Sanatana Dharma is the oldest Dharma on earth. Even some people believe Sanatana is not Dharma; it is a way of living.

According to Rig Veda, the human body and bodies of all other living beings are made up of five elements Prithvi(The earth), Agni(Fire), Jal (Water), Akash (sky), and Vayu (air). We worship all these five elements. It is believed that the divine is not exterior but it is a natural phenomenon. According to the Mundka Upnishads “Fire is head of him and His eyes are the sun and the moon, the quarters his organs of hearing and revealed Vedas are His voice, the air is His breath, the universe is His hearth, Earth lies at His feet. He is the inner self in all beings.”  

Ancient Indians used to perform “puja” before ploughing; digging a well or any other action that thought to hurt mother earth. Dancers and different performers also pay tribute to mother earth before starting performance. Even several Sanatani still greet mother earth in the morning before stepping out of the bed. Even we Indians call our country “Bharat Mata” or Mother India.

According to Atharvaveda, the earth is considered the mother and other living being considered as offsprings of mother earth. Water is considered as milk of mother earth which supports the growth and survival of all the offsprings. Water also makes everything pure, and it is a symbol of dignity. Rivers are sources of water for household use, agricultural use, and for energy production. 

Most worshipped reverse in Sanatana are Ganga, Godavari, Saraswati, Sindhu, Narmada, Kaveri etc. They are worshipped because they provide water to all living forms and they considered holy. Worship doesn’t only mean offering Haldi (turmeric), kumkum, sriphalam (coconut fruit), etc.; instead it means protecting it from different kinds of pollutions.

According to Vedas Yagnas and Sacrificial fire was used for keeping the environment free from all impurities. 

According to Vedic scriptures, the human being is not the supreme species and cannot dominate over others; instead, all lives have equal rights to exist. Human beings are advised to live in peace and harmony with nature and they are forbidden to exploit natural resources. As per Sanatana Dharma, a person needs to respect and protect the harmonious unity between God and nature. Animal and nature abuse and overexploitation considered unjust. So, the sanctity of all life forms on earth is clearly ingrained in Sanatana Dharma.

According to Assisi declaration by Dr. Karan Singh, in this planet, life is symbolized by a series of divine reincarnations. Vishnu Dashavatara starts with Matsya (fish, an aquatic animal), moving through Kurma (tortoise, an amphibian), Varaha (pig, a mammal), Narasimha (half-man and half-lion), and human incarnations like Vaman (dwarf man), Parshuram (forest-dwelling man), Rama, Krishna and Buddha (civilized men). This clearly indicates that advanced life is evolved from primitive life forms, so human beings cannot dominate the lesser life forms.

Apart from this, Sanatana Dharma also has the Doctrine of Ahimsa (Non-violence), karma, and rebirth. This concept of cycles of birth and rebirth states that a human may reborn as an animal or bird; means Sanatana Dharma respect and revere life forms other than humans. It is believed the soul may return in different life forms and it opposes the institutional killing of animals, birds, and fishes for human consumption. 

In Sanatana, different animals and birds are associated with different Gods and Goddesses. This animals and birds also worshipped and their protection and preservation is the main focus. The cow is considered the most sacred animal because it exhales oxygen. It is believed all 33 Koti dev resides in the body of the cow. In Vedic India, the seers and sages used to live in harmony with wild animals in remote forests.

Important plants that have been worshipped in India for thousands of years are Tulsi (holy basil), Peepal, Banyan, Ashoka, Banana, Bael, Neem, Mango, coconut, lotus, sandalwood, Kadam, Jasmine, Champa, Parijat, etc. All these plants release a great amount of oxygen; some possess medicinal properties, and provide food and beautiful flowers. Fruits, flowers, and leaves of these are abode of God. So, uprooting or cutting any of these plants is not allowed in Sanatana and their protection is the duty of a human being.

 Apart from animals, plants, and rivers, mountains are also worshipped in Sanatana Dharma. Mount Kailash is considered sacred because it is the abode of God Shiva. Another important mountain is Himalaya. Several pilgrimages Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath, and Kedarnath are situated at the foothill of Himalaya. Apart from these two, Mount Vindhya (Vindhyavasini Devi), Mount Vynkata (Tirupati Balaji), Mount Nandadevi, mount Govardhan (Krishna), Mount Abu, Mount Girnar, Mount Trikoot, Mount Garuda, Mount Gandamadana, Mount Mahendra, Mount Agastya Mala etc. are considered the sacred abode of  different Gods and Goddesses. The reason behind this is to protect those mountains.  

All the households of Sanatani people in the villages of India still have some sacred plants like Tulsi, Parijat, Champa, Ashoka, Peepal, Banana, and coconut. Several animals like the cow, ox, bulls, elephants, sheep, goats, horses, and others domesticated thousands of years back for both religious and economic activity. Everyday greeting mother earth before stepping on it, praying to the sun early in the morning, greeting to the food and thanking the God for food before eating, praying to God and the moon in the evening, and thanking God before sleeping is some daily practices of Sanatana people. 

All these practices of worshiping animals, birds, plants, rivers, and mountains played a vital role in the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development on earth. In conclusion, in ancient times, our ancestors used to exploit nature but in a sustainable manner. They used to protect nature and all other living beings. Unlike the present time, our ancestors used to live in harmony and peace with other animals, plants, rivers, and mountains, etc. So, the way of living in Sanatana Dharma and sustainable development go hand in hand.

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