming fish.[5]

Due to geo-morphosis in the Himalayas, the Saraswati began to dry up and the Saraswats were forced to migrate to greener pastures. Some went to Kashmir in the north, others went eastward. Few made their way to the Konkan and Goa. These came to be recognised as Goud Saraswats or Dakshinatya Saraswats, to distinguish them from other Saraswat groups of the north.

Lord Parshurama with Saraswati Brahmin settlers commanding Lord Varuna to make the seas recede to make the Konkan.

The new immigrants were called 'Goud' because they were followers of Monism or Advaita as preached by Gaudapada, who was guru of Govinda Bhagavatpada whose direct disciple was Shankaracharya, who resurrected Hinduism or Vedic religion in India. Shri Gaudapadacharya Math, first matha of Saraswats dedicated to the memory of Goudapadacharya was established in Keloshi (Quelossim) in Goa in the 8th century AD. He later moved to Kaivalyapura or Kavale in Goa as the mathaa at Keloshi was destroyed in 1564 AD by the Portuguese rulers. To this day, the swamis of Kavale matha are known as Goudapadacharyas. Kavale Math is the Goud Saraswat community's Adimatha (first matha) and three main sub-sects of Dakshinatya Saraswats — Sashtikar (Dorke including Bardeshkars like Divkar), Shenvis (Karbharis), and Chitrapur Saraswats (Bhanaps) — Were known as Goud Saraswats or Konkani Brahmins until 300 years ago. Other Saraswat subsects include Pednekars, Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins Balavalikars and kudaldeshkars.

In the 13th century, Dwaita (Vaishnava) philosophy advocated by Madhvacharya became popular and many Saraswats adopted Vaishnavism. They continued to worship the deities they brought with them from the north. These were 'Mahan Girish' or Mangueshi, Shakti or Shantadurga, Vishnu, Ganesh and Surya. They form the 'Panchayatan' or five deities, sacred to all Saraswats.

Goud Saraswats were in all the kingdoms of the western coast under different dynasties right from 6th century AD Kadamba, Rashtrakuta, Hoysala, Chalukya Shilahara and Vijayanagara kings had given important posts to Saraswats. There were admirals, treasurers, ambassadors, army chiefs and foreign language interpreters among them. They were famous traders, who conducted maritime trade with Eastern and Western countries of the contemporary world. The spoken language of Saraswats is Konkani.

The Portuguese traders were followed by Christian missionaries. Forcible conversions[citation needed] took place under the Portuguese Royal Patronage[citation needed] in 1560. Most of the Saraswat families left Goa with their family deities, risking life and limb. They settled in the adjoining Hindu principalities. New temples came up in the coastal districts of Karnataka for Saraswat deities. As time passed, the idols were taken back to newly constructed temples in Goa. They are not in the original ancient spots, where churches were built,[citation needed] destroying earlier temples.[citation needed] Many people migrated to Kerala and built temples mainly dedicated to Vishnu and his avatars. The first Vaishnava Saraswat Math of Gokarna Math lineage was established in the year 1475 in Varanasi. The origin of Gokarna Math comes from the lineage of Sri Palimar Math, one of the eight Maths established by Sripad Madhwacharya in Udupi.[6] Kashi Math at Kochi came up in 1560 AD. All the Vaishnav Saraswats (Madhwa) are Kulavis (followers) of either Kashi Math or Gokarna Math. 'Smarth' Saraswats owe allegiance to either Kavale Math or Chitrapur Math.

Saraswats continued to hold important posts under Keladi or Nagar rulers. Many families who emigrated from Goa settled down in smaller towns and villages in Shimoga, South and North Kanara districts. Saraswats were the first beneficiaries of English education introduced in 1840.


The origin The gotra system is part of a system of classification or identification of various Brahmin families in ancient times. The gotra classification took form probably sometime during the Yajur Veda period, after the Rig Veda period. It is believed that the gotras (now account to a total of 49) started to consolidate some around 10th-8th centuries BC. The present day gotra classification is created from a core of eight rishis (The Saptha rishis + Agastya). The Seven rishis are Gautama, Bhardwaja, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Vasistha, Kashyapa and Atri. Seven Rishis (Saptarshi) are recognized as the mind born sons of the creator Brahma. They desired offspring and received it. All present day Brahmin communities are said to be descendants of these 8 Rishis.

