Saturday, April 4, 2015

Vedic Thoughts on Purity of Water

                Vedic Thoughts on Purity of Water

                                     Dr. Chilakamarthi Durga Prasada Rao,
                     Honorary Faculty of Theology,
                                            Department of Sanskrit,
Dayalbagh Educational Institute,
(Deemed University)
                                                    Dayalbagh ,
AGRA-282005, U.P (India).
 Paper presented at National Conference organised by Sri Venkateswara Vedic University, TIRUPATI  held from 17-03-2015 to 20-03-2015.  

Environmental pollution is one of the serious problems that confront the present day world.  Vedic Literature contributed immensely towards the protection of environment.

The world constitutes five elements, Earth, Water, Air, Fire and sky.  Of these, the three elements, Earth, Water and Air are prone to pollution, while the rest remain unaffected. The pollution of any one or more of these elements results in what we know as environmental pollution.

In olden days, man, as part and parcel of nature, used to live harmoniously with the environment.  He even treated the forces of nature as divine beings—Agni Deva, Varuna Deva, Vayu Deva and so on and glorified their existence and prayed for their intervention in nature’s fury (1).
But in the modern age man partly out of necessity but mostly selfishly started industrial and such other activities, but soon his greed degenerated into avarice and drove him to excesses.  He indulged in the over exploitation of nature’s bounties which led to polluting natural elements in the name of development and modernization.

The evils, viz., exploitation of natural resources, industrial pollution, deforestation and excessive use of chemicals have contributed to the environmental pollution.   As the present generation is a nexus between the past and future generations, it has a bounden duty to leave a good legacy to Posterity.   

If the attitude of the modern man continues to be the same, the survival of humanity itself will be at risk. In fact, no country wishes to remain undeveloped.  But the development should be healthy and at an affordable cost.  It should not create obstacles in the healthy and prosperous development of future generations. So, in order to achieve sustainable development, one should give up one’s greed and learn to live in peace with nature.  This is how our ancestors, even in the Vedic times, learned to live.              

Veda’, the very first book of mankind, which is also considered to be the greatest treatise on environment, ensured a healthy relationship between man and nature.  This relationship should be as sacrosanct as between mother and child.  The Earth was looked upon as universal mother and all living beings, her children (2).


Of all the natural resources water is next to air in importance. Water has many words in Sanskrit and most of them are significantly meaningful. (3)
 ‘Aapas’ ( aapnuvanti iti aapas) speaks of its all pervading nature.  The word ‘Vaari’ ( apavaarayati nimnonnatam ) means which balances up and downs. ‘Salilam’ ( sarati iti salilam ) means that  which flows .  ‘Kamalam’ ( kaamyate trishaartaih )  speaks that it is desired by thirsty people. ‘Jalam’ ( jadati jadibhavati ) speaks of  its solid nature.  ‘Payas (piyate iti payas) means that it is drunk by every body. ‘Keelaalam’ (keelaan jwaalaan alati vaarayati ) explains its nature of controlling  and  preventiing fire. ‘Amritam’ ( na mriyante anena ) means that it makes people  who drinks it immortal. It is called ‘jivanam’ ( Jivantyanena)  as it brings life to every one who drinks. It is coined as ‘ Bhuvanam (bhavati sarvam anena ) because  it achieves every thing.   It is called ‘Vanam' ( vanyate yaachyate) as it is desired by every body.  It is known as ’Kabandham ( kam shariram badhnaati iti ) as it keeps body united.  It is Udakam ( unakti iti udakam) as it is in liquid state. It is also called paathas ( paati bhutaani iti )  as it protects every living beings . It is also called ‘Pushkaram’ (poshayati iti) as it sustains living organism. The word ‘Sarvato mukham’ (sarvatah mukhaani asya ) signifies  its appearance in three states i.e.,  solid, liquid and gas.  ‘Ambhas’ (amati gachchati iti) signifies that it flows. ‘Toyam’ (tayate paalayati iti ) signifies that which nourishes the body. ‘Paaniyam’ (paatum yogyam) says that it is fit to be drunk. ‘Neeram ( nayati sukham ) brings happiness to all . ‘Ksheeram’ ( kshiyate iti ) which undergoes evaporation.   Ambu (ambate iti) means which makes sound while flowing. ‘Shamvaram’ (sham vrinoti iti samvaram) that which is covered by happiness. All these words, which are attributed to water, are therefore meaningful and explain the different characteristics of water.


