Hinduism and Nature, by Dr. Nanditha Krishna



By Sharon St Joan


Inextricably intertwined with the animals of the forest, with the rivers, the mountains, and the rocks, since time immemorial, has been the spiritual life of India, as Dr. Nanditha Krishna writes in her very beautiful book, Hinduism and Nature. The spiritual traditions of the East tend to have a kind, gentle, and reverent approach to the natural world.


The gods of the Vedas, the earliest books ever written, were all linked to nature. Indra is the god of rains and storms, thunder and lightning. Shiva lives at Mount Kailas, a great mountain in the land of snow and ice. We are all the children of Mother Earth.


God himself comes to earth in the forms of the animals. Lord Vishnu incarnates first as a fish; then as a turtle; then a wild boar; then a half-man, half lion; and only then as a human. Everything in nature is sacred. All animals and all of nature belong to god, all are in fact manifestations of god, and all, ultimately, are a sacred part of god.


Human beings are not given dominion over nature, but rather are expected to protect and care for the natural world, living in harmony with it.


As we struggle today with the reality of climate change, this is a book with many lessons for the times in which we live. Despite the grave concern that so many of us have about our destructive approach to nature – progress in changing human behavior just limps along, and so far, the destruction of the natural world seems to be not just continuing, but by some accounts is winning and gaining momentum.


Unfortunately, we tend to put climate change at the bottom of our collective list of priorities, and when we think of it at all – we think mainly in terms of benefit to humans. How many carbon footprints can we count – how much energy can we get from wind and solar?  Really, this is a far cry from seeing ourselves as a part of nature – we are a long way from worshipping the trees, the mountains and the rivers, as our ancestors once did, even in Europe.


Some of us are appalled at the thought of worshipping anything at all (and this also is a western mindset). Heaven forbid that we should honor the sacredness of animals and plants. Instead, we objectify nature. We remain alienated from the earth and the beauty of all the living beings of the earth. Yet, if the earth is to survive, we will need to make an about-face. We need to acknowledge the intrinsic beauty and value of all life.


The most ancient books of Hinduism were composed in the forests, where sages and wise people lived.


Every village in India once had a sacred forest – maybe two acres, or maybe two hundred. Within the boundaries of this sacred grove, all life was sacred. Within these forests lived the gods that people worshipped. The trees and the animals were not to be harmed for any reason, though, in recent decades, many of these forests have fallen into disrepair. One of Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s foundations, the CPR Environmental Education Centre, has restored 53 of these sacred groves; and their upkeep is now being managed by local villages.


Most of one of the two great epics of India, the Ramayana, takes place inside forests, as the hero Rama travels throughout India traversing all the many different kinds of forest; there are spectacular descriptions of flowering trees and plants, and the graceful beauty of the wild animals.




Every river in India is a goddess – except for two who are male gods. Beautiful stories are told about these river goddesses. Because the river Ganges did not want to fall straight down to the earth out of fear that her great power might destroy the plants and animals below, she sought the help of Shiva. When she fell down from heaven to earth, the water power was caught in Shiva’s hair, in order to break the fall, then it fell gently down, from Shiva’s head, to the earth below. It still does today.


The land of India, north and south, is filled with sacred lakes, and sacred ponds known as “tanks”, which are artificial bodies of water, some created many centuries ago. These sacred bodies of water hold large amounts of rainfall to protect against droughts. Seeping from these ponds and tanks into the surrounding soil, the stored water is available to the plants and trees during times of water scarcity. Many of these tanks were built in times past by kings whose engineers understood the value of conserving water.


Even today, despite the deleterious effects of western influence, which is all too pervasive in India, particularly in the fields of science and education, there is a strong, vibrant love and respect for nature. There remains today, as always in the past, a profound reverence for all life – human, animal, plant, and the features of the landscape – the mighty rivers, mountains, and forests.




There is much that we in the west can learn from this great land, whose wisdom stretches back at least 5,000 years, and probably much, much farther. Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s beautifully written book, Hinduism and Nature, is a very good place to start on this journey to broaden our understanding of the earth and our place in nature.


Photo Credits


Top Photo: Ondrej Zvacek / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wikipedia. / Northern side of Mount Kailash


Second photo: Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons / The Ganges falling through Shiva’s hair.


Third photo: Rbsrajput / Wikipedia: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / The Narmada River.