Over the years the number of gotras increased due to:
• Descendents of these Rishis also started new family lineage or new gotras (Kaundinya was a descendent of Vasihta, Vishwamitra was a descendent of Kaushika and Vatsa was a descendent of JAMADAGNI MAHARSHI .)
• By inter marriage with other Brahmins
• Inspired by a saint whose name they bear as their own Gotra.
• New groups like Kshatriyas (who were also makers of hymns) were taken into fold by some Rishis
The lines of descent from the major rishis are originally divided into Ganas [sub divisions] and each Gana is further divided into families. However, subsequently the term gotra is frequently applied to the ganas and to the families within the ganas interchangeably. These Rishis belonged to different sects like Shakti, Shavites and Vishnavites and had different deities for worship. Such deities came to be known as the Kuladevatas. Gotras of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins The gotras of GSBs is believed to be originated from the ten Rishis Bharadwaj, Kausika, Vatsa, Kaundinya, Kashyapa, Atri, Vashista, Jamadagni, Gautam and Vishwamitra (Kamshi)

Every GSB belongs to a particular gotra, similar to a "clan". The gotras are named for noted Hindu sages or rishis, thus the gotra's name indicates what sage its members pertain to. Marriage within the same gotra is prohibited, which may be a method to avoid inbreeding.[citation needed]

'Gowda (also Gauda or Gouda or Gowdru) is usually the title given to the head of the family or family group in the state of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu in India. It is similar to Gounder or Kaoundar of Tamil Nadu. It not the name of a caste, but a title given to the leader or elder from any caste.


Shri Mangeshi Temple, Ponda, Goa

Kuldevtas(family deities) are considered of utmost importance to the GSB's. Normally Saraswats who follow the Advaita Sampradaya believe in the concept of "Panchayatan" – Worshipping five gods like form of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Surya and Ganapati. Some GSB temples still maintain this concept, while others which follow Madhva Sampradaya believe in Lord Hari being supreme and parivara devatas being the Lords Devotees and hence they have main deity installed in the main sanctorum with four parivara devatas around. "Kuldev" or "kuldaivat" are the deities which a set of families primarily worship. Their temples are built and maintained by these families, also called "Mahajans" (or Kulavis) of Their respective temple.

Many Kuldevs/Kuldevatas are situated in Goa. However, during the early Portuguese persecutions, many Saraswats fled Goa along with their Kuldevs to nearby regions of Maharashtra & Karnataka. Hence, besides Goa, there are many GSB Temples in Maharashtra (Konkan side like Malwan, Vengurla, Savantwadi, Kudal, Ratnagiri, etc..). The Saraswats of Goa are predominantly the worshipers of Shiva and Durga, though many of them have got converted to Vaishnavites but they still retain their worship to their ancestral shavaite and vedic deities.

Many Saraswats have a strong faith in Durga and continue to pay respect and tribute by either taking part in festivals or some other occasions relating to Durga. Every Saraswat Brahmin has a system of worshipping two deities amongst which one is a Pallavi or supporting deity. Majority of the Saraswats have some or the other aspect of Durga included in their family deity. It can be Shantadurga, Aryadurga, Mahamaya, Vijayadurga or Mahalakshmi. Besides the Kuladevta, Saraswats also offer their prayers to their Ishta Devta. The Vaishnavite Saraswats consider Venkatraman - Padmavati, Vithoba - Rukmini and Shri Vishnu as their Ishta Devta, similarly the Smartas consider Durgaparameshwari and Bhavani Shankar as their Ishta Devta. However many of the Ishta Devta's are in turn the presiding deities of their respective Mutts.


  • Kuruba Gowda[7] is the second largest community in Karnataka, People of this community use Gowda as a surname.
  • Golla (caste) community is popularly portrayed as using the Gowda name in the legendary folklore poem 'Dharani Mandala Madhyadolage' (In the middle of the Earth..), which is a poem known to all Kannadigas since childhood, where in the cowherd boy is called Golla Gowda. But it is said that the Gowda word used in that poem was to emphasize the Golla since Gowda was a word with pride.
  • Parts of Kolar and their family head is sometimes called Gowda.
  • Lingayat community in North Karnataka uses Gowda as surname, it is the largest community in Karnataka.
  • Devanga community in Chitradurga, Davangere uses Gowda as surname, it is grouped as Backward Caste under Group 3A in the reservation category.
  • Gowda Saraswat Brahmin is an other community which also use Gowda surname, which are found to be rare. They are Brahmins.
  • Kodagu Gowdas are the major ethnic group in the Kodagu and Sullia of Dakshina Kannada.
  • Kumbara Gowda is an other important caste group of Karnataka.

