Nature Worship in India

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Item Code: NAU413
Author: M.L. Varadpande
Publisher: Shubhi Publications, Gurgaon
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788182901124
Pages: 150 (Throughout Color and B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 11.00 X 8.00 inch
Weight 700 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Indians, for centuries, saw God in Nature and Nature in God, both worshipful for him.

The primitive world was `comminity of beings' which included, along with humans, all that which implied by the term nature - the sky the brooks, the rivers, the oceans, the trees, the forests, earth, mountains, entire flora and fauna.

The reverence and worship offered by humans to other members, animate and inanimate, of his community of beings gave rise to the Cult of Nature Worship.

The book speaks about this strong Indian tradition of Nature worship with the history of several thousand years reaching to the immediate present.

About the Author

Author, the great lover of nature and her mystic ways of influencing human life, has explored here the tradition and culture.

Internationally known as a serious student of Indian art, literature, culture and history he has penned about twenty five books.

His major works are: History of Indian Theatre, Vol-I, II, III, Apsara in Indian Art and literature, Woman in Indian Sculpture, Gods, Goddesses and Demons, Ganapati in Indian Mythology, and Mahabharata in Performance.

The author is honoured by the Sangeet Natak Akademi (National Akademi of music, dance and drama) by conferring upon him Tagore Akademi Puraskar for his contribution to the field of performing arts as a scholar.


Universe is nature in evolution

Since time immemorial Nature Worship is integral to Indian civilisation, culture and religion. It still survives in the country in different forms.

Indians consider five elements of nature as primary principles out of which whole physical universe has emanated. They are Prithvi (earth), Apa (water), Teja (light), Vayu (air) and Akasha (space). Their worship still continues. A few instances are quoted here.

There are number of festivals, ceremonies, customs, rituals observed to honour and worship earth, the primordial mother goddess.

Rajaparb is the most popular festival of Orissa. The first day of the Raja festival falls on the last day of the solar month of Jaishtha. It continues for three days. It is believed that Earth goddess had started to menstruate on the first day of the Raja and after the third day she is to take ritual bath and return to normalcy. During the so called menstruation period earth is to be avoided like a woman during her period. Therefore men and women avoid touching the earth by refraining from walking barefoot, digging, ploughing and even cooking on earthern chulha. Boys and girls take to the swing and sing typical Raja songs in the form of duet. Singing, merry-making, feasting and display of gymnastic feats and playing games become most important preoccupation for three days. On the fourth day when the earth is rituallly clean and is ready for fertilization, on the anology of a woman, the ceremonial ploughing is undertaken in the paddy fields. (Folklore of Orissa.)

Near similar custom is observed in Assam in the month of Ashadha. During the period the temple of goddess Kamakhya, who represents earth, is closed. The red cloth stained with the so called menstrual fluid of the goddess is considered very auspicious. It is believed that if ritual worship of mother earth is performed by covering oneself with this sacred red cloth all the wishes and desires of the performer are fulfilled. Here this festival dedicated to mother earth and goddess Kamakhya representing her is called ambuvachi.

In the Garba festival of Gujarath a pot filled with water is placed in the centre and women dance around it. This pot represents mother earth, locally called Ambamata.

Earth and her features such as mountains, forests are worshipped, mainly by tribal communities. Tribals of Jharkhand perform a festival of Alhera Puja in which the earth is worshipped by singing, dancing by local tribals.

The tribal groups who inhabit mountain Niyamgiri region in Kalahandi district of Orissa live by nature. Their world view is polythistic animism, and they associate mountains, earth (dharini), and forests with various deities.

The mountain is particularly sacred to the locals and is represented by triangle in all their cultural iconography, like decorations on the walls of their houses or the clothes they wear. They make small offerings of flowers near a simple structure of stone pile with a slab above it, signifying Dharini or earth.

These tribal groupes strongly opposed a modern mining project least it would have destroyed their holy mountain, Niyamgiri, which they worshipped with reverence as a prominent feature of the earth.

In India there is a custom called Bhoomi-Puja, which is performed before constructing any structure on the earth. Bhoomi Puja means worshiping the earth goddess to seek her blessings. Before ploughing the field for agriculture operation worship is offered to mother earth.

