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Saraswati Basin


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Saraswati Basin

Notes on Archaeological discoveries on Sarasvati River basin and contiguous areas (April 2003)

Archaeological Survey of India should be complimented for the initiative taken, during 2002-2003, to explore and excavate major sites out of over 2,000 archaeological sites located on the Sarasvati River basin, following the scientific investigations which have established the entire 1600 km. course of the river from Himalayas to Gujarat. Some of these sites, in the districts of Yamunanagar, and Kurukshetra on the banks fo River Sarasvati from Adi Badri to Pehowa (at the confluence of the river with River Markanda), are: Adi Badri, Bilaspur, Sadhaoura, Mustafabad, Bhagawanpura, Thanesar, Raja-karn-ka Qila, Mirzapur, Pehowa, Kalayat, Kaithal, in addition to sites such as Banawali, Rakhigarhi and Dholavira where excavation work is ongoing. Exploration and excavation work on hundreds of sites (out of a total of over 2000 archaeological sites on the river basin) will establish the cultural chronology of the Bharatiya civilization. 

Intensive exploration work has started in about 40 ancient sites in the Sarasvati River basin in and around District Yamunanagar (Jagadhri), Haryana. The recent exploratory work (April 2003) has to be viewed in the perspective of other cultural sites on the Sarasvati River Basin, since the Sarasvati River constituted the water-way which united these cultural settlements into an indigenous evolution and continuity of Bharatiya civilization from over 5000 years Before Present to the historical periods. The heritage of Sarasvati Civilization and pre-history of Bharat is all around us.

An impressive find at Adi Badri Somb-Sarasvati left bank site is a copper/bronze coin inscribed on both sides. On one side, what appears to be a tiger or jackal is visible with a triangle depicted on the top register. This tiger image is reminiscent of the glyphs on Sarasvati Civilization seals and tablets. The image and epigraphs on the obverse are not clearly legible on the tablet or coin. Rebus interpretation: kol 'tiger'; kol 'metal''; kol 'smithy.

The find of a coin or copper tablet at Adi Badri is comparable to the Kuninda coin kept in the Himachal State Museum, Shimla, establishing the characteristic continuity of the Sarasvati Civilization (of Mature Harappan period) with the use of glyphs such as: a bull standing in front of a person with an upraised hand, Svastika, tree on hill range, tree on railing. This coin has an epigraph in Brahmi script.

Importance of Adi Badri

Satellite image analyses have shown the occurrence of Yamuna tear (due to tectonic causes resulting in the lateral shift of the Siwalik ranges) in Paonta Doon valley which resulted in the piracy of Sarasvati River waters by Yamuna river consequent upon the migration of the Yamuna river channel to join with Ganga river at Prayag. About 4500 years Before Present, Yamuna river was tributary of River Sarasvati flowing northwestwards along the Bata-Markanda divide between the Himalayan and Siwalik ranges and joining with Markanda and Sarasvati Rivers not far from Adi Badri (30-27N; 77-27E), 40 kms. north of Yamunanagar (Jagadhri) in Haryana. This river migration of Yamuna river was followed (circa 3500 years Before Present) by the migration of Sutlej river which took a 90-degree turn at Ropar due to tectonic causes. These two events of migrations of tributaries of River Sarasvati, the river was deprived of glacial waters and became a seasonal, rain-fed stream. Adi Badri is the place where the stream surfaces on the foothills of the Siwalik ranges. Cunningham also was of the view that Adi Badri was the place where the River Sarasvati surfaced on the plains. "Plans have been drawn to build check-dams for collecting monsoon water in Haryana, drilling of the dry beds of the Sarasvati and linking of the Sarasvati associated holy sites such as Thanesar, Vasishta Ashram, Pehowa, Kapala-Mochan and Brahmasarovar near Kurukshetra" (cf. Sarasvati Darshan brochure of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Shimla).

Adi Badri: Narayan temple on the left and Kedarnath temple on the right, on the foothills of Siwalik ranges

Adi Badri: A panaromic view of Somb-Sarasvati confluence on the foothills of the Siwalik ranges with a number of cultural mounds which are being explored and excavated

How to reach Adi Badri

Adi Badri is located on the foothills of the Siwalik ranges and is a pilgrimage site renowned for the temples of Adi-Badri Narayana, Adi-Badri Kedarnath and Mantra Devi. Adi Badri can be reached by road via Bilaspur and Kapala-Mochan. The closest village is Kathgarh where a Sarasvati Cultural Information Centre has been established by ASI in the precincts of the Gram Panchayat Bhavan. A Sarasvati Darshan exhibition was held on the eve of Sarasvati Jayanti Ma_gha S'ukla Pancami 

Adi Badri has three mounds which are being excavated. Two mounds (called ABR-I and ABR-II) are on the right bank of River Somb (a tributary of River Sarasvati), north of the U-bend and one mound (called ABR-III) is on the left bank.

