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16323Evidence for Sutlej-Sarasvati as a Himalayan river system. Visit Ropar. A suggestion to Liviu Giosan et al.

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  • S. Kalyanaraman
    Nov 16, 2013

      From tectonically to erosionally controlled development of the Himalayan orogen
      Thiede et al. 
      Geology 2005 33 (8), p. 689

      Rasmus C. Thiede, J Ramon Arrowsmith, Bodo Bookhagen, Michael O McWilliams, Edward R. Sobel and Manfred R. Strecker Geology 2005; 33; 689-692, The Geological Society of America


      Whether variations in the spatial distribution of erosion influence the location, style, and magnitude of deformation within the Himalayan orogen is a matter of debate…The locus of pronounced exhumation defined by the apatite fission-track (AFT) data correlates with a region of high precipitation, discharge, and sediment flux rates during the Holocene. This correlation suggests that although tectonic processes exerted the dominant control on the denudation pattern before and until the middle Miocene; erosion may have been the most important factor since the Pliocene…

      Geological setting of the Northwestern Himalaya
      Sustained Eurasian-Indian convergence since the continental collision ca. 50 Ma has caused persistent lateral and vertical growth of the Himalaya, which has been accommodated by progressive motion along a series of major crustal fault systems: the Southern Tibetan detachment, the Main Central thrust, the Main Boundary thrust, and the Main frontal thrust. These orogen-parallel fault systems bound the main Himalayan tectonostratigraphic domains, which are underthurst by the Indian plate along the basal Main Himalayan thrust.

      …Although the southern Himalayan front is affected by heterogeneous erosion at the million year time scale, the topography forms a nearly perfect arc. Focused erosion is thus compensated by self-organized thrust activation resulting in heterogeneous distribution of rock uplift and exhumation. Rapid rock uplift in tur may keep the longitudinal river profiles steep, forcing the rivers to further incise. For example, the removal of the 10-15-km thick High Himalayan Crystalline nappe, which today is replaced by Lesser Himalayan Crystalline rocks forming the Larji-Kulu-Rampur window, indicates pronounced removal of crystalline rocks along the Sutlej River network…
      The development, however, toward synchronous exhumation of both crystalline nappe systems may suggest that when a critical mass removal threshold is exceeded, the orographic barrier may play a fundamental role in intercepting moisture and focusing discharge, erosion, and sediment transport along an orogenic front. To compensate the erosional loss, the orogen is forced to internally reorganize, and therefore erosion may control the distribution of exhumation and rock uplift. For the past 10 m.y., the Himalayan deformation front has migrated only 20-50 km. southward. Therefore internal rock uplift and focused exhumation concentrated orogenic deformation in this internal sector, rather than propagating the deformation front southward.

      Sutlej Valley from Rampur c. 1857

      In the early 18th century, it was used to transport devdar woods for Bilaspur district, Hamirpur district, and other places along the Sutlej's banks.

      The Sutlej, along with all of the Punjab rivers, is thought to have drained east into the Ganges prior to 5 mya. There is substantial geologic evidence to indicate that prior to 1700 BC, and perhaps much earlier, the Sutlej was an important tributary of the Ghaggar-Hakra River (thought to be the legendary Sarasvati River) rather than the Indus, with various authors putting the redirection from 2500-2000 BC,( Mughal, M. R. Ancient Cholistan. Archaeology and Architecture. Rawalpindi-Lahore-Karachi: Ferozsons 1997, 2004) from 5000-3000 BC,( Valdiya, K. S., in Dynamic Geology, Educational monographs published by J. N. Centre for Advanced Studies, Bangalore, University Press (Hyderabad), 1998.) or before 8000 BC.( Clift et al. 2012. "U-Pb zircon dating evidence for a Pleistocene Sarasvati River and capture of the Yamuna River." Geology, v. 40. [2]) Geologists believe that tectonic activity created elevation changes which redirected the flow of Sutlej from the southeast to the southwest.( K.S. Valdiya. 2013. "The River Saraswati was a Himalayan-born river". Current Science 104 (01). ) If the diversion of the river occurred recently (about 4000 years ago), it may have been responsible for the Ghaggar-Hakra (Saraswati) drying up, causing desertification of Cholistan and the eastern part of the modern state of Sindh, and the abandonment of Harappan settlements along the Ghaggar. However, the Sutlej may have already been captured by the Indus thousands of years earlier.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutlej

      Today’s Sutlej is a tributary to the Indus.

