The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 defines the environment as follows: ‘Environment includes water air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organisms and property’ From the above definition, it can be briefly said that environment consists of two components namely biotic (living organisms) and abiotic (non-living materials) factors. The living organisms can be grouped into three types - those living mainly on land, in water and in air. The non-living materials of the environment are land, air, water, property etc. In modern Sanskrit, the word Paryavarana is used for environment, meaning which encircles us, which is all around in our surroundings. But in the Atharvaveda words equivalent to this sense are used; such as Vritavrita (Atharvaveda 12.1.52), Abhivarah (Ibid, 1.32.4), Avritah (Ibid, 10.1.30), Parivrita (Ibid. 10.8.31) etc. Vedic view on environment is well-defined in one verse of the Atharvaveda where three coverings of our surroundings are referred as Chandamsi : ‘Wise utilize three elements variously which are varied, visible and full of qualities. These are water, air and plants or herbs. They exist in the world from the very beginning. They are called as Chandansi meaning ‘coverings available everywhere.’ It proves the knowledge of Vedic seers about the basic elements of environment. According to one indigenous theory established in the Upanishads, the universe consists of five basic elements they are 1. Earth or land, 2. Water, 3. Light or fire, 4. Air, and 5. Ether. (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3) It is known from the Vedic times that the nature and human being (Prakriti and Purush) form an inseparable part of life support system. This is what that reflects the concept of the present day Ecology. CONCEPT OF THE EARTH ‘PRITHVI’ The concept of the form of the earth in the Rig-veda is most fascinating. It is mostly addressed along with the heaven into a dual conception (Rodasi, Dyavaprithivi). There is one small hymn addressed to Prithivi, while there are six hymns addressed to Dyavaprithivi. Prithivi is considered the mother and Dyau is considered the father in the Vedas, and they form a pair together. One of the most beautiful verse of the Rig-veda says, ‘Heaven is my father, brother atmosphere is my navel, and the great earth is my mother.’ Rigveda 1.164.33 Heaven and earth are parents: Matara, Pitara, Janitara (Rigveda 1.159,160) in union while separately called as father and mother. They sustain all creatures. They are parents of all gods. They are great (Mahi) and widespread. Earth is described as a goddess in Rig-veda. In the Atharvaveda, the earth is described in one hymn of 63 verses. This famous hymn called as Bhumisukta or Prithivisukta indicates the environmental consciousness of Vedic seers. The seers appear to have advanced understanding of the earth through this hymn. She is called Vasudha for containing all wealth, Hiranyavaksha for having gold bosom and Jagato Niveshani for being abode of whole world. She is not for the different races of men alone but for other creatures also.( Atharvaveda 12.1.15;12.1.45) Light: There are several many instances of Agni in Vedas eg. o’ pious fire, your flames are expanding all sides flickering by air bright, your flames bring destroying darkness and devours forest… - Rig Veda. 6.6.3 The earth is fully responsible for our food and prosperity. She is praised for her strength. She is served day and night by rivers and protected by sky. The immortal heart of earth is in the highest firmament (Vyoma). Her heart is sun. ‘She is one enveloped by the sky or space and causing the force of gravitation. She is described as holding Agni. It means she is described as the geothermal field. She is also described as holding Indra i.e., the geomagnetic field. The earth is described then as being present in the middle of the oceans (sedimentary rocks) and as one having magical movements.’ The hymn talks about different energies which are generated from the form of the earth. ‘O Prithivi! thy centre, thy navel, all forces that have issued from thy body- Set us amid those forces; breathe upon us.’ (Atharvaveda 12.1.12) Thus, the earth holds almost all the secrets of nature, which will help us in understanding the universe. She is invested with divinity and respected as mother. The earth is my mother and I am Her son.’