Chandigarh: Purported signs of existence of a river considered sacred in Hindu mythology and a religious-minded BJP government being in power in Haryana are sufficient factors to try and "revive" the invisible Saraswati by spending a whopping Rs.50 crores ($7.5 million) in public money.
Buoyed by the recent "discovery" of water at just seven feet in Rohlaheri village of Haryana's Yamunanagar district during digging work to find the mythological river, the Haryana government has pledged Rs.10 crore from the corpus to establish the Haryana Saraswati Heritage Development Board.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had in April announced the Rs.50 crore project to revive the river.
"The Board will conduct meticulous field work to unearth and understand the past and the present content of the Saraswati heritage in Haryana for exposition of cultural patterns and values. It will help to preserve and promote the various archeo-cultural facets of the Saraswati Heritage Area," said a note of the state cabinet, which approved the setting up of the new board and release of funds for it.
"A provision of Rs.10 crore has been made for establishment and smooth functioning of the Haryana Saraswati Heritage Development Board which includes a provision for recurring expenditure of Rs 2.42 crore for petty expenses, payment of salaries and wages," a senior Haryana government official told IANS.
Khattar, who heads the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state and has been a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ideologue, and other BJP ministers have been quite inclined to dig up the mystery behind the mythological river, given its significance in Hindu mythology.
The Saraswati river finds several mentions in ancient Hindu scriptures like the Rig Veda, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and others, giving credence to the belief that the river existed during ancient times when it was held in great reverence.
"In Yamunanagar district, there are several places where there is tell-tale evidence that the river flowed in the area at one time," Sohan Lal, a septuagenarian from the area, told IANS.
The Haryana government has drawn up elaborate plans for reviving the river through the new board.
"The Board will aim at revitalizing sacred places in the Saraswati Heritage Area. It will create effective linkages between tourism and cultural facilities by developing tourism circuits and conservation of natural resources in the area. It will develop and revive the existing Saraswati creek for irrigation, sanitation, recharging of ground water, plantation, development of herbal parks, landscaping to preserve and protect the environment and to ensure soil conservation," the state government's plan states.
The board will associate with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), UNESCO and other related national and international institutions for the project.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)