      It was in ancient times, thanks to the orogeny (growth of the Himalayas due to plate-tectonics) a tributary of the River Sarasvati.

      Thiede et al’s article (2005) embedded above points to the high rate of erosion caused by the modern Sutlej river which has influenced the local faulting and rapidly exhumed rocks above Rampur.

      Cattle grazing on the banks of the river inRupnagar, Punjab, India

      Crossing the Sutlej near Simla upon inflated animal skins

      Sutlej river is 1,450 km. long, raising in the Manasarovar Kailas range, SW Tibet region. In the Punjab it receives the Beas river and forms part of the Indo-Pakistan border and continues into Pakistan.

      Bhakra dam (229 m) impounds part of the water of Sutlej. The mean flow rate at Rupar is approximately 500 cu m per sec, and the maximum is about 20,000 cu m per sec.

      “Major irrigation canals from the Sutlej include the Dipalpur, Pakpattan, Panjnad, Sirhind, and Bikaner canals. During floods, the canals carry 100 to 300 cu m of water per sec. During high water, the Sutlej is navigable in some parts. The large Bhakra-Nangal hydraulic engineering complex has been built in India at the point where the river emerges from the mountains. The major cities on the Sutlej are Nangal and Phillaur in India and Bahawalpur in Pakistan.” (AP Muranov). http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Sutlej+valley

      Any study related to the history of evolution and secular desiccation of the River Sarasvati has to take into account the migration of River Sutlej recorded at Ropar (Rupanagar).

      Ropar is a very important archaeological site of Indus-Sarasvati civilization. A site museum is also organized at this place and shoule be visited by any explorer or researcher evaluating the causes for the ‘drying up’ of River Sarasvati .

      This is the abrupt shift of Sutlej river westwards near Ropar, cutting off waters to River 

      Sarasvati. (http://www.iisc.ernet.in/currsci/oct25/articles20.htm)This virtual 180 degree turn has to be explained by the incision caused by the Himalayan river (Sutlej) near Ropar which gives the appearance of a Grand Canyon today. This may answer the concern of some researchers to look for incisions along the paths of tributaries, to define Sarasvati as a Himalayan-sourced river.

      Sutlej river. Ropar.

      See the blogpost: http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in/2013/01/sarasvati-was-himalayan-river-ks.html Sarasvati was a Himalayan River -- KS Valdiya (2013) rejects Giosan et al arguments. 
      I hope Giosan et al would carefully evaluate evidence and arguments provided by Prof. Valdiya and revise their findings about Sarasvati river system..

      On one issue, some evidence exists even today. The issue concerns upstream of the alluvial plains and alleged "lack of large-scale incisions' in the Ghagghar-Hakra".. 

      Ghagghar-Hakra stream is not far from Ropar where River Sutlej takes a 90 degree turn, a tell-tale indication of tectonics resulting in river migration, Sutlej migrating westwards to join the Sindhu (Indus).
      Inline image 1
      Figure 10 (loc.cit. Valdiya). Block diagram by Sinha et al.42 shows the palaeochannels of the Saraswati – including the one abandoned by the Satluj – and the extent of fluvial sediments filling their channels.
      Explaining the palaeo-channels of Sutlej into Sarasvati River system.

      One key issue not adequately evaluated by Giosan et al relates to the migration of River Sutlej which is a Himalayan river. This river was feeding into the Sarasvati River system. Giosan et al, looking into incisions? Here are some present-day images.
      Hill erosion near river Sutlej, Ropar. Ropar is the location where River Sutlej takes a 90 degree turn weswards to join the River Sindhu (Indus). 
      Hill view near River Sutlej. 

