In 2003, the Union Minister for Tourism and Culture, Jagmohan sanctioned Rs. 8 crore to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to search for the river Sarasvati. Though it was an inter-disciplinary archaeological program involving the Indian Institute of Technology and the Birbal Sahni Institution, designed to settle different schools of thought regarding the existence of the river, the venture was seen as “an attempt by RSS inspired historians to liken the Harappan civilisation with the Vedic era.” The project was shelved by the UPA Government.
In February 2009, the “International Conference on the Sindhu-Sarasvati Valley Civilization: A Reappraisal” was held in Los Angeles, CA, “to discuss, reconsider and reconstruct a shared identity of the Sindhu (Indus) and Sarasvati cultures, using archaeological and other scientific evidence as well as Vedic literature.” The title of the conference, specifically the use of the word Sarasvati, caused consternation among few Western scholars prompting Prof Ashok Aklujkar, Professor Emeritus at University of British Columbia to write a scathing rebuttal.
To understand why Sarasvati is a controversial topic in the 21st century we need to look at evidence from a number of sources: from tradition, archaeology, literature, geology, and climatology. We need to understand the path of Sarasvati, its life span, and traditions that arose within its banks that survive to this day. Finally, we also need to look at how Sarasvati challenges the Aryan invasion/migration theory.
In this 368 page book, Michel Danino narrates Sarasvati’s tale, assembling it from the reports of Western explorers, Indian scholars, Archaeological Survey publications, and Vedic texts. Danino who was born in France and has been living in India since the age of 21, has published papers like The Horse and the Aryan Debate (2006), Genetics and the Aryan Debate (2005), A Dravido-Harappan Connection? The Issue of Methodology (2007) and also the book The Invasion that Never Was (2000) on the Aryan Invasion Theory.
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