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Chapter 5 Sarawati River

(Selected extracts from Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani, published by Penguin Books, India, ISBN 0-14- 024053 5

(Reference pages 307-314; 321-323; 515–517; 543-546 – from Return of the Aryans)


(1) Discovery of Saraswati River (6010 BCE) – The Love-Story of discoverer Brahmadasa, a Brahmachari

The Rig Veda, composed after 5000 BC, hardly mentions the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers. Ganga is mentioned twice only and Yamuna once in a late hymn. and, from this, many infer that the Rig Vedic people knew of the Ganga and Yamuna only vaguely; and that for them the rivers par excellence were the Sindhu and Saraswati, which is why these two rivers are mentioned repeatedly, respectfully and glowingly in the Rig Veda.

However, though Sindhu and Saraswati are prominent in the Rig Veda, and the Ganga or Yamuna are hardly mentioned, the inference that the Rig Vedic people ignored the Ganga and Yamuna or were mostly unaware of these two rivers, is not justified. The fact is that the people of the Sind had themselves visited the Ganga, well before 5000 BC, along with the great civilization that flourished around the Ganga. Why the Rig Veda virtually ignores the Ganga is attributable to the fact that this most ancient literature in the world arose not in one single mighty sweep in the mind of a single author, but also included a compilation of some pre-ancient Memory songs, sung for thousands of years. The earliest Memory songs of the Hindus were naturally about their home ground, which began with the region of Sind, thence to Punjab, and thereafter to the region between the Sindhu and Saraswati rivers, which they regarded as the holiest of holy grounds – Brahmadesa.

Nandan, the 21st Karkarta (the elected supreme chief of the Sindhu clan) knew that with population growth, improved farming techniques and larger cattle herds, the need for more land had grown; and this had served as a lure for many from Sind to extend their settlements to Punjab and northwards. To the east, however along the Saraswati river, people moved not for land, but as pilgrims.

Nandan proudly recalled that the Saraswati river was discovered by his own ancestor, Brahmadasa, some nine hundred years earlier [6010 BC]. Brahmadasa was the direct ancestor of the eighth Karkarta, whose son married Kunita, daughter of Devi Leilama, who herself became the ninth Karkarta in 5333 BCE.

Brahmadasa, at the age of eighteen, became a disciple of Rishi Vaswana. He had no ambitions except to seek spiritual enlightenment and to remain a lifelong brahmachari (student; with celibacy and chastity).

Suddenly, after eight years he felt his spiritual strength deserting him. The Rishi’s daughter, who came to the ashram every year for a fortnight in spring, became the centre of his day-dreams.

Rishi Vaswana’s daughter was ten years old when Brahmadasa saw her for the first time at the ashram. She knew neither shyness nor fear then, and would chatter incessantly. Her father would sometimes speak to her sternly, but she could melt him with a smile. Every time she came, she brought home-cooked food and sweets for her father and his disciples. She became quieter as she grew older but she always had a merry smile for Brahmadasa, possibly in remembrance of their first meeting.

Brahmadasa had been at the ashram for only a month when she startled him by jumping from the tree under which he was praying. Before he could ask her who she was, she demanded to know why he was sitting under her tree. In a daze he tried to leave but she asked him sternly how he could leave without completing his prayers. She then ran off but soon returned with sweets. Quietly, he ate at the command of this wild girl who had tumbled down from the trees and at last asked who she was. She feigned surprise and said, ‘Surely you know, your father and mine are one!’ She was right in a way; she was the natural daughter of the Rishi, who was also his spiritual father. And, it was common to so regard the guru. But he understood nothing.

Later Brahmadasa laughed as heartily as the other disciples in the ashram. Older disciples cautioned him against sitting again under the tree as the Rishi’s little daughter had claimed rights over it because when she was a child her father had jokingly told her that she was born from that tree. Also, it was near the duck-pond and she would sit under it to feed the ducks flocking around her. True enough, when he had sat under the tree, the ducks had waddled out of the pond but soon trooped back, apparently disappointed to see him instead. Poets tell us that a bond developed between Brahmadasa and the little girl as he took on the task of feeding the ducks.

