In India through the ages, every village temple has had a tank called Pushkarni. The word “Pushkarni” comes from the word “Pushkaram”, meaning, “that which provides fertility”, Pushti, “health”.
Pushkarni maintains water level
When the waters are collected and stored in the centre of every village, typically next to the temple, in the centre of the village, then the water table in the whole village stays full and provides water not only for daily use of the village, such as drinking and bathing, but also provides fertility to the whole village.
A full, clean temple tank is beautiful to look at. These were built through the ages by the local people, as benefactors of the society.
Apart from daily bathing and for local temple ritual, these tanks were primarily meant for harnessing water.
The earliest such tanks can be seen amidst the ruins of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. Called the Great Baths, they reflect similar design and construction from over 5000 years ago.
Design of these tanks
These tanks were designed and constructed around a natural ground spring. The gradient from local groves also led to these tanks for rain waters to pour in. These groves were designated as sacred groves. The trees that were native to that topography were planted there.
Being designated as sacred groves, they were looked upon as divine, generation after generation, thus providing catchment areas for the rain water to drain into the Pushkarni.
The roofs of the houses around these tanks were sloped towards the tank to harness the rain waters. Thereby, the rain waters collected in these tanks during the rainy season, fulfilling the water needs of the people, through the year, year after year, century after century, in the last couple of millennia.
A healthy Water Table
The tanks thus being kept full throughout the year ensured that there was a healthy water table around that area.
It is but natural these tanks were called Pushkarni for they gave fertility to the community around them.
In sync with Nature
Pushkarni were planned and executed over generations, taking into consideration the topography, the rainfall patterns, the climate and such other relevant factors of Nature. This shows how the communities lived in sync with Nature. Instead of exploiting Nature, they harnessed Nature in a sustainable manner for sustained prosperity.
Such Pushkarni, which bring fertility as well as a sense of harmony among the people, became Punya Tirtha, worthy of being venerated too, like the divinity inside the temple.
Not only did the local people consider each temple tank to be a Punya Tirtha, they considered every river, every stream as a Punya Tirtha too and took the effort to keep every river clean.
Dirty ponds of today
In the last 100 years, somehow we have lost this concept of Punya Tirtha, because of which, we ourselves have dirtied our rivers, our streams and our ponds.
Today when we bathe in any of these, we do not feel fresh, we do not feel clean and we will not get any punya, merit. What we are sure to get are diseases because we have made our waters in every sense and form, filthy.
Need to clean up Pushkarni
Today, we should take it upon ourselves to clean and maintain these village ponds, pushkarni, so that we have a beautiful tank at the village centre in which rain waters can collect during monsoon and the water level in the entire village is kept up through the year.
Hence, though found near the temples, looking after the temple tanks should not be a task limited to the people of the religious community who look after the temple but it should be a community effort, as the benefits of this water reach the entire community of the village, irrespective of religion, caste and creed.
It is only when we realize that it is our waters, which are our Punya Tirtha, will each one of us clean our water bodies, so that they once again really become Punya Tirtha and give us water to clean our bodies.