River Suvāstu

A place of Good Dwellings by the River Swat

River Suvāstu — A place of good dwellings

When I come across names, I’m always fascinated about how they came to be. Such is the situation with the river Suvāstu’s name. We noticed in one of my previous posts that Riwat site 55 revealed continuous settlement on the Soan River. Soan — Suṣomā River is located near River Suvāstu, which is today’s River Swat in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Suvāstu is a tributary of the Kubhā River (Kabul). This river’s name has been changed to swad, which means tasteful, however it originally meant “excellent living valley or valley with good dwellings.” Below is the picture of small footing pieces, a low wall footing, a pit, and a stone-lined niche, all associated with a freshly flaked stone assemblage that included blades.

H.M. Rendell; Riwat Site 55 is an Upper Palaeolithic archaeological site in the Soan Valley, near the village of Rawat in Punjab, Pakistan.

Thermoluminescence (TL) dating of the overlying loess indicates that this assemblage is at least 45, 000 years old, and thus could be regarded as “initial Upper Paleolithic” in the sense used in the Levant. Explanations of the site are hindered by an absence of bone and charcoal. Its overall features, however, conform most closely to the type of lithic procurement sites evidenced in western Russia; an additional observation is that the site may also have been used for skin working. — Robin Dennell, Rendell et al

How old is River Suvāstu?

The Rg Veda viii. 19, 37 mentions this river. Eighth mandala is said to be the newer Mandala. I’m still sceptical until I can better understand the absolute chronology with the help of hard sciences. However, Suvāstu( Swat)is a tributary of Rgvedic River Kubhā (Kabul) which joins Sindhu in the northern most part of its flow. Suṣomā (Soan/Sohan/Suwan) is a tributary of River Sindhu (Indus).

Suvāstu near Suṣomā; both are northernmost tributaries of River Sindhu

It’s worth noting that the first river-based civilizations were discovered in the upper reaches of any river. Apparently, the same can be seen in the Rg Veda. The rich archaeological culture of Soanian dates back to the early Paleolithic period and has lasted until recently.

A view of top of Ghwandai, Bazira in Swat where archaeologists have made new discoveries. — Dawn

The takeaway…

River Suvāstu, like every other name, has a story to tell…

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Rupa Bhaty

Architect and Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Indic studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, MA, USA