Vedic heritage has been irrevocably integrated with environmental consciousness towards natural assets so much so that it is not only pre-historic but also incomparable vis. a vis. other faiths. Veda-s are exceedingly emphatic on right equilibrium between man and nature. These imperatives and injunctions were mentioned in Vedic literature some 5,000 years ago and almost every Vedic ritual consists of environmental angle innate within. Even Murti-Puja itself a vocal manifestation of nature-worship, has been in vogue for millennia.
Environmental issues are sub-divided in Veda-s into internal and external. Subtle elements like Atma, mind etc. constitute internal environment while all gross objects outside our physical being, external albeit external is consequential to internals. While almost entire world focuses on purification of external environment, Veda-s emphatically stress upon consecration of our inner being as status of external environment is a direct consequence of sanctity of the internal one. Veda-s in fact deliberate over preserving an equitable balance among all these five elements. Disruption in this equilibrium of any variety whatsoever, invites calamities like global warming, earthquakes, avalanches etc. as every element has been sanctified to the extent of being divinised in Veda-s. First Mantra of Rg Veda is dedicated to Agni alone –
Purohitam Yajnasya Devamritvijam I (RV 1.1.1)
Rtam is cosmic rule of the universe sustaining all migrations, even existence of universe, so expounded in Rg Veda –
Satyenottabhita Bhumiha Suryenottabhita Dauha Tritenadityastithanti Divi Somo Adhisritaha I (RV 10:85:1)
Deva-s too are born of Rtam and bound to mandates thereof. It holds the sun in space.
Veda-s project Varuna as the presiding deity of Rtam in addition to being the same for entire mass of water and responsibility of governing entire universe smoothly. According to Rg Veda, Varuna beholds all events happening in the entire cosmos enthroned from above –
Ato Visvanyadbhuta Cikitvom Abhi Pasyati I Krtani Ya Ca Kartva I (RV 1:25:11)
Only cosmic imperatives invite direct intervention from Varuna to restore disrupted equipoise and equilibrium otherwise continues to be a stoic beholder.
Vedic literature visualises the element of Prthvi i.e. earth as mother –
Dyaurmey Pita Janita Nabhiratra Bandhurmey Mata Prthvi Mahiyam I (RV 1:164/33)
Akasa is my sire, environment my navel and this great earth, my mother.
While visualising Akasa and Prthvi as father and mother, they are exhorted in Rg Veda to protect all animate beings –
Pita Mata Ca Bhuvanani Raksataha I (RV 1:160:2)
Veda-s have been often entreated and implored to protect all lives on earth through Mantra-s.
Rg Veda adores Vana Devi, deity of full-fledged sprawling jungles –
Anjanagandhim Surabhi Bahavannamkrsivalam Praham Mrganam Matararamanyabhisamsisam I (RV 10:146:6)
Now I worship Vana Devi i.e. Aranyayi with plesant odour wafting all over, mother of entire vegetation and food store-house without efforts.
Rg Veda addresses vegetation as mother acknowledging medicinal worth of vegetation in its Ausadhi-Sukta –
Satam Vo Amba Dhamani Sahasramat Vo Ruhah I
Adha Satkrtvo Yuyamimam Mey Agadam Krit I (RV 10:97:2)
O mother ! thousands of birth-places you have with thousands of varieties. Thousands are your strengths too. Render this diseased one of mine disease free.
Rg Veda also ordains no exploitation of even grass, so widely available and common vegetation –
Ma No Barhiha Purusata Nidey Karyuyam Pata Svastibhiha Sada Naha I (7:75:8)
Vegetation and water alone have been proclaimed to be the real treasure for subsequent generations –
Puruni Ratna Dadhatau Nayasmey Anu Purvani Cakhyathuryugani I (RV 7:70:4)
Similarly, Rg Veda directs to protect jungles from destruction –
Vanani Naha Prajahitani I (RV 8:1:13)
It’s Vedic heritage alone wherein rivers are adored as mother and water a means of attaining Moksa. Importance and utility of water have been amply underscored in Veda-s as in Satpatha Brhmana, it is declared to be nectar –
Amrit Va Apaha I (1:9:3:7)
Rg Veda too, Vayu has been adored as life-saving medication –
Vat A Vatu Bhesatam Sambhu Mayobhu No Hridey I (RV 10:186:1)
Yajur Veda implores us not to damage entire natural wealth on earth –
Prthvi Matarma Himsi Ma Aham Tvam I (YV 10:23)
Yajura Veda vehemently protests against contamination and destruction of Akasa as well as Vayu –
Dya Mam Lekhirantariksam Ma Hinsi I (5:43)
Yajna enjoys its own importance in Sanatana Dharma. Samidha offered as oblations into Yajna exert their own purifying effects in atmosphere. Yajura Veda mentions life-extension and improved eye-sight as proceeds of Yajna –
Ayuryajnene Kalpatam I
Prana Yajnena Kalpatam I
Caksuryajneya Kalpatam I (YV 9:21)
So much Vedic emphasis on purity of air is entirely scrutable as air is the lifeline of entire living world. Owing to this attribute of vitality, Vayu has been deified in Veda-s.