The indiscriminate usage of chemicals, scientific experiments for preparing medicinal potions, indiscriminately discharging untreated waste water, dumping of unwanted and hazardous materials in rivers and unlawful water management practices contribute to water pollution.   In order to maintain its purity for the sustenance of the world, we should realize the importance of water by understanding the views of our ancestors of Vedic times.


According to the Nasadiyasukta of the Rigveda (10/129) there was only water before creation. The sukta runs like this: There was not non – existent nor existent; there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. What covered in, and where? And what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water? (4).

Hindu mythology opines that water is the abode of Lord Vishnu, the Ultimate Reality. The epithet, Narayana, means the Being whose abode is water is worth mentioning (5).  Water plays a very significant role in human life. There is no life without water. No Vedic ritual could be conducted without using water. There are hundreds of Vedic mantras which reveal the importance of water. Water is called Jivanam in Sanskrit which means life.  It is a drink for immortality. We depend upon food for our living, and for production of food agriculture is necessary, and agriculture depends upon water. Water is considered as a divine element and it is treated as medicine (6/1) as well as mother (6/2). Our tradition treats the waters of Ganga as medicine (6/3) and it is also evident that the water obtained from Manasa Gangotri is used as antiseptic water by Sushruta.   Our ancients, having realized the importance of water, treated it with reverence, and used it judiciously for human sustenance (7).

 Our culture went to the extent of developing familial relations with water.  Many great personalities of our ancient mythology married rivers which are personified as human beings. For example:- Santanu married Ganga, Purukutsa married Narmada and Kusa married Kumudvati. A great deal of literature is contributed on the lives of rivers. While coming to the religious aspect, bathing in rivers is considered as a sacred activity.
Even the mere view of the river Ganges is considered as most sacred (8). By all these it is evident that water is not simply a physical commodity which is formed by the combination of two molecules of Hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen (H2O), but it is also some thing very much beyond.


Veda warns us not to pollute water. Under any circumstances water is not allowed to be polluted. Keeping water very pure is highly encouraged, and polluting water is severely viewed and regretted (9). Polluting water is also treated as punishable crime. The punishment given by Lord Krishna to the venomous serpent Kaliya is worth mentioning in this context. Krishna, having subdued Kaliya on his heinous act of poisoning drinking water, said: Oh! Kaliya, you are now forgiven. But you should not stay here any more. Go back to the ocean and live with your kinsfolk. A river is meant for the use of human beings and their lives depend on the river and her water. It is not right on your part to poison it.

Also, polluting drinking water is considered as a great sin. The words of Bharata, spoken before Kausalya the mother of Rama, are worth quoting.  “Oh mother!  If  I really have any mal-intention of sending Rama to exile, I will definitely go to that hell a man goes on polluting drinking water (10). Because of water pollution, we are suffering from many diseases and we are also in a miserable condition of purchasing drinking water by spending huge amount of money.
From times immemorial the bond between man and nature has been extremely strong.  Now it is our bounden duty and sublime obligation to maintain the equilibrium and see that the natural resources are not disturbed or interfered with, lest it should lead to chaos and confusion as aptly pointed out by Earnest Hemingway, the famous American novelist, who said “Mending nature is ending nature”.

It is important for us to treat water as a divine element, as mentioned in our scriptures, and with all due reverence see to it that is not abused in daily life. Since a lot of river water has already been polluted today, sound water quality management practices should be followed in order that the damage already done is at least controlled and alleviated as much as possible. As remedial measures are expensive and time consuming, it is imperative to see that we stick to the vedic spirit of water conservation and management in its most revered form. We have no moral right to pollute water which itself is meant to purify various things in our daily life, as enunciated in the Vedic scriptures. We should comply with this vedic concept whole heartedly in letter, spirit and action.

