Coming together, glorious, loudly roaring
Saraswati, mother of floods, the seventh
With copious milk, fair streams, strongly flowing
Swelling with the volumes of the waters
– Rig Veda, Book VII

In May, 70-year-old Dhappu Singh Bhati—wearing a red-and-green kurta, a white dhoti, and a turban that was once white—cycled 20 kilometres to see a myth come true. He had heard enough about the myth in Hanoriya, his village in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, but wanted to see it himself through his 40-year-old pair of glasses. He had read in the papers that scientists from all over the country were coming to witness the historic occasion; even the priest in his village had divined that it was now time for Rajasthan to free itself from an ancient curse that turned the land into a desert.

This was going to change.

Saraswati, the river of the Vedas, bedrock of the Sangh Parivar’s revivalist Hindu nationalism, icon of an imagined golden past, had emerged from the ground at Tandiya, a village in the Thar.

Across Rajasthan and Haryana, state governments run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are busy digging tubewells and canals in the arid land of the region, closely tracing the route of the mythical Saraswati, and whenever water is found—sometimes hundreds of feet under—party workers and other parivar organisations claim that the river has been revived.

Much of the digging in the two states is funded by the state and central governments under various drinking water projects, and many scientists claim that the focus is to find water along the imagined route of the river rather than solve the drinking water problem.

If Tandiya could be blessed, so could Hanoriya, thought Bhati. If he picked the minds of people there, learnt the rituals they followed, and met the officers of the government, Saraswati could flow through his village too.

Hanoriya is nestled close to a rocky outcrop in the sand, three kilometres from the single-lane road that connects it to the world. Scorpions, and foxes looking to make a meal out of them, are common sights in and around the village.

“My village has not seen enough rainfall in the past three years; we conserve water through khadin but it has to rain first so that enough water is stored.” Khadin is a traditional water conservation technique—developed hundreds of years ago under the patronage of the Rajput rulers—where small channels are dug from rocky or elevated areas into lower ones. It helps conserve water in underground wells and ponds. This system depends on a good monsoon to store water.

In Hanoriya, water shortage is acute. Families have not sown their fields in many years, and some have migrated to Jaisalmer in search of jobs. Others have leased their lands to local businessmen and goat herders who do not offer money but provide security from encroachers and land grabbers.

“They have all either built or rented houses in the city. Husbands are in the army and send money while older men get pension. When rains are aplenty, they will return to plough their fields again,” says Reshma Bano, whose family is one among the many who rear goats.

Mangat Ram, the local priest, sits in a small temple built in the middle of three date trees that form a triangle and provide relief from the harsh sun. He has spoken to people who work with the BJP and they have announced that the state government will soon dig up the Saraswati from under the sands of the desert.

“It is now starting to reappear and modern techniques are being used to bring water to the earth. Hopefully the water will appear from under the ground in our village too,” he says.

What Dhappu Bhati found in Tandiya has given them hope. “I have been to Ranau too, where the river first burst out many years ago. The same thing is happening in Tandiya. The people worship their wells and perform kirtans, organise bhandaras (community meals) every few months to keep evil away,” Ram says.

Tandiya followed the same route and government officials have now managed to pump out water from just “three to four date-tree lengths below the ground,” he says.

Mangat Ram has appealed to the village head, Jagat Singh, to help organise the religious ceremonies in Hanoriya too and he has agreed, promising financial help.

The rest of the money will be donated by villagers, both residents and non-residents, since all will be required to participate during the havan. A staunch supporter of the BJP, Jagat Singh knows the rituals have nothing to do with finding water underground. “But the villagers want god’s blessings so we have to support them and keep them in good spirits. Actually it is the officials who have to find out where exactly the meeta paani (sweet water) is and dig tubewells here too.”

The whole of Rajasthan was prosperous and used to be flooded with water like Bihar and Bengal, but sand slowly covered it and it disappeared

Singh believes in the BJP’s version of the secret behind the water—the sacred ancient river, the mighty Saraswati still flows underground, and science will now help locate and dig it out. He has attended many party meetings in the district and has heard its experts speak. “The whole of Rajasthan was prosperous and used to be flooded with water like Bihar and Bengal, but sand slowly covered it and it disappeared,” he says, quoting what he heard at a meeting organised by the BJP.