See also[edit]

Gowda Saraswat Brahmin[edit]

Maths Followed By Goud Saraswat Brahmin[edit]

Other Saraswat Brahmin Community[edit]

The Sarasvati River (Sanskrit: सरस्वती नदी sárasvatī nadī) is one of the chief Rigvedic rivers mentioned in ancient Sanskrit texts. The Nadistuti hymn in the Rigveda (10.75) mentions the Sarasvati between the Yamuna in the east and the Sutlej in the west, and later Vedic texts like Tandya and Jaiminiya Brahmanas as well as the Mahabharata mention that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert. The goddess Sarasvati was originally a personification of this river, but later developed an independent identity and gained meaning.

The identification of the Vedic Sarasvati River with the Ghaggar-Hakra River was accepted by Christian Lassen,[8] Max Müller,[9] Marc Aurel Stein, C.F. Oldham[10] and Jane Macintosh,[11] while some Vedic scholars (e.g. Kochhar 1999) believe the Helmand River of southern Afghanistan corresponds to the Sarasvati River.[12]

Course of Saraswati[edit]

Course of Sarasvati river

Palaeo-drainage network formed by several palaeochannels has been worked out by different researchers in western Rajasthan and neighbouring states, which is mainly buried under sand cover of the Thar Desert and parallel to the Aravalli Hills 6–8. In the last couple of years with the advancement in satellite and remote sensing technology, palaeochannels have been mapped systematically. Different workers have different opinions about the number of courses of Saraswati River. Ghosh et al.6,9 reported five, Yashpal et al.10 reported one, Bakliwal and Grover11 reported seven. On the basis of aerial photographs and Landsat imagery, faults/lineaments and palaeo-drainage system in NW India have been delineated6,7,9,12–15. Several authors16–18 have opined that upliftment of the Aravallis led to the westward migration of Saraswati River system due to fault-controlled movements. The faults have been and continue to be active, registering various sideways and up–down movements in the geological past. As a consequence, there was uplift and sinking or horizontal (lateral) displacement of the ground. Under such tectonophysiographic upheavals, the rivers and streams were frequently forced to change their courses, sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly, as seen on satellite images.

As per Hindu beliefs, Saraswati river flows underground and meets Yamuna and Ganga at their confluence in Prayag (Allahabad).


Sarasvatī is the devi feminine of an adjective sarasvant- (which occurs in the Rigveda[13] as the name of the keeper of the celestial waters), derived from Proto-Indo-Iranian *sáras-vant-ī (and earlier, PIE *séles-u̯n̥t-ih₂), meaning ‘marshy, full of pools’.

Sanskrit sáras means ‘pool, pond’; the feminine sarasī́ means ‘stagnant pool, swamp’.[14] Like its cognates Welsh hêl, heledd ‘river meadow’ and Greek ἕλος (hélos) ‘swamp’, the Rigvedic term refers mostly to stagnant waters, and Mayrhofer considers unlikely a connection with the root *sar- ‘run, flow’.[15]

Sarasvatī is an exact cognate with Avestan Haraxvatī, perhaps[16] originally referring to Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā (modern Ardwisur Anahid), the Zoroastrian mythological world river, which would point to a common Indo-Iranian myth of a cosmic or mystical Sáras-vant-ī river. In the younger Avesta, Haraxvatī is Arachosia, a region described to be rich in rivers, and its Old Persian cognate Harauvati, which gave its name to the present-day Hārūt River in Afghanistan, may have referred to the entire Helmand drainage basin (the center of Arachosia).

In the Rigveda[edit]

Map of northern India in the late Vedic period

The Sarasvati River is mentioned in all but the fourth book of the Rigveda.

RV 6.61, RV 7.95 and RV 7.96.