ABR-I mound is locally called Simhabara. Excavation has revealed two cultural phases of bricks and stone respectively. "The exact nature and extension of these structures are in the process of being ascertained.The succeeding phasse of a single course stone wall was found in a very disturbed condition. The pottery recovered from the site includes red ware of medum to coarse fabric, and few sherds of buffware. The main shapes are bowls, basins, jars, cooking vessels, pitchers, handles, lids, knobbed lids, hukkas..."

ABR-II mound, Adi Badri

ABR-II. "It commands a panaromic view of the surrounding area and is locally known as Intonwali. The height of the mound is approximately 200 ft. and is situated on the right bank of the Sarasvati-Somb confluence. It was covered by thorny thickets and bushes. Excavation released a single cultural phase on this mound. A huge brick structure was exposed, which can be dated to about AD 1st c. to AD 300. Considerable amount of pottery was found from the area and is confined to red ware to medium to coarse fabric. The shapes include bowls, lids, miniature pots, jars,storage jars, globular pots, spouted and stamped wares etc." 

Plan drawing of the excavated structure ABR-III 

"ABR-III is located on the left bank of the Sarasvati-Somb confluence. Excavations revealed 2 successive cultural phases. 

"Phase-I (AD 1st c. - AD 300). Remains of a spoked stupa was revealed. It is executed in burnt bricks and brickbats have been used as packing/filling material. The centre portion of the stupa has a rectangular chamber packed with earth and pebbles. The associated findings, antiquities and pottery all belong to the Kushana period."

The stupa with 24 spokes discovered at Adi Badri is comparabe to the cylindrical stupa of the Kushana period found at Sanghol (Dist. Fatehgarhsahib, Punjab), with three concentric rings of rick masnry with intervening space divided by radiating spokes of similar brick masonry at regular nervals. At Sanghol site, the core is made of a thick circular wall of brick masonry filled with earth. At Sanghol was discovered a carved lif of the relic casket with an inscription in Kharoshti scrip dated to circa 1st century BCE; the epigraph reads: Upasakasa Ayabhadrasa.

The discovery of the stupa in Adi Badri clearly demonstrates the overlap of Buddha and Bhairava traditions of Bharata of the early centuries of the historical periods.

"Phase-IIA. Structures made of undressed stone and rubble masonry, with thick clay mortar. Sometimes bricks have also been used.

"Phase-IIB comprises of structures made of dressed stones. Though mostly clay mortar has been used, the use of lime mortar has occasionally been noticed. A huge complex was exposed with an enclosure stone wall (approx 48m X 26 m). Within this enclosure are a number of cells on two sides, at right angles. In the centre is a courtyard, paved with stones. 

"In the eastern wall are carved niches, at regular intervals. In one of the niches was found in situ, the sculpture of a seated Buddha in the Dharmachakrapravartana mudra. Along one of the adjoining walls of the courtyard remains of an anvil and what appears to be a round fire-altar with full of charcoal were found. The remains all point to some sort of ritualistic association. Antiquities include a terracotta Bull figurine (Nandi), remnants of a plaque, iron nails, spearheads, copper rings and fish-hooks, stone chaklas, beads etc. and carved architectural members in stone."

Comment: It is unclear if the seated image is that of the Buddha. The bottom register of the sculpted panel contains a lion clearly visible. It is in front of the vedi (fire-altar) with stupa. The image may as well represent Bhairava. This is subject to further intense study by experts in iconography.





Sadhaura (33-23N, 77-13E). "It is about 40 km. north-west of Yamunanagar and 15 kms. from Bilaspur on the Bilaspur-Narahyangarh road. The mound is spread over an area of about 4 acres. Sadhaura is situated on the bank of river Nakati or Saudhorawali. The antiquity of the site goes back to about 3000 years. The pottery by which the cultural chronology of the site has been ascertained are Painted Grey Ware, Black Slipped Ware, Northern Black Polished Ware, Kushana Stamped Pottery, Red Polished Ware of the Gupta period, Red Ware of the Rajpur period and glazed Ware of the Sultanat and Mughal periods respectively. The structural finds from the site include two bastions made of lakhauri bricks.

"During the course of the excavation, a circular structure made of wedge-shaped bricks of about 35 courses was seen which is still being exposed. The findings from the site includes beads of shell, terracotta, turqoise and fragments of glass bangles."