Sunday, April 28, 2024

Invaders of the land of seven Rivers - Chapter 1


1. The land of Saptasindhavah (सप्तसिन्धवः)


Since the dawn of civilization, the mighty Himalayas have always protected the people living in Indian sub-continent, not only from natural phenomena like sandstorms originating on central Asia plains or blistering arctic cold winds or great floodwaters sweeping the north Indian plains,  that could have created existential problems for the early settlers. The unscalable peaks and ranges of world’s tallest mountain also prevented the barbaric wild Asian steppe hordes, attacking and destroying the inhabitations, including cities and towns of subcontinent, the way they did in China and east Europe.

Yet, in spite of this guardian angel, protecting our borders, wild hordes of invaders and intruders, cruel and murderous tribesmen, monarchs, brave warriors with monarchy aspirations and people who themselves were pushed out from their country, found routes that circumambulated  the vast mountain ranges and enter the sub-continent over last two millennia. These intruders and their barbaric armies, created a profound impact on the culture of the sub-continent that had evolved over last five or more millennia, starting from Sindhu-Sarswati Civilization, the Vedic era, Buddhist ideas and finally the Sanatan Dharma. Some of the early intruders adopted to native religions, but some imposed their own religious doctrines, creating a great divisive force that continues to torment the sub-continent, even today.  

It so happens that the most profound impact of the intruders took place in a geographical area of the subcontinent, where Sindhu-Sarswati civilization once flourished five or more millennia ago. This land could be rightly called as the heart or core of the sub-continent culture. This region, in the northwest corner of the sub-continent, is none other than the land of seven rivers or Saptasindhavah (सप्तसिन्धवः) of the Vedas.  

In the oldest Veda or Rigveda, the sage Angirasa, while offering oblation to Sun God ‘Savita” describes him as,
अ॒ष्टौ व्य॑ख्यत्क॒कुभः॑ पृथि॒व्यास्त्री धन्व॒ योज॑ना स॒प्त सिन्धू॑न् । हि॒र॒ण्या॒क्षः स॑वि॒ता दे॒व आगा॒द्दध॒द्रत्ना॑ दा॒शुषे॒ वार्या॑णि ॥ (1.35.8)
“He has lighted up the eight points of the horizon, the three regions of living beings, the seven rivers; may the golden-eyes Savitā come hither, bestowing upon the offerer of the oblation desirable riches.”

The next question that naturally arises is the names of rivers that constitute this land of seven rivers.  Luckily Rigveda helps us even here. The Nadistuti sukta (नदिस्तुति सूक्त), or "the hymn in praise of rivers", gives us names of these seven rivers for the reconstruction of the geography of this area.

The first and foremost river that this Sukta (10.75.1) mentions is obviously Sindhu or The Indus, the mightiest of them all. Other rivers that are mentioned (10.75.5) in east to west direction are Sarasvati, Shutudri (Sutlej), Parushni (Iravati, Ravi), Asikni (Chenab) and finally Vitasta (Jhelum). This defines the land of seven rivers as the region that begins with Sarswati in the east, but does not end with Indus in the west.  

The next verse (10.75.6) describes the tributaries like Kubha (Kabul River), Gomati (Gomal) and  Krumu (Kurram),that merge with Sindhu in the plains.  Using this information, we can create a map of the landmass, which Rigveda describes as ‘Saptasindhav’. We must also include here the plains, west of Indus River that stretch to the mountains and also the Basin of no longer visible  Sarswati River, now found only through archaeological and satellite data. However, we shall not indulge in that endeavor as it is unrelated to our subject matter.   Figure 1.1 shows the exact locations of these rivers except River Sarswati.

 By Dbachmann, CC BY-SA 3.0,


From the image, we can imagine the vastness of this landmass. Considering present political situation, it consists of entire country of Pakistan, some parts of Afghanistan and Indian Punjab. Before we proceed further, it is important to clarify an issue, in which a few people, particularly from our western neighbor tend to believe.  After discovery of Indus culture (Now called Sindhu-Sarswati civilization) by Mr. Banerji of Archaeological survey of India, European historians started endorsing an imaginary idea of Aryan invasion, on land of seven Rivers and destruction of so called native or ‘Anarya’ culture that existed there before. However, the archeological and other data from extensive excavations in Saraswati basin by Archaeological Survey of India, Deccan College Pune and others have conclusively proved that no evidence have been found anywhere that can support this theory and the Aryan invasion theory stands rejected.

We can say with confidence therefore that history of land of seven Rivers, during Sindhu- Sarswati civilization does not include any major military campaigns by outsiders and it got extinguished due to several other reasons, which are out of our scope. Next we come to Vedic period (1500-to-1200 BCE) and Mahabharata (840 BCE) period, where major wars were only fought by indigenous armies and no external army or power was involved.  This however does not mean there were no wars fought between ‘Saptasindhav’ kingdoms and ‘Tochari’ people, their northwest neighbours. These probably were just local conflicts as no large scale invasion record has been found anywhere.

From Mahabharata period we shall move ahead by two three centuries or so and we come to a period around middle of sixth century BCE. Buddhism was spreading fast in north and northwest India.  With the monks travelling everywhere in the region, information about India, its riches, was spreading very fast.  It was no wonder therefore that foreign powers, kings and monarchs, ever eager to expand their kingdoms and monarchies, must have gathered this information and plans were afoot to invade this golden land.

With this background, we can label the arrival of the first invader army to land of seven Rivers as beginning of an evil period that intermittently continued until 1760 CE, only to be replaced by an even more cunning adversary, the British and later bifurcation of this most fertile and beautiful land itself.

(To be continued)


27th April 2024




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