  • The Sarasvati is praised lavishly in the Rigveda as the best of all the rivers: e.g. in RV 2.41.16 she is called ámbitame nádītame dévitame sárasvati, "best mother, best river, best goddess". Other verses of praise include RV 6.61.8-13, RV 7.96 and RV 10.17. In some hymns, the Indus river seems to be more important than the Sarasavati, especially in the Nadistuti sukta. In RV 8.26.18, the white flowing Sindhu 'with golden wheels' is the most conveying or attractive of the rivers.
  • RV 7.95.2. and other verses (e.g. RV 8.21.18) speak of the Sarasvati pouring "milk and ghee." Rivers are often likened to cows in the Rigveda, for example in RV 3.33.1,
Like two bright mother cows who lick their youngling,
Vipas and Sutudri speed down their waters.
  • The phrase sárasvatī saptáthī síndhumātā of RV 7.36.6 has been rendered as " Sarasvati the Seventh, Mother of Floods" in a popular translation.[17] While this takes a tatpurusha interpretation of síndhumātā, the word is actually a bahuvrihi.[18]


  • The late Rigvedic Nadistuti sukta enumerates all important rivers from the Ganges in the east up to the Indus in the west in a clear geographical order. Here (RV 10.75.5), the sequence "Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri" places the Sarasvati between the Yamuna and the Sutlej, which is consistent with the Ghaggar identification.
  • Verses in RV 6.61 indicate that the Sarasvati river originated in the hills or mountains (giri), where she "burst with her strong waves the ridges of the hills (giri)". It is a matter of interpretation whether this refers only to the Himalayan foothills like the present-day Sarasvati (Sarsuti) river.
  • RV 3.23.4 mentions the Sarasvati River together with the Drsadvati River and the Āpayā River. RV 6.52.6 describes the Sarasvati as swollen (pinvamānā) by the rivers (sindhubhih).
  • While RV 6.61.12 associates the Sarasvati River with the five tribes; and RV 7.95-6 with the Paravatas and the Purus; in RV 8.21.18, a number of petty kings are said to dwell along the course of Sarasvati,
Citra is King, and only kinglings [rājaka] are the rest who dwell beside Sarasvati.
  • In RV 7.95.1-2, the Sarasvati is described as flowing to the samudra, a word now usually translated as ocean.
This stream Sarasvati with fostering current comes forth, our sure defence, our fort of iron.
As on a chariot, the flood flows on, surpassing in majesty and might all other waters.
Pure in her course from mountains to the ocean, alone of streams Sarasvati hath listened.
Thinking of wealth and the great world of creatures, she poured for Nahusa her milk and fatness.

As a goddess[edit]

Painting of Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma
Main article: Saraswati

In the Rigveda, the name Sarasvati already does not always relate to a river and its personification exclusively; in some places, the goddess Saraswati is abstracted from the river.

The Sarasvati is mentioned in 13 hymns of the late books (1 and 10) of the Rigveda.[19] Only two of these references are unambiguously to the river: 10.64.9, calling for the aid of three "great rivers", Sindhu, Sarasvati and Sarayu; and 10.75.5, the geographical list of the Nadistuti sukta. The others invoke Sarasvati as a goddess without direct connection to a specific river. In 10.30.12, her origin as a river goddess may explain her invocation as a protective deity in a hymn to the celestial waters. In 10.135.5, as Indra drinks Soma he is described as refreshed by Sarasvati. The invocations in 10.17 address Sarasvati as a goddess of the forefathers as well as of the present generation. In 1.13, 1.89, 10.85, 10.66 and 10.141, she is listed with other gods and goddesses, not with rivers. In 10.65, she is invoked together with "holy thoughts" (dhī) and "munificence" (puraṃdhi), consistent with her role as a goddess of both knowledge and fertility.

Other Vedic texts[edit]

In post-Rigvedic literature, the disappearance of the Sarasvati is mentioned. Also the origin of the Sarasvati is identified as Plaksa Prasravana.[20][21]

Yajur Veda[edit]

In a supplementary chapter of the Vajasaneyi-Samhita of the Yajurveda (34.11), Sarasvati is mentioned in a context apparently meaning the Sindhu: "Five rivers flowing on their way speed onward to Sarasvati, but then become Sarasvati a fivefold river in the land."[22] According to the medieval commentator Uvata, the five tributaries of the Sarasvati were the Punjab rivers Drishadvati, Satudri (Sutlej), Chandrabhaga (Chenab), Vipasa (Beas) and the Iravati (Ravi).


