Hindus have traditionally respected Nature: trees, rocks, sea, river, air and soil, the earth, planets, sun, moon, the natural habitat as divine. Many plants and trees like Tusli, Bel, Vat, Peepul, etc. are considered Holy. Fragrant flowers hold a special place in the worship of deities. Gods and Goddesses are assigned particular colours and flowers. Krishna tells us about the Hindu mind’s reverence in managing biodiversity, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
In Hindu culture trees, rocks, sea, river, air and soil, the earth, planets, sun, moon, the natural habitat are epitomised as Gods, divine rulers or divine mother. For example, Pawan deva (Air God), Surya deva (Sun God), Chandra deva (Moon God), Jaladevata (Water God), Parbataraj (Mountain King), Dharitri mata (Mother Earth), etc. All are respected as Gods and in Veda richas and songs are dedicated to the Elements and the Nature Gods.
Trees and plants have a special place in Hindu culture; vegetations are also recognised as holy entity here. In Gita, Sri Krishna says specifically that all medicinal plants are specially nourished by Him (15.13). Ayurveda describes countless medicinal plants and use of these to cure and prevent diseases. Planting such medicinal plants in kitchen garden and using these as home-remedies is common in India. Many of these are most important and respected as life-saving Gods.
Tulsi (Holy Basil) plant is considered as the abode of Narayana and worshipped. All Hindu families plant a Tulsi plant in their courtyard. Tulsi leaves are offered with fragrant sandalwood paste to the Supreme God Vishnu or Narayana for worshipping Him every day and it is eaten with reverence by family members as Prasad. In this way, Tulsi is preserved since times immemorial. Tulsi has medicinal properties, regular intake of Tulsi leaf builds the strength of immunity system and it is used as curative for many diseases.
God Shiva is worshipped with Bel (aegle marmelos) leaves with paste of fragrant sandalwood. All Shiva temples plant Bel plants. Hindus never cut a Bela plant. This is also a very important medicinal tree especially to control diabetes.
Coconut, banana and other fruits are also offered to God regularly and these plants are considered as holy. Similarly some more trees like Aswatha / Pipal (banyan) and Vat are considered as divine trees.
These big trees are worshipped as the abode of Lord Vishnu. None harm these trees and cutting of these trees are strictly prohibited. Under many such trees Lord Shiva or Vishnu idol is placed and worshipped by villagers. Pipal has a special place in Buddhism also; Gautama Buddha meditated under a Pipal tree. Now, it is scientifically proved that Aswatha tree cools the environment. No doubt these big trees are beneficial for the environment and are wisely preserved in the Hindu culture.
Hindu offer fragrant flowers to the Gods. There are specifications also which flowers are favorite of which deity and what should be offered. Lord Shiva is offered white flowers, especially Dhutura and Aakanda. Both flowers are poisonous and these flower-plants have high medicinal value.
Lord Narayana is worshipped with yellow colour flowers and Blue Aparajita is His favorite. All Goddess are offered Red or yellow flowers, only Saraswati is offered white or yellow flowers.
Fragrant flowers are offered to Gods. Planting of fragrant flower plants and use of different colours — white, yellow, red, blue, pink flowers all with varieties of fragrance is a tradition in Hindu culture. Fancy flowers like Dahlia, Bougainvillea, Lady-lace, Hollyhocks, etc. are not offered in worship, these are used only for decorating the garden. In this way, many varieties of fragrant flowers are conserved in this age of decorative flowers. And this is very important, flowers are an identity of a place. Fragrance of flowers is a very beneficial for the development of the brain. It soothes the mind and makes one peaceful. Children, who get an opportunity to live in such an environment become sensitive and their memory becomes sharp.
A tradition of Hindu home is that, none should pluck all the flowers from any plant. The belief is that the one who plucks all flowers from a tree making the tree empty is condemned by all and he faces wrath of Goddess Lakshmi. This is also to help honey-bees and butterfly with some food and also to keep the beauty of the tree intact.
Another faith is that one who plucks buds are cursed by the tree. This is again a call to man to be sensitive to the dreams of a bud to bloom as a flower and ensure blooming of flower that is not only a beautiful life also offers food to insects. Thus, plucking a bud is cruel.
Also, as per Hindu culture plants should not be touched or cut during night, because trees, flowers also sleep at night. These norms are followed in Hindu families. No doubt these are gestures of equality and respect to Trees — live and let live.
The age old wisdom of the Hindu culture integrated key formulas of living a happy and healthy life, in love, with equanimity to the habitat! And in many ways Hindus recognised plants and even ‘inanimate’ things of this Earth, like mountains, rivers and ocean with reverence. These traditional practices still followed by millions of Hindus. It helped conserve the Earth from mindless exploitation and abuse.
©Dr. Krishna Hota
Pix from Net.
Dr. Krishna Hota did her post graduation and Ph.D from Jadavpur University and PG Diploma in Human Rights from IIHR, New Delhi, in Social Development. She is associated with the NGO sector for 22 years. She has authored two books, occasionally write articles for various publications.