As Brahmadasa meditated on love’s ecstasy, a feeling of inconsolable woe soon overtook him. He knew that he would be unable to pronounce to her the words in his heart. In his soul was the cry of despair that men feel when they are startled by their inner weakness.

He had come to the ashram for enlightenment, to be away from turmoil, lust and attachment – as a Bbrahmachari for life. Even if he lived to be a hundred, he wanted to see nothing of the earth beyond the tall, dark trees that enclosed the ashram. Why was he then being drawn by some strange, irresistible force? Why was he the prisoner of a destiny unknown?

All night, Brahmadasa would toss and turn restlessly. When at last he slept, he saw Rishi’s daughter in his dreams and the naked body of his dreams merged with himself, as together they went on an enchanted journey. But he would immediately wake up, tormented with the question – What can I offer her? Nothing but pain and anguish.

Brahmadasa went about his duties listlessly. When he sat for his usual meditation, he could not concentrate and feared that God was not in his heart. God’s place had been taken by another.

He saw the Rishi’s daughter coming in his direction. She did not speak to him. Her usual greeting was missing. Her perpetual smile was not there. She simply gazed at him mysteriously, as if she too were guarding a secret. He had the intense desire to confess his love to her, to hold her in his arms, but he controlled himself.

Brahmadasa feared that he had fallen from grace. He counted his sins He had violated his vow of Brahmacharya for he discerned no purity as he contemplated her nearness to him. Also, had he not contemplated violating her vow as well? Everyone knew that the running battle between the girl and her mother was finally over and she was at last permitted to join her father’s ashram, as a devotee, from her eighteenth birthday, instead of merely visiting it each year. Worst of all, he had allowed the shadow of his unholy desires to fall on a girl whom he and every disciple addressed as ‘sister’, for she was the daughter of the Rishi – their spiritual father. Was it not then moral incest that he contemplated!

Brahmadasa felt he had committed a revolting outrage against his conscience and against the Rishi’s ashram. He, by his evil desires, had violated its nobler code and soiled its purity.

At the dead of night, Brahmadasa left the ashram. No one can explain why he took the route to the vast desert. Maybe, because every other route led to human habitation and he wanted to be alone with his sorrow in the barren, endless desert. Poets simply speak of his going on and on, plodding wearily, day after day, and no one explains what he lived on in a desert that was known to have no edible plants, only thorny bushes and poisonous snakes.

In fact, little is known of his journey except that poets at times speak of sandstorms that propelled him forward, or even blocked his path, whirling around him with violent ferocity and accumulated force. But then, the storms raging in his heart were far more terrible.

Brahmadasa did not know where he was going but he continued.

Suddenly, the storms around him subsided, the wind was calm and yet he heard thundering noise ahead, as if two hurricanes were battering at each other. He gazed ahead. He could not see the setting sun. Its view was blocked and it seemed to him that the howling winds had formed themselves into a solid mass of white sheets rising in the sky. He ran forward, his body feverish but his mind glowing in hope. Surely, this was to be release at last – the end of his journey on earth – the end of his life itself. What else could it be in the midst of those battling storms with winds that rose like pure white metal, shimmering in the flame-coloured light of the setting sun!

As he ran, drops of water fell on his head. He looked at the immeasurable sky above. It was clear, cloudless, with no hope of rain. He felt blessed. He knew of the custom of sprinkling Sindhu water in the last moments of a person’s life. Now it seemed that someone was looking down from the heavens above and sprinkling drops of auspicious water on him.

The cry in his heart was stilled. He felt forgiven. The vision of the girl he had left behind rose before him. He could see her smiling. They embraced each other – for the past and the future.

He raced forward to meet what he thought were battling storms, to end his life. Here, the poet criticizes Brahmadasa to say :

‘Whatever your innermost strife

By what right can you end a life?

How can you decide its time

Except for a cause – exalted, sublime!’

Tirelessly, the poet explains that escape or penance is not a ‘cause – exalted, sublime’ and does not justify ending a life. But then he breaks out in joy to say that heavenly grace saved Brahmadasa.

Brahmadasa felt dazed as he strode above the sand dune to watch the dazzling sight below.

