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Nature Worship – Ecology in Hinduism

In India, it is believed that life constitutes of the five elements – Agni or Fire, Jal or Water, Vayu or Wind, Marut/Prithvi or Earth and Byom or Space. Nature is considerd as the Supreme Being, or the Mother - the holy source of life. Hence, the tradition of Nature Worship in India came into being.

The various forms of Nature Worship include worshipping the natural elements, or the sacred trees, and even animals like snakes and cows. In Hinduism, cows are revered as “Gomata”, or mother, and snakes as Nagdev, or the Snake God. Natural elements like the fire, the water, the wind, all are considered as God – life cannot be sustained without the power of these essentials.

In the villages, the large trees like Banyan, Neem, Peepal, Bel are worshipped as the power that supports the community. This ritual is prevalent since time immemorial. A seal unearthed during excavations at the cradle of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization depicts a Peepal tree being worshipped. In the Puranas, the trees are portrayed as symbols of reproduction, especially the flowering and the fruit-bearing species. This is because the growth of the tree never ceases in fertile conditions, and even after natural calamities, trees retain the ability to regenerate. Medicinal plants like the Tulsi are also revered. Grasses like Durba and Kusha, and fruits of the coconut tree, are essential in various religious rites.

The practice of nature worship, however, did not spring from superstitious mysticism. The harbingers of Hinduism, the rishis of the past, recognized the importance of conservation of natural resources and the dangers of overexploitation of nature. Hinduism is an environmentally sensitive philosophy that stresses on environmental ethics. The religious scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, and the Mahabharata and Ramayana, advocate preservation of environment and ecological balance. Man has been advised not to tamper with nature, and tolerate it if it gets adverse. He has been taught to take care of the plants and animals around him. Ecology is an intrinsic element of Hinduism.

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