Book Review – Hinduism and Nature

By : www.arc.org.

Penguin India publishes important new book on Hinduism and Nature

 

We have just received our copy of Penguin India on Hinduism and Nature by historian, environmentalist (and good friend of ARC) Dr Nanditha Krishna.

The book, published by Penguin India, is about the mythical stories and religious significance of many forests and mountains, lakes, rivers (and a few flat bits) of India’s varied landscapes. And how those stories and significances are one of the things that can and might protect India’s animals and places from the bulldozers of progress.

The basis of Hinduism is righteousness, or dharma, she argues, and the great epic texts of Hinduism show a clear appreciation of the natural world by people in India 5,000 years go. Even then, writers and thinkers wanted to urge people to manage natural resources and protect animals.

“I fell in love with sacred groves attached to Hindu temples,” Dr Krishna said to explain how she came to write the book. They were places “where not a twig may be broken and which are the remnants of ancient forests where sages lived in harmony with nature.”

She also was inspired by “rivers that gush from the hills and meander through the land; with the sacred tanks attached to each temple, the sacred plants and the animals respected by my religion; with the awe-inspiring mountains which reach up to the skies and where the Gods live.”.

In her long career as an environmentalist, the Chennai-based author of Sacred Plants of India and Sacred Animals of India has explored the divine relationship between human beings, plants and animals, “which are an essential part of every Hindu prayer.”

In her long career as an environmentalist, the author of Sacred Plants of India and Sacred Animals of India Dr Krishna has explored the divine relationship between human beings, plants and animals, “which are an essential part of every Hindu prayer.”

“The Earth is my mother and I am her child,” says the hymn to the Earth in the Atharva Veda. The human ability to merge with nature was the measure of cultural evolution. Hinduism believes that the earth and all life forms – human, animal and plant – are a part of Divinity, each dependant on the other for sustenance and survival. All of nature must be treated with reverence and respect. If the forests, clean water and fresh air disappear, so will all life as we know it on earth.

An Excerpt

“Forests have always been central to Indian civilization, representing the feminine principle in prakriti. They are the primary source of life and fertility, a refuge for the wanderer and a home for the seeker, and have always been viewed as a model for societal and civilizational evolution.

“Forests were places of retreat, a source of inspiration, for all Vedic literature was revealed to the sages here. Rama’s entire journey from Ayodhya to Lanka was through forests. In the Mahabharata, the big war is for urbanization and to capture the cities of Mathura, Hastinapur and Indraprastha. Yet the Pandavas spent their years of exile in the forest and made marriage alliances with forest tribes, a move that would help them later in the Kurukshetra war. They also learnt several important lessons from living in the forest, which became a source of knowledge and a place for learning higher truths. There were several classifications of the forest.

“The ancient forests have survived as the sacred groves of modern India. The seals of the Indus civilization contain figures of wild animals such as the elephant, water buffalo, rhinoceros, deer, gazelle, antelope, wild sheep and goat and ibex and tiger, which means that the area was once covered with dense forests. Rhino habitat ranges from open savannah to dense forest, while tigers live in swamps, grasslands and among trees, bushes and tall grass which camouflage them. Elephants are found in savannah and forests, where they can find fresh water to cool their thick dark skins. The large number of such seals suggests that the Indus–Sarasvati region was once a thick forest, not the agricultural fields or deserts we see today.

 

Hindu Environment week is one of the eco initiatives by Hindus today, inspired by the insights of their faith

The Vedas were composed in the Indus–Sarasvati region. In these texts, there is a fundamental sense of harmony with nature, which, in turn, nurtured a civilizational value. Forests were the primary source of life and inspiration, not a wilderness to be feared or conquered. The Vedas were written by sages living in the forest who saw it as a home and a source of revelation, exaltation and creativity. Some of the greatest verses of philosophy were written in forests. People drew intellectual, emotional and spiritual sustenance from the twin concepts of srishti and prakriti.

‘So may the mountains, the waters, the liberal (wives of the gods), the plants, also heaven and earth, consentient with the Forest Lord (Vanaspati) and both the heaven and earth preserve for us those riches’

One of the most beautiful hymns of the Rig Veda is dedicated to Aranyani, the goddess of the forest. She is an elusive spirit, fond of solitude, and fearless. The poet asks her to explain how she can wander so far from civilization without fear or loneliness. He creates a beautiful image of the village at sunset, with the sounds of the grasshopper and the cicada and the cowherd calling his cattle. She is a mysterious sprite, never seen, but her presence is felt by the tinkling of her anklets and her generosity in feeding both man and animal:

Aranyani Aranyani, who are, as it were, perishing there, why
do you not ask of the village? Does not fear assail you?
When the chichchika (bird) replies to the crying grasshopper,
Aranyani is exalted, resonant, as with cymbals.
It is as if cows were grazing, and it looks like a dwelling, and
Aranyani, at eventide, as it were, dismissed the wagons.
This man calls his cow, another cuts down the timber,
tarrying in the forest at eventide, one thinks there is a cry.
But Aranyani injures no one unless some other assails;
feeding upon the sweet fruit, she penetrates at will.
I praise the musk-scented, fragrant, fertile, uncultivated
Aranyani, the mother of wild animals
(Rig Veda, X.146. 1–6)

LINKS

Find Hinduism and Nature on Good Reads.

