Why do Hindus Worship all the Rivers in India??

India is one of the very few countries in the world which has all the ecosystems available. We have rain forests, jungles, deserts, plateaus, hills, mountains, mountain ranges, rivers, seas, ocean, lakes, ponds, hot and cold springs, brown, red, black, loamy, sandy, etc. soils, all kinds of rocks, numerous metals and minerals, different types of coal, oil & gas resources, precious and semi precious gems, different climatic zones … phew! Not many countries in the world can boast of such treasures! Not just that, we are blessed with rain, snow, bright sunlight & different winds and breezes from all sides of India.

So how did our ancestors treat all these treasures? Did they exploit them or did they use them? What was their approach to these gifts of nature? The answer to this will explain why we were the greatest civilization in the world. In Sanatana Dharma, all gifts of nature were treated as gifts from God (ParaBrahm) and they had to be worshiped or used carefully. The use of nature was a science in itself in our ancient civilization. Probably many readers do not know this, but one of the four Upavedas – the Shilpa Veda by Bhrighu Maharishi has information on how to treat such resources. Shilpa Veda has 3 Khands (divisions) which are further subdivided into 10 Shastras. One of these Khands is the Dhatu Khand which is further subdivided into:

  • Krishi Shastra – Animal, Human and Land Resources
  • Jala Shastra – Water Resources
  • Khani Shastra – Mining and Mineral resources, Metallurgy

Did you know that India has more than 400 rivers – most of them perennial? That apart, we have thousands of lakes, ponds, temple tanks, kunds, fresh water & mineral water springs & wells. Our land is so blessed that we do not need to go for desalination plants ever. But it is our misfortune that faulty governmental policies over the years have rung the death knell for these natural water resources. Let us see what our Shilpa Veda says:

Water cannot be created – only Management is possible.

There are 3 areas discussed:

  • Sanchetan ie. Supply of Water. The supply of water to areas where it is required, for eg. irrigation has been discussed here. The oldest dam in India is in Tamil Nadu on the River Kaveri.
  • Samharan Vidya ie. Drainage of Water. The drainage of water to either preserve the minerals or to preserve water itself has been discussed here. One example of the former is seen in Bengal where the overflow irrigation system where the Ganga empties itself into the Bay of Bengal. The latter can be seen in Telangana where a network of ‘Kunds’ or a grid system is seen to prevent the water from flowing into the sea.
  • Sthambhan Vidya ie. Storing of water especially where there is a shortage of water. The step wells of India, the wells in our villages, the temples tanks, all form part of this branch of knowledge system.
  • Our ancient scientists observed their surroundings and drew forecasts based on their observations of:
  • Plants and animal movements (short term forecast)
  • Stars, constellation and planetary positions (medium term forecast)
  • Natural events and disasters (long term forecast)

Devout Hindus know that we treat our Rivers as Divine Beings – we called most of them Maa (Mother). But did you know that some rivers are male too & a couple of them are ‘kumaris’ or unmarried rivers? Rivers which drain themselves into the Bay of Bengal in the East are called ‘Mata’ or Nadi. This is because they reach the seas and finally Sagara (ocean) ie. symbolically they are wedded to Sagara. Rivers which flow to the direction of the West are technically Nada or male. This is because going West means you are reaching out to your past or to your ancestors. Since our lineage is dependent on the Father’s Gotra or DNA, we are technically going back to our Pitrs. Since ritually it is the male child who revisits his ancestors (during Shraardh), such rivers are called Nada and not Nadi. The rivers Shon, Krishna, Tapti are all Nada. There are some rivers which do not drain into the sea. These rivers are called Kumaris – for eg. Narmada river.

A very interesting fact is that most of the other ancient civilizations of the World grew on the banks of the main rivers of that land – like the Mesopotamian Civilization grew on the banks of the River Tigris; the Egyptian Civilization grew on the banks of the River Nile; the Chinese Civilization depended on the River Yangtze. But our Sanatana Dharma and its Bharatiya Civilization did not depend on only one river. For us, all water bodies were holy and represented by Varun Dev. This is obvious from the Shloka, “Gangecha, Yamunecha, Narmada, Sindhu, Godavari, Kaveri; JalaySmin San Niddhim Kuru!” ie. Let the waters of Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Sindhu, Godavari and Kaveri join the water which I am using for my ablutions. That is why our culture is spread throughout Bharat Varsha, not just a small region. This is also one reason why despite so many invasions, Sanatana Dharma was preserved in this country.

The rivers Ganga and Yamuna are considered the holiest of the holy and a dip in their Prayag (point where they meet) is considered to get us rid of our sins and help us achieve Moksha. The waters of the Ganga are white and the Yamuna is believed to have darker water. Of course it is the minerals that are blended in the water which give it its colour. But is there another meaning to this? Our Rishis believed that everything found in this world is within us too. So the Ganga and the Yamuna flow within us too and we have a Prayag Sthaan too. Where is it? The Ida and the Pingala Nadis are the Ganga and Yamuna rivers respectively. These naadis meet at the Sushumna. Thus whosoever through their Yogic practices raise the Kundalini Shakti to meet at the Sushumna, acquire true knowledge or Brahman. Reaching this point their past karmas are dissolved and they attain Moksha.

Let us all join hands in the mission to clean up our water bodies; let us all understand the value of not throwing plastic and other rubbish in them; let us keep our rivers, ponds, wells clean and value them just as much as we value our own bodies. When we defile our bodies and minds, we defile our surroundings too. A clean and healthy life (Yoga), a clean environment (anti-dumping in our water bodies), cleaner energy sources (more use of renewable energy), cleaner Nation (Swacch Bharat) should be our goal. Jai Hind !!!

Rati Hegde