Forests and hills are prominent features of the earth. In the city of Ara in Bihar there is a temple of forest goddess, Aranya, whose history dates back to Vedic times. In the Rig Veda there is a hymn dedicated to forest goddess Aranyani. In the South Rajasthan there is a shrine of forest goddess Aranyavasini located far from settled area (Gods Guardians and lovers, P: 41). There are number of sacred forests in India with their titulary deities.

Near village Mongar (Haryana) there is a five hundred hectare forest on the Aravalis revered by the villagers for generations. The forest houses large temple Saint Gudaria Baba. The locals claim that they do not cut even a twig inside it. Whosoever took away wood for cooking from here saw his kitchen burn down.

In the city of Amritsar in Punjab there is a shrine of goddess Bhadrakali. In the summer month of Jayshtha a large fair is held in her honour. During the festival period strong winds blow in the temple area. The devotees believe that the goddess herself assuming the form of strong current of wind vayu visits the temple. This myth is in veneration of principle of Vayu.

There is a grand temple dedicated to sun god at Modhera in Gujarat. No idol of Sun is placed in the sanctum sanctorium. There is only a vacant space which represents the Akasha principle. Akasha is the space through which Sun moves.

Water, that is Apa or Jal, has been venerated and worshipped since ancient times. Even today worship is offered to river Ganga and Arati performed at Varanasi and Prayag. Similarly at Mathura the same ritual is performed in the honour of Yamuna river. Other rivers too are worshipped and venerated.

There are a number of customs and rituals associated with the principle of Apa or Jal. Well, locally known as kuan is worshipped by women when the child is born in the family. Basically this tradition of Kuan Pujan is performed on the birth of male child.

Fire represents the principle of Tej. On the Kalidhar mountain in Himachal Pradesh, sub-terrian fire breaks over the mountain surface burning bright brilliantly and constantly. A temple was built over seven of these flames, the principle one known as goddess Jyotavali or Jwalaji. Here devotees pays homage to nature's unique principle, the Tej.

According to Indian thinking, in the cosmic cycle of existence, man and nature are inextricably interwoven. Man takes several rebirths till he reaches the stage of final liberation or Moksha. In his several rebirths he may assume the form of any animate or inanimate form of nature. This is well brought out by mythological literature including Buddhist Jataka tales which speak of several rebirths of Buddha. Buddhist work Lalitvistar, ascribed to the first century A.D., hence speaks of folk belief in the efficacy of offering worship to sun, moon, mountains, valleys, rivers, streams, lakes, tanks, wells, oceans, trees, bushes, creepers, birds like Garuda and reptiles like snakes along with five elements of nature, the pancha-maha-bhutas.

Trees were probably the earliest objects of veneration of humanity. Trees are deities themselves as well deities live in the tree. In the Mahabharata one thousand names of lord Vishnu are enumerated, one among them is Vriksha or tree. According to the same epic (Bhishma Parva, canto 23) trees are favoured abodes of goddess Durga. She resides in the trees like Jambu, Katak as well as in Chaitya Vriksha.

In the Valmiki Ramayana we see Sita, the heroine of the epic, making a vow while crossing the river Yamuna that on her safe return from the exile she would make her offering of one hundred pots of liquor and gift away one thousand cows standing on her bank.

The epic also refers to a huge Nyagrodha (banyan tree) covered with dark green foliage on the bank of river Yamuna. The name of this tree is given as Shyam Vata. Sita offered worship to this tree for trouble free sojourn in the forest during the period of exile.

Even today a number of trees are worshipped on festive and religious occasions. Banyan tree is worshipped by married women desirious of longivity of their husbands. The basil or Tulsi tree is married with the idol of Vishnu ceremoniously.

Animal is the part of living nature. Ancient tradition of animal worship has survived in contemporary India in number of forms. In a village in the Ramanagaram district of Karnataka named A.V.Halli which is about 57 km from Bangalore there is a temple built in the honour of Dog God, Sri Naayidole Veerappa. His temple is situated next to that of village deity Sri Veeramasti Kempamma. The Dog God is said to be her trusted lieutenant.

The popular belief is that the Dog God foresees trouble and alerts the villagers upon the instruction of the Gram Devata. But this is not all. Many families name their first child after Dog God and will be called Veerappa or Veeranna and if the child is female she would be named as Veeramma.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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