NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT IN ANCIENT INDIA


Respect for nature has been the guiding principle for the human race. Some attribute it to fear while others attribute it to interdependence of all forms of life.


As civilisation progressed and various beliefs began to be institutionalised, the human community-starting with the village attempted to integrate all such institutions to achieve a proper balance between the natural, spiritual and materialistic components of life.


Thus a code of conduct for common property resource management has evolved. Strict observance of this, through self-imposed discipline or the strength of decisions made by the community, has preserved the common property balance over the centuries. Violations were met with social sanctions, penalties and punishments.


From them, the village tank meant more than a source of water. The temple or a place of worship meant more than divinity, and the tree was more than a source of timber. A natural, resource oriented approach prevailed.


The decline of this integrated approach has resulted in the overall degradation of natural resources. Depletion of the ozone layer and the green house effect, the fast disappearing forest cover and the over-exploitation of natural resources are some of the dangers looming large over the world. With the realisation of this stark reality, efforts are initiated to resort the balance.
In a multi-pronged approach, concerted attempts are being made to revive several of our age-old indigenous institutions and practices to reverse the degradation trends.


For this purpose, the effort must begin with a firm belief in what the villages posses rather than focus on what they don’t have. Fortunately, the villages are still endowed with a rich biodiversity, indigenous knowledge systems and socio-cultural heritage.


This proposal may be considered as one more components in the total approach to revive these institutions.
At the village level, three institutions support life. The temple (Place of Worship) represents the spiritual element, the tank is identified with the materialistic side while the forestis associated with the ecological element, all integrated into one. Over the years these relationships were forgotten. There is need to revive this link between the tank, temple and tree as one perceives an integrated approach to village life.

 

 

 

 

     

 

‘Deverakadu’ in Coorg (Temple forest):

[Even as far as 1860, revenue records mention of temple forests being maintained in Coorg, Karnataka. They were known by different names such as Basadi, Jinakadu,

Devera Painaaddi,Suddidevera Vana, Hole devara kadu etc. This indicates the involvement of different communities in maintaining these forests.]

 

 

TREE GOD
Trees and the forest have been revered from early on as god. Some species of planted trees/plants like Tulasi, Neem, Sami and Pipal are worshiped. When planted near temples or other places of worship, these plants are also revered. These are multipurpose plants and trees, useful in medicine, agricultural, ecological balance, etc.,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



TEMPLE FOREST
Forest serves a larger spiritual and non-materialistic role. They sustain temples, life saving water sources and are sources of medicines, fodder and timber, besides controlling soil erosion etc., They are the repositories of flowers, fruits, birds and wild life.


When specific species of plants are grown in an area, generally around a temple, it is revered at a grove level-Tulasi vana, mulika vana etc., these groves acquire prominence because of their location, history or association with religious or social functions like Vana bhojana (feast in such groves during the month of Karthika). The scared groves of Kodagu, Naga Banas of South Kanara and Malnad are recognised to serve ecological and landscaping functions by their location.

 

 

 

 

 

Pavithra Vana(Holy forest):

[The Karnataka Government promoted the concept of Holy Forest to inculcate in the younger generation a sense of reverence towards trees and nature. Deve Vana Star forest, Dhanwantri vana are some of these. They are attracting large numbers of visitors in Ramanagaram, Bakkala and other places.

In Kalyanakere watershed, Pavitra Vana was successfully established by the Karnataka Government as a component of social forestry.

 

 

Almost all temples, educational and religious institutions own lands to sustain their maintenance. Appropriate sacred trees along with other trees can be grown on these land which will serve as home for all kinds of flora and fauna. Because of their proximity to temples of other institutions, people would hesitate to cut trees for reasons of reverence and social (constraints) control.]


THE TANK
Since the time immemorial, the village tank served not only as a source of water, but also as meeting place of the villagers- both men and women. The tank provided water to humans, animals, plants and also for irrigation as well as recharging of wells.

 
A tank precedes the construction of a village

In the past, whenever any new village was being located, the first activity was the construction of a tank, signifying the central role assigned to a tank in development of the village. Along with the tank came the trees, even before farm-level cultivation. The next was the temple, emphasising the vital link between the tank and temple. This developed and interdependent code of conduct for tanks, trees and temples and their proper maintenance. As a part of this, the desilting of the tank at regular intervals was considered a community activity where everybody contributed labour and shared the valuable silt as manure for fields. The old traditional institution grants for the construction and maintenance of tanks ensured proper upkeep of the tank, bunds and canal system.


The decline in moral value systems and greed to a mass wealth by fair or foul means, resulted in individuals misappropriate common property resources. People in positions bent the rules to their advantage. Today, however there is a growing recognition of the role of tanks in community life and the need to revive these structures and related social arrangements.

 

 

Social fencing:
[People who realize the sacred place of temple, tank or the forest, in re-establishing equilibrium in the spiritual, ecological and materialistic aspects of life, have to take the lead.
The examples of village communities in Shantalli and Garvale of Kodugu district where people forced the return of misappropriated common property resources back to the people are worth emulating. The social sanctions imposed by the people--we can call it social fencing--were successful.
Karnataka has more than 40,000 tanks in about 26,000 villages, most of them associated with temples or as a common property resource. Most of them are not properly used for a variety of reasons.
If the committees of the temples or other institutions are motivated, through appeal, pressure, enough resources can be mobilised to bring the tanks back to their original health. This will surely be a small but significant step to restore the system of interdependence in managing this common property resource
.]

______________________________________________________________________________

Grameena Vikas Samithi-TIRUPATI, India.