The truth is less dramatic: no river has been found in Rajasthan. What has been found are palaeochannels—ancient water pathways—using satellite mapping and radio-imaging. These narrow channels are scattered across the region, and may not necessarily yield water on drilling. The water when found is claimed to be from the Saraswati river which is said to be flowing deep underground.

Singh says, “Earlier when even these tubewells (in villages like Tandiya) did not exist, people said finding water was impossible underground since there was nothing but sand. But they were proved wrong. How can one know what is underground unless experts are called in? Ancient science helped people find water earlier and build baolis (stepwells) across Rajasthan. Now with such advancement in science, slowly the whole river can be traced and dug out. It will be a miracle performed by god for these people (villagers) but now we know it is only modern science.”

Ancient science helped people find water earlier and build baolis (stepwells) across Rajasthan. Now with such advancement in science, slowly the whole river can be traced and dug out. It will be a miracle performed by god for these people (villagers) but now we know it is only modern science


The Rajasthan government’s “Project Saraswati” envisages the drilling of tubewells across the extensive network of palaeochannels in the Thar desert. The aim is to find water, which will help residents of this parched zone, and lends credence to the theory that the Vedic Saraswati flowed here, something that the Hindutva project accepted as fact a long time ago. It has demanded Rs 69 crore from the central government.

The state government’s report is based on previous studies conducted under funding from the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission. The study was done to find underground water sources in Jaisalmer to solve the problem of drinking water since the Indira Canal, which brings water from the Bhakhra Nangal dam in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, was under constant strain. The canal supplies water to the cities of Jaisalmer and Barmer, among others, and to some villages in all districts. The supply to interior areas is only through water tankers during the summer, and almost non-existent otherwise. Ground water is the main source for the population apart from rainwater harvested through various traditional techniques.

The present plan of the government, although based on a report that focused on drinking water problems, is to revive the ancient Saraswati. The ground water department of the state intends to conduct ground-penetrating radar surveys and trace the path of the river, and eventually proposes digging down to the ancient channel.

Once water was found in Jajuwala village, the BJP soon set up an office there. The village is also significant since excavated remains of an ancient settlement, believed to be of the Indus valley civilisation, were found close to it by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) five years ago.

After the tubewell became operational, local politicians found an opportunity to claim it as a major discovery. “Our ancestors were the inhabitants of this region and the Thar (desert) was part of the great empire of Bharat, after whom our great country has been named,” says Kishore Mishra, a party worker who travels from Jaisalmer to the village twice a week.

Sitting in a room with a plastic table, some chairs, and a metal shelf which houses books on ancient Hindu knowledge apart from booklets on the Saraswati, Mishra claims to be a history buff whose interest in ancient Indian civilisation led him to join the party. The Saraswati booklet says, among other things, that the Mahabharata was written on the banks of the Saraswati and the region was part of the larger Kuru empire for which the great war was fought.

Mishra is closely associated with the Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan (SNSS), an organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and dedicated to “finding” the lost river.

The village is now a tourist site, attracting the curious from cities seeking a glimpse into history. People from Jaisalmer come over the weekends to walk around and see the water oozing out of the ground and some artefacts “recovered from an ancient site nearby”. Every tourist goes back with a copy of the booklet that Mishra and four other workers, all men in their early 20s, hand them. The booklet, Mishra says proudly, is published for free by a printing press in Jaisalmer whose owner is a Muslim “but a member of the BJP”.


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released images of palaeochannels in March 2013 which indicate that a river system existed through the region of Jaisalmer on to the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and drained into the Gulf of Khambat. The images show links between underground channels which flow through the region. This is termed by scientists as the Vedic Saraswati, based on mentions of the Saraswati in ancient texts.

ISRO’s claims are that an ancient river did flow through the region. However, the presence of a vast underground water body is not certain. In fact, scientists say it can be ruled out since its existence would have meant that the desertification of Rajasthan and Gujarat would not have happened in the first place.

While the Indira Gandhi Canal brings water to Jaisalmer district, Barmer district was facing a severe drought-like situation till two years back. The water supply to the district came through underground water sources that have been dwindling since the 1980s. Till the end of the last decade, many parts of Barmer city received water supply through tankers that would come in only once a week. In the villages, women had to walk several kilometres to the wells, a practice that continues.

With the situation worsening, the state government announced a lift canal project to bring water from the Indira Canal to the city. The scheme was to also supply water to 177 villages in Jaisalmer and 403 villages in Barmer district through a 196-kilometre pipeline from Mohangarh in Jaisalmer district. Announced in the early 1990s, the scheme ran into trouble immediately. Corruption was alleged against several politicians, and the project was eventually mothballed.

