Earth Week. Dharma. Tree Hugger. Mother Earth.

Earth Week. Dharma. Tree Hugger. Mother Earth. April 25, 2024

It’s the time of year the modern world dedicates ONE WEEK to the Earth. One week out of 52, when we spare time to think about and honor the very planet and natural elements that sustain us. But Dharma decrees every day is for Mother Earth. So, for followers of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, every day is Earth Day and every week is Earth Week.

Hindus have venerated and worshiped the earth as Bhoomi Devi or Prithvi Devi, in the manner of a Goddess for untold thousands of years. Like most indigenous faiths, a reverence for natural elements and the recognition of the sacred landscape we live in, is a bedrock of the Hindu faith even today. Rigveda -the oldest Hindu scripture (and indeed the oldest text known to mankind), has many shlokas that praise various elements of nature. Another sacred and almost as ancient text, the Atharv Veda (circa 1200 BCE) features the Bhoomi Suktam  a hymn comprising of 63 mantras to Mother Earth.

Every morning, before they even get out of bed, millions of  Hindus recite the Samudra Vasane Devi mantra -an invocation to Earth, before they stand on it. A vast number of shlokas and prayers, similarly try inculcate a positive behavior in humans towards our environment and bear evidence to the importance that ecological consciousness plays in the lives of practicing Hindus.


The original “Tree Hugger” and beyond

The reverence for nature is not limited to just the temporal world. It extends into the real world. No surprises that the word “tree hugger” – a word that epitomizes what environmentalism was and has become to the western civilization, is a concept that originates from India (Bharat) and the very dharmic beliefs of seeing an atma in every living being – be it human, animal or plant.

In the 1700s  Amrita Devi of the Bishnoi tribe quite literally hugged a tree to stop it from being felled and was killed in the process. The Bishnoi tribe she belonged to, are a remarkable example of how humans can live fulfilling lives,  in harmony with the plants, animals and elements that surround them even today.

Amrita Devi’s martyrdom inspired centuries of eco-warriors. Notable among these is the Chipko movement in North India, which began in the 1970s and played a key role in protecting forests-a remarkable display of grassroots activism.


Academic Assessments

While Hindu majority India is the world’s most populous country, it still ranks 7th in the 2024 CCPI index–among the highest performers globally. (CCPI is the Climate Change Performance Index , published annually since 2005, an independent monitoring tool for tracking countries’ climate protection performance).

Over the decades, many in academia have studied and written about the dharmic beliefs, notable among them Dr. Pankaj Jain, an internationally recognized academic leader in sustainability, focused on ways to achieve environmental stewardship and find inspiration for tracking issues with climate change. He has also authored multiple books on the topic. I had the chance to talk with Dr Jain in a wide-ranging discussion that investigated everything from biodiversity, climate change and sustainable living to ways to measure a personal carbon footprint. And how all these issues are viewed by the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain traditions, in authentic relevant ways that can drive change at both the personal and institutional levels.

Do listen to the chat here.


Much remains to be learned but sometimes it might help us to take a trip into our very own pasts, as we seek solutions for the future. Indigenous faiths around the world remain a treasure trove of understanding and knowledge-especially in the journey to a more holistic future. Happy Earth Week and lets make every day Earth Day!

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