About 25-30 km from Haryana’s Kurukshetra, where the epic Mahabharata battle is supposed to have been fought, Darshan Lal Jain says he has found the Saraswati river. “There is no doubt that the stream of water which came gushing out of the earth during excavation in Mughlawali, Yamuna Nagar, is the water of Saraswati river which is supposed to have disappeared thousands of years back,” he asserts.
“I believe in Hindu mythology,” he tells TEHELKA, lest anybody doubts that he is among the believers rather than the scientists. “For more than the last 25 years, I have been struggling to make people believe that the Saraswati river flowed through this area in olden times.” The river has for long been variously described as mythical, ‘disappeared’, underground or dried up.
Jain’s time may well have come, as did Dinanath Batra’s when the BJP government came to power at the Centre. With its belief that ancient India holds the key to Hindu nationalist pride, the regime might give Jain’s finding the stamp of authority. Scientific evidence, of course, can wait.
“I initiated a campaign with Padma Shree VK Vakankar in 1987,” he says. “In order to bolster my crusade, I formed the Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan in 1999. I believe that the so-called ‘mythical Sarawati’ is no myth, but a reality. The stream of water which came gushing out of the land in Yamunanagar district on 5 May this year is the water of the Saraswati, which used to flow from here,” says Jain who was a former sarsanghchalak of the Haryana branch of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
It may be recalled that Dinanath Batra, retired school teacher and RSS Pracharak, had on 30 May 2001 served a legal notice to Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi for passing a resolution at its plenary session that he said was defamatory towards Vidya Bharati schools. Batra’s objection was to the statement that textbooks used by Vidya Bharati promoted violence towards minorities, justified the caste system, sati and child marriage as being a part of Indian culture, and contained superstitions and concocted facts inimical to scientific temper.
In 2006, Batra filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), raising some objections about the contents of secondary school social science and history textbooks. Some objections were based on the argument that Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh and Bal Gangadhar Tilak had been incorrectly described as “militants”.
He had his first taste of success on 15 May 2007, when he got Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to remove sex education from the state curriculum. According to Batra, the books offended Indian values. At his suggestion, yoga was to be added to the curriculum instead. This action found wide condemnation. S Anandhi, a scholar on gender issues, expressed her anguish that a tool that could prevent child sexual abuse and control the spread of HIV/AIDS was being prohibited.
Undeterred, Batra wrote a letter on behalf of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti which stated that teachers who followed the sex education curriculum could be jailed for two years on the charge of outraging the modesty of a woman or dishonouring a person.
With such a precedent as encouragement, Jain is going full speed ahead with his plans. He says, “Temples have already been built in Adi Badri for the people to come and see the Saraswati river and to worship. Very soon, the locals would renovate the dharamsala for visitors and tourists who will come from thousands of kilometres away to see the river.”
The area’s keenness to claim the river named after the goddess who is part of the reigning trinity — along with Lakshmi and Parvati — is understandable. “Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and nature. These three helped the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in the creation of the universe,” the locals are quick to point out.
Regardless of the truth behind his claims, the authorities are gearing up to seize upon this opportunity to boost tourist inflows. The small state is renowned for having built tourist attractions where none existed before. A reliable government source from Haryana says, “Future plans involve the government and the locals planning to build up temples along the banks of the Saraswati River. This will help increase tourism in Haryana.”
On a visit to the spot, TEHELKA was told the earth was being dug up since 21 April at Rohlaveri village and Mughlawali. Suddenly on the morning of 5 May, fresh water was found while digging at a depth of 7-8 feet. Word spread quickly that the river, which was ‘lost’ thousands of years back has now been found. This brought a flood of ministers, outsiders and locals to the excavation site to see the miracle themselves.
In March 2015, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced a sum of Rs 50 crore for the whole project, though the administration has yet to find the funds. The BJP government which is in power in the state – a happy circumstance for Jain — announced the excavation of Saraswati River under the MGNREGA scheme from Adi Badri, the point from which it is said to have originated (udgam sthal). TEHELKA found the excavation and digging work extending from Adi Bari to Rohlaheri (Bilaspur tehsil) and on to Uncha Chandna (Mustafabad sub-tehsil) — a distance of more than 15 km. More than 200 families have been working on the project.
Local people credit Jain for this. “The excavation work for the search of the river was initiated thanks to Darshan Lal’s efforts. He circulated a book Saraswati Darshan among the local people.”
In this atmosphere, it would be difficult to convince anyone of the evidence contained in some documents that were revealed after an rti query. They state clearly: “No satellite imagery, no geological survey by national body was conducted. The Haryana government’s hunt for the mythical Saraswati river is based on the primary level survey conducted by District Development Panchayat Office (DDPO) and revenue records dating back to the 16th century.”
According to these documents, there are no such reports from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Geological Survey of India (GSI) relating to Yamunanagar.