Penguin India on Hinduism and Nature

The Hindu Newspaper features vital work on green pilgrimage by ARC’s partner organisation in India

ARC’s partner organisation in India, ATREE

Building Stewardship in the buffer zone to protect biodiversity – Clean KMTR Campaign

(Source : www.arc.org)

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Hinduism and the scientific heart – a book review

Pavan Verma of JDU has written a book on Adi Shankaracharya. His interview is very informative and is given below. Pavan Varma is a celebrated diplomat, cultural catalyst and public intellectual. His new book on the Shankaracharya throws startling light about Hinduism and its fascinating relationship with science.
 
 
 

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The Case for India by Will Durant

Book Review by : Vijai Singhal

The Case for India

This book was written by Will Durant, an American writer, historian and a philosopher in 1930 after visiting India. Given below are some of the abstracts from this book which can be freely down loaded from the Internet. The book was written without the help or cooperation by any Indian.

Will Durant had made an in-depth study of the Indian civilisation, which he declared as one of the oldest and the greatest civilizations that mankind had ever known. He went to India to see for himself but was appalled to see almost one fifth of the human race suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than anywhere on the earth. He had not thought it possible that any government would allow it’s subject to sink to that misery. The British conquest of India was an invasion and destruction of a high civilization by a trading company utterly without scruple or principle.

Writing about the rape of a continent, he says, “When the British came, India was politically weak but economically prosperous. It was the wealth of 18th Century India which attracted the commercial pirates of England and France”. Quoting Sunderland, he says, “Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilized world existing anywhere had long been produced in India. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. Her Textile goods-the fine products of her looms, in cotton, wool, linen and silk-were famous over the civilized world; so were her exquisite jewelry and her precious stones cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelain, ceramics of every kind, quality, colour and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal-iron, steel, silver and gold. She had great architecture-equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great businessmen, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest ship-building nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea. Such was the India which British found when they came.”

The East India Company management profiteered without hindrance; goods which they sold in England for $10 million they bought in India for $2 million. The Company paid fabulous dividends that its shares rose to $32,000 a share. By 1858 the British Government took over the captured and plundered territories as a colony of the Crown. England paid the Company handsomely and added the purchase price to the public debt of India to be redeemed, principal and interest at 10.5% out of the taxes on the Hindu people. Province after province was taken over by offering rulers choice between pension and war. James Mills, historian of India, wrote: “Under their dependence upon the British Government … the people of Oudh and Karnatic, two of the noblest provinces of India, were by misgovernment, plunged into a state of wretchedness with which… hardly any part of the earth has anything to compare”.

“The fundamental principle of the British has been to make the whole Indian nation subservient… they have been taxed to the utmost limit; the Indians have been denied every honor, dignity or office”.… F J Shore testifying to the House of Commons in 1857.

“The Governments’ assessment does not even leave enough food for the cultivator to feed his family” – Sir William Hunter, 1875.

Economic destruction – The English destroyed the Indian industry. India was forced to become the vast market for the British machine-made goods. They ordered that manufacture of silk fabric must be discouraged but the production of raw silk be encouraged. A tariff of 70-80 % was levied on Indian textile while the English textile was imported duty free into India. It might have been supposed that building of 30,000 miles of railways would have brought prosperity to India. But these railways were built not for India but for England, for the British army and British trade. Similarly Indian shipping industry was ruined. All Indian goods were to be carried by British ships. There was a big drain of revenue through payment of salaries and pensions to English officials. In 1927 Lord Winterton showed, in the House of Commons, that there were some 7500 retired officials in England drawing annually pension of $17.5 million. From Plassey to Waterloo, 57 years, the drain of India’s wealth to England was computed by Brooks Adam to be 2½ to 5 billion dollars.

Social Destruction – When British came there was a system of communal schools, managed by village communities. The agents of East India Company destroyed these communities and the schools. In 1911 Hindu representative Gokhale introduced a Bill for compulsory primary education. The Bill was defeated. After British took possession of India the illiteracy rate in India increased to 93%. Instead of education the Government encouraged drinking of alcohol. In 1922 the government revenue from sale of alcohol increased to $60 million annually. There were also 7000 opium shops operated by the British government. In 1901, 272,000 died of plague. In 1918 there were 125 million cases of influenza, and 12.5 million recorded deaths.

