O Mother Earth! Will we be able to repay your debt?

Arun Chaubey

Love for mother comes naturally to a child, perhaps developing in the womb itself. Although we try to repay it through different means, the indebtedness towards mother remains life long. And if we extend this analogy to Earth and Nature, which provide human beings with life sustaining elements, we have quite utterly failed to express gratitude in any way.

In fact, the scenario has become so alarming that we now find ourselves crying to save Mother Earth in order to save ourselves.

The purpose of Earth Day, perhaps, is towards making an effort to save our mother, who gives us an indispensable platform to carry on with the process of creation. But one does get inquisitive as to how the concept of ‘Mother’ came to be related with Earth and Nature, which merge into each other to become one nurturing entity.

If we turn back the pages of history and tradition, images of women representing Mother Earth and Mother Nature, appear repeatedly in various cultures. Mother goddess is a term generally used to refer to the female form of divinity associated with motherhood, creation or is perceived as the bountiful embodiment of earth itself.

Historically, goddesses were worshipped for their association with fertility, fecundity and agricultural bounty. In the Incan, Algonquin, Assyrian, Babylonian, Slavinic, Roman, Greek, Indian, and Iroquoian religious practices, women priests played a dominant role prior to the inception of patriarchal traditions.

The first recorded use of earth in its present form began very late in the 17th century, but the deification of Nature can be traced to ancient Greece. Prior to Socrates, the Greek philosophers are stated to have invented Nature as the entirety of the phenomena of the world into a single name. Later, Aristotle onwards, Nature became a personified deity.

The Earth Mother, in Greek mythology, has the power to deny humankind fruits of harvest, while in the Slavic world she was one of the most important deities. Oaths were made binding by touching the Earth and sins were confessed to the Earth before death.

With the adoption of Christianity in all the Slavic lands, she was identified with Mary, the mother of Jesus. However, medieval Christian thinkers perceived Nature to be a creation of God and placed her on Earth, below the Heavens and Moon, somewhere in the middle. For the medieval mind, she was only a personification and not a goddess.

The modern concept of nature has returned to its original, pre-Socratic roots, no longer a deity except in a rhetorical sense.

Throughout history and up to the present day, instances of many different mother goddesses have been found and they include deities like ancient Greek Gaia, ancient Irish Danu and the Hindu Ma in primarily nine forms.

Interestingly, mother goddesses are viewed as being the embodiment of one singular deity.

In the Indian context, the worship of the Mother entity is traced back to pre-Vedic culture. The earliest Mother Goddess figurine unearthed in India, near Allahabad district of UP, belongs to approximately circa 20,000. One of the most important Neolithic sites in world archeology, and a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization, is Mehargarh, where thousands of female statuettes, dated as early as circa 5500, have been recovered.

The Rig Veda calls the Female power ‘Mahimata’, a term which literally means Mother Earth. The essential elements of religion in the Rig Veda were deeply impressed by the great phenomena of nature, which they conceived as alive and usually represented in anthropomorphic form. The chief deities in early days grew out of personification of natural phenomena and Earth (Prithvi) was one of them. But in the later Vedic period, the simple ceremonial worshipping gave way to elaborate sacrifices, and some old deities like Prithvi along with Varuna passed into insignificance.

Although ecology is claimed to be a modern concept, the best tribute ever paid to environment is found in the Atharva Veda, where as many as 63 mantras pertain to Prithvi-Sukta (Hymn to Earth), glorifying Mother Earth. Vedic sages regarded Earth as sacred and inviolable.

Prithvi Sukta talks about human dependence on nature and the respect for it that follows naturally: “Mata bhumih, putro aham, prithivyaha”.

Further, according to Prithvi Sukta, Mother Earth is adorned with heights, slopes, plains, hills, mountains, forests, plants, herbs and treasures; She takes care of every creature that breathes and stirs. May She give us joy, wealth, prosperity, good fortune and glory!

Universal peace and harmony are integral to the Vedas. The immortal Shanti Mantra (Hymn of Peace) in Yajur Veda which is chanted for peace and harmony to pervade the entire universe, is as follows: “I pray for peace to pervade all the worlds; I pray for peace in the Sky and Earth; peace in waters; peace in herbs, vegetation and forests; peace among all people and rulers of the world; peace in entire universe; peace for everyone everywhere. Peace, real peace. I pray for that very peace!”

Since time immemorial, peace and harmony with Earth and nature are considered essential for human survival.

Therefore on the occasion of the Earth Day, it is not only our duty, but also a demand of the time that we repose faith in the belief of ancient sages, who gave utmost respect to Mother Earth for giving all the joys, wealth and prosperity to all living beings. Let us make every possible attempt to save the Earth, in order to save humanity.