The first reference to the disapparance of the lower course of the Sarasvati is from the Brahmanas, texts that are composed in Vedic Sanskrit, but dating to a later date than the Veda Samhitas. The Jaiminiya Brahmana (2.297) speaks of the 'diving under (upamajjana) of the Sarasvati', and the Tandya Brahmana (or Pancavimsa Br.) calls this the 'disappearance' (vinasana). The same text (25.10.11-16) records that the Sarasvati is 'so to say meandering' (kubjimati) as it could not sustain heaven which it had propped up.[23] The Plaksa Prasravana (place of appearance/source of the river) may refer to a spring in the Siwalik mountains. The distance between the source and the Vinasana (place of disappearance of the river) is said to be 44 asvina (between several hundred and 1600 miles) (Tandya Br. 25.10.16; cf. Av. 6.131.3; Pancavimsa Br.[24]

Late Vedic[edit]

In the Latyayana Srautasutra (10.15-19) the Sarasvati seems to be a perennial river up to the Vinasana, which is west of its confluence with the Drshadvati (Chautang). The Drshadvati is described as a seasonal stream (10.17). The Asvalayana Srautasutra and Sankhayana Srautasutra contain verses that are similar to the Latyayana Srautasutra.

Post-Vedic texts[edit]

The Mahabharata[edit]

According to the Mahabharata, the Sarasvati dried up in a desert (at a place named Vinasana or Adarsana);[25] after having disappeared in the desert, reappears in some places;[26] and joins the sea "impetuously".[27] MB.3.81.115 locates Kurukshetra to the south of the Sarasvati and north of the Drishadvati. Dried up seasonal Ghaggar River in Rajasthan and haryana reflects the same geographical view as described in Mahabharata.


  • Several Puranas describe the Sarasvati River, and also record that the river separated into a number of lakes (saras).[28] In Skanda Purana, five distributaries of the Sarasvati are mentioned.[29]
  • In the Skanda Purana, the Sarasvati originates from the water pot of Brahma and flows from Plaksa on the Himalayas. It then turns west at Kedara and also flows underground.
  • According to Vamana Purana 32.1-4, the Sarasvati rose from the Plaksa tree (Pipal tree).[28]



The Sarasvati River of late Vedic and post-Vedic times is generally identified with the Ghaggar River. But the implication of a river of substantially greater volume makes the same identification of the early Vedic references problematic: either the Ghaggar was a more powerful river in earlier times, or the early Vedic Sarasvati was located elsewhere.[citation needed] According to Hindu scriptures, a journey was made during the Mahabharata by Balrama along the banks of the Saraswati from Dwarka to Mathura. There were ancient kingdoms too (the era of the Mahajanapads), that lay in parts of north rajasthan; that were named on the saraswati river. This gives some logic to the theory of Ghaggar-Hakkar being the ancient Saraswati. During the Pleistocene period the Himalayan mountains were under glacial cover and climate was fluctuating between glacial and interglacial phases. Around 40,000 yrs BC, the present Thar Desert enjoyed wet climate and greenery. Mythological River Saraswati/Vedic Saraswati (also known as Saraswati Nadi, Saraswati Nala, Sarsuti and Chautang in certain places, variously spelt as Sarasvati) is believed to have flowed during 6000–3000 BC from the melting glaciers of Garhwal Himalaya to Arabian Sea through the Thar Desert1,2. Several researchers agree about the existence of palaeochannels2. According to the Ground Water Cell of Haryana, a large number of water wells fall on these palaeochannels and their lithology is coarse sand/gravel of riverine nature. Now palaeochannels exhibit discontinuous drainage. Geomorphological and tectonic study of drainage of northern Haryana was discussed by Thussu3 and Virdi et al.4. A good compilation of researches covering various aspects of Saraswati is available in Valdiya5 and also posted by him at http://www.omilosmeleton.gr/pdf/en/indology/The_Saraswati_was_a_Major_River.pdf.

Ghaggar-Hakra River[edit]

Main article: Ghaggar-Hakra River
Ghaggar river flowing through Panchkula in Haryana in India. Ghaggar-Hakra River has been identified as the historic Sarasvati river by many researchers.

Evidence from survey fieldwork and recent satellite imagery have been adduced to suggest that the Ghaggar-Hakra system in the undetermined past had the Sutlej and the Yamuna as tributaries, with the Rann of Kutch as the likely remains of its delta. In this scenario, geological changes diverted the Sutlej towards the Indus and the Yamuna towards the Ganges, following which the river did not have enough water to reach the sea any more and dried up in the Thar desert.

