Environmentalist and historian Nanditha Krishna’s new book Hinduism and Nature delves into the religion’s profound respect for all life forms – forests and trees, rivers and lakes, animals and mountains, which are all manifestations of divinity. Her book expounds on how Nature is respected all over India: from sacred groves in villages to a sacred garden and tree in every temple. It is an exploration of both the classical and the tribal traditions that have been practised for centuries and puts forth the argument that we can only save the environment only by seeking answers in ancient wisdom.

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What inspired the author to write this book, which cites Hinduism as being synonymous with nature?

“As I have been collecting material on sacred mountains, rivers, water bodies and other aspects of nature, I started studying literary references to these traditions and decided to put them together in Hinduism and Nature.” 

She says, “Many years ago, I started a website on ‘Conservation of Ecological Heritage and Sacred Sites of India which later became a part of the Ministry of Environment and Forests scheme of ENVIS (Environmental Information Systems). For the last 25 years, I have also been involved in the restoration of sacred groves in Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and we have completed 53 as on date. When I started studying the subject of India’s ecological traditions, I found that throughout Hindu literature and tradition, there is a tremendous respect for the environment. In 2010 I wrote the book Sacred Animals of India, followed in 2014 by Sacred Plants of India. As I have been collecting material on sacred mountains, rivers, water bodies and other aspects of nature, I started studying literary references to these traditions and decided to put them together in Hinduism and Nature.”

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The greatest hurdle she faced in putting the book together was to decide how much to include and how much to omit. She feels she could have written more, “which would have taken an entire lifetime”, but she wanted to write a book which was simple and readable.

Nanditha states in the book, “Unfortunately, all that was good and preserved in the name of culture and tradition has been discarded in the name of modernization and development.” Does she think there is a point of redemption for humans, to make amends with nature and their surroundings? Or does an inherently selfish nature keep us from doing so?

There has to be a point of redemption for humans, to make amends with nature and the environment. It is a question of survival, as Global warming, Climate Change and diminishing natural resources are a threat to our existence.

The Chennai-based author adds, “There has to be a point of redemption for humans, to make amends with nature and the environment. It is a question of survival, as Global warming, Climate Change and diminishing natural resources are a threat to our existence.

As we know, there is an inherent selfishness in human beings, which makes us drive out nature and prevents us from integrating with our environment.”

While researching this book, the writer discovered that there have been several periods in the past when the environment was under threat – “Yet when a great rishi or sage has come forward and suggested that certain actions should be taken to prevent environmental degradation, people listened. Also, whenever the environment has been degraded for tactical resources, it has always been replenished with tree plantation, etc.”

Nanditha wants the readers to realize that we have inherited a great tradition that protected nature and the environment. Nothing motivates people as much as religion does, especially in India.

On reading the book, Nanditha wants the readers to realize that we have inherited a great tradition that protected nature and the environment. Nothing motivates people as much as religion does, especially in India. “That being the case, I want them to desist from environmentally degrading activities and limit themselves to sustainable development,” she informs.

The former Honorary Director of the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation says that she is now taking a short respite, after which she shall be working on some more books on aspects of Hinduism.

“My goal is to make young people aware of the importance of nature and the environment and to take up its protection as a cause in the future,” she says.

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