Did you know that one of the most ancient civilizations, the Harappan culture, originated in India almost 5,000 years ago at a time when other populations dwelled in forests? India is one of the oldest, most illustrious civilizations, and as a result, is enriched culturally. As a country, it has more languages, rituals, traditions, and separate histories within its states than the whole of Europe does. In spite of all this, we are still a country with raging poverty, slow development, and many sustainability challenges, being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world. However, if we reflect on India a few hundred years ago, history shows us that it was home to one of the most efficient sewage systems, trade routes, and rich spiritual texts. In those times, before this grea nation was tainted with many struggles and the woes of colonization, we were a magnificent society of efficiency and cleanliness that was raised to respect the environment around it. So, how did we get here – populated, unclean, and poor?
India Before Filth
Did you know that before colonization, India made up 25% of the world’s total economic wealth, and after, a mere 2%? This period was to blame for many things, one of them being the slow decay of our ancient scriptures and their teachings. According to the Vedas, the mind, body, and its surroundings to be held in constant harmony, to be maintained in a way that the environment was one with the body of an individual, with equal respect given to it. The semantics of this expression was reflected in many texts, historical episodes, and teachings such as the Gita. Why is it that we’re in a state of environmental decay now, then? It can be blamed in part on colonization. British India consisted of changing sewage systems, squandered industries, architecture, and core Indian teachings, which triggered a time period where our ages-old systems were abandoned for ease of living, even though they caused a damaged environment and climate.
The tenure of foulness started then – Indians were treated horrendously, and as a result, the motherland was too. Where before Indians were raised parallel to the Vedic convictions of respecting the land and its many inhabitants, they were then taught to completely embrace the Western way of wasteful and self-serving living. This was further compounded by a widespread lack of sanitation, food, and humane living. By the time the colonizers left, a large portion of the populace was starving and suffering, our previously peaceful, organized, and spiritual way of living forgotten. We left behind that respect for what was around us. We forgot about the great Maharishis of India who lived in harmony with the living around them. We moved on to an era of Industrialization, still bearing the scars of the past.
Getting Here – And Repairing India
With the influx of western culture around the globe, came the dominant age of coal, oil, plastic, metal, and philandering of resources. The Vedic scriptures tell us to respect the land we live on, that a life of comfort and richness is possible without the destruction of nature, but we moved on to replicate the way of living of other countries. India since then turned into a wasteland of littered streets, extremely high pollution, and a failing environmental balance.
This can be attributed to many factors. Firstly, the absence of wealth from the looting of colonizers made India and its people desperate for economic success required for the very continuation of their existence, causing cheap labor, over-production, and rampant industrialization to be adapted across the country. Secondly, the education that should accompany a lifestyle that depends on ease without regard to the environment was not given to the large population of the Indian people, resulting in a disregard for the environment and the impact of actions such as littering and wastage. Thirdly, India’s fast growth (both economically and population-wise) created a system where only the well-off could afford hygienic living, health services, and education, with millions still suffering in poverty that could be traced back to broken systems and centuries-old disastrous British rule. Indians as people are clean – raised with instincts to keep their homes and bodies pure, and to reuse and recycle whatever can be. It is because of this that India as a nation is squalid – brought about by hundreds of years of uninformed, suppressive, and harsh living.
Ultimately, many things have contributed to India’s environmental defeat. Poverty, filthy streets, high death rates, a lack of hygienic living, etc. can all be traced back to multiple reasons, but what matters more is not the reason but the solution. Indians must learn from the old scripts and a way of living that benefited all and maintained harmony with the environment. As we head closer to complete destruction, climate refugees and climate disasters will continue to occur at a higher rate – Indians must, at any cost, deflect this, and one of the ways would be to reflect on the sins done on us and bring back the scriptures and teachings that enabled a peaceful, happier world. India is, after all, an ancient, glamorous civilization with a rich and expansive history – it is a country of greatness, one that can still learn from its golden ages.