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Ghaggar-Hakra: Archaeological Heritage Erosion



  Mar 19, 2024

The Erosion of Archaeological Heritage Along the Ghaggar-Hakra River



The Saraswati River, often celebrated in ancient Indian texts, and its system, including the Ghaggar-Hakra River, hold immense archaeological and historical significance. However, recent observations have highlighted a concerning trend: the rapid disappearance of archaeological sites along this ancient river system, signaling a loss of invaluable heritage. This situation raises critical issues regarding heritage preservation, archaeological research, and the broader understanding of the region’s ancient civilizations.


The Historical and Archaeological Significance of the Saraswati River System

The Saraswati River, mentioned in the Rig Veda and the Mahabharata, is not just a mythological entity but a crucial part of the region’s historical geography. Scientific and archaeological evidence suggests that the Saraswati was a significant river, originating from the Bandarpunch glacier, flowing through the current states of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, and reaching the sea at the Gulf of Khambhat. This river system played a pivotal role in the development of the Harappan civilization and other cultures over thousands of years.


The Disappearance and Its Impact

The gradual disappearance of the Saraswati, attributed to the redirection of the Sutlej River away from the Ghaggar-Hakra valley, did not just lead to a major hydrological shift but also left behind a trail of archaeological sites along its banks. These sites are critical to understanding the region’s ancient civilizations. However, the unchecked encroachment and construction, coupled with inadequate protection measures, have led to the destruction of numerous archaeological sites. This destruction not only erases physical markers of ancient civilizations but also diminishes our ability to connect with our collective past.


Early Explorations and Modern Challenges

From the explorations by James Todd in the 19th century to those by Luigi Pio Tessitori and Auriel Stein in the early 20th century, and later by A Ghosh post-Independence, the archaeological potential of the Ghaggar-Hakra riverbed has been well documented. These explorations uncovered a rich tapestry of human activity spanning the Harappan, Painted Grey Ware, and Kushana periods. Yet, despite these discoveries, many sites like Tarkhanwala Dera and Baror have suffered from neglect and destruction, with illegal encroachments being a significant threat.


The Need for Salvage Archaeology and Protection

The current situation underscores the urgent need for salvage archaeology and the protection of these sites. While efforts to revive the ancient Saraswati river system are noteworthy, they must be complemented by rigorous efforts to preserve the archaeological heritage along its banks. Protecting these sites is not just about safeguarding stones and artifacts; it’s about preserving the stories and legacies of the people who lived along these ancient riverbanks. The loss of these sites is not just a loss for India but for human history as a whole.


Conclusion

As we face the rapid disappearance of archaeological sites along the Ghaggar-Hakra river, it is imperative to acknowledge the critical importance of these sites and take decisive action to protect them. The heritage of the Saraswati River system is a treasure that belongs to all of humanity, and its preservation is a responsibility that we must not take lightly.


SRIRAM’s


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