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Spiritual Significance Of Water In India: Uses, Rituals, Legends And Beliefs

There is a popular adage which says, 'Jal hi jeevan hain' (meaning 'water is life'). Water has a special significance across all religions and communities. In India, people belonging to the Hindu community see water as much more than a source of life. It is seen as a way of spiritual and physical cleanliness and therefore, it is integrated into almost all rituals and rites- be it a pooja or tarpan. Not only water is sprinkled on deities, but also on objects or beings.

From sprinkling water on plates before having food, taking a holy dip in the rivers, to washing feet before entering the temple, the importance of water in Vedic philosophy is massive.

Water is a representation of wisdom, peace, and purity. The spiritual meaning of water lies in its reflection of the human spirit and the interconnection of all creations. Although an ocean looks calm on the outside, it holds a lot of tension inside. Also, water accepts everything in its path and makes it a part of its life. Lessons and spiritual beliefs have given birth to many stories that continue to inspire children and adults alike. Scroll down to know more about the significance of water in India.

Significance Of Water

Water is considered one of the Pancha Tattvas or the primordial five elements which constitute the entire universe. At one of the Pancha Bhoota temples Of Tamilnadu, Lord Shiva is worshipped in his Jala tatva or the water element. Water is used in many ways, as holy tirtha after puja, and as a major ingredient for Jalabhishek for Lord Shiva. It is not only used for taking daily baths but also for the final bath, which is given to the dead to liberate them from the connection with the earth. It was an ancient practice to pour Ganga Jal with a leaf of Tulsi into the mouth of dying men so that they could reach heaven once they die. During housewarming, the new home is purified with water and mantra chants to cleanse the atmosphere at the new residence. Water is also known as an appetite suppressant and people can fast for the entire day by just drinking plain water.

In India, every source of water is revered and prayed to-be it oceans, rivers, ponds, wells and lakes, man-made stepwells or temple tanks. The worship of water goes back to the Vedic times. The Rig Veda's "Nadi Stuti Sukta" hymn praises the primary rivers that sanctified the land of Bharath. We have prayers or hymns for most of our rivers and sing them when they are being worshipped.

Water Scarcity In India

Unfortunately, the water-rich culture that treated water with so much reverence is losing its clean water sources due to the dumping of continuous toxic industrial wastes into them. Places such as Cherrapunji and Mawsynram in summer suffer from scarcity of water. Also, underground water tables are getting appallingly low, especially in cities.

We depend a lot on piped water but have no idea where it is coming from. While our ancestors, who used to pray to the waters before taking bath, were in perfect understanding with nature, we, the next generation, are reduced to treating water like an object of necessity. It is high time we revive our erstwhile equation with water and cherish it in the same manner as our ancestors.

Probably we see water streaming from taps and not as water expanses such as rivers and ponds. They are not only needed for rituals and for family consumption, they are elixirs of life for which we have to be eternally grateful to nature. Individual, as well as collective efforts at procuring potable water and rainwater, have been initiated to deal with water problems. Hopefully, this disproportionate divide between water management and consumption be bridged sooner or later. This inspires us to look for solutions from within.

India is basically a peninsular subcontinent that is enveloped by huge seas and oceans. Inside it, it has streams of rivers and their tributaries that connect the entire nation with their network. They are the circulatory system of the Indian constitution, which sends a rich supply of water through its streams. India is a land of seven sacred rivers to which we worship before beginning any auspicious event.

The banks of rivers Ganga and Cauvery are home to famous pilgrimage spots of Haridwar, Kashi and Kodagu. They have interesting origins and parables written on their beneficence and use to human life. Ganga was brought earthwards from heaven by the efforts of Bhagirath. Tapati river is the daughter of Sun God. Godavari is known as Gautami as she was associated with Rishi Gautama for long. Cauvery was gathered in a jiffy by the powers of Rishi Agastya in his Kamandalu. Rivers, according to Indian scriptures, have representing deities who live in essence inside these rivers.

Legends And Beliefs Associated With Water

Agrarian economy thrives due to a good rainfall. The four months of Chaturmas bring heaviest of rains along, which is God's biggest mercy on the farmer folk. People actually relax and get into a resting mode. even the nomadic hermits dwell at one place during Chaturmas to continue their Tapasya. Lord Rama, delayed his siege on Lanka as he had to wait for the Chatrumas to clear. The rainy season has such an emotional appeal on us, and it is usually expressed through folk songs like "Kajri." Kalidasa says that monsoon is a season meant for languishing for the beloved in his epic poem "Ritusamhara." Stepwells can be found in the precincts of temples, which look like inverted temples. It is meant as a spot where people gather and also for the purposes of water storage.

Kumbh mela the grandest celebration that occurs once every 12 years, at four venues is actually a massive bathing festival in the confluence of four sacred rivers- the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayag; River Ganga at Haridwar; the Kshipra River at Ujjain, and the River Godavari at Nashik. You are advised to take a holy dip just when the planetary configuration is favourable for this.

The most significant ritual conducted on the full moon night of Karthik month, in January, 15 days after the Diwali festival, is to take a holy dip in the nearest rivers and during solar eclipses, pilgrims take a holy dip in the holy rivers. It is said that Gods take their holy bath at the Rameshwaram tank every day. There is also a belief that at Kodi Teertham, Sri Krishna got rid of the sin of killing Kamsa, after a dip at Kodi Teertham. Sun resumed his golden glow only after bathing in Chakra Tirtha.

Disclaimer: The information is based on assumptions and information available on the internet and the accuracy or reliability is not guaranteed. Boldsky does not confirm any inputs or information related to the article and our only purpose is to deliver information. Kindly consult the concerned expert before practising or implementing any information and assumption.

Image sources: Wikimedia Commons

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