The city continued to suffer while the ground water department helped select a few villages where tubewells, some of them going more than 100 feet deep, could be set up and underground water channels exploited. The scheme was finally implemented in 2008 when the state government sanctioned Rs 88 crore to complete it.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi inaugurated it in August 2012—when the project was about 60 per cent complete—amid protests and differences arising within the Congress party on whether the project was going to ever be fully operational.

Mukul Virmani, a local activist who has been protesting the lack of water supply to interior village, says, “It was finally implemented in late 2013 fully but even now, there are severe shortages because either the pipes leak or are simply broken by water mafias to fill tankers and sell them in the city.”

The second phase of the project, which was to provide water to almost 500 villages in the interiors of the district, has not started yet. The phase was scheduled to be completed by August this year.

Now Barmer comes under the state government’s Saraswati programme. The same palaeochannel that is supposed to be the lost Saraswati River also flows through the Barmer district. Tubewells along this channel in some villages have successfully been quenching the thirst of several villages in their vicinity for many years now.

The BJP has seen an opportunity here too. In Hussainiwala village, about 30 kilometres from Jaisalmer, the tubewell became functional in July and since then, party workers have been coming to the village, talking about the discovery of the Saraswati. Activists like Virmani, on the other hand, have been telling people to not fall for such propaganda.

The Congress has held several dharnas and protests in Barmer city, demanding that water tankers reach far-flung villages. A. K. Sharma, a veteran Congress worker from the district who is leading teams that go to villages, urging them to join the protests, says, “In the name of the sacred Saraswati, the BJP is using religion to fool the people into believing that a whole river would be dug up from the ground and there be water in the whole region. Instead of implementing the second phase of the Indira Lift Canal Project, they are simply using delay tactics and indulging in embezzlement of public money.”

To counter this, the BJP has come up with a strategy to implement farming techniques and practices alien to the region. Party workers brought a team of farmers from Punjab to Hussainiwala last month to teach wheat cultivation, a crop alien to the region since it is water-intensive.

Some farmers, like Siraj Ahmed, have taken the bait and plan to grow wheat from the next season. “There is now enough water for us and the land in the village too is not as barren as in some other neighbouring villages. I do not intend to grow it on all my land but will experiment with a small portion.” BJP workers have paid him an advance of about Rs 10,000 for the experiment and have also promised to compensate him in case the crop fails.

This is all part of a larger plan to show the achievements of the Saraswati project. H. K. Kathuria, a BJP leader, says, “If we can make sure that the experiments succeed, it will give hope to thousands of other farmers that implementation of Saraswati Project and digging up of the river to bring the water channels to the ground can actually transform their lives and their future.”

The government also plans to link the project to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme in a bid to get public support.

If digging is done in a planned manner, the whole channel along with some subsidiary channels can be linked and the river Saraswati can be revived as a canal in the region. It will be the beginning of a complete transformation for the region.

Scientific approval is at hand too. N. D. Ekhia, a geologist with the state’s ground water department, claims that water from the Saraswati can be found all along the path to Gujarat’s Rann, and has already visited villages with BJP teams. “If digging is done in a planned manner, the whole channel along with some subsidiary channels can be linked and the river Saraswati can be revived as a canal in the region. It will be the beginning of a complete transformation for the region,” he says.

However, scientists from within the department don’t agree with him but are scared to oppose the scheme publicly. A scientist who did not want to be named, fearing action against him, said: “They are fooling people by promising them a river when they should actually be looking to set up more and more tubewells. A comprehensive plan to divide the district into clusters of villages was prepared in 2010 so that water is within reach of every village but that has been put in cold storage now.”

They are fooling people by promising them a river when they should actually be looking to set up more and more tubewells. A comprehensive plan to divide the district into clusters of villages was prepared in 2010 so that water is within reach of every village but that has been put in cold storage now.

Some officers who opposed the Saraswati Project have been transferred from the district in the past few months; “some of them have even been demoted or posted on other projects,” he said.  

While research on the existence of the Saraswati River began during the 19th century under the British Raj, it is only in the past 50 years, after advances in geology, climatology and other sciences, that some clarity on the river’s probable past has emerged.

Initial research suggests the Saraswati was not a perennial river but a monsoonal river which flooded vast plains of Haryana and Rajasthan in the period between 10,000-4,000 years ago.

