Though the River Sarasvati has highly been praised in Rigveda, we find very confusing references to it in later Vedic literature and heavily corrupted Vedicized literature, making it hard to believe whether they are speaking of the real Sarasvati or talking about the poetic remembrance of the River which was left far behind and hence became invisible. The various clarifications that try to explain why the Holy River was disappeared all of sudden indicate the fact that they are fabricated mythical accounts. In any case, the river wouldn’t have disappeared all of sudden. It would have been a gradual process continued for at the least couple of hundred years, but we do not find such information or even indication in the Vedic literature.
Along with Sarasvati, Sarayu and Indus are the great rivers (Mahanadi) to the Vedic seers those have praised them with great affectionate devotion. However, in later Vedic texts, we find a mention that this river became invisible at the place named Vinasana in Kurukshetra. (Panchavimsha Brahman 25.10.6 & Jaiminiya Brahman 4.26).
Yajurveda explicitly states that the five rivers in Punjab are five streams of the Sarasvati. (34.11) Here, Yajurveda does not indicate that the Sarasvati was an independent river.
Mahabharata tells us a different story. It says Sarasvati originated in the Himalayas at Plaksavana, a place located at the north of Vinasana from where one could reach by horse-ride within 40 days. Also, Tandya Brahmana states that conducting Sarasvata session between these two places, Vinasana and Plaksavana, is highly beneficial. (Tandya Brahmana 25.10.12)
Mahabharata further states that at Vinasana Sarasvati disappeared and at Chamasodbheda it reappeared where many other rivers joined her. (Vanaparva 130.4-5)
Puranas provide us another contradictory account. They state that the Sarasvati originated in the Himalayas and while flowing through Kurukshetra it disappeared in the deserts of Rajasthan and reappeared at Mount Abu and met with the sea at Prabhas Teertha. Mahabharata too, while elaborating Balarama’s pilgrimage from Prabhas Teertha to Plaksavana in the Himalayas mentions many holy centers located at the Bank of Sarasvati. (Shalyaparva 35-54)
From Puranas we get three distinct rivers those are named as Sarasvati. One is the river in Kurukshetra, second being the Pushkar-Sarasvati and third being a river that meets the sea at Prabhasa. (Vamana and Padma Purana). All the stories surrounding Sarasvati are so fictional that it makes us difficult to believe it was a real river intended while creating these myths.
However, Manusmriti gives us an entirely different account of the River Sarasvati. Manusmriti 2.17 and 2.19 gives us the following description.
17. That land, created by the gods, which lies between the two divine rivers Sarasvati and Drishadvati, they (sages) call Brahmavarta.
19. Kurukshetra, the place ruled by Kurus, the land ruled by Panchala and Surasenaka is the land where Brahmarshies lived and is called Brahmarshi Desha.
Another popular myth in floating is the Sarasvati River turned eastward and disappeared underground which confluences invisibly with Ganga-Yamuna at Prayaga.
Presently there are two small rivers in Gujrath and Saurashtra regions those are called Sarasvati.
One may get confused with the variety of the accounts those are flowing to us from various texts and myths. They are filled with all mythical elements like curses of the seers.
Presently, the general assumption is that the Ghaggar is the lost river Sarasvati. However, it doesn’t originate in the Himalayas.From Mahabharata account, too, it does not seem likely that the River originated in the Himalayas as one could reach its source, Plaksavana, within forty days by horse ride. The geological proofs those so far has been surfaced indicate that the Ghaggar took several hundred years to dry up because of the climatic changes and other geological events like tectonic shifts. However, we do not find any of such hint in the holiest and most adorable river's account.
The Mahabharata reached to present form in 3rd to 4th AD. Most of the locations of the pilgrimage centers that are elaborated in Mahabharata do not exist which promotes to a thought that these descriptions only could have been fictional. Also, the place in Mahabharata, where Balarama narrates the story of his pilgrimage is clearly artificially created. Panchavimsha Brahmana and Jaiminiya Brahmana are the works of a late era as compared to Satapatha or Aitareya Brahmana. By that time most probably the memories of the real Sarasvati river were already faded and an attempt was being made to find the disappearance of its becoming invisible.