It would be a great service to nature if litterateurs, besides environmentalists, contribute their share in preventing further environmental pollution.

In this connection, I urge everyone to treat water with due reverence, as a gift of nature, and not pollute it by using excessive amount of chemicals, dumping unnecessary material and letting waste water into rivers, lest it would lead to the total destruction of environment.

Let the following American Saying bring some change in the minds of the people.

“Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten’’
                                                     --- Native American Saying----

Let me conclude my talk with chanting a hymn from the Yajurveda.

ॐ द्यौ: शान्ति: | अरन्तरिक्षं शान्ति: | पृथिवी शान्ति: आप: शान्ति: | ओषधय: शान्ति: | वनस्पतय: शान्ति: | विश्वे देवा: शान्ति: | ब्रह्म शान्ति: | सर्वं शान्ति: |शान्तिरेव  शान्ति: | सा मा शान्तिरेधि ||

Let all the lokas be happy
Save water --- Save the world


(1)     अग्निर्देवता वातो देवता सूर्यो देवता चन्द्रमा देवता वसवो देवता रुद्रा देवता ss दित्या देवता मरुतो देवता विश्वेदेवा देवता बृहस्पतिर्देवतेन्द्रो देवता वरुणो देवता (यजुर्वेद -14/20)

(2)     माता भूमि: पुत्रोऽहं पर्थिव्या: (अथर्ववेद- 12-1-12)
(3)  आप: स्त्री र्भुम्नि वार्वारि सलिलं कमलं जलम्
      पय: कीलालममृतं जीवनं भुवनं वनम्
                कबन्धमुदकं पाथ: पुष्करं सर्वतो मुखं
       अम्भोणस्तोयपानीयं निरक्षीराम्बुशं वरम् (अमरकोशे- वारिवर्ग: -   - श्लो-3&4)

(4) नासदासीन्नो सदासीत्तदानीं नासीद्रजो नो व्योमा परो यत्|
      किमावरीव: कुहु कस्य शर्मन्नम्भ: किमासीद्गहनं गभीरम् ||
    (ऋग्वेद: -10-129)

(5) नारा आप: अयनं स्थानं यस्य स: नारायण: (अमरकोश:/  स्वर्वर्ग: /18). 

(6/1) भिषग्भ्यो s पि भिषक्तर: (अथर्वणवेद-- 19-2-3)

(6/2)  यूयं हि ष्ठा भिषजो मातृतमा
विश्वस्य स्थातुर्जगतो जनिय्री: (ऋग्वेद: 6-50-7)
 (6/3) शरीरे जर्जरीभूते व्याधिग्रस्ते कलेबरे |
औषधं जाह्नवीतोयं वैद्यो नारायणो हरि: ||
 (7)   मधुवाता ऋतायते
          मधु क्षरन्ति सिन्धव:
          माध्वीर्नः सन्त्वोषधी (ऋग्वेद-1-90-6)

 (8)   अम्ब तवद्दर्शनान्मुक्ति: न जाने स्नानजं फलम् |   

 (9)  मा ss पो हिंसी:, मा ओषधीन्हिंसी:
    धाम्नो: धाम्नो राजंस्ततो वरुण नो मुञ्च
    सुमित्रिया न sआप sओषधय:  सन्तु
    दुर्मित्रियास्तस्मै सन्तु  योसमान् द्वेष्टि
    यं च वयं द्विष्म:      ( यजुर्वेद: - 6-22)

 (10) पानीयदूषके पापं तथैव विषदायके |
        यत्तदेकस्स लभतां यस्यार्योs नुमते गत: ||
    (श्रीमद्रामायणम्अयोध्याकाण्ड:)| Canto 75/ Stanza56


1. Amarakosa
2.  Atharva Veda.
3.  Bhagavata puranam
4.  Rig-Veda.
5. The Ramayana of Valmiki
6. Yajurveda.
7. Journals & News Papers.

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