A first-hand account of the Chennai floods

CHAL USA photo used 9d1505_9ba56c3c46ca4737b341cd3f1778f56a



By Nanditha Krishna


Dec 8 2015


The rainfall from Nov I to 30 was 1255.7 mm, as against a normal of 407.4 . From December 1 to 7, we received 531.8 mm of rain.  It had stopped raining yesterday but has begun again today, a lighter rain.


I don’t know if this is Climate Change, but I have never seen such extreme weather. This is Nature’s fury at its beautiful best!


The floods were caused by the unannounced and sudden opening of the sluice gates of Chembarabakkam lake . The waters were let into the Adyar and Cooum, and then burst their banks. Since the original channels connecting the lakes and rivers had been built over, the waters used the roads as channels, and came down TTK Road (where we live) from the river, entering our house and the Foundation campus. From December 1 to 6 there was no electricity, so we had to ration the water. We have a generator, but no diesel was available as water had entered all the underground tanks in the petrol bunks. Alwarpet was very badly hit. There was knee-high water inside the Foundation – after all, the building is nearly 200 years old , and is at a lower height than the road. Eldams road and Alwarpet junction were under water, and the waters were as high as car windows. Fortunately, I had desilted our well in October, so we could pump clean fresh rainwater. I didn’t dare use Metro water, which was contaminated with sewage water, so I now have sparkling fresh rainwater! Our mobiles had no connectivity. Only the good old BSNL land lines were working, but most people have only mobiles!


My 16 dogs were miserable. They hate the rain!


Many of our staff – including those who couldn’t reach home and those whose homes were under water – moved in to the Foundation guest house. We were cooking for about 25 people – breakfast, lunch and dinner! Water entered the ground floor of all our homes – mine, Prashanth’s and the old house, which had knee-high water in the beautiful open courtyards and central hall. Many parts of the city were submerged – bridges, roads, buildings and hospitals – while cars and 2 wheelers are still floating around! Boats were the common mode of transport. But those I sympathize with most are the sweeper women. They could not leave their homes, yet the floods destroyed their houses and took away all their belongings (including gold jewellery kept in a safe). The people living in slums are the worst affected. We are the lucky ones.


We have never stopped the pooja in the last 200 years. We were forced to do so this time as the priest could not come and water had entered the pooja.


The Adyar river entered Chinny’s factory up to a height of  8 feet. The water went into all the machines and computers. The workers from Orissa who live on the premises managed to escape in time and run to the terrace, but they could not salvage anything.


The airport closed down, and the trains and buses were all stopped. Our only lifeline was the Bangalore highway, through which relief supplies entered the city. They say 269 people died, but I think the number must be much more (at least 2690). I know entire families of people living beside the river who have disappeared. I saw aeroplane wheels under water!


The NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority), Army, Navy and Air Force were magnificent. They rescued people, provided food, etc. The Blue Cross of India was also magnificent. Dawn William was rescuing animals and people by the thousands in pouring rain, night and day. We bought a boat for the Blue Cross, while HSI India sent down two more  boats and three vets from Ahmedabad. The boats rescued thousands of people and animals.


The state and local government were missing and appeared only on Sunday night. Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur and Cuddalore districts are also badly affected. The electricity boxes are under water – one man was electrocuted on Eldams road.


Our problems are a result of corruption and lack of preparedness. While we cannot blame anybody for nature’s fury, we can blame the local government for not cleaning the storm water drains; for not desilting the temple tanks and lakes in summer, when they were dry; for not planting the traditional palm trees and Bermuda grass (arugam pullu / durva) on tank bunds, to prevent water breaching the sides; for not clearing Acacia and Water hyacinth from water bodies; for not clearing the inlets and outlets of water bodies; for not removing constructions  and illegal encroachments alongside rivers and lakes in spite of court orders to do so; for dumping solid waste in water bodies, marshlands and waterways; for not closing electric boxes; and so on.  Plastic bags MUST be banned, for they had clogged the storm water drains. Four years from now we will have a fresh cylone, floods, etc., and the same thing will happen again.


Finally, water was pumped out of our garden and the Foundation campus and power returned on Sunday night and Monday.


I hope my next mail is happier, and not something out of the Doomsday Book!


How you can help animals in the floods

If you’d like to donate to help Blue Cross of India with their work rescuing animals affected by the floods.

From the U.S. or anywhere outside India, click here.

From inside India, click here.



Photos: Courtesy of Chal USA










“Why do I care?”

