Posted on February 6, 2022
Lifeline of Earth
Rivers are the lifelines of Earth. Just as blood vessels carry nutrients, transporting them to the entire body, rivers carry nutrients across the land, nourishing life inside and outside the river, finally depositing them into the ocean. They act as Earth’s circulatory system, moving carbon from land and transporting it into the ocean, thus reducing the carbon returning to the atmosphere. Rivers are the sculptors of land, with their flow they create valleys, floodplains, and fertile deltas.
Cradles of Civilization
Cradles of civilization, rivers have nurtured mankind since the beginning of time. In India, rivers cover about 329 million hectares of area and have been supporting and nurturing life since the earliest civilizations. They irrigated our crops, fulfiled our water requirements, provided a new way of transportation, and gave our civilizations a reason to live an anchored life.
Not just Water Bodies but Revered as Mother
In Vedic India, rivers were addressed as Maa [Mother]. Their jayanti [birth], is celebrated as we do our birthdays. Many Indian festivals like Kumbh, Pushkaram, and Ganga Dussehra are celebrated in honor of rivers.
इमं मे गङगे यमुने सरस्वति शुतुद्रि सतोमं सचता परुष्ण्या |
असिक्न्या मरुद्व्र्धे वितस्तयार्जीकीये शर्णुह्यासुषोमया ||
- Nadi Stuti Sukta, Rigveda, 10.75.5
Rigveda has a dedicated sukta known as “Nadi Stuti Sukta” which glorifies Sapta Dharas. This tradition ingrained culturally in India is solemnized till today.
The Indus basin was called Sapta Sindhu, a name derived from the seven sacred rivers Saraswati, Sindhu, Vitasta, Asikini, Iravati (Parusni), Vipasa, and Shatadru (Sutudri. Understandably, rivers are honored and celebrated.
Changing Human-River Relationship: Water Wars
Over time, man’s attitude towards rivers has changed from reverence to ownership. All natural resources are meant to be borrowed with gratitude and shared amongst all the living beings on Earth. However, man has built hydraulic empires, monopolizing and dictating the access to water so much so that we are facing a clean water crisis even with such vast rivers, tributaries, and river basins.
Today, there is a water war going on within and among communities, states, and countries.
Collapsing River Ecosystem
Our view of this planet has changed from holistic to mechanistic. We have forgotten that our planet is a living organism and just like a human body all its parts are interconnected. Affliction of one part affects the rest of the body as well. Interestingly, just like a human body, nature is equipped with dealing with its ailments. River ecosystem is a self-reliant entity and possesses a self-cleansing mechanism that can handle a reasonable level of pollution. However, we have overburdened the system with a continuous and high volume of pollution without giving rivers the breathing space to cleanse themselves.
Out of Sight & Out of Mind
Concrete jungle has disconnected us from nature and in the age of aesthetics, when in our houses even the plumbing is concealed, we have forgotten the real source of water. Accelerated rate of global warming due to anthropogenic activities has dried up our rivers or disrupted the cycle of glacier-fed rivers. Rivers are out of sight and out of our minds. In the name of convenience and saving expenses on effluent treatment processes, our sewage, industrial chemical-laden waste, agricultural runoff, and solid waste are being dumped in rivers, poisoning the water and blocking the natural drains. For our supposed benefit, we have dredged the river beds, altered the depth and path and stopped the flow of rivers. While keeping our eyes on the immediate benefits, we lost sight of the long-term consequences of our actions. As a result, we are paying for it with our health, and the impacts of it are even suffered by the rivers' flora and fauna.
Ancient Case-Studies of River Plunder
This display of greed and selfishness is not unprecedented. Vedic era has seen many such examples. Vedas mention of a Demon Vritrasura who was greed and selfishness personified. He imprisoned the rivers and obstructed waterways. It was through the selfless act of Rishi Dadhichi, whose bones were used to make the famous weapon of Indra, the Vajra [thunderbolt], that this demon was finally killed. Thus, reviving the flow of Saptdharas, bringing back prosperity on Earth. Similarly, in the famous Kaliya daman leela of Treta yuga, Kaliya naag poisoned the waters of river Yamuna and established his monopoly on it but, Lord Krishna’s impactful and incessant efforts vanquished him. In Kaliyuga, the villain exists within us!
Psycho-Scientific Conservation Approach
Foreseeing this duality of human nature, the sages of ancient Indian civilization provided us with a solution to keep us on a path synchronous with nature. They prescribed the worship of rivers and various other elements of nature. It was not an act of superstition or blind belief. Rather, Divya Guru Ashutosh Maharaj Ji, Founder and Head of Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, reveals that “It was the psycho-scientific approach of our seers. They, through the Eternal Science of Self Realization- Brahmgyan, realized divinity in all the elements of nature and saw them as Gods and Goddesses. They knew that what a person reveres, he won't exploit easily. If a man worships a tree, he would think ten times before chopping it. Similarly, the river he venerates, he will not pollute. The instructions of our wise ancestors were treated as laws. Even a king, at the time of coronation, would recite these shlokas as oath.”
Time to Rebuild the Human-Nature Relationship
Our sages wrote extensive verses on the importance of rivers like Nadisukta, Yamunashtakam, Gangashtakam and Narmadashtakam that are sung even today. Our festivals honoring the rivers are Vedic conservation drives. They strengthen the spiritual bond and naturally keep us from polluting them. It is time we mend our lifestyle that has become exploitative towards rivers and acknowledge the psycho-scientific approach of our festivals. Let us celebrate them in true spirits and take a step towards repairing the broken human-nature relationship.
Remember, it is the inner nature that gets projected outside.