Samvardhan Trust

Folk Practices & Tradition and Environment

Indian philosophy, lifestyle and cultural practices are based on the science of protecting nature and hold key to solving environmental issues like global warming.In contemporary scenario this needs to be explained to the global community.The Indian cultural-religious traditions governed by both scriptural religions and local myths and belief systems, tend to foster a pervasive love and respect for environmental conservation. So, today, when the world is undergoing a serious crisis of ecological imbalance and environmental degradation, it is all the more important for us not only to understand such traditions but also to practice them for conservation of nature and sustainable development.

The Indian tradition of conservation of nature and environment dates back to ancient Vedic period. The four Vedas — Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Yajur-Veda and Atharva-Veda — are full of hymns dedicated to the supremacy of various natural entities. The Rigvedic hymns refer to many gods and goddesses identified with sun, moon, thunder, lightning, snow, rain, water, rivers, trees etc. The Gayatrimantra of the Rig-Veda, which is chanted on every auspicious occasion, is full of praise for the sun. Similarly, the Atharva-Veda highlights the importance of nature and has a beautiful hymn in praise of the earth. Thiruvalluvar’sKural, an ancient text in Tamil from south India emphasizes upon the need to remain under nature’s protection.


The Atharva-Veda describes the medicinal value of various herbs. Flora and fauna and their associations with human beings were depicted in epicslike the Mahabharata, the Ramayaṇa, and in Kalidasa’scompositions such as Meghaduta, Abhijnanasakuntalametc.The tradition of sacred groves was also common in the ancient period and is still practiced by folk and tribal communities and at the shrines of various sufi saints throughout India.


The cutting of trees was prohibited in these areas and nobody dared to disobey the injunction, partly because of religious faith and partly due to the fear of facing the wrath of the gods, goddesses and spirits. This tradition of sacred groves could be compared with the contemporary concept of biosphere reserves. Garuda, lion, peacock, and snake—are part of our cultural ethos from time immemorial as mentioned in Vedas and Upanishdas.Panchtantra is an Indian collection of animal fables in verse and prose.


There are various punishments prescribed in the Manusmriti for acts hostile to the environment. Kautilya’sArthasastramentioned forests and animal sanctuaries, where animals were protected from poaching.Mauryan ruler Ashoka also prohibited in his edicts hunting and cruelty to animals. Buddhism and Jainism, the two most popular heterodox sects of ancient times also advocated nature conservation. Bishnoisectadvocated the banning of treefellingsince they believed thattrees are the basis of a harmoniousand prosperous environment.


Indian painting, sculpture, architectural ornamentation, and the decorative arts is replete with themes from nature and wildlife reflecting love and reverence, and therefore the ethics of conservation. In literature and scriptures too there has been considerable depiction of the appreciation and love for nature. Indian traditions and cultures have been protecting our ponds and other water bodies. We worship Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada and other rivers.


Indians communities are harvesting rain water since centuries. These rain waterharvesting systems are specific and unique according tothe topography, climate and rainfall pattern at that location. Indian traditional life style also focuses upon energy conservation. Various energy saving techniques like hand grinding and hand churning using mathani are part of our rural life style. Food preservation has also been done in a very environment friendly manner without using energy generated by fossil fuels instead simple method of pickling, sun drying etc.