The wide river bed (paleo-channel) of the Ghaggar river suggest that the river once flowed full of water during the great meltdown of the Himalayan Ice Age glaciers, some 10,000 years ago, and that it then continued through the entire region, in the presently dry channel of the Hakra River, possibly emptying into the Rann of Kutch. It supposedly dried up due to the capture of its tributaries by the Indus system and the Yamuna river, and later on, additionally, the loss of water in much of its catchment area due to deforestation and overgrazing. It has been proposed that the Sarasvati of the early Rigveda corresponds to the Ghaggar-Hakra before these changes took place (the "Old Ghaggar"), and the late Vedic end Epic Sarasvati disappearing in the desert to the Ghaggar-Hakra following the diversion of Sutlej and Yamuna.[31] This is supposed by some to have happened at the latest in 1900 BCE [32][33]

Painted Grey Ware sites (ca. 1000 BCE) have been found in the bed and not on the banks of the Ghaggar-Hakra river, suggesting that the river had dried up before this period.[34]

Helmand river[edit]

Main article: Helmand River
U.S. Soldiers cross the Arghandab River. References to the Sarasvati river in the Rgveda is often identified with the present-day Ghaggar River, although the Arghandab River as a possible locus of early Rigvedic references has been discussed.

Suggestions for the identity of the early Rigvedic Sarasvati River include the Helmand River in Afghanistan, separated from the watershed of the Indus by the Sanglakh Range. The Helmand historically besides Avestan Haetumant bore the name Haraxvaiti, which is the Avestan form cognate to Sanskrit Sarasvati. The Avesta extols the Helmand in similar terms to those used in the Rigveda with respect to the Sarasvati: "the bountiful, glorious Haetumant swelling its white waves rolling down its copious flood".[35]

Kocchar (1999) argues that the Helmand is identical to the early Rigvedic Sarasvati of suktas 2.41, 7.36 etc., and that the Nadistuti sukta (10.75) was composed centuries later, after an eastward migration of the bearers of the Rigvedic culture to the western Gangetic plain some 600 km to the east. The Sarasvati by this time had become a mythical "disappeared" river, and the name was transferred to the Ghaggar which disappeared in the desert.

The identification of the Helmand with the early Rig Vedic Sarasvati is not without difficulties. However, the geographic situation of the Sarasvati and the Helmand rivers are similar. Both flow into a terminal lakes: the Helmand into a swamp in the Iranian plateau (the extended wetland and lake system of Hamun-i-Helmand). This matches the Rigvedic description of the Sarasvati flowing to the samudra, which at that time meant 'confluence', 'lake', 'heavenly lake, ocean'; the current meaning of 'terrestrial ocean' was not even felt in the Pali Canon.[36] In post-Rig Vedic texts (Brahmanas) the Sarasvati ("she who has (many) lakes"), is said to disappear ("dive under") in the desert.

Present-day Sarasvatis[edit]