- Atharvaveda, 12.1.12 The geographical demarcations on this earth have been made by men and not by nature. CONCEPT OF WATER ‘APAH’ ‘All living beings are dependent on water. The water which comes is the form of rain goes to wells, pond and rivers. The food grains are grown by this water.’- Rig-veda. 7.101.3-4 Water is essential to all forms of life. According to Rig-veda the water as a part of human environment occurs in five forms: 1. Rain water (Divyah) 2. Natural spring (Sravanti) 3. Wells and canals (Khanitrimah) 4. Lakes (Svayamjah) 5. Rivers (Samudrarthah) Water pollution: “Water is considered polluted when it is excessively smelly, unnatural in color, taste and touch, slimy, not frequented by aquatic birds, aquatic life is reduced, and the appearance is unpleasing”. (Caraka Samhita, Vimanastanam III 6:2) Instruction of Reducing water pollution: “One should not cause urine, stool, cough in water. Anything which is mixed with these unpious objects, blood, poison, should not be thrown to water”. – Manusmriti IV: 56 Warning: Persons doing such unsocial activities and engaging in acts polluting the environment were cursed: “ A person, who is engaged in killing creatures, polluting the wells, and ponds, and tanks and destroying gardens, certainly goes to hell” – Padmapurana, Bhoomikhanda 96: 7-8 CONCEPT OF AIR ‘VAYU’ The observer space is the abode of matter particles, light space is the abode of energy and the intermediate space ‘Antariksha’ is the abode of field. The principal deity of Antariksha is Vayu. Jaiminiya Brahmana quotes,’ Vayu brightens in Antariksha.’ Field is another form of energy and, therefore, Yajurveda says,’ Vayu has penetrating brightness.’ The meaning of Vayu is made clear in Shatapatha Brahmana in the following Mantra, ‘Sun and rest of universe is woven in string. What is that string, that is Vayu.’ - Yajurveda 1.24 This verse clearly shows that here Vayu cannot mean air alone. Apparent meaning of Vayu is air. The Vedic seers knew the importance of air for life. They understood all about air in the atmosphere and also about the air inside the body. The Taittiriya Upanishad throws light on five types of wind inside the body: Prana, Vrana, Apana, Udana and Samano Air resides in the body as life. -Taittiriya Upanishad, 2.4 Concept and significance of air is highlighted in Vedic verses. Rig-veda mentions ‘O Air! You are our father, the protector.’- Rigveda 10.186.2 ‘Air has medicinal values.’ - Ibid, 1.37.2 ‘Let wind blow in the form of medicine and bring me welfare and happiness.’ - Ibid 10.186.1 Medicated air is the international physician that annihilates pollution and imparts health and hilarity, life and liveliness to people of the world. Hilly areas are full of medicated air consisted of herbal elements. Another verse describes characteristics of air ‘The air is the soul of all deities. It exists in all as life-breath. It can move everywhere. We cannot see it. Only one can hear its sound. We pray to air God.’ -Ibid 10.168.4 Ancient Indians, therefore, emphasized that the unpolluted, pure air is source of good health, happiness and long life. Air pollution causes many diseases are discovered by Caraka in about 200 BCE. ‘the polluted air mixed with bad elements. The air is uncharacteristic of season, full of moisture, stormy, hard to breathe, icy cold, hot and dry, harmful, roaring, coming at the same time from all direction, bad smelling, oily, full of dirth, sand, steam, creating diseases in the body and is considered polluted. ’ – Caraka Samhita, Vimanastanam III 6:1 CONCEPT OF ETHER ‘AKASHA’ Modern environmentalists discuss sound or noise pollution. There is a relation between ether and sound. The sound waves move in sky at various frequencies. Scientist could see the sky which exists only in the vicinity of earth, but Taittirya Upanishad throws light on two types of ether i.e: one inside the body and the other outside the body. - Taittiriya Upanshad 1.6.1; 1.5.1 The ether inside the body is regarded as the seat of mind. An interesting advice to the mankind is found in the Yajurveda, ‘Do not destroy anything of the sky and do not pollute the sky Do not destroy anything of Antariksha.’ -Yajurveda 5.43 Sun shines in Dyuloka and we get light from sky. The sunrays strengthen our inner power and are essential for our life. Thus importance and care for ether is openly mentioned in the Vedic verses. contd..