Sapta Sindhu

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The Sapta Sindhu (Sanskrit: सप्त सिंधु, also Hapta Hindu in Avestan) "seven rivers" are the seven sacred rivers in Sanskrit mythology. The Rig Veda often refers to the seven rivers.[1]). In RV 7.36.6, the Sarasvati is the seventh river, whose mother is the Sindhu. The Avesta's hapta həndu are generally equated with the Vedic Sapta Sindhavahá; in Vendidad 1.18 these are described to be the fifteenth of the sixteen lands created by Mazda.[2]

The Punjab is known in the Rigveda as “Saptasindhu”.... However, the word “Saptasindhu” in the Rigveda (and, for that matter, Hapta-HAndu in the Avesta) is clearly a name for a specific region, which is generally and correctly identified by the scholars with the Punjab (the Land of the Five Rivers ensconsed between two more: the Indus in the west and the SarasvatI in the east).(Talageri 2000)

The Avesta (Vd. I) mentions the Haptahəndu (Saptasindhavah) as one of the sixteen Iranian lands, past and contemporary.

The Saptasindhu is referred to in the following verses:

I.32.12; 35.8;
II. 12.3, 12;
VIII.54.4; 69.12; 96.1;
X.43.3; 67.12.

If Afghanistan is directly or indirectly referred to only in the Late MaNDalas, the Punjab is referred to only in the Middle and Late MaNDalas. (Talageri 2000)

Talageri (2008) notes:

  • 1. The Early Books, 6, 3 and 7, are totally unacquainted with the phrase sapta+sindhu.
  • 2. The phrase sapta+sindhu first appears in the Middle Books.
  • 3. Along with the phrase sapta+sindhu, we now also have, in the Late Books, the only reference to Saptasindhava, in the Rigveda, which is generally recognized as referring to the name of a land or region, as in the Avesta.

Identity of the seven rivers[edit]

The Rig Veda often refers to the seven rivers.[3] It also says that the Sarasvati River is the most important of these seven rivers (RV 6.52.6). In RV 7.36.6, the Sarasvati is the seventh river. The Zend Avesta (Vendidad Fargard I; Videvdad 1) also refers to the seven rivers (hapta-həṇdu, Vendidad 1.18), which are generally equated with the Sapta Sindhu (Gnoli 1985).

It is unclear how exactly the seven rivers were intended to be enumerated. They are often located in the Punjab region in northwestern India / northern Pakistan. If Sarasvati's membership is taken for granted, and the five major rivers of the Punjab are included (Sutudri, Parusni, Asikni, Vitasta, Vipas all tributaries of Sindhu), one river is missing (or perhaps two, since the Sindhu is a special case, having feminine or masculine gender and in this case not being invoked as a goddess), perhaps Arjikiya or Sushoma compare also the list of ten in the Nadistuti sukta, RV 10.75. David Frawley extends the Sapta Sindhu region from the Punjab to the Gangetic plain, specifically suggesting Sindhu, Ashikni, Parushni, Sarasvati, Yamuna, Ganga and Sarayu. (Frawley 2000) In 6.61.10, Sarasvati is called "she with seven sisters" (saptasvasā) which would logically indicate a group of eight rivers, but which probably is just due to the number seven being more important than the individual members (see also saptarshi, haft keshvar), so that the list of the Sapta sindhu may not have been fixed or immutable. In RV 10.64.8 and RV 10.75.1, three groups of seven rivers are referred to (tríḥ saptá sasrâ nadíyaḥ "thrice seven wandering rivers"), as well as 99 rivers.

Kochhar is mistaken when he claims that “India does not figure in the Avestan and Pahlevi literature at all” (p.97). The land of seven rivers, Hapta Hendu, mentioned in Videvdad 1, is none other than Sapta-Sindhu, northwestern India (confirmed e.g. by Gherardo Gnoli: De Zoroastre à Mani, Paris 1985, p.26), and not the Afghan Farah-rud as Kochhar arbitrarily claims. Elst 2007


The central description of the Rigveda tells of Indra (the "Bull") freeing the Seven Rivers with the slaying of Vrtra (the "Dragon"):

1.32.12 Thou hast won back the kine, hast won the Soma; thou hast let loose to flow the Seven Rivers.
1.102.2 The Seven Rivers bear his glory [Indra's] far and wide, and heaven and sky and earth display his comely form.
2.12.3 Who slew the Dragon, freed the Seven Rivers, and drove the kine forth from the cave of Vala
4.19.3 The Dragon stretched against the seven prone rivers, where no joint was, thou rentest with thy thunder.
4.28.1 Slew Ahi, and sent forth the Seven Rivers, and opened as it were obstructed fountains.
7.18.24 Seven flowing Rivers glorify like Indra. He slew Yudhyamadhi in close encounter.
8.24.27 Who will set free from ruinous woe, or Arya or the Seven Streams:
8.96.1 For him the Floods stood still, the Seven Mothers, Streams easy for the heroes to pass over.
10.49.9 Bull over all the streams that flow along the earth, I took the Seven Rivers as mine own domain.
10.67.12 Slain Ahi, and set free the Seven Rivers. O Heaven and Earth, with all the Gods protect us.
10.43.3 These the Seven Rivers flowing on their downward path increase the vital vigour of the potent Steer.
10.49.9 Bull over all the streams that flow along the earth, I took the Seven Rivers as mine own domain.

References to other deities:

1.34.8 Thrice, O ye Asvins, with the Seven Mother Streams; three are the jars, the triple offering is prepared.
1.35.8 The earth's eight points his brightness [ Savitar's] hath illumined, three desert regions and the Seven Rivers.
1.71.7 All sacrificial viands wait on Agni as the Seven mighty Rivers seek the ocean.
3.1.6 Then they, ancient and young, who dwell together, Seven sounding Rivers, as one germ received him [Agni].
6.7.6 All creatures in existence rest upon his [Agni's] head. The Seven swift-flowing Streams have grown like branches forth,
7.67.8 With one, the same, intention, ye swift movers [Asvins], o'er the Seven Rivers hath your chariot travelled.
8.41.2 Him [ Varuna ] dwelling at the rivers' source, surrounded by his Sisters Seven.
8.54.4 May Pusan, Visnu, and Sarasvati befriend, and the Seven Streams, this call of mine
8.59.4 Dropping oil, sweet with Soma, pouring forth their stream, are the Seven Sisters in the seat of sacrifice.
8.69.12. Thou, Varuna, to whom belong Seven Rivers, art a glorious God.
9.66.6 O Soma, these Seven Rivers flow, as being thine, to give command
9.92.4 Ten on the fleecy height, themselves, self-prompted, and seven fresh rivers, brighten and adorn thee [Soma].

(trans. Griffith)


  1. (e.g. RV 2.12; RV 4.28; RV 8.24)
  2. Gnoli, Gherardo (1989), "Avestan geography", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 3, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 44–46<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  3. (e.g. RV 2.12; RV 4.28; RV 8.24)


  • Gherardo Gnoli, De Zoroastre à Mani. Quatre leçons au Collège de France (Travaux de l’Institut d’Études Iraniennes de l’Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle 11), Paris (1985)
  • David Frawley, The Rig Veda and the History of India, Aditya Prakashan (2001) ISBN 81-7742-039-9

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

es:Siete ríos sagrados fr:Sept rivières sacrées de l'Inde ja:シンドゥ七大河 pl:Saptasindhawa sv:Indiens sju heliga floder