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Q 78- What status was the environment accorded during the Vedic period? How do Vedic symbols encapsulate the spirit of environment? Discuss.

  •   Paper & Topic: GS I à Indian Culture

 

  • Model Answer:

 

  • Introduction:

 

  • The Vedic Age was between 1500 BC and 600 BC.
  • This is the next major civilization that occurred in ancient India after the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization by 1400 BC.
  • The Vedas were composed in this period and this gives this age the name.
  • Further the Vedas have several references in them on environmental protection, ecological balance, weather cycles, rainfall phenomena, hydrologic cycle, and related subjects that directly indicate the high level of awareness of the seers and people of that time.

 

  • Body:

 

  • Status of Environment:

 

  • Ancient treasures of vast knowledge reveal a full cognizance of the undesirable effects of environmental degradation, whether caused by natural factors or human activities. 
  • The protection of the environment was understood to be closely related to the protection of the ‘dyaus’ or heavens and ‘prithvi’ or earth.
  • Between these two lies the atmosphere and the environment that we refer to as the ‘paryavaran’.
  • Many of the Rig Vedic hymns therefore vividly describe the ‘Dyava’ Prithvi that is, they describe Heaven and Earth together. 
  • The Rig Veda venerates deities like Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Maruts and Aditya, that are responsible for maintaining the requisite balance in the functioning of all entities of Nature whether the mountains, lakes, heaven and earth, the forests or the waters. 
  • Seers recognised that changes caused due to indiscreet human activities could result in imbalances in seasons, rainfall patterns, crops and atmosphere and degrade the quality of water, air, and earth resources. 
  • There are many hymns seeking the blessings of the five basic gross elements or the ‘pancha mahabhoota’ of Nature: ‘akashor’ firmament, ‘vayu’ or air, ‘agni’, ‘tejas’ or fire, ‘apah’ or water, and ‘prithvi’ or earth.
  • People were careful to refrain from activities that could cause harm to Nature’s bounties.
  • It was understood that the well-being of Mother Earth depended on the preservation and sustenance of the environment. 
  • The Rig Veda makes a clear reference to the presence of a protective layer which we know now to be the ozone layer that filters the harmful rays of the sun and protects the earth and praises the radiation that enters the atmosphere that is responsible for the health of the environment.
  • Therefore, the Vedic society which was nature worshiping society as they were in awe of day-to-day phenomena of seasonal changes, the moon and the sun.
  • This led them to name various forces of nature as gods and goddesses.
  • This system of worship is still followed in many parts of India.

 

  • Following symbols summarize the importance of spirit of Environment:

 

  • Concept of ‘Panch mahabhootas’: The universe consists of five basic elements viz. earth or land, water, light or lustre, air and ether.
  • The nature has maintained a status of balance between and among these constituents or elements and living creatures.
  • Divinity to Nature: Vedic Gods and Goddesses conceptualized from the natural elements of Environment. E.g. ‘Vayudev’ (Air), ‘Varundev’ (Rain).
  • They used to perform various ‘yadnyas’ (religious activities) and sacrifices to please natural forces.   
  • Concept of Water as Apah and Air as Vayu: According to Rig-Veda the water and air is essential to all forms of life.
  • Their curious nature towards Environment helped them to identify certain plants as ‘Osdhadhi’, i.e., medicinal plants.
  • Their belief in ‘Sacred groves’ indicate protective attitude towards forest ecosystem.
  • The protection of the environment was understood to be closely related to the protection of the ‘dyaus’ or heavens and ‘prithvi’ or earth.
  • Between these two lies the atmosphere and the environment that we refer to as the paryavaran.
  • Many of the Rig Vedic hymns therefore vividly describe the Dyava Prithvi i.e. Heaven and Earth together.

 

  • Conclusion:

 

  • People of Vedic times considered every stakeholder in the environment as sacred.
  • Their belief of God as creator of everything added dimension of purity to their approach towards environment.
  • Way of life in those times itself was in harmony with environment which automatically helped in preservation and conservation.
  • Therefore the present society in India and world can emulate the sustainable practices of Vedic period which can help them to live with harmony with nature. 
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