*resizedNanditha and Holland edited
French President Francois Hollande, Dr. Nanditha Krishna


“Why do I care?” – Statement made by Dr. Nanditha Krishna at the Summit of Conscience for the Climate (Sommet des Consciences pour le Climat), Paris, July 21, 2015.


The Hindu tradition regards nature and all her aspects as divine: forests, mountains, trees, rivers and water-bodies, animals and seeds are all regarded as sacred. The earth is the Divine Mother who must be treated with respect. The five elements (pancha bhūta) – Earth, Air, Water, Fire (Energy) and Space – are the foundation of the interconnected web of life. Every prayer begins and ends with a prayer for peace in nature. Our environmental actions affect our karma, binding all creation in an eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Dharma – righteousness or duty – includes our responsibility to care for the earth and her resources.


As a child, I spent a lot of time around forests where tigers, leopards, elephants and other wildlife crossed my path. Gradually, the forests were cut down, and the wildlife disappeared. Meanwhile, my lovely city Chennai, better known for its temples and temple bells, classical music and dance, became a hotbed of air and water pollution, and garbage. All over the world, the animals and birds I love are now kept in cages and treated as production machines, and exported to live in horrible conditions. Is it ethical? Is it environmentally sustainable? An insatiable greed for wealth and consumption has gripped all people, at the cost of the environment. This has led to the crisis of global warming and climate change.


Mr. Selvapandian, CPREEC officer; Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Director of CPREEC, visiting Nenmeli, one of the sacred groves restored by CPREEC.


I have spent over three decades writing about sacred groves, plants and animals. When we restored the sacred groves (forests), 52 of them, and water-bodies, I saw the birds and wildlife return. They too want to live well. Ahimsa or non-violence is the greatest Dharma, and it starts with simple and sustainable lifestyles.


Each one of us must make an individual commitment to live sustainably and change one’s own lifestyle. Mahatma Gandhi said “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed,” and “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” These are two excellent dicta that can save the world.


*Nan. outside foundations croppedIMG_8511
Dr. Nanditha Krishna, outside the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation and CPREEC (the C.P.R. Centre for Envronmental Education).


Finally, I would like to end with a Vedic prayer for peace which is always recited before and after every ritual and event:


“O Supreme Lord, May there be peace in the sky and in space. May there be peace on land and in the waters. May herbs and vegetation bring us peace. May all personifications of God bring us peace. May the Lord bring us peace. May there be peace throughout the world. May peace be peaceful. May the Lord give me such peace also. Om shanti shanti shanti.”


Top photo: French President Francois Hollande, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, at the Summit of Conscience, Paris, July 21, 2015.


Second photo: Mr. Selvapandian, CPREEC officer, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Director of the C.P.R. Centre for Environmental Education, at one of the 52 sacred groves, Nenmeli, restored by CPREEC.


Third photo:  Dr. Nanditha Krishna, outside the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation and CPREEC.

Summit of Conscience, Paris, July 21, 2015

Nicholas Hulot
Nicholas Hulot


By Dr. Nanditha Krishna


Mankind’s relationship with nature was the focus of the Climate Summit of Conscience. With the UN COP (Conference of Parties) climate conference just months away, faith leaders, Nobel laureates, economists and artists from around the world gathered in the French capital to show that protecting the planet is more than a matter of science.


The Summit of Conscience was championed by the French TV personality and environmentalist, Nicolas Hulot, appointed President Hollande’s Special Envoy for Climate Change.


During the Summit, the Call to Conscience for the Climate was signed by over 40 religious, cultural, environmental and political leaders present in the event and will be presented to each Head of Delegation at the COP 21 in Paris this December.


In a move that many, including key government figures, said was “remarkable”, “unique”, “historic” the French government agreed to send through its diplomatic channel a letter from leading religious and cultural world figures to the heads of the 195 delegations coming to the climate change COP.
The letter asks them to ask themselves a single and personal question: “Why Do I Care?”
“Why are we asking you to do this?” it asks. “Because we hope that in answering this question, you will come to the COP primarily as a conscious human being not just a representative of a Government or agency. In the end the most important element of this is that we hear from you as a person, a member of the human family who has for a time a uniquely significant role to play in protecting the world.”


The letter was announced at a groundbreaking “Summit of Conscience” in Paris, July 21, hosted by the Elysee Palace, along with leading French publisher Bayard Press and the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).