It was magical place where two rivers met. Brahmadasa had never seen a confluence of rivers before. He watched it fascinated.

Later he would learn that one of these two rivers was the same Sindhu which flowed through his own land. The second river came from elsewhere and would later be known as Saraswati.

The continuous roar he had heard was not of storms locked in battle. It came from the waters of the two rivers – Sindhu and Saraswati – as they rushed headlong to greet each other; and as they met, sprays of water rose high in the air – and then the waters of the two rivers joined together and in their immensity flowed as one single river.

No one knows how long Brahmadasa stood there, transfixed, gazing in awe at this confluence. He saw birds of various plumage swooping down but could not discern that they were out to catch the small fish leaping out as the result of the two rivers rushing towards each other. Nor did he see, in the distance beyond, the tall majestic trees, plants and flowers that the two rivers nourished.

Slowly, he moved, as though in a trance, towards the confluence. I shall, he thought, drift into eternity as the waters cover me softly, gently invisibly. Drowsiness flooded his ravaged body as the waters leapt over him. He felt a moment of complete peace as never before.

Then as he lay in the water, contentedly, to die, it seemed as though another voice came to him, louder than the call of self-surrender, and he rose, refreshed from the cold waters, with the desire to live and love.

On the bank, he meditated. The gods, it seemed agreed that there was no sin in his love for the girl he had left behind.

Brahmadasa opened his eyes. Instead of the assembly of gods that he expected to see, all that faced him was a lone swan in the river. He smiled wondering how long ago it was that he had last smiled!

There and then Brahmadasa decided to renounce the Brahmacharya oath and ask the Rishi for his daughter’s hand. But he was too weak to travel.

That night, he slept under the stars with the sweet anticipation of happiness. He woke up refreshed and saw the waters glistening in the first rays of the sun. The swan was there. He greeted her cheerfully, ‘Good morning, fair lady, are you also as lonely and lost as I was?’ It seemed to him that the swan nodded in agreement.

The poet here also explains that it is possible to see a swan without goddess Saraswati riding on her, but impossible ever to see the goddess without the swan, who serves as her chariot.

The poet further describes Saraswati as the goddess of learning, art and music, always beautiful, fair and young, with a musical instrument in her hand, worshipped by students, artists and musicians and loved ardently by her consort, god Brahma. The goddess has no swan as her favourite, as in each swan’s life was a promise that at least once, the goddess would ride on it. Constantly therefore, Saraswati is on the move except when she holds classes in heaven to spread learning among the gods; and it is said that god Brahma called upon all the gods to attend those classes so that they may ‘learn more and brag less’, and Brahma himself attended those classes, though cautiously the poet adds, ‘but that must be to see that various gods do attend, and not so much to learn, for surely all was revealed to Brahma – was it not?’

Thus goddess Saraswati then had a role of high importance. Later Vedic literature, even after the Rig Veda, maintains her greatness but does not assign to her the importance that she enjoyed around 6000 BCE.

Brahmadasa’s cheerful mood did not last. Clouds came. The swan flew away. The sky looked gloomy and threatened rain. The grief which was allayed for a while returned to wrench his heart as he remembered that the Rishi’s daughter was herself to take the vow of Brahmacharya on her eighteenth birthday – and that day he knew had past while he had been in the wilderness of the desert. How could he now claim her hand!

With despair, he realized he had nowhere to go. He remained there for days, weeks …… The nearby plants and trees with their fruits gave sustenance to his body. His spirit, however, was beyond healing. The birds flew overhead, heedless of him and his grief. His sole, silent companion was the swan who came to sit in the water opposite him. Even when he moved along the river and chose a different spot to sit, the swan would fly to take to take her position in front of him. She knows my sorrow, he thought, or perhaps I should know hers – and he wondered, has she too lost her loved one? Has she been passed over by goddess Saraswati? Often he forgot his sorrow and prayed for the swan and, in his day–dreams, he saw goddess Saraswati riding on her, but the face and figure that the goddess assumed was of the Rishi’s daughter. He spoke to the swan, talked to himself and knew that he was raving, going mad, out in the open, under the hot sun and chill winds of the desert nights. But even in the blaze of the sun, he would not go far but wanted to remain close to the swan; and in the evening when the swan flew away, he remained there, for he did not know how to build a fire to protect himself from the cold.

