Rivers are mothers because they give birth to not one being but generations thrive on its waters. And that’s why rivers must be respected and honored.
A great river that gave birth to a great civilization flowed eternally through the Shivalik Himalayas. That river was Saraswati. The river we were told never existed.
Located in a remote corner of a forgotten village of Kathgarh in Yamunanagar (Haryana); the Adi Badri Teerth holds many secrets in its heart. (Click here to read in Hindi)
It was here at the Adi Badri Teerth, Saraswati would leave the Shivalik Himalayas and travel towards the vast planes of India. The grounds of Kathgrah were first to be blessed with its waters because that’s where it burst with her strong waves the ridges of the Shivalik Hills. Adi Badri was the starting point of the hundreds of miles long voyage of the Mother Saraswati.
From the foothills of the Shivaliks to the deserts of Rajasthan and beyond.
And this river flowed uninterrupted, from Himalayas to the desert lands unlike any of the other five great rivers of India. And probably that’s why the Rig Ved calls it as the best mother, best river, and best goddess.
Then the river disappeared several hundred years ago. A geological change most likely. Things happen, dinosaurs were wiped out, Devonian Extinction happened; but the human race tried to learn a thing or two from all these extinctions. But the Mother of a Great Civilization was conveniently forgotten. It was said that it never existed. Saraswati Stuti (praises) and mentions in the Rig Ved were termed as mere imagination.
In 2012, I decided that I will visit the origins of all the great rivers of India in the coming years. The closest I had been to a river’s origin was Syul’s Origin – Padhri Gali Pass at the Chamba-Jammu border. But that was an incomplete journey.
Little did I know that it was going to be Saraswati’s Origin in the grand scheme of things.
After reading Michel Danino’s The Lost River which mentioned Adi Badri as the starting point of Saraswati’s Journey to the planes, I decided to give it a go. My friend Nitin visited the Adi Badri Teerth on my request alone and invited me over.
Adi Badri can be approached either from the Yamunanagar side or Himachal side via the Ponta Sahib route. Whichever side you come from, approximate distance is 40Km and you can always make it a double delight trip by paying a visit to the clean waters of River Yamuna at Ponta Sahib. A clean Yamuna might sound like a fairy tale to someone coming from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh but believe me it exists.
After reaching Ponta early in the morning, Nitin and I started our journey towards the Adi Badri Teerth. One half of the journey till Kolar is good but once you leave the National Highway, the road condition deteriorates dramatically. All of a sudden you find yourself riding amidst a through a thick forest devoid of any vehicular traffic. And until you cross the inter-state border, the road remains hidden underneath a thick layer of boulders covered by sand.
There is nothing much on the Internet about this historical site so it was little difficult for us to locate the direction. However, once you are in Haryana you will see signboards and milestones erected at frequent intervals.
Another detour you take when you reach Bilaspur and there from the ‘Saraswati Udgam (origin)’ site is just another 5-6 kilometers. A worn-out & rusted Welcome Board welcomes you at the source of the Saraswati River. If you expect to find a waterfall or a small stream at the source then I am sorry to say, you have very high expectations and they can’t be fulfilled here.
What remains of Saraswati today is just an insignificant stream of water which may disappear any moment. A broken idol of Goddess Saraswati and a bright-green gate protecting whatever is remained of it. Just outside the gate, the Forest Department has positioned a board that explains how Saraswati was brought back to life by the research and scientific evidences provided by the NASA and ISRO.
It also mentions that Rig Ved sings eulogies of Saraswati in the Nadi Stuti Hymn but that didn’t matter. Until NASA stepped in, a vast majority in India believed that Saraswati was nothing but a myth. This signboard alone debunks many myths.
However, by the time you finish reading the signboard you realize that the signboard too is at the verge of extinction and it may fall any moment. And because we didn’t want anybody noticing that we noticed the fall of the signboard, we left the place silently. We also met a group of travelers from Karnal who looked quite familiar with the place. My guess is that they were well known to the place and this wasn’t their first visit.
In the year 2002-2003, the Archeological Survey of India invaded this area and they dug out remains of a lost Buddhist Civilization here that used to live at the confluence of Saraswati and Somb River. Just there you will see huge boulders with watermarks on their surfaces. Watermarks that were made thousands of years ago. The lost remains of a Budhhist Stupa stand witness to the might of the Saraswati that once flowed across this region blessing the standstill rocks with life.
These days, mountaineers and tourists visit this area because of its wilderness and mystical silence. There is a steep 200 feet wall that attracts rappelling enthusiasts.
There is an ancient temple of Sri Kedarnath and Badri Narayan here at Adi Badri. It is believed that sage Vyas composed 18,000 verses of the Holy Srimad Bhagvad here at Adi Badri itself. ASI established a Cultural Study Center here at Kathgah in 2004-2005 but looking at its current condition, it appeared that it was last opened for public in 2005 only. They have placed all the excavation-remains in the open. And that’s why I called it an ASI Invasion and not excavation.
Disappearance of Sarasvati from the planes of India was a natural geographical change. Disappearance of Saraswati from the public memory was a mistake. And the way we have been treating our rivers post liberalization and post independence, nothing less than a catastrophe awaits us. Our apathy is taking us there. We will reach there soon, if we continue this way.