French scientist L. Giosan of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, based on his 10-year research on monsoons mostly in Pakistan, argued that Saraswati was not a river that was fed by a glacier—unlike the other six rivers that find praise as the “Sapta sindhu” in the Vedas and texts like the Manusmriti, Puranas and the Mahabharata. He says during the monsoons in the early Holocene period (current period in geological time scale, which started 11,500 years ago), which were much stronger than today, when the Saraswati traversed through present-day north-western India, the yearly downpour caused massive flooding. Scientists argue that this annual flooding is what might have prompted the mention in the Rig Veda of the Saraswati as the mightiest of all rivers.

Giosan postulates that when the monsoons started to weaken, the flooding stopped which led to the drying up of the river, and its disappearance, which turned Rajasthan and Haryana into arid regions.

People of the Indus valley civilisation found it hard to sustain themselves since they were dependent on the annual flooding, being a largely agrarian society, and so abandoned the region.

The case of the city of MohenScientist L. Flam of City University, New York, who has extensively worked on archaeology, palaeoecology and geoarchaeology in South Asia, publishing many books on the subject, argued, “A period of increased flooding and sediment deposition followed by avulsion of the river away from the city is a reasonable explanation for its abandonment.” If one were to go by Giosan’s arguments, it would be impossible to trace the Saraswati since the flooding does not exist anymore in the region.

However, other scientists have argued—and proven to some extent—that the upper reaches of the Saraswati were fed by the Himalayas and that it originated in the Garhwal Himalayas at Har-ki-Dun—a point that has been accepted as a fact by scientists in the Haryana and Rajasthan ground water departments. The Saraswati was still a young river, cutting through Himalayan terrain, and annual flooding brought voluminous debris in the form of sand and boulders which would have created natural dams in its course, forcing diversion of its waters to nearby rivers like the Sutlej, Indus and Yamuna.

In the October 25, 1999 issue of Current Science, scientist A. V. Sankaran mentions that in the Vedas, the Saraswati has been “referred by various names like Markanda, Hakra, Suprabha, Kanchanakshi, Visala, Manorama, etc.” It can be argued that the river had these many names because these were probably the different streams which flowed during the rest of the year but were joined together and formed a single big river during the monsoon flooding. Hakra and Markanda still exist today along separate paths, Markanda in eastern Haryana and Hakra in southern Haryana and north-western Rajasthan. According to this, the Saraswati was not a single river, but a river system which swelled annually during monsoon in the early part of the Holocene period. Today the remnants of this system exist in rivers like Ghaggar, Markanda and Hakra.

To understand what the scientists are attempting to achieve with the Saraswati, one can compare it to the Ganga river basin, in which several streams and rivers merge to form a single mighty river, which means that it is not a single river till it reaches the plains. If Ganga were to dry up in future and scientists attempt to locate its source and original course 10,000-20,000 years down the line, it would be a task of unimaginable magnitude.

For example, the several rivers in the Himalayas with their origins in different glaciers would all be possible contenders for the real source of the Ganga. Further down the plains, the Yamuna could easily be mistaken as the possible Ganga, since it is one of the two rivers that merge at Allahabad, mentions of which might be found in Indian mythological literature available to the scientists then.


The inspiration for the Rajasthan government’s “Project Saraswati” comes from Haryana. The Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government sanctioned Rs 150 crore within a month of being voted in to find the Saraswati and revive it along its ancient path.

Under the project, the Adi Badri Heritage Board has been formed to promote religious and heritage tourism apart from overseeing the digging of channels along the perceived course of the Saraswati. The digging is being done under the MGNREGA scheme. The project aims to divert water into the newly dug channels from the Ottu dam reservoir on the border with Punjab to complete a revival of the Saraswati.

The first phase entails digging a channel from Adi Badri, on the foothills of the Shivalik ranges in north Haryana where a reservoir is worshipped as the Saraswati kund (well), since that is where the Saraswati is said to be visible on the ground after descending from the Himalayas. This idea was first presented during the rule of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2002 but didn’t take off till the present NDA government and the BJP government at the state came together to launch it.

The river, according to scientists, originally flowed down from the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand at a place called Har-ki-Dun from a glacier that receded thousands of years ago towards the east due to seismic and other geological activity.

A five-kilometre-long channel has been dug since the project was launched from the reservoir at Adi Badri through Yamunanagar district in Haryana. While the channel runs dry throughout, in May this year, workers digging it under the MNREGA scheme found water at a village called Mughalwali.

