Extent and major sites of the Indus Valley Civilization in pre-modern Pakistan and India 3000 BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Rig Vedas most likely appeared during the Holocene Quaternary Period of of the Cenozoic Era. There is confusion about the beginning of Vedic era. Sometimes it is indicated to be around 1500 BC, but that seems quite late and illogical according to Vedic references and archaeology. Visit timeline click here.
For example, in several Vedic hymns dedicated to river Sarasvati, she is described to be actually flowing and existent. But in reality river Sarasvati does not exist anymore, because, according to archaeological research, it dried up and disappeared in north Indian sands several thousand years ago, around 5000 BC (or earlier).
In any case, Vedas (and the corresponding Hindu religion) must at least be as old as the last time river Sarasvati actually existed (flowed) in India because that is how it was described in the Vedas – alive and active. Therefore, considering the following Rig Vedic hymns on river Sarasvati (which show it still very alive and active — 5000 BC according to archaeological findings), Vedas and Hinduism may be assumed to exist at least since 5000 BC (7000 years ago).
“He set thee in the earth’s most lovely station, in Ila’s place, in days of fair bright weather. On man, on Apaya, Agni! on the rivers Drsadvati, Sarasvati, shine richly.” Rig Veda (Book 3 , Hymn 23.4)
“This stream Sarasvati with fostering current comes forth, our sure defense, our fort of iron.
As on a car, the flood flows on, surpassing in majesty and might all other waters.” Rig Veda (Book 7, Hymn 95.1)
“I SING a lofty song, for she is mightiest, most divine of Streams. Sarasvati will I exalt with hymns and lauds, and, O Vasistha, Heaven and Earth.” Rig Veda (Book 7, Hymn 96.1)
“When in the fullness of their strength the Purus dwell, Beauteous One, on thy two grassy banks, Favor us thou who hast the Maruts for thy friends: stir up the bounty of our chiefs.” Rig Veda (Book 7, Hymn 96.2)
Source:Sanatan Yahoo Answers
[My note: I tried to contact this Sanatan person. But he is no longer registered in Yahoo. Because Sanatan’s answer was insightful I placed it here. The Sarasvati River actually dried up 1900 BCE so it was much earlier when it was a verdant, flowing river. ]
Dr. David Frawley theorizes, quite convincingly, the Aryan invasion of the Indus valley in a myth. That would mean the cradle of civilization was actually a “Sarasvati civilization,” or at least “Indus-Sarasvati civilization.”
“How could the Vedic Aryans know of this river and establish their culture on its banks if it dried up some centuries before they arrived? Indeed the Sarasvati as described in the Rig Veda as a green and fertile region appears to more accurately show the river as it was prior to the Harappan culture as in the Harappan era it was already in decline. In the Brahmanas and Mahabharata the Sarasvati is said to flow in a desert and in the latter does not even reach the sea. The Sarasvati as a river is later replaced by the Ganges and is almost forgotten in Puranic literature. The stages of the drying up of the river can be traced in Vedic literature showing the Vedic people did not merely come at the last phase of the river’s life.”
“The existence of the Sarasvati as a great river was unknown until recent land studies. The very fact that the Vedic Sarasvati was traditionally only identified with a minor desert stream was previously regarded as proof of the invasion theory under the surmise that as the Vedic original river had no real counterpart in India, its real location must have been in another country like Afghanistan. Now that the great Indian Sarasvati has been found that evidence has been countered. If rivers in Afghanistan have Vedic names it is more likely an overflow of populations out of India, not the other way around, as no Afghani river has the size, location, or reaches the sea as did the Vedic Sarasvati. We have already noted Harappan sites in Afghanistan that would explain the naming of rivers there from larger Indian counterparts.”
Source: The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India. By David Frawley : Section- The Rediscovery of the Sarasvati River
There is a book available that goes further into the details of the Saravati river research, ‘New Discoveries About Vedic Sarasvati’ written by Dr Ravi Prakash Arya. He is the Chief Editor of Vedic Science journal.
“Through satellite photography, scientists have mapped the course of an enormous river that once flowed through the north western region of India. The images show that it was 8 km wide in places and that it dried up 4,000 years ago.”