Atharva Veda mentions air as carrier of water everywhere to bring about life and prosperity –
उत्समक्षितं व्यचन्ति ये सदा य आसिञ्चन्ति रसमोषधीषु ।
पुरो दधे मरुतः पृश्निमातॄंस्ते नो मुञ्चन्त्वंहसः ॥२॥
Maruta-s born to Akasa carry water all around, render curatives vital by ever breezing around us. Vayu-Deva emancipate us from miseries.
मरुतां मन्वे अधि मे ब्रुवन्तु प्रेमं वाजं वाजसाते अवन्तु । आशून् इव सुयमान् अह्व ऊतये ते नो मुञ्चन्त्वंहसः II
Atharva Veda (4.27)
Maruta-s can cause Loka-s tremble by the dint of their might. Maruta Gana-s can disengage inimical forces like storms uproot trees.
अपेतो वायो सविता च दुष्कृतमप रक्षांसि शिमिदां च सेधतम् । सं ह्यूर्जया सृजथः सं बलेन तौ नो मुञ्चतमंहसः ॥ (Atharva Veda 4.27)
O Vayu ! O Surya ! extern those who are felonious and torment others. Bless us strength, guard us from unrighteousness and liberate us from miseries and agonies.
Bhumi-Sukta of Atharva Veda too, adores Prthvi as mother-
Mata Bhumiha Putro Aham Prthivyaha I (RV 12:1:12)
Importance and inevitability of solar energy as a green and clean source of energy has been emphasised in Vedic wisdom since time immemorial. Not only it is the cleanest source of energy but also inexhaustible unlike fossil fuels that are exceedingly detrimental to environment.
सोमेनादित्या बलिनः (Atharva Veda 14.1.2)
Moon transmits energy after receiving from the sun.
Solar energy is so powerful that it strengthens moon
Thus we conclude that Veda-s promote environmentalism in a profoundly scientific way.
Adoration of nature and all natural assets have been intensely ingrained in Sanatana wisdom since time immemorial. It is so expounded in Isavasya Upanisad to the effect that every element, every particle of the universe is divine in nature and adorable too as all that has been bestowed upon us by Param Brhmatma alone. For a sound healthy existence, healthy equilibrium among all these is absolutely imperative. We must cosume natural resources only to the extent it is inevitable –
Isa Vasyamidam Sarvam Yatkica Jagatyam Jagat I
Tena Tyaktena Bhunjitha Ma Gridhaha Kasya Sviddhanam II 1 II
Chhandogya Upanisad mandates not to identify deficiencies in any form of life –
Pasubhirbhavati Mahankirtya I (2:8/2)
Even cows, Garuda-s, rats, lions bulls and owls have been associated with various deities for the purpose of adoration and conservation.
Aitareya Upanisad expounds, entire universe and everything thereof is constituted of five Tattva-s i.e. elements. These are Prthvi i.e. earth the grossest one, Jala i.e. water, Vayu i.e. wind, Agni i.e. fire and the subtlest one Akasa i.e. ether –
Imani Pancamahabhutani Prthvim, Vayuha, Akasaha, Apajyotisi I (3:3)
Vayu i.e. wind exists in our bodies manifesting as vital energy –
Vayurda Va Prano Bhutva Sariramavisat I (Taittiriyopanisat 2:4)
Followers of Vedic culture thoroughly appreciated enormous significance of Vayu. For a long and healthy life, pollution-free pure Vayu has been stressed upon. As Vayu dwells in Akasa, Tattiriya Upanisad has sub-divided Vayu into external and internal –
Sa Ca Eso Antarhridaya Akasaha I (1:6:1) and
Suvarityasau I (1:5:1)
Padma Purana even equates a tree being equivalent to ten sons –
Dasaputrasamo Drumaha I (Padma Purana 1:44:455)
Padma Purana vehemently condemns water pollution –
Sukupanam Tadaganam Prapanam Ca Parantapa I
Sarasam Caiva Bhaittaro Nara Nirayagaminaha II (Padma Purana 96:7:8)
One who pollutes ponds, wells, or lakes descends into hell.
Sanatana scriptures emphasise on ‘environmental etiquettes’ to be religiously pursued for peaceful co-existence in nature just as social norms of conduct are mandatory for a well-organised and ordered human society. We must rest in harmony with every constituent of society, nature and environment as every member of nature whether animate or inanimate, has a certain private environmental space that must be respected as inviolable. Entire ecosystem is exceedingly sensitive to every micro or major move of every member of the system hence the emphasis on environmental etiquettes. When the ecosystem is disrupted, calamities in various forms begin visiting us. This is an enormous responsibility that ought to be shared by us all paving the way for Governments to frame right policies and procedures.