President Hollande of France
President Hollande of France

“The Summit of Conscience departs from the point that the climate crisis … cannot be reduced to scientific, technological, economic and political dimensions, however important those are,” said French President Francois Hollande. “It is in fact a crisis of meaning.”


“The root cause of environmental degradation and climate change is a way of life, a mode of production, a mode of consumption that is not compatible with human development,” he added.


“In the past we have talked about “stewardship” but now we must talk about care,” said Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who presented Pope Francis’ Laudato Si Environment Encyclical to the world in June. “When we care it is with passion and commitment and attachment. Commitment to embrace with passion not just with thoughts and ideas but with the heart….What kind of world do we want to bequeath? An environment will not be able to sustain life after us unless we embrace commitment – we received a garden as our home and we may not turn it into wilderness. The garden we received must be passed on and bequeathed,” Cardinal Turkson said.


The Bois de Boulogne, just outside Paris.
The Bois de Boulogne, just outside Paris.

“France is one of the most secular governments in the world and for the president and government of France to propose this level of cooperation with the major faiths of the world is highly unusual.” said ARC’s Martin Palmer.
“The issue of climate change and protecting our planet has largely been taken away from people by governments, by scientists and international agencies making most people feel powerless or even hopeless in the face of all the data,” said Palmer. “We need that but we also need to feel that we each can make a difference.”


Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that “The earth is not ours; it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children. We must be worthy of that trust.”


France’s Minister of Ecology, Segolene Royal, and many other speakers, highlighted the need to progressively decrease use and dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal, and shift to renewable energy.


Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through a message delivered by Janos Pasztor, Assistant-Secretary-General on Climate Change, said that “Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. It affects us all, but it does not affect us all equally. We have a profound responsibility to protect and assist the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and to pass on to future generations a planet that is thriving and healthy.”


Quotes from the Summit of Conscience
Quotes from the Summit of Conscience


Why Do I Care is now an international movement.


This is not just a movement for politicians or delegates or people who are already leaders. When Bayard, one of France’s largest publishing companies, especially for young peoples’ magazines, agreed to sponsor the meeting and carry out much of the on the ground organization, their editorial staff said they thought this was a question their young readers would love to answer.
They created the website http://www.whydoIcare.org   in which people of all countries are invited to tell their story in less than 200 words or a one minute video and this testimony will be added to the words of thousands of others, like a river of personal commitments. Bayard are also devoting many of the autumn editions of their magazines to this theme.



Meanwhile other organisations such as MOA Japan which hosts an international children’s art festival with more than 400,000 entries every year made the question “Why Do I Care” a key theme to this year’s competition.

And so almost by accident a movement was born, because in asking the question “Why Do I Care” everyone can take part.


Top photo: Author: Olivier « toutoune25 » Tétard / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.” / Nicholas Hulot


Second photo: attribute http://www.kremlin.ru. Author: Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Kremlin.ru” / President Hollande of France


Third photo: Wikimedia Commons-emblem-copyright.svg / “This photograph comes from Free On Line Photos (source). The copyright holder of this work allows anyone to use it for any purpose including unrestricted redistribution, commercial use, and modification.” / Lower Lake in the Bois de Boulogne on the western side of Paris.


Fourth photo: Quotes from the Sommet des consciences.

What if?



As December 21, 2012 approaches, there are a few who await the end of the world, and many more who dismiss such thoughts as being silly, and others who just hope that nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary happens.


Is the end of the world such a bad thing?  And what would it mean?  Certainly, massive cataclysms and terrible destruction would cause immense suffering to people, to animals, and to the earth.  Suffering on any scale is a bad thing, and whether or not any good comes out of it, we all seek to avoid it.


There have been cataclysms both recently and in the past, and one can only suppose that there may be more to come – with or without an end to the world.  Perhaps there will be an intensity of disasters, we have no way to know.


But what if the end of the world also has another meaning?  As we all realize, we live in a world that, at the very least, has many flaws, and at the worst, is a realm of extreme suffering for many beings.


What if the world and all of history, as far as we know it, is like a vast carpet being unrolled and stretched out?  Now we have come to the end of the unrolling, and it is time for it to be rolled back up again – to go back to the beginning?


All the myths of the world tell of ages in the far, remote recesses of time, that were not mundane and prosaic, but that instead were magical, that sparkled with life and positivity.  Of course, being “rational, modern people,” we dismiss these myths as being pre-scientific, irrational, and based on superstition.