Adiparva of Mahabharata (3. 144) gives different geography of the Kurukshetra. It informs that the Kurukshetra is situated on the banks of Ikshumati river where Takshaka and Ashvasena used to line up. Various accounts those appear in Mahabharata are not only confusing and contradictory but sometimes it appears that some scenes have been created out of sheer imagination just to anyhow accomodate the Sarasvati River which does not help us to ascertain any geography of the River Sarasvati intended to the composers of Mahabharata.
The places named Vinasana and Plaksavana are totally absent from the bank of any dried up river of northwest India and Pakistan.
The account of Manusmriti is more interesting, most possibly close to the reality, because the second chapter of it clearly seems to have written during a very early era when Vedic religion was in an attempt to be codified.
The Manusmriti do not know any regions of North India by name except for Kuru, Panchal, Matsya, and Surasenaka. Manusmriti declares, elsewhere reside only Shudras. Known geography to them does not go beyond Vindhya Mountains. Only Kuru, Panchal etc. regions are called the region of the Brahmarshis.
But the region which is enumerated first, the Brahmavarta, created by the Gods which is located between the Drishadvati and Sarasvati River.
This shows that the regions intended by Manusmriti are located at two distinct places.
The rivers flowing through the Brahmavarta are Sarasvati and Drishadvati. This forms original Brahmavarta, not the present place which is touted being Brahmavarta.
The Kuru, Panchal and other enumerated regions together form the land of Brahmarshies, but Manusmriti explicitly tells us that the Sarasvati and Drishadvati do not flow through these regions.
If considered the Ghaggar River is the Sarasvati, then it creates serious anomaly because Ghaggar flows through the Kurukshetra, but certainly not through the Panchal or Surasenaka.
Balarama’s account in Mahabharata doesn’t indicate that the river was located anywhere close to Kurukshetra where Mahabharata war was being viciously fought. Prabhas Teertha also is not at all related to the present or ancient course of the Ghaggar-Hakra River.
Rigveda states that there are three great rivers (Mahanadi) Sarayu, Indus and Sarasvati. Sarayu is identified with a river in Afghanistan named Haroyu, present Harirud. Sarasvati also was known as Harahvaiti in Afghanistan. Drishadvati river, though remains unidentified, could be Khash river that flows parallel to Helmand that forms a kind of delta. This region, however, according to Manusmriti, is the land created by the Gods.
Manusmriti, in a way, preserves the memory of the land where Vedas were composed and once upon a time Vedic tribes flourished.
It should be noted that the meaning of ‘Brahma’ in Vedic Sanskrit is Mantra (verses), hence it could have been called ‘Brahmavarta’ because there Vedic verses were composed.
The lands enumerated after Brahmavata is the land of Brahmarshis, the seers those had mastered the Vedic verses. And this land is of Kuru, Panchala, Matsya and Surasenakas.
Hence, the rest of mythical stories about Sarasvati and its disappearance are contradictory and clearly fictional. The fact is the Holy River Sarasvati had really disappeared from the eyes of the later Vedics. However, the memories those were preserved were faded away in later course of the time. Gradually Sarasvati was given a divine sanctity by accepting her in the form of goddess of wisdom.
Had it been a real river flowing through North India, no matter whether it dries out, the name of the river would have remained unchanged because it is the Vedic religion that has been dominant in India for long time. There is no indication that the Ghaggar was ever alternatively called Sarasvati. In any case Ghaggar is not corruption of Sarasvati. The disappearance of the mighty and praiseworthy mother-like river to the Vedics of the past owed to the fact that the handful of the staunch supporters of the religion had to vacate their earlier habitat and gradually created myths surrounding her disappearance. Ghaggar is not a remnant of the Sarasvati though some try to imagine so out of their attempts to force their beloved theories.