      The River of the Roaring Bull (bhatto) Tags: india river satluj rampurbushair satlujgorgeRampur Bhushair Sutlej gorge. http://www.flickr.com/photos/63783963@N00/17386820 (Source: http://flickrhivemind.net/flickr_hvmnd.cgi?method=GET&page=1&photo_number=50&tag_mode=all&search_type=Tags&originput=river,satluj&sorting=Interestingness&photo_type=250&noform=t&search_domain=Tags&sort=Interestingness&textinput=river,satluj) 

      Giosan et al should visit the Ropar (Rupnagar) Archaeological Museum which celebrates Ropar as a 'Harappan' site. Why did the river Sutlej take  90 degree turn here? Where was it flowing, southwards before this 90 degree turn?

      This museum at Ropar is a cute, beautiful museum. I would strongly urge all researchers of Sarasvati River basin and study of Hindu civilization history should visit this Museum and see the Indus script seals excavated from the site and kept there. The excavations were carried out by Dr. Y.D. Sharma of the Archaeological Survey of India."At Ropar excavations at the lowest levels yielded Harappan traits belonging to Period 1. Findings include a steatite seal with Indus scriptprobably used for trading goods, impressions of seals on a terracotta lump of burnt clay,  chert blades, copper  implements,  terracotta beads and bangles and typical standardised pottery of the Indus Valley civilization. The earliest houses at Ropar were built with river pebbles available in abundance but soon they made use of cut slabs of lime with the same ratio of 4:2:1. Sun baked bricks were sometimes used in the foundations.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupnagar
      Ropar 1,Text 9021(One side of the tablet has two incised circles; the other side has three glyphs of Indus script).

      The occurrence of this archaeological site at Ropar and its identification as an early Indus site (Period 1) has to be evaluated in the context of geo-hydraulics of the times. Is it not notable that there are no major site locations identified on the present-day banks of River Sutlej as it moves westward to join River Beas? Maybe, during the 'mature' phases of the civilization, the path of the river was NOT westward? It may be helpful if a comprehensive provenance study is carried out on this stretch of River Sutlej, of the type of study done on Luni river system by Bajpai et al (as mentioned by Prof. Valdiya).
      Museum - Ropar
      Archaeological Museum, Ropar (Punjab)
      The Archaeological Museum is situated about 40 kms north east of Chandigarh on the Rupnagar – Chandigarh highway on the bank of sutlej river. It was opened to public in the year 1998.

      Opened to public in the year 1998, the museum houses the archaeological remains of excavated site near Ropar, the first Harappan site excavated in Independent India. The excavation revealed a cultural sequence from Harappan to medieval times. Important exhibits include antiquities of Harappan times, Painted Grey ware culture, Saka, Kushana, Gupta times such as Vina Vadini (lady playing on vina), steatite seal, copper and bronze implements, ring stone, yakshi image, gold coins of Chandragupta. Besides, the visitors can have a glimpse of important protected monuments of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and World Heritage monuments.
      Timings of visit: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.
      Closed on - Friday
      Entrance Fee: Rs. 2.00
      (Children up to 15 years free)  http://asi.nic.in/asi_museums_ropar.asp 
      I think Dr. Giosan et al have, in particular, to explain the date when Sarasvati ceased to be a himalayan-fed river. The archaeological evidence is emphatic that west of Ropar (Rupanagar) where River Sutlej took a 90-degree turn to abandon feeding into Sarasvati-Ghaggar-Hakra system, there are NO archaeological sites. There is evidence for sites such as Kunal, Banawali, Kalibangan on the palaeo-channels of Sutlej linking Ropar with Ghaggar. 

      See image: http://tinyurl.com/burrxq2 (Posted also on the blogpost of Jan. 2013)

      This indicates that Sutlej as a himalayan-fed tributary of Sarasvati system did contribute to the sustenance of the sites at Kunal, Banawali, Kalibangan.

      I am sure that the deliberation on scientific issues will help identify and explain the navigability of the channels on Sarasvati river system which facilitated trade links with Mesopotamia, navigating across the river channels, and the Persian Gulf. Navigability may explain the find of  a cylinder seal at Kalibangan with glyphs comparable to those found in the sites of Tigris-Euphrates river basin, perhaps created by sea-faring merchants from Meluhha.


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