Book Review : ‘Hinduism and Nature’ by Nanditha Krishna

‘Hinduism and Nature’ is a book that blends spirituality, mythology, and an analysis of environmental awareness that is embedded in Hinduism. Nanditha Krishna, in her book, tries to bring out the close harmony between nature and the Hindu faith. The author quotes verses from Sangam literature, Bhagavad GitaVedas and Upanishads to explain the commitment that our forefathers had for the environment. This view presented in the introduction was particularly enlightening :

Hinduism has a cosmic , rather than anthropocentric, view of the world, an ontology sharply different from the Abrahamic religions which believe that ‘God created mankind in his own image'(Genesis 1:27) and ‘let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds  of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on earth'(Genesis 1:26) Hindu traditions acknowledge that all life forms- humans animals and plants are equal and sacred , and thus appropriately placed to take on contemporary concerns like deforestation, intensive farming of animals , global warming and climate change.

Nanditha Krishna

The book is filled with stories attached to forests, rivers and mountains across India. While emphasizing on the central role of nature in Sanatan Hindu culture, the author incorporates tribal belief systems and traditions as well in her book.

Nanditha Krishna explains how compassion and respect for animals, plants and our environment is embedded in the Hindu rituals and festivals, at appropriate junctures throughout the book. The narrative starts with Rig Vedic people, who worshiped forces of nature like sun, fire, rain and wind. While retaining core values, it is also evident that some evolution has occurred in sacred texts in accordance with changes in material life. This is reflected in post- Vedic texts like Puranas.

- Advertisement - - Article resumes -

In spite of being politically divided, the entire subcontinent was united by Hindu Dharma. From the book, it is evident that the geographical references in Mahabharata and Ramayana were not entirely fictional. When the new capital of Indraprasta was built after burning Khandava forests, a large number of animals and plants were killed. The author remarks that those who built cities over the destroyed forests wanted to take some measures to make amends. The corrective stance was reflected in subsequent religious texts.

Hindu puranas promised incentives to those who plant trees and punishment to those who fell trees. The author quotes Varaha Purana which says promises that a person who plants a banyan, two pomegranates, five mango trees and ten flowering plants/creepers shall never go to hell. The Agni Purana says that plantation of gardens leads to eradication of sins whereas the Padma Purana warns of punishment in hell for felling a green tree. In the light of rapid deforestation and urbanization in modern India, a strong belief in these puranas could help us combat climate change.

While writing about sacred groves of India, the author is aided by her experience as an environmentalist. She outlines the tribal and Hindu traditions wherein religious sanction has been instrumental in conservation of forests and biodiversity. The author laments the erosion of the faith and urbanization that has led to decline in people’s commitment to conserve these forests. The practice of offering terracotta horses to deities of sacred groves described in the book in particularly interesting

The mythological story behind each major river, mountain and lake of India is presented lucidly. It is quite clear from the book that the divinity attached to the water bodies because of these mythological stories helped in their conservation. Hinduism smartly blended the larger interest of society by attaching sacred value to rivers, forests and wildlife even though the society had transformed into a more materialistic civilization over the centuries. I was particularly impressed to learn that a King in Cambodia has built Angkor Wat temple inspired by Meru Parvata .

The book explains that the principle of ahimsa (non violence) was extended to animals as well. Initially, Vedas explicitly prohibited killing of animals for food. Later, this message became more implicit as deities like Shiva, Vishnu and other gods became a part of Hindu faith. This was ensured by assigning animals as vehicles to various Hindu deities. The book captures the rationale behind this aspect of Hinduism succinctly. While writing about the sacred value attached to cows, the author clears the air on beef consumption in Vedic society by interpreting the controversial word ‘goghna’ from Panini’s texts. ‘Goghna’, according to Panini is a ‘receiver of the cow’ and not a ‘killer of the cow’ as translated by leftist historians.

Unfortunately, the boundary of this sacred space, involving rivers, wildlife, lakes and forests around temples is shrinking due to growing population and wants of the people. As the author rightly points out, we have forgotten the art of living in harmony with nature. The author captures the deep reverence that Sanatana Hindu Dharma had for nature convincingly in her book. She also stresses the need to draw lessons from our ancient philosophies and alter our attitudes in order to save the earth

The book is not only informative and seamless in its flow, but also forces the reader to contemplate about the disconnect between ‘modern’ Hindus and nature. It also nudges every reader, irrespective of their religion towards a greener lifestyle and a compassionate attitude towards all living beings.

Share and Support:
Support OpIndia by paying for content

Most read articles recently

Loans waived by Congress govt in MP, but here are the ‘conditions apply’ that farmers should see

One of the main poll promises in the run-up to 2018 elections was farmer loan waiver. Rahul Gandhi and all Congress leaders harped on farmer loan waiver.

Ghaziabad: Stray dog, mother of five puppies, raped and dragged to death by Nafees and Tauseef

Nafees, one of the accused, has reportedly confessed to the crime of raping the animal several times before dragging her through the streets

‘I was a communist, but I fail to understand how talking about Hindus becomes ‘communal’: Hadiya’s father joins BJP

He said that he was a communist since childhood but of late the party is playing dirty vote-bank politics eyeing minority votes.

No Rajdeep, there is no reason to thank Imran Khan for the homecoming of Hamid Ansari. Here is why

Rajdeep Sardesai has time and again proved himself to be a master of quackery

PM Modi makes a big announcement: 99% items to soon fall under 18% GST slab or lower

"Today, GST system has been established to a large extent and we are working towards a position 99% things would attract the sub- 18% slab", said Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Kamal Nath has given Congress ecosystem the job of demonizing UP-Bihar, and we can expect this

After fifteen long years, Congress has begun its innings in Madhya Pradesh on a message of hatred towards the people of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by CM Kamal Nath

Read excerpts of Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge led PAC report slamming HAL for delay in projects while Rahul indulged in politicking

PAC, led by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge severely criticised HAL for the delay in projects while Rahul Gandhi accused PM Modi of 'taking away projects from HAL'

IT magnate Narayana Murthy and ace investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala root for Modi government in 2019

Narayan Murthy and Rakesh Jhunjhunwala both have praised Modi government’s policies in the last 4.5 years of governance

Surging India: PM Modi sets up the tone for 2019 campaign? Lists how India has developed a lot since 2014

PM Modi was giving the keynote address at Republic TV summit where he put forward his government's achievements in last four years

After spreading negativity during Diwali, Times Now is in a festive mood during Christmas

Times Now's tweets reflect the general attitude of the Indian elite towards Hindu festivals. While everything negative is associated with Hindu festivals, an aura of celebratory mood is spread on the occasion of Abrahamic festivals.

Latest articles

Connect with us

125,843FansLike
98,422FollowersFollow
6,392SubscribersSubscribe

Don't miss these