Religion and environment: The broken linkages

It is my housewarming party, friends and family are coming over for dinner and drinks. It surely sounds like a  perfect plan! Suddenly my mom calls up, revolts and says you are supposed to plan a puja and a “havan” for your new home rather than eating non-vegetarian food on the very first day at your home. She argued, you should call for God and Goddesses to reside in your abode, after all a “shuddhikaran” is required. My faith in God is undoubted but a “havan” does not motivate me. The havan-samagri produces smoke that has been proved to be an irritant, the reason for it to have bactericidal activities, and a polluter. Nevertheless, it was a no-win situation and the argument ended. A “havan pooja” was to be organized. I never wanted it, partly because I am allergic to smoke but majorly because I should not burn fuel to produce harmful substance and greenhouse gases, a reason my mother found funny. Even though, it might seem like a very small contribution, I believe many ‘small’ contribute to a large . Then came the aftermath, ashes and other puja leftovers needed to be immersed in the flowing water. I was directed by the priest to do so but I could not, even till date its fate remains unknown. I am a religious person, we all are, but we are apprehensive of upsetting the Almighty. It is easier to follow what our elders tell us than dealing with the fear of jeopardizing the health of our near and dear ones.

It was then that the generation gap between us became apparent. I am hopeful that the Gen Y shall adopt a logical approach to understand and evaluate the impact of our activities on the environment and would thereby act responsibly. Our holy books cite the importance of maintaining ecosystems so as to sustain life on earth, yet the current practices further pollute the ecosystem.

Uncontrolled use of fireworks on the name of festivals continue to pollute the air and deafen the urban population while sewers continue to pollute our holy rivers. Idols laced with chemical paints are immersed in our water sources, polluting them and adversely affecting the marine life. We do this out of our convenience and understanding, not because our religion asks us to do so.

If pollution continues, India’s environment will continue to degrade and the cost of environment degradation in the name of religion will be beyond repair. The religious institutions have a significant role to play where they can guide their disciples to adopt ways to reduce wastes and emissions.


By - Prachi Kathuria

Program Manager- Environment


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