Then came a miserable, desolate morning when the swan did not appear. He scanned the skies and the far horizon, but she was nowhere to be seen. She did not appear for the next few days, while he sat staring into empty space in despair.

Brahmadasa kept peering into the sunlit sky, vainly trying to catch a glimpse of the swan. He had a fever, racked by mental anguish and pain He fainted.

It was there at the confluence of the Sindhu and Saraswati rivers, that Rishi Vaswana and his daughter found Brahmadasa.

Nobody knows how Rishi Vaswana came to search for him in the desert. It may be that a disciple or even the Rishi himself saw Brahmadasa take the desert route. It was not uncommon for the Rishi and his disciples to continue their meditation through the night.

The fact however is that Brahmadasa’s sudden disappearance had surprised the ashram. The Rishi himself was philosophic – ‘Who knows when and where the spirit moves you and to what blissful consequence!’ He was certain that Brahmadasa had left to follow his own bliss.

Even later, when the Rishi’s daughter said that she would not embrace Bbrahmacharaya, her father only mildly wondered how his daughter had suddenly become so obedient to her mother’s wishes and agreed to lead a normal householder’s life. The Rishi too was not keen on his daughter following the Brahmacharya but had no wish to stand in the way of her quest for bliss.

Rishi Vaswana had married when he was eighteen years old. The call of the forest came to him when he was twenty-two. He was childless. He promised his wife that he would not lead the hermit’s life exclusively, until he gave her a child. It is said that while most women prayed for children, his wife’s prayer was to remain childless. Meanwhile, the Rishi alternated as a householder and a hermit. Years passed and at last a daughter was born to her.

Vaswana retired to the forest as a hermit after the birth of his daughter. Later, he set up an ashram and came to be renowned as a Rishi. He regarded Brahmacharya with asceticism and meditation as only one of the many paths leading to grace and he realized that this path too was littered with pitfalls. So he was quite unconcerned – even glad – that his daughter had at last decided to follow her mother’s advice to forget about life in the Ashram.

But what did attract the Rishi’s notice was the look of anxiety and torment in her eyes. At night when the Rishi heard her sobbing into her pillow, he went to comfort her. The secret was out. She told him all.

The next day, the Rishi left the ashram with his daughter. He did not go immediately to the desert but to a village to meet the explorer Kripala who was famous for having developed the exquisite wine Soma. Kripala was known to have great respect for the Rishi. The explorer was unable to join the expedition to the desert in search of Brahmadasa but he placed at the Rishi’s disposal, men, materials, equipment and animals for the journey.

The wind howled in the desert and all visible space was filled with grey sand, but Rishi, his daughter and those accompanying them went on, now to the right, now to the left, and the Rishi often thought of abandoning his search, but when he saw his daughter’s despairing look, he continued. They finally reached the spot where the sound and spray of the confluence of the rivers could be heard and seen. Undeterred, the Rishi and his daughter went on, though the rest of the party halted. They reached the spot where Brahmadasa had fallen.

Brahmadasa opened his eyes to find himself on a bed of dry grass with a fire glowing nearby, a tent above his head, and the Rishi’s daughter by his side. He was sure he was in some heavenly realm.

When Brahmadasa regained his senses and saw the Rishi ministering to him, fear entered his heart. But the Rishi reassured him: nothing should hinder you from loving each other; there was no reason to be ashamed of your feelings. Why should a man live without love when the gods themselves cannot! Has anyone heard of a god without his consort?

There and then, the Rishi decided that the two should exchange marriage vows though the formal ceremony could only take place when the Rishi’s wife was present.

Brahmadasa begged that the marriage vows be exchanged by the side of the river. The swan, he feared, would not be there; even so, she had been his sole companion in his misery and isolation and he wanted to be near his favourite spot to exchange the vows. But now, the poet’s voice rings out in joy as he sings, ‘But the swan was there! She was there!’

