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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Environmental implications of Vat Savitri – a Hindu religious practice of tree worship

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The no moon or Amavashya of Krishna Paksha (the dark half) of Jyeshtha or May month is called as Vat Savitri Amavashya or Bargadahi Amavashya in Hindu calendar. Married women remain on fast and worship Vat – vrikaha or the tree of banyan and Yama the God of death for continued good fortunes on this day.



A tree is regarded as Shiva in Satpath Brahman (a Hindu religious text), and Shiva has been described as lord of trees in Yajurveda. Tree takes in the poison of carbon dioxide and provides us amrit of oxygen. This is the specific character of Shiva that is found in trees.

Cutting of trees leads to imbalances in the environment which is sure to lead the world towards the destruction of the whole creation. Anyone may consider it as “rudra (angry) form of Shiva.

Since, Vat Vriksha absorbs big amount of carbon dioxide and produces big amount of oxygen. The worship of vat vriksha by Hindu ladies is very important. This consideration is further strengthened by the story of revitalization of Satyavan under the banyan tree. According to some Hindu religious texts a number of Gods live in different parts of a banyan tree- Brahma in its root system, Vishnu in the trunk and Shiva in the canopy area. This is why the Banyan tree is called as Dev Vriksha.

It is an epic story that Lord Vishnu had shown himself as a child sucking thumb of his right leg while lying on the banyan leaf when Rishi Markandeya had once requested him to show his creation or to present a glimpse of his Maya. This example shows the spiritual importance of the Banyan Tree. Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman had lived in the area of Panchavati for sometime during his Vanavas or exile for fourteen years. Panchavati is a beautiful place surrounded by a group of five banyan trees. This story further reveals the importance of a banyan tree reflected from the Hindu religious text.

It is said that Savitri had revitalized her husband lying under a banyan tree by the power of her Pativrat (religious or spiritual love for her husband). The story goes that Savitri was a daughter of king Ashwapati in ancient period. She had selected Satyavan, a son of Dyutmasen. Satyavan had a short life. When Savitri came to know about the short life of Satyavan from Devarshi Narad, she did not fear. When the day of death of Satyavan came nearer, she started vrata or continued fast and worship of the God of death and accompanied her husband to the forest on the day of her husband’s death. When Yama, the Lord of Death came and started going with the soul of Satyavan, she started following him. She did not return even after repeated discussions with Lord Yama.

Yama granted her the boons of getting back the eye-sight of her father-in-law and mother-in-law, but still she did not turn back. Pleased with her love and devotion for her husband, Lord Yama became happy and allowed her to ask for more boons. Then, Savitri asked to become mother of Satyavan’s sons. Thus she became successful in getting back her husband alive. Thus the vrat Vat Savitri was started by married ladies for long lives of their husbands.

The Banyan tree is reported to purify the air of atmosphere and keeps cool the surrounding. In Atharva-veda it is told that the purity of environment depends on water, air and vegetation. Plants and trees eradicate environmental pollution and purify it.

In Matsya Purana it is told that one tree is equal to ten sons (Dash Putrasamo drumah). Aitareya Brahman- an important Hindu religious text addresses trees as Prana of soul. Rig-Veda has asked people to protect trees.
It is evident that life on earth depends on trees. If the blind destruction of trees remains unchecked, the life on earth may not be existent. Then how can ladies complete their wishes of keeping their husbands alive by worshipping the Banyan trees. Vat Savitri teaches us the importance of protection of trees along with keeping us alert towards the environment.

Key Words :vat- savitri, Hindu, ladies,husband,trees

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