The truth is though, only some of us dismiss these myths as mythical. There are those among us who, though we may not always say so publicly, hold a radically different view.  Some of us, though we may not openly acknowledge it, do believe in magic, in miracles, in the mystical, in the visions and dreams of ages long past when the world was not boring, not prosaic, not humdrum, not filled with conflict and degradation – not, in fact, increasingly cruel and distasteful.


What if this great carpet, when it has rolled out to its end, simply begins to roll back up again?


For example, what if, instead of disappearing from the face of the earth, all the great forests begin to grow back?  I understand that the damage has already been done and that it is very severe and irreparable, in any normal, sensible way of seeing things.  We are so used to a world in which human beings are winning the war against nature, where the trees and the plants have no defences at all against the inexorable march of “progress,” though how it can be called “progress” is a great mystery.  How can a world of steel and concrete be “better” in some way than a world of forests?  But what if, by some magic stroke of a great wand, humans were simply no longer able to wreak destruction on the natural world – no longer able to cut down trees or to replace magnificent, ancient forests with shopping malls, parking lots, and garbage dumps?


What if the Amazon filled up again with trees?  And all the forests of North America came back? And all the forests of Europe and Asia too?


Or what if humans no longer had the capacity to pollute the oceans and destroy the lives of the fish, the whales, and the sea creatures?  It would take a while of course for all the pollution that’s already happened to deteriorate and stop causing death and destruction in the oceans, but perhaps some kinds of bacteria and enzymes would evolve to eat up all the plastic junk and horrible toxic substances.  Then the sea creatures could live in peace and freedom again and swim in clear waters among the graceful plants of the seas.


What if all the farm animals; the cows, the chickens, the geese and ducks, the turkeys, the pigs, and the lambs were never killed for dinner?  What if instead they roamed the hills, among the great trees, or swam in blue lakes?  There are a few logistical problems, unfortunately, because modern farm animals are no longer adapted, as their ancestors once were, to living in the wild. So there is not a simple, easily seen solution as to how and where they could live.  But the point is not that we have all the answers, which certainly we don’t.  The point is simply that the way farm animals live currently, mostly on factory farms, is profoundly cruel and that the world should not subject all these billions of innocent animals to such an unkind fate.


A different world is needed – not one that is just a tiny bit better – but a different one altogether – a different situation – one in which the human-ruled world as we have known it, has come to its end, and there is a new world filled with magical animals that fly on the wind and graze on green hillsides – perhaps with dragons too, breathing fire.


An end of persecution is required – an ending of the persecution of all of nature, all animals, and the earth – and along with that end — assuming there are still some people living on the earth — the ending also of the persecution of tribal peoples, of the extinction of their languages and their culture, and ending of the persecution of all those who suffer at the hands of those who seek to subjugate the earth – the ending of wars, of economic injustice, of the persecution of women, of the young, of the old, and the disabled.


An entirely different world is needed, not an improvement of this world, not a updated model of the same thing, but instead a world where the sacred and the spiritual are alive, well, and recognized – a world that is in touch once again with the cosmos – with God and the Gods, with magic, with life and inspiration, with innocence, a world which has broken free of the bonds of slavery and the constraints of the gray misery that this current time has descended into.


Perhaps this may be what is meant by the ending of this cycle and the birth of another – the great rolling back up of the cosmic carpet, back to the beginning.


Despite all apparent evidence to the contrary, we do sometimes have a sense that the rule of tyranny and hatred, which seems so well established, will not endure forever – that, instead, the destruction of all that is innocent and sacred, will be brought to an end, perhaps sooner than we could imagine – and that there are transformative powers, immense currents, and great winds afoot in the cosmos that we cannot see or know, but that are there, all the same, and very real.


Top photo: Author: Wolfgang Sauber / Wikimedia Commons /http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maya-Maske.jpg / National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Maya mask. Stucco frieze from Placeres, Campeche.


