Is Your God Eco Friendly?
I talk in the Indian context, of course.
“Go put away these flowers in the garden.” My father was referring to the worn out flowers in the small wooden temple in our house. It was his daily routine – to place beautiful roses and mogra from our garden and put away the ones from the previous day in a small part of our seemingly big front lawn. These old flowers would turn into mulch and soon become one with the soil.
Our garden was a rich one. Two full grown mango trees, and one each of litchi, guava, a couple of lemon trees, green chilies, tomatoes, mint leaves, coriander, turmeric roots, ginger, curry leaves – it was all in our front and back yard.
We would have many rows of colorful flowers in our garden, changing with the season. Somehow I remember roses being a constant. Every day, our mali would spend an hour or two in maintaining the beautiful garden which was an important part of my childhood.
What would I do today to simply sit under that mango tree which gave us fruit in every season, much to everyone’s surprise.
During winter, I would spend my entire day in the neatly trimmed lawn, soaking up the comforting sunshine while I did my homework or ate my lunch or even took a quick nap without getting noticed by my mother.
Back then, plucking flowers for puja and putting them back in the garden the next day seemed like a ritual. It was a sustainable practice since the flowers would anyway fall off into the soil if not plucked. These, mind you, thrived on cow dung manure and the compost manure that we used to make in a small pit in the backyard.
Everyday puja rituals, as I knew them, weren’t complete without the flowers. The fresh fragrance was part of the whole experience. Years later, when I was married and had a puja-temple of my own in a Mumbai house, I realized how things had changed.
Even though we bought some flowers every day from a local shop, I had no idea where to put them the next day. I got a big flower pot and started dumping the used ones in that, without knowing where I would dispose them later. There was no garden at my disposal.
When the flower-pot got full, I asked the old man who collected our garbage every day if he had some ideas. I wanted to ask what others in the society were doing about it as a practice. “Even you want to dump them away in a river? That’s what every one is doing these days. The water bodies every where are dirty because of being a ‘spiritual’ trash can.”
All my growing up years, I had seen praying, worshiping and rituals as a seamless mix with the nature. Both went hand in hand, didn’t they? But what had happened to us now? We had turned one against the other.
Whether or not it bothered me, I was convinced it definitely bothered the God I dearly worshiped.
How could god be happy with rituals which caused river pollution and directly affected the eco-system? I could not stand the thought. As a society, we had changed the way we disposed puja-samagri but shouldn’t we have also changed the way we performed the puja? The imbalance was making our traditional puja unsustainable.
That was probably the last time I used flowers in my home-temple. I bought garlands made of cloth and lace to put on the photos of gods. They look pretty. I think the Gods in those framed images are smiling more since then.
I understand many people may find it a hard change to make. We are too emotional and god-loving (or fearing) to take away something from our traditional rituals. We are always happy to add more to our daily customs.
But think about it – for Indians, nature is a significant part of our culture and practices. We are so busy treating it like a God that we suffocate it with our doings. Is that really the idea?
If I ever move back to an independent house with a garden, I would love to bring back the fresh fragrance of flowers in my puja room. Until then, it’s just me and my God, and that’s enough for me as far as my spirituality goes.
I leave you with this soulful song by Studio NH47, supported by Green Yatra and IndiBlogger for Earth Day on 22nd April 2015. This is not a contest entry (since I am a member of IndiBlogger core team). It’s just something I strongly support and care about.