Other poets doubt goddess Saraswati’s presence, though there are those who ask, ‘Why else would Rishi Vaswana kneel except that he saw the goddess on the swan’s back?’ But there was every reason for the Rishi to kneel. To him, the river itself was holy and auspicious.

With reverence and homage, then the river, associated as it was with the swan and its goddess, inevitably came to be known as Saraswati; and to the people of Sindhu, it was as auspicious and sacred as Sindhu itself.

After the discovery of the Saraswati river by Brahmadasa, many criticized explorer Kripala who is celebrated for developing Soma wine, for his earlier failure to survey the desert and discover Saraswati River. However, it was widely rumored that it was Kripala’s Soma wine which brought Brahmadasa back to life and so his stock was high with some. Brahmadasa’s condition when the Rishi and his daughter found him was said to be critical and yet a few sips of Kripala’s Soma revived him. ( Note: For explorer Kripala’s story, Please see theme No. 6 published by AIS or Bhagwan S.Gidwani’s ‘Return of the Aryans’ pages 317-324)

Even so, Kripala’s own feelings of guilt over his failure to survey the desert earlier were immense. To redeem himself, he built rest-houses and ashrams, all the way to the confluence, for rishis and poets.

Rishi Vaswana’s daughter and Brahmadasa would not part from the river. Here again, a poet says that at their marriage ceremony there, he saw a vision of goddess Saraswati sitting on the swan’s back. A later poet disputes this and asks, ‘How could goddess Saraswati be present at the wedding of another, when she was not present even at her own wedding!’ This remark about goddess Saraswati’s absence at her own wedding was simply a myth voiced by Poetess Damayani that at times the gods were found wanting in some elements of grace, learning and wisdom, so much so that the goddesses declined to attend their own weddings and it was only when such gods, through meditation, yoga and a sacrifice of the ego, reached a level of acceptability, that the goddess chosen for them came forward to consummate the marriage. Poetess Damayani named goddess Saraswati as on of those who absented herself from her wedding with Brahma and her poem describes Brahma’s sorrow and solitude, until at last he perfected himself, and only then did goddess Saraswati accept him as her consort. But then Damayani’s poems were all like that – and she always wanted to prove that a goddess was superior to her consort, and a woman to a man.

Kripala went ahead, building more ashrams for rishis and poets on the route to the confluence of Sindhu and Saraswati. Also, he had a passageway dug for streams to flow from rivers, creeping deep into the desert, to form man-made lakes to serve the ashrams he built there. Small, scattered oases sprang up in the desert and greenery lined itself along the waterways.

Was it simply due to his feelings of guilt, or even devotion to Saraswati river that Kripala went to such lengths? Some say Kripala made another astounding discovery. His Soma mushroom fields began from the border of the desert; and as he extended his fields deeper, away from the desert, he found to his dismay that something, somehow was missing in the aroma of his Soma wines. It was then that he realized that it was the desert air blowing over his plants that lent the final, lasting touch of grace and charm to his Soma.. Kripala then chose to extend his Soma fields into the desert, by careful plantation, soil–treatement and man-made lakes and streams, along ashrams that he provided for the Rishis!

Kripala hoped that the region between Sindhu and Saraswati which he nourished and nurtured would be known as Kripala desa (land of Kripala) or Soma desa (land of Soma – to celebrate his wine and the name of his wife, Soma Devi). But people are fickle and the region began to be called ‘Brahmadasa desa’ (land of Brahmadasa); and since this was a tongue-twister, they simply called it ‘Brahmadesa’.

Saraswati river is now no more – having lost itself in the desert of Rajasthan. In Kripala’s times, if flowed broad and strong, joining the Sindhu river well below the confluence of the Sutlej. Many have sought to criticize Kripala for being the first to dig out several streams and man-made lakes to flow from that river. Similarly, in later centuries, Karkarta Nandan (21st elected supreme Chief of the Sindhu clan of Sanatan Dharma) has also been criticized for developing congregation of twisted streams from the Saraswati river in order to irrigate the desert. Criticism against Kripala and Nandan is based on the belief that they, amongst others, were responsible for drying up the Saraswati. But the criticism is unjust, for Saraswati river flowed thousands of years after that and has been celebrated in the Rig Veda as one of the most sacred rivers, along with the Sindhu, even though the Yamuna and Ganga are hardly mentioned.

