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Fests of Bharat: Bonded Naturally

Dr SP Shukla

Dr SP ShuklaJan 14, 2022, 09:39 AM IST

Fests of Bharat: Bonded Naturally

 

‘Mata Bhumih, Putroaham Prithivyah’, such has been an integral bond with nature in our  culture. Far from exploiting it, in Bharat, nature has been respected as much as the humans

 

The geographical entity, bounded by the mighty Himalayas in the North and the Hind Mahasagar in the South is known as Bharat, Hindustan or India. The inhabitants of this land are designated as Bharati (or Bharatiya), Hindus or Indians. Of these the term ‘Hindu’ is considered as the Iranian/ Persian adaptation of term ‘Sindhu’. The term ‘Sindhu’ denoting a river as well as region occurred first in a hymn from the Rigveda—perhaps the earliest written word of the human race. The foundation of Indian culture and civilisation was laid during the Vedic era. All the subsequent developments in India, whether literary, philosophical, religious, moral or social derived inspiration from the Vedic literature and culture. The contribution of the Hindus in various fields of knowledge and thought has been admirable.Their views on the importance of a sustainable environment and the existence of bio-diversity may provide solace to the strife-torn world which is facing worst climate crisis today.

The Vedic Rishis were highly knowledgeable and possessed a thorough understanding of material as well as spiritual domains. They always thought about the well-being of humanity. Their main concern was to realise the source of Creation, and they worshipped the forces of nature as various divinities but firmly thought that in essence these stood for One Being (Ekam Sat Viprahbahudhavadanti—RV 1.164.46). Nature was accepted as divine manifestation. The Vedic seers considered various sources of water as pure and purifying. The Rigved (7.4.9.2), as translated by HH Wilson, informs: “May the waters that are in the sky, or those that flow (on the earth), those (whose channels) have been dug, or those that have sprung up spontaneously and seek the ocean, all be pure and purifying! May those divine waters protect me here (on earth)!”

The ‘Prithavi Sukta’ of the Atharvaveda, consisting of sixty-three verses throws interesting light on the ecological consciousness of the Vedic people. In this text, the physical details of the earth are affectionately mentioned; hills and deep forests are prayed to, to bestow happiness and support all races and nations with their fertile and nourishing qualities. The physical elements of earth, which included water, air and soil have great bearing on the prosperity of people and significant for the growth of agriculture, environmental sustenance and bio-diversity including plant life, animal world and human-beings. Mother earth treats all as equal without discrimination. Similarly no one has an authority to harm or destroy the environment. All the species on this earth are equal. It is in this context, as explained in verse 18, the welfare of all and hatred towards none is emphasised. This injunction is of prime importance for the peaceful existence of different groups of people, races and nations. Sage Atharva, who visualised this significant ‘sukta’ was well aware of the existence of races of different people, following separate faiths, religions and speaking many languages. He compared Mother earth with a Cosmic Cow, which gives us thousand-fold prosperity without any hesitation, or being outraged by our destructive actions.

Hindu epics also contain valuable insights regarding the environmental consciousness of their times. The great Mahabharata refers to the existence of many forests in India being the abode of famous sages and seers. The Peepal tree has been held as sacred right from prehistoric times, which can be seen painted on the earthen pots of the Early Saraswati-Sindhu Civilisation. In the Vedic-Harappan urban milieu the tradition continued, besides, this sacred tree came to be associated with divinities also. On a seal from Harappa, a deity seated in meditation wears a Peepal twig on his head. Interestingly, SiddharthGautam attained nirvana under the Peepal tree at Gaya and became Buddha, the Enlightened One in sixth century BCE. This tree emits oxygen all the time which may have been useful in calming the mind. Indians perhaps knew this phenomenon since fairly early times. Ayurveda also recognises the significance of its seeds, leaves and bark for medicinal value. Its wood was used in Yajnas. It was advised to protect and preserve this and other similar trees for the maintenance of environment and ecological balance. Sanskrit texts mention about gardening in connection to town-planning. Rishi Parashara laid down the rules about trees to be planted in gardens, grafting and transplantation of trees as well as diseases of trees and their treatment (Bhatt, 527). The Krishiparashara, Vrishayurveda of king Surapala, Upavanavinoda etc. contain valuable information on this subject. 

Kautilya was the first thinker who framed rules against the person who caused an injury to a tree (Arthashastra 111.19). Manusmriti (1V.56) also advised that one should not urinate or relieve themselves or cough and throw impious objects in the water.

The Ayurvedic texts—Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, Ashtangahridaya etc. vividly speak about air and water pollution (vikriti). According to Charaka, polluted air with bad smell, or full of dirt,‘creates diseases’ in the body. Likewise, the water, when it is excessively smelly, unnatural in colour or taste and that which is not frequented by aquatic birds, is considered as polluted.

The concern of environment and protection of bio-diversity largely depends on the awareness of the people. In this connection, the teachings of Jainism and Buddhism played a very important role in popularising the tenets of non-violence (ahimsa). The Jain teachers showed great concern for dissemination of their ideas on co-existence based on non-violence.

Buddha also laid great stress on the cultivation of ‘maitri’, ‘karuna’, ‘mudita’ and ‘upeksha’. Of these, ‘maitri’ referred to friendliness, goodwill and benevolence. King Ashoka, after the Kalinga war, devoted his energy in the spread of Dhamma (the eternal values of life) which laid emphasis on the welfare of all beings. He also prohibited the killing of animals and planted trees on the roadside. This all would have certainly enhanced the consciousness of the people in general.

Let us always remember that earth is our Mother and we are her children- ‘Mata Bhumih Putroaham Prthivyah’. 

 

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