The village has since turned into a religious hub with hundreds from people, some even coming from Punjab and Uttra Pradesh, offering prayers. Bhandaras are organised every week, and organisations like the RSS and its affiliates  have announced they will build a grand temple there. Priests offer prayers and carry the sacred water to their homes and temples every day.

The major player in this work, apart from the government machinery, is the Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan, whose members lecture people in areas where the channels are being dug, although Mughalwali is the only place where water has been found so far.

The major player in this work, apart from the government machinery, is the Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan, whose members lecture people in areas where the channels are being dug, although Mughalwali is the only place where water has been found so far.

Lakshman Singh, one of the several researchers with the SNSS, says, “Our ancient texts have described the existence of the Saraswati, its relevance and the occurrences around its banks, including the Mahabharata war, which was fought on the banks of the river. Now science is proving them to be true as we modernise techniques to trace it.”

The SNSS plans to ask for a revival of the river Sarsuti, an abridged name of Saraswati, which is a channel that appears and vanishes within Kurukshetra district but is considered a remnant of the Vedic Saraswati.

The government plans to dig the channel all the way to Sirsa, where water from the Ghaggar River, believed to be the direct descendant of the Saraswati, will join it. The government also plans to introduce water into the channel from a reservoir barrage built on the Som River in the region, between Rasauli in Punjab and Yamunanagar in Haryana.

While the channel will eventually only be as big as a medium-sized nullah and not serve any major irrigation purpose, the BJP does not intend to let it remain just another channel. It is nothing less than the Saraswati, and public programmes to spread that message accompany the digging.

The central government has joined forces and announced that a Saraswati Research Institute will be set up at Mughalwali, apart from a museum which will showcase the mythological and historical records and other aspects of the Saraswati. The move was sanctioned by the union culture and tourism minister Mahesh Sharma after a meeting with Haryana chief minister Khattar in June this year. A grant of Rs 20 crore from the ministry under its Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive scheme has been sanctioned. It will be part of the Krishna Circuit and the government plans to develop more sites along the course of the river in the future.

The SNSS plans to organise large-scale havans at Mughalwali and every other place where ground water is found. The Haryana government plans to promote religious tourism in the state with the Saraswati as its mascot.

A senior official in the Haryana government’s tourism department based in Chandigarh, on the condition of anonymity, said, “We have already decided on ‘Sacred Saraswati’ as the tentative tag under which the tourism along this stretch and further down along the Ghaggar River will be promoted. Saraswati holds more importance than even the Ganga in our scriptures and it will be a big boost to tourism in the state if ghats for holy baths are built and developed along the Ghaggar in the future.”

The BJP is also promoting the importance of the mythical river among the farmers, who are a major vote bank and the intended beneficiaries of this project. At a meeting of various farmers’ unions from the state in Panipat in September, representatives from the BJP addressed the farmers, selling them the idea of abundant water supply for the state’s farming community when the project is finally culminated.

Lokender Dabas, one of the farmer leaders present at the meeting, said, “Our ancient texts put the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at par and all our hymns also call on us to worship all three equally. Apart from that if the project leads to discovery of vast underground resources of water, Haryana will grow much faster than today, just like the farming community in western UP along the Yamuna and Ganga has.”

While Haryana is largely a dry state, after the building of the Bhakhra Nangal dam and the intricate canal system which led to the green revolution in northern India in the 1960s, the state saw a rise in prosperity. In the past two decades, however, due to excessive use of ground water resources and tubewells for the water-intensive crops like wheat, sugarcane and rice the state has gone back to being increasingly dependent on the monsoon. A failed monsoon leads to failure of crops, especially in the southern districts like Mahendragarh, Bhiwani and Jhajjar.

A senior scientist of the Haryana ground water department, who opted out of the project, speaking on condition of anonymity, says it is a scheme that will eventually ruin the farmers since they will continue to use ground water excessively and injudiciously. “The focus has to be to promote rain water harvesting techniques and ideal farm practices rather than selling them a bogus idea that is highly unlikely to yield any results except a probable rise in tourism along some stretches, which has nothing to do with the farmer
in the first place.”

He claims that in some areas in the state, the ground water levels have gone down to 100 metres below the surface, which is similar to the situation in arid Rajasthan. “The canals are supporting them now but they will be under strain in the near future since neither the crop patterns have been diversified to accommodate crops that demand less water nor has any step been taken to rejuvenate the water supply through building of dams or reservoirs for bad monsoon years.”