There is a chapter devoted to Mahatma Gandhi and his Satyagraha movement. Gandhi was an idealist. In 1914 when the 1st World War broke, Gandhi saw the war as an opportunity for securing Home Rule by proving the absolute royalty of India to England. India contributed $500 million to fund for prosecuting the war; she contributed $700 million later in subscription to war loans; and she sent to the Allies various products to the value of $1.25 billion. The suspension of the revolutionary movement enabled England to reduce India army to 15,000 men. The number of Indians persuaded to join the army to fight in the war was 1,338,620 which was 178,000 more than troops contributed by combined Dominions of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Indian fought gallantly but none of them were granted a commission. Nothing came of that sacrifice by the Indian people. Lord Curzon wrote: “British rule of the Indian people is England’s present and future task; it will occupy her energies as long a span of the future as it is humanly possible to forecast”.

In the later part of the book the writer has stated arguments from England’s side, for example: “if India has seen the decay of her old domestic handicrafts, it is because she rejected modern machinery and methods of industrialization; India did not exist as an entity, there are seven hundred nativ

e states, forever at war; no common language, 200 different dialects and the caste system dividing the people etc.”. Later on he debunks these claims, for example the British government has always been friendly to caste, because caste divisions make the British task of holding people in subjection easier, on the principle of “divide and rule”. They encouraged Moslem communities to gain weight against Hindu nationalism. Shifting of capital from Calcutta to Delhi was aimed to secure support of Moslems against the Hindus.

In conclusion he states: “I have tried to express fairly the two points of views about India, but I know that my prejudice has again and again broken through my pretense at impartiality. It is hard to be without feeling, not to be moved with a great pity, in the presence of a Tagore, a Gandhi, a Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose, a Sarojini Naidu, fretting in chains; there is something indecent and offensive in keeping such men and women in bondage”.

Vijai Singhal

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A Hindu Textbook Controversy in USA

The basic complaint by Hindus, including the American Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) is that previous textbooks have given an inaccurate and disparaging portrayal of their religion. While there are many individual complaints the big three are: the emphasis on the caste system, making the Indo-Aryan Migration Theory seem undisputed, and changing ancient India to Southwest Asia.

[Click here to read more ….]

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The History of Hindu India Parts Four and Five Released

KAUAI, HAWAII, May 11, 2018: Hinduism Today is delighted to announce the completion of its five part video documentary series, “The History of Hindu India,” based on the book of the same title. Both are available now on YouTube, Part Four at “source” above or https://youtu.be/nx_vSuduwAkand Part Five at https://youtu.be/eVnqJHO3PcY. Parts One (posted in 2014), Two and Three (both posted in 2015) have been very popular on YouTube, receiving respectively, 2.6 million hits, 1.3 million hits and 965,000 hits along with tens of thousands of “thumbs up” and hundreds of positive comments. The whole series is available on the playlist at “source” above

 

The History of Hindu India series was developed by the editors of Hinduism Today magazine in collaboration with Dr. Shiva Bajpai, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University Northridge. It is intended to provide an authentic presentation of the history of India and Hinduism for use in American middle and high school classes, as well as Hindu temple study groups and general presentations on the Hindu religion and history.

Part Four is based on the fourth chapter of the textbook, “The History of Hindu India,” published in 2011. It covers Indian history from 1850 to 1947, from when the British Crown took over direct control of India from the East India Company to Independence. Under British rule, economic exploitation of the subcontinent increased, resulting in frequent famine and deprivation across the once wealthy land. A determined and mostly nonviolent freedom movement emerged and finally succeeded, resulting in the formation of modern India and Muslim Pakistan in 1947.

Part five is based on the fifth chapter of the textbook. It covers Indian history from 1947 to the present day. Opening with Nehru’s famed speech on August 15, 1947, it describes the formation of the new government, development of the constitution, invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan, the horrors of partition, formation of states along linguistic lines, and efforts to uplift the lower classes. It covers the religions of India along with religious strife and its causes, Hindu pilgrimage using Rameswaram as an example, Ayurveda, the impact of Hinduism in the modern world and finally a nod to the popularity of Bollywood and Indian cuisine.

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100 years on, remembering the Hindu-German effort to end the British Raj

In April 1918 ended the US trial of Ghadar leaders and their German financiers who were trying to smuggle arms to South Asia. hen the Hindu-German conspiracy trial began in the US on November 20, 1917, American newspapers competed to describe the scenes in the San Francisco courtroom that – as their narratives went – was packed with “turbaned”, “glowering” and “excitable Hindus”. By the time it ended next year on April 24, the trial had lasted 155 days, and cost the US government $450,000. It proved expensive – at £2.5 million – for the British too, whose intelligence and other officials worked determinedly through the war years, from 1914 onward, to prove the existence of a conspiracy planned on neutral American soil to foment a revolution in British India.

[Click here to read more ….]

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Shashi Tharoor – Why I am a Hindu

Dr Shashi Tharoor’s latest book was apparently meant to take on the Hindutva narrative, and demolish it. Sadly, it seems it will be one of those books celebrated at literary festivals, obsessed over in high society conversations as validation of pre-conceived notions, create a placebo of having captured the narrative, but then, in all probability, end up handing the elections to the BJP. 

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