The Environment in Ancient Literature

Our ancient Vedic literature and Upanishads also describes ecological and environmental values. The Atharva Veda solemnly recognizes and enduring allegiance of humankind to mother Earth.
Isho Upanishad has emphasized on ecological and environmental values in a stanza, which states: “The whole universe together with its creatures belong to the Lord (Nature)…….Let no one species encroach over the rights and privileges of other species.  One can enjoy nature by giving up greed”.
Living in harmony with nature has always been emphasized with the philosophy to take from nature only what we actually need and not more. In our ancient literature Khsiti (Soil), Jal (Water), Pawan (Energy), Gagan (Space) and Samira (air) are recognized as the basic resources of the earth. Our classical literature emphasized the message that resources should not be used wastefully but should be conserved. Kautilya in his famous treatise Arthshashtra describes the world’s first forest conservation and wildlife management programme.
Contemporary Chandra Gupta Maurya maintained the forest for different purposes like elephant domestication, hunting, and forests as reserves. History tells that Indian people have been utilizers of nature and not the exploiters. Indian has been under the influence of humans and agriculture for about 10,000 years even then the resource depletion has not been proportional to our very long history. This has been mainly due to the compassion for the living and non-living and the principle of Ahinsa purmo dharma that is ingrained in our culture. There is a need to incorporate these principles in regulating resource use.
A modern man must re-establish an unbroken link with its nature and life. He must again learn to invoke the energy of growing things and to recognize, as did the ancients in India centuries ago, that one can take form the earth and the atmosphere only so much as on puts back into them. The hymn from Atharva veda which runs as follows:

“What of thee I dig out, let that quickly grow ever,
Let me not hit thy vitals or thy heart”.

This shows India’s age-old concern over ecological values.

One impulse of vernal woods
Can teach you more of man
Then all the sages can
– William worth warth

Dr. Abhishek Swami
Associate Professor
Department of Environmental Science
SGT University, Gurugram

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