  1. ^ http://gsbkerala.com/gsbhistory.htm
  2. ^ a b "Saraswat history". Gsbkerala.com. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  3. ^ Dr.Ambalike Hiriyanna (1999). Malenadina Vaishnava Okkaligara Samskruti. Kannada Pustaka Pradhikara, Government of Karnataka. 
  4. ^ Dr.Ganapati Gowda (2011). Grama Okkaligara Samsrutika Ananyate Mattu Samakaleena Sandarbhagalu. Kannada University, Hampi. 
  5. ^ Kashmiri Pandits: Looking to the future, by M. K. Kaw
  6. ^ Astha-siddhi[clarification needed][where?][when?][who?]
  7. ^ By K.Balasubramanyam
  8. ^ Indische Alterthumskunde
  9. ^ Sacred Books of the East, 32, 60
  10. ^ Oldham 1893 pp.51–52
  11. ^ The ancient Indus Valley:new perspectives By Jane McIntosh
  12. ^ Kochhar, Rajesh, 'On the identity and chronology of the Ṛgvedic river Sarasvatī' in Archaeology and Language III; Artefacts, languages and texts, Routledge (1999), ISBN 0-415-10054-2.
  13. ^ e.g. 7.96.4, 10.66.5
  14. ^ e.g. RV 7.103.2b
  15. ^ Mayrhofer, EWAia, s.v.; the root is otherwise often connected with rivers (also in river names, such as Sarayu or Susartu); the suggestion has been revived in the connection of an "out of India" argument, N. Kazanas, "Rig-Veda is pre-Harappan", p. 9.
  16. ^ by Lommel (1927); Lommel, Herman (1927), Die Yašts des Awesta, Göttingen-Leipzig: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht/JC Hinrichs
  17. ^ Griffith
  18. ^ Hans Hock (1999) translates síndhumātā as a bahuvrihi, "whose mother is the Sindhu", which would indicate that the Sarasvati is here a tributary of the Indus. A translation as a tatpurusha ("mother of rivers", with sindhu still with its generic meaning) would be less common in RV speech.
  19. ^ 1.3, 13, 89, 164; 10.17, 30, 64, 65, 66, 75, 110, 131, 141
  20. ^ Pancavimsa Brahmana, Jaiminiya Upanisad Brahmana, Katyayana Srauta Sutra, Latyayana Srauta; Macdonell and Keith 1912
  21. ^ Asvalayana Srauta Sutra, Sankhayana Srauta Sutra; Macdonell and Keith 1912, II:55
  22. ^ Griffith, p.492
  23. ^ for discussion; for maps (1984) of the area, p. 42 sqq.
  24. ^ D.S. Chauhan in Radhakrishna, B.P. and Merh, S.S. (editors): Vedic Saraswati 1999. According to this reference, 44 asvins may be over 2600 km
  25. ^ Mhb. 3.82.111; 3.130.3; 6.7.47; 6.37.1-4., 9.34.81; 9.37.1-2
  26. ^ Mbh. 3.80.118
  27. ^ Mbh. 3.88.2
  28. ^ a b D.S. Chauhan in Radhakrishna, B.P. and Merh, S.S. (editors): Vedic Saraswati, 1999, p.35-44
  29. ^ compare also with Yajurveda 34.11, D.S. Chauhan in Radhakrishna, B.P. and Merh, S.S. (editors): Vedic Saraswati, 1999, p.35-44
  30. ^ Manusmriti 2.17-18
  31. ^ "Proceedings of the second international symposium on the management of large rivers for fisheries: Volume II". Fao.org. 14 February 2003. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  32. ^ Mughal, M. R. Ancient Cholistan. Archaeology and Architecture. Rawalpindi-Lahore-Karachi: Ferozsons 1997, 2004
  33. ^ J. K. Tripathi et al., “Is River Ghaggar, Saraswati? Geochemical Constraints,” Current Science, Vol. 87, No. 8, 25 October 2004
  34. ^ Gaur, R. C. (1983). Excavations at Atranjikhera, Early Civilization of the Upper Ganga Basin. Delhi.
  35. ^ Yasht 10.67
  36. ^ Klaus, K. Die altindische Kosmologie, nach den Brāhmaṇas dargestellt. Bonn 1986; Samudra, XXIII Deutscher Orientalistentag Würzburg, ZDMG Suppl. Volume VII, Stuttgart 1989, 367-371

See also[edit]


  • Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513777-9. 
  • Gupta, S.P. (ed.). 1995. The lost Saraswati and the Indus Civilization. Kusumanjali Prakashan, Jodhpur.
  • Hock, Hans (1999) Through a Glass Darkly: Modern "Racial" Interpretations vs. Textual and General Prehistoric Evidence on Arya and Dasa/Dasyu in Vedic Indo-Aryan Society." in Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia, ed. Bronkhorst & Deshpande, Ann Arbor.
  • Keith and Macdonell. 1912. Vedic Index of Names and Subjects.
  • Kochhar, Rajesh, 'On the identity and chronology of the Ṛgvedic river Sarasvatī' in Archaeology and Language III; Artefacts, languages and texts, Routledge (1999), ISBN 0-415-10054-2.
  • Lal, B.B. 2002. The Saraswati Flows on: the Continuity of Indian Culture. New Delhi: Aryan Books International
  • Oldham, R.D. 1893. The Sarsawati and the Lost River of the Indian Desert. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 1893. 49-76.
  • Puri, VKM, and Verma, BC, Glaciological and Geological Source of Vedic Sarasvati in the Himalayas, New Delhi, Itihas Darpan, Vol. IV, No.2, 1998 [1]
  • Radhakrishna, B.P. and Merh, S.S. (editors): Vedic Saraswati: Evolutionary History of a Lost River of Northwestern India (1999) Geological Society of India (Memoir 42), Bangalore. Review (on page 3) Review
  • Shaffer, Jim G. (1995). Cultural tradition and Palaeoethnicity in South Asian Archaeology. In: Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia. Ed. George Erdosy. ISBN 3-11-014447-6. 
  • S. G. Talageri, The RigVeda - A Historical Analysis chapter 4

External links[edit]


1) Castes and tribes of south India by Edgar Thurston

External links[edit]