(2) Discovery of source of Ganga & Saraswati Rivers; Confluence (sangam) of Saraswati, Ganga, Yamuna at Prayaga.

While the people of Sindhu Region were the first to discover the confluence of Sindhu and Saraswati with both rivers flowing together, as one, to the Sindhu Sea (now known as the Arabian Sea), the people of the Ganga Region have the credit for being the first to discover the source of Ganga and Saraswati and also the confluence (sangam) of Saraswati, Ganga and Yamuna at Prayaga.

The Supreme leader of the Ganga Region was popularly known as Gangapati. The First Gangapati, before he assumed that title, was actually a visitor to the Ganga region but as the result of his extraordinary and selfless services for the people of Ganga and protecting them against external enemies and invaders, he became their leader. He went by the name of Brahmadatta (not to be confused with Brahmadasa who was the first to discover Saraswati river and whose story is narrated in the section above – unfortunately, this similarity in names has caused a great deal of confusion amongst poets of that and the later era who have sought to recite the history of the ganga region).

Brahmadatta and his wife Kashi were wandering in the Himalayas. No one knows what catastrophe or curiosity drove them there. But they are known to be the first to witness the glacial ice-cave at an altitude of 12,770 feet in the Himalayas, which later would come to be known as Gai-mukh (the mouth of the cow). From the belly of that ice-cave flowed two torrential streams, crashing against each other and throwing up their foam, white as milk, and thence parting, each rushing in a different direction. Brahmadatta and his wife chose to follow the path of one of the two streams. They did not know then that it was the Ganga River itself, for initially it appeared like any other mountain stream, no more than 20 angulas ( approximately, 40 cm or 15 inches).

They simply called it Kshira-subhra (white as milk), as that seemed to be the colour of this rushing icy stream. The other stream, which they did not follow, turned out to be Saraswati.

A later poet says that both the Ganga and Saraswati rivers flowed from the nipples of the same divine cow in the glacial ice-cave in the central Himalayas and thereafter each followed a different course to sustain life along its route, but Saraswati later went underground, and somehow that occurred at about the same time as the tribals began sacrificing bulls and eating their flesh.

Slowly and painfully, through trackless passes, formidable peaks and deep gorges, Brahmadatta and his wife followed the course of the river and at last they reached the plains where the Ganga finally breaks through the last outriders of the Himalayas to enter the plains at Hari Hara Dwara (home of the gods Vishnu and Shiva) now known as Haridwar (map reference : 29.52n; 78.10e). According to Brahmadatta’s reckoning, they traveled only 60 yojnas or 300 miles from Gai-mukh to Haridwar (including detours where the terrain was impossible) – but the journey took them nearly a year. All along the way, they met no one; but at Haridwar, suddenly, they saw a number of people along the riverbank.

People viewed Brahmadatta with caution as he limped slowly towards them, carrying his wife on his shoulders. Obviously, he was an outsider with his garb of animal-skins, a wild look in his eyes and his strange way of speaking; but some of his words were familiar though he spoke with an atrocious accent and pronunciation. However, obviously, he meant no harm and needed rest for himself and his wife. The husband and wife were fed, their wounds washed and a hut given to them to rest in. Later, neither his strange speech, nor his wild appearance nor anything else mattered, once the people of Ganga learnt that he had witnessed the source of their holy river. He drew for them sketches of the glacier and the icy cave and described vividly the two milky-white streams, one of which was their Ganga. In those sketches, people clearly saw figures of the divine cow from whose nipples flowed the two milky rivers – Ganga and Saraswati.

Brahmadatta led an expedition down the Ganga from Hari Hara Dwara. It was not an uneventful journey as they crossed exciting rapids and waterfalls in the lovely though lonely country. Sudden attacks came from tribesmen hidden behind dense groves of reeds and grass. Fortunately, the attacks were ill-organized and Brahmadatta’s contingent suffered no mishaps other than minor injuries. The attackers belonged to new tribes, which had moved in to displace the earlier inhabitants and seemed unconnected with the original inhabitants of Hari Hara Dwara or the First Tribe. Many attackers were caught and they did not even understand their language. They were sullen, under-nourished, wretchedly emaciated, but initially refused gifts from Brahmadatta.

