Published on November 30th, 2014 | by Sandeep Patil


Swachha Bharat? Here is your best scavenger

So we all want a “Swachh India”…..!!! That’s indeed a great thing to aspire for. But to solve any problem one should first seek origins of that problem or the reasons why the problem exists at first place. Thus in the context of the “Swachh India Campaign“, the first question is “why are we ‘Aswachh’ at first place?”. Were we always ‘Aswachh’? If not – and the answer is a clear NO – what made us become ‘Aswachh’?

Washing legs before entering temple

Traditionally we were never Aswachh! We are one of the cleanest and the most hygienic of all civilizations of past and present. So important was cleanliness to our forefathers that they made the hygienic practices very part of our culture… as social protocols of the elites, daily chores of the commoners and even religious rituals of the priests.

For example, traditionally we are not supposed to enter the Kitchen unless we have bathed. We are not supposed to enter temples wearing footwear. In the old times, every household used to have a pot filled up with water at it’s doorstep. Whenever a guest arrived, he was first offered this water and towel to wash his hands-feet and freshen himself prior to entering the house. A shopkeeper starts his business by being “Shuchirbhut / शुचिर्भूत” (meaning clean from within and without) and praying to his deity. Almost every practice is linked with cleanliness.

Ironically, a couple of centuries ago when the Europeans started coming to India; they were generally perceived by the natives as unhygienic and hence untouchables. And now the things have taken a reverse turn that many foreigners do not want to visit India for the same reasons!!

So where did we loose the plot? Why did we start undermining the importance of hygiene? There are many answers. In last couple of centuries there was great rise in population and poverty, industrialization and urbanization. All the same we gradually gave up some of the good social practices (e.g. Agnihotra/अग्निहोत्र), either because we could not afford them any more or because we failed to understand their importance. Yet all these answers address various parts of problem here and there. To get closer to the real answer we need to dig deeper. So lets turn further to the ancient Hindu culture.

One of the most prominent features of Hindu culture is it’s harmony with the surrounding nature. Not just were the practices closely associated with the nature; but the ancient founders knew very well the unique importance of the nature as scavenger or purifier….. and they fully capitalized on that!!!! For instance,  the practice of having Tulasi-Vrundavan in front of every household, which apart from its herbal qualities is a great source of oxygen. Or culmination all the religious rituals in the final step called ‘visarjan/विसर्जन’! Visarjan in Sanskrit splits into “Vee + Sarjan/ वि + सर्जन”, wherein “sarjan/सर्जन” means act of creating. Thus “vi-sarjan” is the opposite act – of destruction or clean up. It normally involves passing the waste products of the rituals into flowing water, thus avoid littering and ensuring clean surroundings.

Although I have been hitherto singing praises of our ancient practices, that is not the purpose of this post. I am rather trying to use all these examples to make my point.

Have you seen a dirty jungle? A filthy mountain? A clumsy desert? Although there are no “Swachhata campaingns” run by the inhabitants, there surroundings are clean unlike humans!  The nature is the biggest scavenger that exists, and you cannot expect any cleanliness by denying the nature it’s role!!! If we want to build a “Swachh India”, we cannot do so by ignoring the most fundamental teaching that was ever prevalent in our ancient lifestyle. It is very nice that our PM Modi has acknowledged the need of hygiene and turned to the celebrities to fuel the campaign. But it is even high time that we humans turn back to mother nature and seek her help in the cleanliness drive.

Hyde Park situated in the middle of London

Hyde Park in London

Let the situation in India favor living in small towns or villages, enabling people to live closer to nature. Living closer to nature creates ‘naturally’ favorable situations for ensuring cleanliness. Visit some remote, quiet village from hustle and bustle of big cities and you will find them surprisingly clean.

Let there be discouragement of products which have extremely long date of expiry, unless it is really necessary (e.g. medicines). Such products demand packaging made up of synthetic materials that should be resistant to easy decomposition. Anything that doesn’t dispose easily adds up to the litter. There is no point in having “sarjan” of things whose “visarjan” we cannot ensure.

Let there be backyards to the houses or townships with enough trees. Let the big cities have a lot of greenery and parks. For these trees not only provide oxygen, but there is a lot of possibility to dump the organic waste to their roots that serves as manicure. If there is one outstanding difference between modern Indian Metros and the big cities in the developed countries, it is not posh hotels, malls or complexes; it is in number of trees and parks!

In terms of eradication of litter, let us be very clear to ourselves – we are not Aswachh because we are not willing to keep the surroundings Swachh, we are rather Aswachh because we have created situations and produced more litter than we can handle!


About the Author

God knows why but I have too many interests. So chances are that you and me have something in common. Let’s see… Patanjali? Chanakya? Romans? Vijaynagar? Shivaji? Renaissance? Vivekanand? Agatha Christie? Tagore? Hitchcock? S.D.Burman? Cary Grant? Satyajit Ray? Grace Kelly? Brucia la terra? Suchitra Sen? Roman Holiday? Vasantaro Deshpande? Robert de Niro? Malguena? Kishore Kumar? Osho? Hotel California? Smita Patil? Erich von Daniken? Pu La? GA? Andaz Apna Apna? Asha Bhosale? PVN Rao? … Watch this space, sooner or later you will something on similar topic

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