Seven months after water was released into a largely dry channel that was dug up to revive the “lost” Saraswati, the Haryana Sarasvati Heritage Development Board (HSHDB) has decided to rename the Indus Valley civilisation as the Sarasvati river civilisation since the “river is no more a myth, its existence is a reality”. This is one of several recommendations that the HSHDB will send to the government — the Board is chaired by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar — following the successful conclusion of the Saraswati Mahotsav in January. As part of the Mahotsav, a two-day international conference on the Saraswati river was held at the Kurukshetra University.

The Board, which spells Saraswati as Sarasvati, has drawn up this recommendation: “Considering the state of knowledge regarding the Sarasvati river in presentations by international and national experts, it was felt by experts that the Sarasvati river is no more a myth, its existence is a reality. Further, the name of the Indus Valley civilisation in our country be rechristened as Sarasvati river civilisation.” Sumita Misra, Principal Secretary, Archives, Archaeology and Museums Department of Haryana, said: “A large number of Harappan sites have been found in Haryana over the years. The nomenclature of the Indus Valley civilisation should now be changed to the Saraswati-Indus civilisation.”

The largest Harappan site Rakhigarhi and the oldest Bhirrana are both in Haryana. The state government is restarting excavation at Kunal in Fatehabad district. Officials maintained that the archaeological sites are along the banks of what used to be the river Saraswati. Prashant Bhardwaj, Deputy Chairman of the HSHDB, said, “We passed a resolution on the concluding day of the conference held during the Sarasvati Mahotsav to rename the Indus civilisation as the Sarasvati civilisation. There are 1097 sites in India associated with the Indus Valley civilisation, while in Pakistan there are only 70 to 80 sites.”

“No one should call Sarasvati a myth since it has already been proven that the river was present. No one should also use the word mythology in association with the river. By using this term, we are negating out own culture and heritage. We will raise objection if anyone uses this word,” he said. The experts have also recommended that archaeological survey of the area deemed to be the Saraswati basin from the Himalayas to Rann of Kutch should be carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India and related organisations. Fresh excavations should be done at locations related to “heritage and culture of the country”.

The conference also recommended that “history, culture, language including script of the Sarasvati civilisation should be thoroughly evaluated to understand the geography, culture, language, livelihood and customs of the Vedic civilisation along the path of the Sarasvati river”.  A discussion on the Saraswati river was held Tuesday during the Budget session of the Haryana Assembly with Opposition parties questioning the government on its venture. Congress MLA Geeta Bhukkal questioned the source of the water in the river that is now called Saraswati, and asked if the government was filling it with water from tubewells.

Leader of Opposition and INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala said that as per an ISRO map on the path of the river, it enters Pakistan through Kutch. “Does the river reach Pakistan and then return to Allahabad where the confluence of the three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, is believed to take place,” he asked. Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma, who is also Minister of Archaeology and Museums, said, “We have undertaken digging of the route of the river from Adi Badri to Mugalwali and Ambawali on a 32-km stretch. Even scientists have seen the water. Harappa was the most ancient civilisation in the world. The remains found at Rakhigarhi show that these are even older. Sarasvati has been mentioned 21 times in the Vedas.”