Cautiously, Brahmadatta’s contingent moved, day after day, fighting through sixteen skirmishes on the way – none of them serious except for those who attacked them.

Suddenly, they stopped and looked about in wonder, as if seeing the earth for the first time. There was not just one river. There were three! Here was the milky white Ganga river they had been following! Here was another river, blue, glistening with flakes of silver in the brilliant light of the sun! And here was yet another, shimmering like gold! Where did they come from? Did they rise up, unseen, form the earth!

They walked slowly, as though in a trance. But the spell was broken when they heard a roar. Another attack? They readied themselves to meet the enemy. But there was no threat. It was the ‘sangam’ (confluence) of the three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. And they saw the Yamuna, a river of blue water, becoming one with the Ganga, as they both flowed together, united and strong; while Saraswati, the river with ripples of gold, rushed through to chart a separate course, as though it came simply to embrace the two rivers and also say farewell at the same moment ( a later poet had this to say of Saraswati river at the confluence ‘Saraswati, impetuous as always, rushed headlong through the confluence, as though to meet and part in the same single moment; and it greeted and was gone in one breathless heartbeat, leaving a little of its waters behind, but taking no less from the Ganga and Yamuna to flow through Brahmadesa, and thence flow on, in Sindhu’s embrace, far away to its own sea – The Sindhu sea ’).

They watched fascinated the picturesque dance of colours as the three rivers met to rise in a foam of pure white.

They gazed at the Sangam in silence. There was no need for words. It was as though the waters spoke in the language of the sky.

(Some poets assert that while sangam is a popular word for a confluence of rivers, this particular confluence was called Sangayam, to represent the meeting of Saraswati (sa), Ganga (ga) and Yamuma (yam).

Slowly, they moved to bathe in the waters of the Sangam.

But then suddenly, viciously, came an attack from the riverbank. Brahmadatta’s shout rose to call his men to arms. Lifting Kashi, he rushed to the bank, followed by his people, while arrows flew around. But the attackers did not remain to fight. They ran.

Casualties? Gargi’s arm was bruised from an arrow; eighteen men of Hari Hara Dwara were injured, but only slightly. Kauru alone, with three arrows in his chest, died in the waters of the Sangam itself. He smiled. He pleaded that they not move him away from the Sangam, but only help him to remain afloat. They held him and saw around him a colour that was not in the Sangam earlier – the red colour of his blood. He was looking at the immeasurable, impassive sky. Above him, a dark cloud moved. He smiled. Then there was stillness and peace. He was dead.

And many wondered over Kashi’s words about Kauru – ‘He died sinless – always sinless.’ Imagine calling a man like Kauru ‘sinless’! He who was well known as a scoundrel and a slanderer of innocent, blameless women. But, the poets said Kashi was right – and they began to convince themselves that he who dies at the auspicious Sangam, ‘sinless he is and sinless he always was,’ because ‘Sangam is the source of redemption,’….. .. ‘be it a million of his births and billion of his sins, Sangam washes them all,’ ‘there is pardon for all faults, and attainment of mukta (Salvation) if one breathes his last at Sangam,’ ‘if sinless you are at the moment of death, does it not stand to reason that sinless you always were!’

Thus Kashi’s characterization of Kauru as ‘always sinless’, when he died at the Sangam, encouraged many in later generations, to believe that all their sins would be washed away if they died at the Sangam. But perhaps all she meant was that he was in God’s realm and it is not for us on earth to count his sins, for judgment belongs to Another. Or it may be, she thought, that he died with the clan and for the clan; that if he had not been there, the arrows aimed for him would have found another, worthier target and therefore all his past was forgiven to him for this final sacrifice.

