The indigenous cultures of the world believe that it is the responsibility of the present generation to preserve, protect and hand over the treasures of Mother Earth to the next generation.
Every year we celebrate April 22 as International Day of Mother Earth. What is its significance? What is the need for celebrating such a day? The earth is sustaining every living and non-living object including the trees, jungles, rivers, animals, and of course human beings for billions of years allowing them to use the resources for their sustenance and welfare. In turn, what have we done for Mother Earth?
I remember in my childhood days our mother used to teach us to bow and touch the floor before getting up from the bed in the morning with a prayer for Mother Earth. The prayer contained an apology for touching Mother Earth with our feet. The prayer read as follows: “
Samudravasane Devi Pravatstanmandale,
Vishnupatni Namastumbhyam Padasparsham kshamaswa me”
The Hindus considered the Earth as ‘Vishnupatni’ the consort of Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of the universe. The seas are her attire and the muntains are her breasts. And we sought her pardon for placing our feet on her. This is the highest regard for Mother Earth shown by any society in the world.
There is a story of King Vena who was very wicked, tyranical and put all his subjects to difficulty and distress. So, the people revolted against him and installed his son Pruthu as King. By this time the Mother Earth, angry she was with the misrule of King Vena, withheld all the resources and food and other treasures.
When Pruthu wanted to retrieve those resources the Earth took the form of a cow and fled. When the King was about to shoot an arrow at her, the Mother reconciled and told him to find a milkman and a calf from each species and milk it what they wanted. The mountains appointed Meru as the milkman and Himavan as the calf and milked the earth for ores, precious gems, metals, herbs, and other products as per the desire of the King Pruthu.
Poet Kalidasa described this in the most beautiful verse of his epic “Kumarsambhava” in following words:
“Yam sarvasailaah parikalpya vathsam, Merou sthithe dhogdhari dhohadhakshe
Baasvanthi rathnaani mahoushadheescha, Pruthoopadhishtaam dhudhuhuh Dharithreem”
It is this concept of miling the resources from the earth that originated in the Sanatana Dharma. But in the Abrahamic religions, as per the Book of Genesis, God created the entire universe including the women, for the utilization of Man whom he ‘created in his own image’. Therefore, the underlying principles of the western societies are:
Struggle for Existence, Survival of the fittest, Exploitation of Nature and Unlimited consumption. As against this, the Sanatana principles enshrined the principles like protection of the weak, milking of nature, limited consumption, and no exploitation.
In the initial years, the techniques for exploiting the nature available to man were limited. As the new vistas of science and technology opened, the exploitation of Mother Earth increased manifold. As Gandhi said Mother Earth has everything to satisfy the need of man but not his greed. And today, this greed of man has posed the biggest threat to Mother Earth.
The indigenous cultures of the world believe that it is the responsibility of the present generation to preserve, protect and hand over the treasures of Mother Earth to the next generation. But here is the danger of all these resources being consumed wantonly by the present generation. To cite an example, the USA has just 4% of the world’s toal population but it consumes 40% of the world’s resources! If this continues, what will we be leaving for the next generation?
Therefore, it is time to think seriously and act wisely to protect the Mother Earth from wanton exploitation so that the posterity can live in happiness and peace. This is the message of this International Day of Mother Earth.