India observes the celebration of many festivals dedicated to plants, agriculture and environment; Hariyali Teej being one of them. A region in Delhi adopted a unique way of celebrating it by planting saplings, thereby, infusing culture with environment preservation.
Women clad in green attires, donning attractive henna patterns and bangles reflecting various hues of green, humming their way to swings decorated with beautiful flowers and leaves- such is the celebration of a popular Hindu festival – Hariyali Teej, a festival that celebrates the essence of love and the pious union of Indian Gods, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. This festivity originally celebrated for a good harvest as well as longevity and health of life partners, embarks the onset of shravaan (monsoon).
The celebration of this festival took a creative turn when a region in Delhi decided to give Hariyali (greenery) in the festival’s name a different interpretation. The resident welfare association (RWA) of Delhi’s Vivek Vihar area collaborated with the Indraprastha Horticulture Society to organise a community plantation drive several days ahead of this festivity on June 7, 2019. The plantation was attended by people from all walks of life including doctors, plant specialists, social activists, homemakers, teachers and politicians. Delhi’s Greenfield Public School threw open their grounds for this unique drive. To keep the spirit of the festival alive, many accessories, home décor pieces and artefacts were put on exhibit.
“Hariyali Teej predominantly revolves around the theme of green colour and what could be greener than the plants themselves. During this festivity, swings are decorated with beautiful patterns of leaves and flowers. We thought of growing the plants ourselves and use them decoration this time. It adds on to a feeling of connectivity with Teej as well as our environment,” Anshu Jain, the president of the women wing of RWA, told Media India Group (MIG).
Besides eclectically blending culture and environment, this plantation drive allowed the participants to take the plants back home, in aesthetically appealing ceramic pots. “Usually we tend to forget about the plants that we plant in such drives and they are not taken care of properly. Hence, we decided to let the participants take back home the plants and nurture them with their love,” says Jain.
The drive observed the plantation of Pudeena (mint) and Ruellia (wild Petunia), a perennial ornamental plant with medicinal properties. All the participants were acquainted with their properties, correct manner of planting as well as simple steps for taking care of the sapling. Using organic waste as manure was particularly stressed upon.
“Soaking vegetable and fruit peels overnight and using it to water the plants can be very nutritious for them. It adds on their nutrient intake and we get healthy plants by avoiding the use of chemicals easily,” says Rachna Jain, the president of Indraprastha Horticulture Society.
The speaker of the sixth legislative assembly of Delhi, Ram Niwas Goel was the chief guest. He encouraged the community to involve more in such environment-friendly drives and showed confidence in the community’s ability to combat climate change issues if worked together properly in the right direction. “I strongly believe in the power of unity and our community’s ability to combat several challenges together, including climate change. In my opinion, there is nothing our community is not capable of doing if worked together. We have to imbibe these values in the coming generation. We can start from small steps like planting trees in the name of our family members. Say, if a tree is planted in the name of the grandfather, his grandson/granddaughter will always take care of that tree,” commented Goel.
Poonam Matia, a renowned Hindi poet present at the event adopted poetry as her tool to create awareness amongst the audience. She recited a few lines on the occasion – Hariyali ho jayegi hum sabki hi teej, mati me yahi rop dein kuch paudho k beej; Rishte nate dosti de skte hain ghav, pr paudho k beej ye denge thandi chaanv (Hariyali Teej will be even greener if we sow some seeds in the soil; human relationships can disappoint and cause pain, but these plants will provide us shade and comfort). Speaking to MIG Poonam said, “The insensitivity towards plants and the reckless uprooting is rising day by day. It’s high time that we start contributing to its preservation.”
The organising committee mostly consisted of women homemakers. “I believe, the drive served the dual purpose of creating awareness about the importance of plants as well as women empowerment. Unless and until all the sections of the society don’t come together, I don’t think we can bring a positive change. The role of women is especially important,” shares Kamna Mishra, the media coordinator of RWA.
Namita Joshi, the principal of Greenfield public school that served as the venue for the drive, told MIG, “We understand the role of school in invoking sensitivity towards the environment and hence, we have come up with a special drive. Each day the birthday of at least 4-5 students falls, and we make them plant saplings on the occasion. All the facilities and seeds for this plantation is provided by the school only. We have even thrown open our school to the community for plantations for birthdays, anniversaries, remembrance and other occasions. Plants give us life; we ought to give something in return.”
Hindu culture and plants
Hindu religion and mythology have always placed plants, nature and environment on a pedicel. Many Indian festivals including Holi, Bihu, Baisakhi and Makar Sankranti revolve around plants, their importance and the agrarian calendar. Several trees and plants including peepal (sacred fig), lotus, neem, tulsi (basil) and banyan tree hold special importance in the religion as well the sacred scriptures. Bhagwada Gita, a holy book in Hindu religion has also talked at lengths about the same. The entire eco-system of Ayurveda depends on plants only which is now a global phenomenon.
“Like a balanced diet, every plant is important in nature and their importance and the necessity to preserve our environment has been infused in the Hindu culture very well. A common man might not be able to grasp the technicalities and necessity of environment preservation. However, this infusion serves the purpose. Almost every Hindu god is associated with a particular flower and/or plant, such as lotus flower adorned by the goddess Saraswati, the goddess of education. Similarly, Tulsi is also worshipped. Had religious significance not been linked to it, who knows if we would have cared about basil so much or not. Once a religious sentiment gets attached to a plant, its survival is ensured,” opines Dr Abhaya Kumar Pal.