Second photo: Author: Snezana Trifunovic  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Tsnena  /  Wikimedia Commons    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Biogradska_suma.jpg / old growth forest in Montenegro


Third photo: Author: Jon Sullivan / Wikimedia Commons / “This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Jon Sullivan. This applies worldwide.” / Waves on the ocean coast


Author: Lea Maimone http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:LeaMaimone/  Wikimedia Commons / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brahman_Baby.jpg / Brahman calf

Varaha and the rising seas

Climate change is one thing when it is an abstract discussion about how high the sea will rise in around a hundred years when we are no longer here – or when we feel sad watching the poor polar bears in distress, but the polar bears do live quite a long way away – climate change is quite a different, much more menacing threat when it effects New York City, filling part of the subway system, used every day by five million people, with saltwater that poured in from the sea for the first time in 108 years.  During the huge storm, Sandy, much of the hardest-hit state, New Jersey, was underwater.  Storm-caused fires destroyed 110 homes on Long Island. Suddenly, climate change is no longer some sort of ghost lurking on the edges of reality, it has appeared, and is a real presence, with a concrete form.


There is little that is more frightening than the threat of a basic change in the earth’s climate. Terrorism, economic hardship, and political instability can come and go, but the climate is something much more fundamental, and we can only survive on a planet that remains conducive to life.


TV footage of the many feet of water flooding the tracks, the deserted platforms, and the tunnels of the New York subway has a macabre feeling, like some long-dead civilization, rediscovered by a perplexed explorer of the future.


As humans, we have destroyed so much of the earth that now, it is not only the forests, the wild animals, and the oceans that are suffering – but our destructiveness has come back to haunt us, and it is we ourselves who now endure the consequences of the harm we have caused.


There have been great upheavals in the past – and even more in the far distant past – the past that is revealed to us only in mythology, a past so distant that it lies beyond what we call the beginning of history. A past so far back that it can readily be disregarded by anyone who wishes not to see it.  Yet, it is intriguing, for example, that legends of the Great Flood exist in so many different cultures on earth.  There is geological evidence too that supports the occurrence of this flood.


There have been ages that have come and gone, long, long before this present age.  Only in our moments of greatest blindness do we assume that what we call “history” is the only history that has existed.  There were worlds before ours, and there will be worlds to come.


These past worlds leave memories in the traditions and mythologies of the world, none more vivid or more evocative than in the traditions of India.

Dr. Nanditha Krishna, in her book, Sacred Animals of India, tells one of the stories of Varaha, the boar, who was the third incarnation of Vishnu.  Originally, the universe was entirely water, and the earth, who was the wife of Varaha, was very tiny, just the size of a human hand, lost in the water.  Brahma, God the Creator, became a black boar named Emusha, who had one hundred arms. Then Emusha rescued his wife, the earth, by lifting her with his tusks out of the water.


Ultimately, Vishnu and Brahma are both aspects of God, so it needn’t be confusing that they seem interchangeable, and that the earth is the wife of both.


In another version of the story, Hiranyaksha, a demon, wanted to control the earth, so he rolled her up in a mat and threw her into the ocean.  When she was thrown into the water, she let out such a loud cry, that it was heard all the way up in heaven, where Vishnu lives.  Hearing her cry, Vishnu became the giant boar, Varaha, in order to rescue the earth.  A battle ensued that lasted a thousand years, and finally, the victorious Varaha lifted the earth on his tusks from down in the depths of the sea, and placed her gently on top of the water, where she rests today.

To imagine the earth drowning in the water is not so entirely different from the story of the great flood, although there is also in India a more specific story of the Great Flood, the legend of Manu and Matsya.


Worlds tend to end in fire or floods, and for the earth to be cast into the water and then to be saved by Varaha, the incarnation of Vishnu, may be seen as portraying the end of one age and the beginning of another.  As the waters close over the earth, she is not completely abandoned though, because her divine husband arrives to save her, and life begins anew.


Whatever the future may bring and however long our current age may last, the point of considering a more cosmic perspective is not in any way to diminish the reality of human-caused climate change (or to look at it one way, perhaps it is we who sometimes act like the demon, Hiranyaksha, carelessly casting the earth into the rising seas).  Anyway, a look at a very ancient view, told in the mythical stories of India, may give one a more detached overview – a glimpse that transcends the level of our human predicament.


Top image: Artist: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) / Color woodblock print / Wikimedia commons / Public Domain / The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Second image: “Varaha, avtar of Vishnu, killing a demon to protect the Earth, and the earth goddess, Bhu or Bhu devi, which he lifts on his tusks above the black ocean. c1740. gouache on paper. probably Chamba, Pahari region, north India. Date c 1740. Source British Museum” / Wikimedia Commons / In the public domain in India

Third image: Sharon St Joan / Rescued pigs at Blue Cross of India