Our Earth, reverently called Mother Earth, is as alive as any other living being. Mother Earth constitutes everything that contains any or more of the five elements (Panchamahabhuta) – earth (bhumi), water (jala), air (vayu), fire (agni) and space (akash) – that constitute prana or life-giving energy.
In Indian tradition, Earth is called Prthvi which means ‘wide, heavy’. It is also called Dharti-‘that which bears’. This land reveres our planet as verily a Divinity, Bhu Devi.
The Veda were compiled over 5000 years ago. In the Veda there are two separate chapters titled – Prthvi Sukta and Bhumi Sukta. Sukta, meaning a collection of mantra.
- Prthvi Sukta
2. Bhumi Sukta
The First verse with meaning from Bhumi Sukta
Prthvi means broad, expansive and heavy. Prthvi Sukta of the Veda deals with the earth, and on how it stands without any support on its base, being supported by the forces of Nature, to remain at its location in the universe.
Isn’t it really wonderful that the Vedic Rishi observed, understood and recorded these details about the earth, over 5000 years back itself!
Bhumi means earth and Sukta is collection of mantra. The etymological meaning Bhumi, means to be steady, stable, secure and sustained.
Our Bhumi has been steady for more than a few lakhs, millions of years.
The Bhumi has also been stable. The earth has been rotating and hurtling through space in its revolutionary motion at great speeds, but it has continued to give a stable perception to all beings on it.
The Bhumi has been a secure home to all living creatures.
Apart from all these features of being steady, stable, secure, the other key meaning “is to sustain”. The earth sustains all plant life and animal life that have been fortunate to be born on it. This sustaining nature of earth has not only been understood and appreciated but has also been incorporated in the naming, and in the thought process.
Prthvi and Bhumi
We have seen above how Bhumi has a layer of meanings. It is to express these meanings, this concept, that the ancient Rishi the knowledgeable men of ancient India have separated the two facets of this earth and given it two distinct names – Prthvi and Bhumi. Prthvi for its broad, heavy and expansive nature and Bhumi for its stable, secure and sustaining nature.
The earth as Mother, Dharti may innately bear and sustain everything, but there is a limit to the extent to which She can bear the brunt of man’s actions.
‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed’ – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Observations of Chief Seattle
The observations of Chief Seattle in 1964 is apt here on the relationship between man and earth.
“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
Greenery and Water Bodies disappearing
Greenery and Water are interrelated. The water bodies ensure an increase in the greenery cover all around them and more green cover ensures more rains and more water.
Today, in the name of progress and prosperity, buildings replace trees in most major cities.
Water bodies disappear to make way for residential and business complexes. The city is the centralized congested hub to which people from the rural areas migrate, in search of livelihood. This is in stark contrast to the era of ancient India, when most of the local community lived in villages with abundant greenery in their surroundings. Each village had its own water body called Pushkarni, which nourished the greenery in the village surroundings. The villages supported the cities. Agriculture flourished in the villages.
Water bodies are also disappearing, making way for residential centers and shopping malls.
Huge buildings have replaced greenery
In ancient India, the decentralized system was followed. Instead of a centralized hub like the cities where all people migrate to, there were many decentralized villages everywhere where the local community lived. The communities in these villages were smaller, and thus there was more greenery. Moreover, each village had its own water bodies called the Pushakarni, which contributed to the greenery of that area.
Pushkarni surrounded by greenery
In ancient India, the villages supported the cities. Agriculture happened in villages. Decentralized manufacturing of products such as steel, zinc, copper, also happened in the villages. The cities were just a trading hub. The ecological footprint was thus spread out.
The Indian ethos and practice of sustainability emanated from the Bhumi Sukta and Prthvi Sukta of Rig Veda and has flowed through the civilization therefrom. Bhumi Sukta speaks of the need to appreciate the life giving qualities of earth and hence need to keep it sustainable for generations to come.
A Thought provoking quote
A thought-provoking quote from the Hollywood movie, Matrix states:
“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply… until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area.
There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern.
Do you know what it is?
Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet”.
Time to sensitize ourselves
The urgent need of the hour is to stop and think about what we as custodians of Planet Earth, can do, to stop this ‘gang-rape’ of the planet. Let us, together and individually, sensitize ourselves and others towards saving the Earth. Let us take that extra effort to avoid plastics.
- Let us use our own bags and our own water bottles.
- Let us car-pool, use the public transportation, use the bicycle or walk to health, as often as we can.
- Let us desist from using environment-harming chemicals.
- Let us plant trees and saplings and more importantly, nurture them through their lives and our lives.
- Let us be sensitive to our fellow creatures in birds and animals. Let us respect their home space in nature, along with ours.
- Let us realize that we are infesting the earth. We need to control our population.
Small, but persistent steps in the right way, will surely help wean the Earth away from the fatality it is threatened with today.
World Earth Day is a time for us to resolve to revive these sustainable practices by becoming aware of them and putting them to right use and protect our planet.
More on sustainable practices of ancient India in our work, “Sustainable Ethos of India.”