Scientific Proof Shiva Is an Environmentalist?
The Hindu god Shiva, known as the destroyer, is a great environmentalist according to a paper presented by Dr. Akhilesh Kumar Pandey, chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Private University Regulatory Commission. Although it may be surprising that “the destroyer” cared about protecting nature, there is ample evidence in ancient texts that Shiva is an environmentalist.
But does that mean a botanist should be presenting a paper on this topic at the 103rd Indian Science Conference?
The Destroyer as a Preserver
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that Indians treat nature as God perhaps because so many Hindu gods have ties to natural objects. Shiva is no exception. In an interview with Rediff.com, Pandey explained why he thinks the god is a great environmentalist.
“Lord Shiva stopped the flow of the Ganga,” he said. “When King Bhagirath called Lord Shiva from earth, the flow of the Ganga river was so fast that in order to stop it, Lord Shiva took the river on his head and he allowed only that much water to flow from his hair that was needed for earth. This is the concept of water conservation. This was the message. He emphasized that water must not be wasted.”
Pandey also referenced the animals Hindu deities are depicted with — Ganesha and the mouse; Kartikeya and the peacock; Nandi and the bull; Durga and the tiger; and Shiva and the snake. The close relationship the gods have with animals encourages Hindus to remember that every living thing is important. We are all one family.
Religion as a Science
While there is evidence Shiva cares about the environment, the evidence isn’t the type normally presented at scientific conferences. Unfortunately, the Indian Science Conference is getting a reputation for broadly defining science and allowing papers like Pandey’s to be presented.
Last year, a session titled “Ancient Sciences Through Sanskrit” focused on aviation technologies in Maharshi Bharadwaja’s Vaimanika Shastra. Speakers presenting the paper at the conference described how Indians flew planes before the Wright brothers did. Needless to say, science wasn’t a big part of the paper or the presentation.
This year, Pandey’s paper wasn’t the only submission that had scientists scratching their heads. Rajeev Sharma presented a paper about how blowing a conch, a sacred Hindu object, can help people achieve health and wellness. “Blowing of shankh [conch] is the best preventive measure for psycho-somatic disorders as it accounts for both physical and mental aspects of a performer,” he told Mumbai Mirror.
Attendees were not impressed. “I attended one day (of an earlier congress) and very little science was discussed. It was a circus. I will never attend a science congress again in my life,” Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramajrishnan told The Times of India.
Good Message Told the Wrong Way
It is wonderful that people are looking at Shiva’s ties to nature, but it is always worrisome when the lines between science and religion are blurred.
Religious leaders should accept science and scientists should be inspired by religion. The two should exist together as complimentary pursuits. Religion is a part of humanity’s culture, a link to the traditions and morals that have defined a people for years. Science is separate from culture; it is supposed to exist outside the biases, assumptions, and mythologies we have always relied on and challenge us to see the universe through fresh eyes.
Hindus may have a long revered nature and environmentalism may be part of their culture. However, this is not relevant to a scientific conference. Instead of looking at Shiva’s impact on the Ganges, presenters should look at climate change and waste discharge’s impacts.
With fresh information we can do more to protect the rivers without Shiva’s help.
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