Photo: H.H. Param Pujya Swami Adrishya Kadsiddeshwar Ji of Kaneri Math (right) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. - Photo: 2022

Panch Mahabhoot, Climate Change and UN SDGs

Viewpoint by Manish Uprety F.R.A.S.

The writer is an ex-diplomat and Special Adviser for Asia & Africa of ALCAP, the Latin American Parliamentary Association of Audio-Visual Communication. Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IDN InDepth News.

NEW DELHI (IDN) — Bad news first. The world is almost on the edge of an irreversible climate breakdown notes the UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2022.

Besides emphasizing on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the report also calls for rapid transformation of societies and an urgent system-wide transformation to avoid climate disaster.

The gloomy scenario reiterates the dark assessment by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres of global affairs that he made at the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

Guterres proclaimed that “our world is in peril and paralyzed,” and that “we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” while also stating that the international community “is not ready or willing to tackle” the challenges it faces—including climate change, poverty and war.

Is the situation really that sombre or there is some hope. The good news is that solutions exist to the problems that afflict the humankind and ingenuity is one of them. A realization that one needs to tackle the root cause not the effect is the first step of a thousand-mile-long journey.

On April 3, 2022, leading intellectuals, scholars, scientists, academics, social workers, political and religious leaders from all over India gathered at the Pusa Institute in New Delhi and unanimously agreed to take the recourse of the Panch Mahabhoot philosophy once again for a better understanding of the country and the world, especially in the context of climate change.

According to the Indian knowledge traditions, entire universe is made of five elements i.e. Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Collectively these five elements are called the Panch Mahabhoot. If these elements are in balance and exist in their pure form then our life becomes blissful, meaningful and fulfilling.

While Sky which is expressed through the voice and felt by the ear is the first element of the universe which is also called void or space; Air is the second element of the universe which originated from the sky and is expressed through touch and felt through our skin.

Fire is the third element of the universe, which originated from the air and is expressed through the form and felt through the eyes, while Water is the fourth which originated from fire and is expressed in Rasa and felt by the tongue.

The fifth element is Earth which originated from water and is expressed through smell and felt by the nose.

The conceptual framework of Panch Mahabhoot had been common to and accepted by all the civilizations of the ancient world. One can also call it the key by which all the secrets of the world were explored, comprehended and explained.

On the one hand, Maharishi Charaka explained the principles of Ayurveda through this concept, while on the other Japanese Samurai Miyamoto Musashi taught the techniques of sword fighting using the philosophy of Panch Mahabhoot.

Shri Kshetra Siddhagiri Math of Kaneri has been an integral part of the Panch Mahabhoot campaign. The history of the Math goes back to the 7th century CE when the Chalukyas in the south and the great King Harshavardhana in the north were dominating the political landscape of India.

During the time, a great saint Param Pujya Adi Kadasiddheshwara  Swamiji laid the foundation of the Shri Kshetra Siddhagiri Matha. Basically affiliated to the Lingayat sect, the Matha underwent many phases of evolution in its unbroken tradition of nearly one thousand five hundred years.

Its modern phase started in 1922 when Param Pujya Muppin Swamiji became its 48th Mathadhipati and the Matha has now become synonymous with the selfless service of the humankind.

The 49th Mathadhipati of Siddhagiri is Param Pujya Swami Adrishya Kadsiddeshwar Ji who carried forward the tradition of social service with great elan. He successfully started many new projects of the Matha including Gaushala, Hospital, Gurukul, School, College, Natural Farming, and many other initiatives in the sector of cottage Industries.

Swamiji has also built an open-air museum on an area of seven acres depicting the traditional rural life of India. A few years ago, a Krishi Vigyan Kendra was also established by the Government of India on the huge premises of the Matha.

Shri Kshetra Siddhagiri Matha will be organizing a huge festival, Sumangalam Panch Mahabhoot Mahotsav, on its premises from February 20 to 26, 2023.

Besides motivating a common man to be conscious of the concept of Panch Mahabhoot and also be active in the adherence and practice of the concept, the Mahotsav also wants to achieve the following.

(1) Extensive Research and Documentation of the traditions and practices of India (especially of Rural India) in all possible media formats including books, magazines, albums, paintings, drawings, films, and three-dimensional models;

(2) To acquaint the modern youth with the traditional knowledge systems of India;

(3) To make the traditional (rural) society aware of the scientific thinking and relevant contemporary modern technologies.

In fact, the pursuit of tradition and to put it in practice is increasingly being re-explored by the international development community especially in the context of challenges faced by the humankind and to secure the UN SDGs.

The importance of traditions and cultures is underlined when the FAO observes that traditional agricultural practices and foods are resilient to climate change, while conserving and restoring forests and natural resources.

Whether it is the contribution of the indigenous peoples towards the nature they protect, or the recognition that traditions and culture can play an important role in the prevention and reduction of poverty and social inclusion, it is high time that communities learn to benefit from localized traditional resources that have a global relevance.

Sumangalam Panch Mahabhoot Mahotsav will have a participation of over 2.5 million people both from India and abroad. Major social, cultural, religious, and educational institutions are being invited from every district of the country.

Distinguished guests will be attending the Mahotsav and attempts will be made to ensure that all sections of the society including youth, women, farmers, and entrepreneurs are duly represented.

The Mahotsav will be spread over an approximate area of 500 acres around the Matha and a total of six galleries will be created covering five elements of the Panch Mahabhoot, and one special gallery of Ayurveda in an approximate area of 2.5 Lakh square feet.

In addition to galleries, a special exhibition and retail outlet titled Gram Vatika will be built along with 1000 stalls in the area where people will get an opportunity to get acquainted with the skills of the rural and traditional societies, indigenous seeds, organic farming, cottage industries, handicrafts, small agricultural implements, etc.

Such traditional congregations and celebrations of people have tremendous social, cultural and economic benefits. It’s no wonder that in 2017, India’s Kumbh Mela was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

So when Inger Andersen, the executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster,” one must point out that all is not lost and there is hope.

One must realize the important role societies can play in a positive transformation for a better world. Culture and traditions have always served as the inspiration and matrix for all transformations within human societies.

As the world’s only continuous civilization, India and its traditions underline the fact that the proper use of science is not to conquer nature but to live in it in harmony and balance. The country is the light of Asia and hope for the world.

Whether it was harnessing solar energy, our nature’s gift, for the benefit of the humankind and establishing the International Solar Alliance (ISA) along with France or investing record amounts in renewables, from solar to hydrogen, last year; India has changed the landscape for green power not only in the country but across the world.

This is despite when for its planet policy think tanks like the Brookings maintain that it is unfair to push poor countries to reach zero carbon emissions too early.

Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) recognizes that India’s clean energy transition is rapidly underway, and benefiting the entire world. The approach allays the concerns of Inger Andersen who said that “every fraction of a degree matters: to vulnerable communities, to ecosystems, and to every one of us.”

Sumangalam Panch Mahabhoot Mahotsav which is gaining support from across the world is a celebration of the fact that our traditions and culture, given their rich diversity, are part of the solution for sustainable and more equitable development.

Such celebrations not only help secure one of the first conditions of happiness which is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken but also provide food for thought to rethink our approaches to development if we want to ensure a sustainable future for the coming generations.

For sure Sumangalam Panch Mahabhoot Mahotsav will help move local traditions and culture to the forefront of our thinking on models for development and for international cooperation. After all, it’s the Earth and environment we all have in common, where we all have a mutual interest; and it is the one thing all of us share. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 November 2022]

Photo: H.H. Param Pujya Swami Adrishya Kadsiddeshwar Ji of Kaneri Math (right) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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