“International Mountain Day”, instituted by United Nations General Assembly in 2003 to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development.
In the Indian ethos the mountains have not been looked at as only a geographical phenomenon but have been intrinsically linked with the ethos of the land. The mountains have formed an important aspect of the sustainability ethos of the land through the ages.
The people who have lived in this land in the forest of the mountainous region have been respectfully referred to in the Indian tradition as vanavasi. They have been the custodians’ guardians of these mountains big and small.
In the name of development and classification these vanavasi have been now classified as adivasi and as scheduled tribes. These modern classifications have been a restricting factor in the activity of these vanavasi. These nomenclatures also have a shade of non-respectful reference.
If we have to look at the mountains to be sustainable component of our land, we should not only respect the mountains but as well respect the people who have made these mountains their homes and given them the right to safeguard the mountain scape which they have been innately capable of, which they have been maintaining from the past many millennia.
In the Indian thought the mountains, hills have been revered through the ages. The hills are called Parvat. The chief of the hills is Parvat Raja. The daughter of this Parvat Raja is Parvati who is the consort of Shiva. Parvati is thus the daughter of the hill. That is the reverence that the hills and the hill people have received in the Indian thought. The tallest and the mightiest mountain range in the world is Himalaya. The very word Himalaya comes from the word him meaning “snow” and alaya meaning “the abode of”, hence, “the abode of snow”. It is the same term as alaya which we use for temple. Thus we respectfully refer to the grand mountain as alaya, the “temple of snow”.
Himalaya, “the abode of snow”
Krishna who lived around 3100 BCE asked his people to venerate Goverdhangiri the nearby hill which provided the gracing pastures for their cows and livelihood for all of them. The consequent episode of Goverdhangiri is well known and has been retold many a times in poetry and different art forms.
Boundaries of India
In the north we all know it is bounded by the Himalayas, the great snowcap mountains. In the East, the boundaries of India start from Arunachala, aruna meaning the first rays of the sun and achala meaning the hill. So Arunachala meaning where the first rays of the sun fall on the hills of the land which is today referred to as the hills of Arunachal Pradesh. In the west, the boundaries of India are extended till Astachal, ast meaning to set, achala meaning hills, the hills over which the setting sun sets. These were the hills in the west of Afghanistan. Thus we see even the boundaries of this great land through the ages has been referred to the three mountains; Himachal, Arunachal, Astachal. Every hill is venerated and festivals are celebrated around the hill by the local throughout the land. Such veneration has been there for many millennia for the people recognized that their hill formed a sustainable part of this life. While the term sustainability may seem like a new age word, it was seen in practice in this land in many fields, here in this case with the hills and mountains.
Let us, this day, the International Mountain Day, recognize the intrinsic role that shall play between man, flora, fauna and mountains in sustaining each other.