Vedic Solutions to Modern Problems
The Vedas preach ’Atmavat Sarva Bhuteshu’ i.e. ’Regard every being like your own self.’ The key feature of the approach of the Vedic sages (rishis) in propounding this noble thought was to implant it in peoples’ hearts (emotional core) and minds by linking it with deeper psychology. This, in the Vedic scriptures like the Smritis, Puranas and other ancient text is reflected in integrating the civil and social duties with religious faith.
It is said in "Manusmriti" that - it is sinful to cut green plants for fuel and the offender should be punished suitably (in the hell). Indhanartham sushkanam drumanamavapatanam, Hinsausadhinam..., uppatakam | -Manu Smr.11|63 - 66 Reference to water ponds and plantation of trees around their embankments is also found in the scriptures. Dr. Pandey cites a wonderful collection (on ethno-forestry) of excerpts from the ancient texts in this regard. Some of these are outlined below. The Arthashastra of Kautilya refers to the ownership and management of the village tanks in the following verses: Waterworks such as reservoirs, embankments and tanks can be privately owned and the owner shall be free to sell or mortgage them (3|9|33). The ownership of the tanks shall lapse, if they had not been in use for a period of five years, excepting in case of distress (3|9|32). Anyone leasing, hiring, sharing or accepting waterworks as a pledge, with the right to use them, shall keep them in good condition (3|9|36). Owners may give water to others in return for a share of the produce grown in the fields, parks or gardens (Arthashastra 3|9|35). In the absence of owners, either charitable individuals or the people in village acting together shall maintain waterworks (3|10|3). No one will sell or mortgage, directly or indirectly, a pond or embankment built and long used as a charitable public undertaking except when it is in ruins or has been abandoned (3|10|1|2). The earliest scholar to have commented on the relationship of water ponds and trees is Varahamihira who described the detailed technical instructions for the constructions of water reservoirs in his famous work Brahatsamhita (550 AD): Without the shade of the trees on their sides, water reservoirs are not strong and attractive; therefore, one ought to plant the gardens on the banks of the lakes and ponds (55.1).
More specifically the medicinally and nutritionally beneficial trees are advised to be planted in these areas for multiple benefits of the inhabitants in the surrounding areas; these include Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Vata (Banyan, Ficus benghalensis), Aam (Mangifera indica), Peepal (Ficus religiosa), Nichul (Nauclea orientalis), Jambu (Syzygium cuminii), Vacha (Sweet Flag; Acorus calamus), Neep (Mitragyna parvifolia), Tal (Borassus flabellifer), Ashok (Saraca asoka), Madhuk (Madhuca indica), and Bakul (Mimusops elengi). The centrality of trees to survival and economic well-being created the need for their conservation, which was achieved through the concept of sacredness. In the archaeological remains of the Harappan culture, it is clear that even in the third or fourth millennia BC trees were held in high esteem and were worshiped. The Vedic scriptures make explicit references as to how forests and other natural resources are to be maintained along with best utilization. Ecosystem sustainability in different forms has been an issue of development since ancient times. The great tradition of yagya (fire ritual) was adopted as an integral part of daily chores to purify the environment, help healthy growth of vegetation and preserve natural resources.
The science of yagya and its relevance and impact today, will be covered in separate series of articles in this magazine . The attitude of respect towards earth as mother is widespread among the Indian society because of Vedic teachings. Robust and pragmatic principles were designed in the Vedic scriptures as ’religious norms’ or social duties in consonance with the psychological makeup of the Indian masses to ensure wholehearted participation of the masses in healthy sustenance of Nature with its rich biodiversity and majestic beauty. For example, the following illustrate it in the context of conservation of natural resources and adept maintenance of the ecosystem: 1. Medicinal plants/trees (vanaushadhis) and other vegetation (vanaspatis) are personified as goddesses and deities and collectively invoked as the jungle goddess, ’Aranyani’, in the Vedas. This encourages caring, nurturing and protection of these trees and plants as precious entities....