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Culture and Ecology / Presentation

Hindu renewal

Photo by Deepak Mishra/Indian Photo Agency

Hindu renewal

Hindus taking a ritual bath

Devotees take a holy dip during the royal Bath (Shahi Snan) at the Sangam, the confluence of sacred rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, as part of the Maha Kumbh festival or Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.

For cutting off the tender sprouts of fruit trees, flower trees or shady trees in the parks near a city, a fine of 6 panas shall be imposed; for cutting off the minor branches of the same trees, 12 panas, and for cutting off the big branches, 24 panas shall be levied. Cutting off the trunks of the same shall be punished [with a fine between 48–96 panas]; and felling of the same shall be punished with [a fine between 200–500 panas]… For similar offenses committed in connection with the trees which mark boundaries, or which are worshipped . . . double the above fines shall be levied.

Kautilya's Arthasastra, translated by R. Shamasastry, Mysore, Mysore Publishing and Printing House, 1967, p. 225

Hinduism and Climate Change

by Makarand Paranjape

Hinduism celebrates nature through the Mahabhuta, or the five great elements. These are the earth (Prithvi), water (Jal), fire (Tejas), air (Vayu) and space (Akasa). Today there is a great campaign to save and clean up all the rivers in India, particularly the Ganges, the holiest of rivers. (Editor's note)

Unfortunately, no river is clean in India today; no river is fit to bathe in. The Yamuna, the scene of the legendry frolics of Krishna, is scarcely more than a sewage drain. The Narmada, one of our most sacred rivers, is little more than a trickle. The river is dying. Many millions of rupees were spent cleaning the Ganges, India’s holiest river, but she too is incredibly dirty.

Let me quote a few excerpts from an eloquent document called «Hindu Declaration on Climate Change», presented at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia, December 8, 2009.

“The Hindu tradition understands that man is not separate from nature, that we are linked by spiritual, psychological and physical bonds with the elements around us. Knowing that the Divine is present everywhere and in all things, Hindus strive to do no harm. We hold a deep reverence for life and an awareness that the great forces of nature – the earth, the water, the fire, the air and space – as well as all the various orders of life, including plants and trees, forests and animals, are bound to each other within life’s cosmic web. …

We cannot continue to destroy nature without also destroying ourselves. The dire problems besetting our world – war, disease, poverty and hunger – will all be magnified many fold by the predicted impacts of climate change. …

Humanity’s very survival depends upon our capacity to make a major transition of consciousness, equal in significance to earlier transitions from nomadic to agricultural, agricultural to industrial and industrial to technological. We must transit to complementarity in place of competition, convergence in place of conflict, holism in place of hedonism, optimization in place of maximization. We must, in short, move rapidly towards a global consciousness that replaces the present fractured and fragmented consciousness of the human race.”

For cutting off the tender sprouts of fruit trees, flower trees or shady trees in the parks near a city, a fine of 6 panas shall be imposed; for cutting off the minor branches of the same trees, 12 panas, and for cutting off the big branches, 24 panas shall be levied. Cutting off the trunks of the same shall be punished [with a fine between 48–96 panas]; and felling of the same shall be punished with [a fine between 200–500 panas]… For similar offenses committed in connection with the trees which mark boundaries, or which are worshipped . . . double the above fines shall be levied.

Kautilya's Arthasastra, translated by R. Shamasastry, Mysore, Mysore Publishing and Printing House, 1967, p. 225