Hindu Dharma and the Environment

On the occasion of World Environment Day that is celebrated on 5th June every year, let’s take time to analyse how our Hindu Dharma teaches us to be in sync with the environment and take time to analyze how the relationship of humans with the environment has changed over the time.

We belong to an ancient culture of Hindu Dharma that believes in ‘Earth is one family’ ~ Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Since ages, our learned scholars, rishi-muni, ancient texts have taught about divinity of various trees and plants. Our Gods are associated with one or the other animal or bird. Ganesha-Mouse, Shiva-Snake, Durga-Tiger/Lion, Laxmi-Owl, Kartikeya-Peacock and many more such examples. Cow is considered the holiest creature who is worshiped across the Hindu culture. We all remember seeing our elders especially our grandparents and older generations keeping food aside for cow, dog, birds before starting to eat their meal. We still follow the practice of feeding flour to the ants. With the time such practices have diminished. We have to agree that our ancestors were much more attached to nature and environment than we are.

We worship Bhagwan Shiva as Pashupatinath– literal meaning- the Lord of the animals. This association of Gods with animals and birds just can’t be a myth. Out of dasavatar of Bhagwan Vishnu, the initial ones are in some or the other non human form- Matsya, the fish; Kurma, the giant tortoise; Varaha, the boar; Narasimha, the half-man/half-lion.

Rivers in Bharat are considered as holy and often manifested as Goddesses. They are worshiped and forms the basis of our beliefs and culture. This is something that has been followed since ages. Our temples were constructed on the banks of rivers. May be the reason was to maintain the sanctity of the pristine waters that give life to the civilization. As the time moved ahead, we became more ‘modern’ in terms of urbanization but forgot to respect the very environment that gives us life. Seems like we forgot all the lessons of our ancestors and thus started polluting the rivers. The impact is that we are the victims, it’s us who are suffering from all the ill effects of such destruction.

Any family following Hindu Dharma even considers the trees and plants as holy and worth worshiping. While Tulsi is found in almost all Hindu homes, worshiping trees like that of banyan, banana, neem etc. forms some or the other festival and ritual. The solution to all ailments of a human body lies with the environment. That is why Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.

Our festivals are inclined with the nature. Various harvest festivals by whatever name called are celebrated across length and breadth of Bharat with full fervor and happiness. There are festivals that are celebrated in relation to movement of the Sun and the Moon.

Talking about Himalayas, we hear stories of people finding peace in Himalayas. Monks and sages have made them their home because they offer perfect setting of tranquility for their dhyaan and meditation. Above all, Himalayas are the home of aadi-yogi Mahadev.

The point is that there are many rituals that we follow because we have seen our parents do the same and they follow as they have seen their parents doing that. This cycle goes on. However, most of us are unaware of why we follow it. I am hopeful that if we dig into it deeper, we will know that all these rituals are inclined somewhere with the environment and its impact on humans. May be that is when we will realize its importance. This knowledge is infinite but we must start learning because living in sync with the environment forms the basis of our own existence.

दशकूपसमा वापी दशवापीसमो ह्रदः ।
दशह्रदसमः पुत्रो दशपुत्रसमो द्रुमः ॥
~ मत्स्य पुराण
“A pond equals ten wells, a reservoir equals ten ponds.
A son equals ten reservoirs, and a tree equals ten sons!” ~ Matsya Purana
We may look at it this way that by interlinking the Gods with various elements of environment, our ancestors ensured that we respect nature and her elements. Human being considers himself at the top among all creatures. But he forgets that the ultimate power lies with the nature. So respecting her, protecting her is our duty and will also ensure our survival.

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