Officials also say dams and large storage reservoirs are impossible to build now since land acquisition process is a big hindrance.


While the Saraswati project has got the attention of the government, it has been lax in protecting the Indus valley sites that were supposedly built along the banks of the Saraswati, most important of them being Rakhigarhi in Hisar district. After its discovery in the 1980s, the ASI carried out extensive excavations through the 1990s till 2000, establishing that the settlement was as old as those at Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, both in present-day Pakistan.

In a detailed report submitted last year, ex-director of the ASI who led the excavations till 2000, Amarendra Nath, pointed out that Rakhigarhi is the biggest Indus valley civilisation site ever discovered, spread over an area of almost 350 hectares making it bigger than both Harappa and Mohenjo Daro combined. This find also led to debates among historians and archaeologists from the mid-1990s onward that the Indus valley civilisation should be called Indus-Saraswati civilisation or simply the Saraswati civilisation.

While this fits the Hindutva narrative—that it was here that the Indus valley civilisation flourished before scattering to other places, including towards west in Sindh, Pakistan—the party does not seem to care about it at all. This is probably because it cannot be developed as a tourist site, nor can it be used to garner votes and appease people. After 2000, when a CBI case was filed regarding allegations of misappropriation of funds by the ASI, no government agency has carried out any work at the site.

Fences that had been erected by the ASI are long gone and cow dung cakes dot the large mounds where the site lies. During monsoons, when mud from the mounds is washed away, some artefacts get exposed. They are then carried away by villagers to be used as showpieces in their homes. Many of the mounds fall in the areas that are now farm lands and owned by villagers, from where too artefacts are recovered every year but not conserved.

Rakesh Kumar, a resident of the village, says, “Earlier the villagers used to collect them and hand them over to the officials who would visit for inspection or other work but now since nobody comes here, the villagers keep them at their houses. Some of them have even sold them for as little as Rs 50 to foreigners who come visiting sometimes.”

A popular  mythological belief is that Allahabad is the confluence of not two but three rivers, Saraswati being the third. Saraswati is also referred to as being as mighty as the universe in ancient texts, which some scientists say could mean that the third river simply signified the mythical universe. However, the Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga
Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti, has suggested that a detailed scientific search for the third river should be carried out in the plains of UP to search for the Saraswati in the state.

If this research is conducted and it succeeds, it would directly imply that the current projects in Haryana and Rajasthan are a colossal waste of money, since the river is found in UP.

K. S. Valdiya, senior scientist from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, has suggested a different geological explanation in his article published in the January 10, 2013 issue of Current Science. He says the frequent tectonic and seismic activities in the region from Jaisalmer to Mari in the southeast, which cuts across the Vedic Saraswati River, would have seen the region experience frequent earthquakes and underground displacements of huge land masses. This would in turn have caused the Saraswati River—assuming that it did exist along the path that scientists in Haryana and Rajasthan claim it did—to break course several times and disperse into different streams and smaller rivers. Valdiya argues it could have easily led to the Saraswati merging into the Yamuna, rendering the Haryana-Rajasthan region dry and arid.

The findings of a team of five experts—three from the Geological Survey of India (H. S. Saini, S. A. I. Mujtaba and R. K. Khorana) and one each from the University of Delhi (S. K. Tandon) and the Indian Institute of Technology (N. C. Pant)—published in the December 10, 2009 edition of Current Science, concluded that integrated drainage systems exist in the plains of Haryana. But the derelict landforms considered part of the lost Saraswati drainage, while matching with the time span of the Vedic Saraswati in Rajasthan and Haryana, have not been found to be connected.

There is no credible scientific evidence which supports the idea that the Saraswati is flowing underground, that its ancient path can be traced, and that it can be brought to life by digging borewells. The Saraswati projects of the Haryana and Rajasthan governments, aided by the Narendra Modi government, are on thin scientific ground.

In Hanoriya, preparations are in full swing to welcome the river. Mangat Ram, the priest, with the support of Jagat Singh, the headman, is organising prayers for Saraswati.

Singh has plans to organise a big havan to call upon the holy powers to rejuvenate the thirsty land. Mangat Ram sings away with a broken throat but nobody makes fun of his strange baritone anymore. They are all united in purpose: to see the Saraswati bless them again with its holy waters.

They are waiting for the miracle: for a borewell to be dug, and a river to be found.