Sangam or Sangayam – where Saraswati, Ganga and Yamuna meet – came also to be know as Prayaga or the place for sacrifice – as Kauru lost his life there and nineteen people were wounded; pra signifies extensiveness or excellence; yaga means sacrifice. A later poet ridicules the idea that so small a sacrifice should be considered ‘extensive’ or ‘excellent’. But then, life was not so cheap in Brahmadatta’s times and battles did not involve so many injuries and deaths. Incidentally, later, with the emergence of foreign tribes, Prayaga was often polluted with the sacrifices of animals, including magnificent horses. But people of Brahmadatta’s time, totally unfamiliar with such ‘blood sacrifices’, would have regarded them as inauspicious, inhuman and ungodly. Presently Prayaga is known as Allahabad (place of Allah or God) in Uttar Pradesh, India – map reference : 25.27n; 81.50e.

Brahmadatta, moved by Kauru’s death and the injuries of the others, swore that he would make the route from Hari Hara Dwara to the Sangam so safe that even ‘our dogs shall walk unmolested from tribal arrows and assaults. Enough have we sacrificed already!’

Brahmadatta’s return journey to Hari Hara Dwara was less perilous with only seven skirmishes and no casualties.

Everyone in Hari Hara Dwara heard of the enchanted, magical Sangam, and everyone sought to rush towards it. But they held back, as they also heard stories of the perils and bloodshed en route, magnified a hundred fold by those who had returned. How then did it cost only a single life and minor injuries? Many wondered, but a legend was already growing around Brahmadatta, and people told stories of him as they tell stories of legendary heroes – how he deflects enemy arrows to render them harmless – how unerringly he took his people to Sangam – how his followers could come to no harm! But there were questions. How could he not protect Kauru? Kauru! Do you not recall Kauru’s insult to his wife Kashi! But Kashi had forgiven the insult. So what – why would her husband forgive? Yet did he not show consideration to Kauru by making him sinless? No, Kashi did that. Nonsense! Does Kashi speak with a voice different from her husband’s?

But the questions ceased and so the answers were unnecessary, as they all heard Brahmadatta’s grim resolve to clear the route to Prayaga (Sangam).

Truly, they realized, he was inspired. Many volunteered to assist Brahmadatta. None, he ordered, should leave for Prayaga until the route was cleared. This was for their protection but maybe what he wanted was their single-minded attention in clearing the route, not only of hostile tribes but also of rocks and boulders; to level the terrain, make tracks for men, mules and horses to pass; to build rope-bridges and even to plant trees.

Only one man defied his order and moved to Sangam on his own. It was Tirathada. He glared at Brahmadatta who let him pass with the traditional blessing – ‘Go with God’. Later, Tirathada was not found at Sangam. For two decades no one knew where he was. Many were convinced that he died for his defiance of Brahmadatta’s order. But then, he was seen at last near Ganga Sagar, in the Bay of Bengal where the Ganga divides herself into several streams – some said 108 though now there are fewer – to complete her incredible 1,560 mile journey. But then it was also said that Tirathada left not in defiance of Brahmadatta but with his blessing to chart the path that the people of Ganga were to follow.

Thousands worked for Brahmadatta to clear the path to the auspicious spot where the waters of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati mingled, ‘with more colours then seen in the rainbow, as though diamonds and sapphires, rubies and emeralds and threads of gold and silver dance to meet the sunlight as it breaks into myriad hues and tints, passing through each drop of water.’

The route from Hari Hara Dwara to Sangam became safe, secure and free from hostile attacks. Poets do not speak of the cruelty of Barhmadatta’s men as such, though they speak of how Kashi moved ‘with a compassion that knew no bounds, to wipe a tear from every eye, for she said that these too were the children of Ganga and the hostiles were hostile no more, bubbling with friendship and fellow feeling, except when Brahmadatta was around; and to him they bowed, in remembrance of their fear of him, and they called him, Gangapati (Protector of Ganga).’

Note: For more information about the Ganga civilization in the Pre-Vedic era from 6,000 BCE along with their relationship with the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization, as also details of the story of Gangapati Brahmadatta and his wife Kashi and their descendants who reigned as the Supreme leaders of the Ganga Region, please see the following Chapters from Bhagwan S. Gidwani’s Return of the Aryans:

• Ganga Mai- from page 515

• Tears and Triumphs at Gangafrom page 585

• Visitors to Ganga-from page 599

• Mahapati-from page 611

• Ganga and Sindhufom page 677