A Nepalese perspective on climate change

By Vishnu Dangi

Nepal nestles beneath one of the greatest wonders of the world – the Himalayas – and this gives Nepalese a unique perspective on the effects of climate change.

As the world warms our vast glaciers will melt, causing torrents of flood water to cascade through our country.

We are sandwiched between China and India, industrially two of the fastest growing countries in the world – and Nepal suffers as a result.

In Hindu practices several Mantras (Hymns) are recited on different occasions and ceremonies which reflect the inseparable bond of people with nature.

They all emphasise the preservation of the environment. For example we have ‘Shanti Mantra’ (hymns on peace) which is recited to conclude every Hindu ceremony.

This reflects our deep connection with the entire natural entities of humankind. The Mantra says:

There is peace in heavenly region; there is peace in the environment; the water is cooling; herbs are healing; the plants are peace-giving; there is harmony in the celestial objects and perfection in knowledge; everything in the universe is peaceful; peace pervades everywhere. May that peace come to me!” 

But as far as nature is concerned there is no peace – only violence – in space, air, water, land and vegetation because of our activities.

View of Gokyo Lake and Nozgumba glacier, one of the longest glaciers in Nepal – approximately 17.2 km in length

Our sages and seers had predicted centuries ago what their descendents would be faced with. Now they are being proved correct.

The other Mantra teaches us to regard the earth as our mother. The Mantra goes like this: Mata Me Bhoomi Pootro-ham Prithivya.

This means: “The Earth is my mother, I am the son of the Earth”. It is obvious that a son never hurts his mother; rather he loves her, respects her and tries to please her, whatever the cirsumstances.

This is an example how Hindu culture encourages us to develop a respectful attitude towards the earth.

Similarly there are the other Mantras that encourage us to worship the celestial bodies like the Moon and the Sun including air and water as gods.

Moon, Sun, Water, Air – all are manifestations of gods. This represents the human connection to all the parts of the universe.


In Hindu practices there are a number of festivals and each of them are closely liked with one or the other element in the environment.

Through these festivals people develop a stronger relationship with nature – which means that we do not harm it, rather every work of ours should help conserve and promote the world we live in.

Deep respect and love towards environmental entities is fostered and cultivated through the celebration of different festivals.

All the festivals in Hindu culture greatly motivate us to worship nature. If we worship something, we never think of doing harm to it. Worship avoids violence, and nutures love, respect and care.

A few examples of Hindu festivals:

Tulsi Pooja (worship of the Tulsi plant that generates oxygen all day)
-Gobardhan Pooja (Mountain worship)
Naag Pooja (Snake worship)
Gaai and Goru Pooja (Cow and Ox worship)
Kaag Pooja, Kukur Pooja (Crow, Dog worship)
Bhyaguto Pooja (Frog worship)
Bhoomi Pooja, Jal Pooja, Dhunga Pooja  (Land, Water and Stone worship)

**Pooja is Nepali for worship

They are worshipped because each of them maintains an ecological balance. If one of them is harmed or disappears, it could lead to a number of catastrophes.

Every individual element of environment has its own role to play to let the natural system of the earth keep going.

Gods and Goddesses

Hindu practices include a number of gods and goddesses, and the beautiful aspect is their deep connection with nature.

If we look at a typical picture of Lord Shiva we can see a river flowing from his hair. He wears a garland of snakes and resides high in the Himalayas.

Lord Vishnu sleeps on a bed of snakes while Lord Ganesh has an elephant head.

The Goddesses Laxmi and Saraswati travel in an owl and swan respectively, and we always see Lord Krishna grazing cows.

The symbolism here suggests to us the great importance of nature in our world. We therefore should behave in a way that ensures the ecological balance will always be maintained.

Cultural Practices

As we have seen the inseparable relationship between nature and culture is the most important feature of Hindu religion.

The ant is offered flour and sugar because even a tiny insect plays an important role. If trees, Var and Pipal, are married in a special ceremony like own sons and daughters, they will always be looked after.

The Rapti River in Nepal is recovering after years of pollution and enroachment from settlers

In turn they will provide shelter to birds, offer shade to animals and people, and also protect vast amounts of ground water.

Given the water crisis many parts of the world currently face we should all understand how important caring for our trees could be.

Therefore if these cultural practices can again be restored, we will, no doubt, enjoy our life living in an environmentally healthy planet. They will be milestones on the never-ending journey that is the conservation of Mother Earth.

Problems and Solutions

It is a challenge to diagnose all the causes of  climate change – but we can try.

-In Sanskrit there is a saying: Lobha Paapasya Karanam

This means the root cause of all sins is greed. Gandhi says: “The mother earth has enough for everybody’s need, but not for anybody’s greed.”

Solution: Giving up our greed is the way towards addressing the present problem of climate change.

-The other saying in Sanskrit is “Santosha Paramam Sukham”, which means the biggest form of contentment is satisfaction. On the contrary, we have very money driven mind, and therefore are never satisfied, and always selfish. We have lost the simple-life-philosophy such as “simple living, high thinking”.

Solution: We must learn to live with minimal resources and give up the culture of consumerism.

What is also said in Sanskrit is that ‘Ati Sarbatra Barjaete’. This means all kinds of extremism create violence. Extremism in our production and consumption patterns will definitely germinate violence. Our development activities are beyond the capacity of the earth, which is of course a great form of violence.

Solution: Take from the earth what it can give you – and no more.

In Nepali there is a very common saying: Prakriti Lai Dohan Garne Ho Sosan Garne Hoina. This means “Nature should be milked, but not everything from nature should be used up. Milk the cow in a way that there is enough left for the calf.”

Solution: Only use what you need, not what you want.

Artificial lifestyle:  Our lifestyle is shifting from nature to concrete and we therefore have no association with the natural entities.

Most of our children don’t have the time to explore natural elements like water, plants, soil and sand, because they have all high tech and luxurious equipments like mobiles, computers and televisions to play with in their room itself. They even may not know what milk comes from! This is a distressing reality.

Solution: Educate children about their planet.

Solar heaters are now a common sight in mountain regions of Nepal


From the dawn of the Hindu civilization, reverence for the environment has been an integral part of Hindu culture. God never appears by himself; rather he appears in different forms to help us out.

Our forefathers perceived God’s presence around them through nature; they considered the natural forces which affected their lives as manifestations of the Supreme Being or God.

They felt that they must live in harmony with all of God’s creations, respect and revere all of nature and the divine forces.

They identified the divine forces as air (vaayu), water (jala), earth (bhumi), fire (agni), and sky (aakaasha). These elements are an integral part of Hindu worship.

The message of Hindu culture is that we should use the world unselfishly in order to maintain the natural balance and to repay God for the gifts he has given.

Feeling at one with nature is the fundamental environmental message of Hindu culture.  Hindus perceive life not only in human beings, but also in plants, birds, and animals. This vision of life’s unity has helped Hindus develop a reverential attitude towards everything in nature.

The other great message of Hindu religion is to regard both human and non-human alike. This philosophy of ‘non-dualism’ teaches us to see the presence of the same supreme consciousness in every being.

This principal is “So Aham” which means ‘that is me’. I see no difference between myself and other beings, and therefore I will never try to hurt them, as hurting others means hurting myself.

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