Dogras are much conservative about their culture and beliefs,which always emphasise on man’s strong bonding with Nature and to them, living in harmony with Nature is the main objective for living a fuller life.They believe that healthy and pure environment is essential to life on the earth. Our saints, sages and rishis were well aware of this fact since times immemorial. They taught us in many ways the importance of healthy and clean environment and proper interaction between living and non living things for fuller life.That is why our scriptures such as Vedas, Upnishadas, Puranas etc contain many references to worship of Nature.They wrote about Pan Tatvas-Prithvi (earth), vayu (air), jal (water), agni (fire) and akash (sky). These elements are manifestations of divinty and our life systems are based on the harmonious functioning of these elements. Hinduism advises every individual to be kind to all animals and plants as they are the creation of God.The great Hindu sages believed in living in perfect harmony with nature to experience true bliss and peace of mind.They composed various verses emphasising the need for maintaining close contact and live in harmony with nature.For instance, people in Duggar recite the Gaytri Mantra and other Mantras every morning to worship rivers, mountains,trees, animals and the earth.Care of environment is also stressed when we are forbidden by our elders, right from our childhood, to do such acts as throwing away food to the dirty nallahs as food curses the person who throws food to the dirty water.Then, on various occasions such as marriage and mundan ceremonies ,the trees such as Peepal, Bargad, Amla, Tulsi , neem, bel, mango etc have been worshipped since times immemorial in Duggar as a matter of gratitude because our sages knew that life cannot exist without trees.Many trees are associated with Gods and thus considered sacred. For instance,Peepal or Bodhi tree is considered very sacred and it is the most worshipped tree in Hinduism.The roots of this tree are considered Brahma, the trunk, Vishnu and the leaves, Shiva.Cutting down this tree is considered inauspicious and Hindus offer water to their deceased through this sacred tree.Moreover, after one returns from a pilgrimage, a peepal tree is planted by the pilgrims amidst religious rituals and a community feast is arranged to mark the occasion.People circumambulate 108 times around it on eve of holy occasions such as Somvati Masya etc.The Banyan tree symbolises life and fertility and the three Gods-Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are symbolised by it.Mostly, the childless couples worship this tree.Bel is another tree associated with Lord Shiva and its leaves are offered to please Him.Bel leaves, being trifoliate are believed to symbolise preservation, creation and destruction and three eyes of the Lord. Mango tree is another sacred tree whose wood and leaves are used in various rituals of Dogras.String made from mango leaves is hung at the entrance to mark various auuspicious occasions and mango leaves are kept in the pot with coconut during Kalash sthapana at the time of Navratras.Various parts of sacred trees such as banana,Amla, Coconut, Palash, Tulsi, Neem and many other trees, herbs and shrubs are required at the time of the rituals of marriage and funeral. It is believed that trees experience pain and it is therefore considered a sin to cut them.The Earth is considered as the manifestation of goddess and called ‘Dharti Mata’ thereby all are advised to treat it with respect and reverence.Moreover cutting of a tree before sunrise and after sunset is considered highly sinful act in Duggar.Mother Earth is invoked to have kindness on all the human beings.Even at the time of ploughing in the new season, Mother Earth is worshipped and cakes offered to it for granting a good harvest to the peasants. When the process of reaping of a crop such as wheat is completed, some plants are deliberately left after thanking God for a good harvest. Dogras observe the rituals of ‘Jaatar’, ‘Kharke’ and ‘Pattar Puja’ to offer prayers to Deities at their own houses and at the house of their maternal uncles.
Not only plants, some animals and birds too are considered sacred in Duggar and thus,worshipped. For instance, the cow is a sacred animal for the Hindus and is called ‘Gau Mata’.It is believed to be the manifestation of many gods and goddesses and symbolises motherhood, kindness and forbearance.The killing and eating the cow meat is strictly prohibited in Duggar and a cow is often given as donation to a Brahmin after being worshipped on the occasion of some religious and funeral ceremonies. Its milk is considered pure and used for bathing deities and making Panchamrit. Similarly, many animals are believed to be carriers/vahans of various Gods and Goddesses.Tiger is the vahan of Goddess Durga, mouse of Lord Ganesha, Bull of Lord Shiva owl of Maa Luxmi etc.Then the monkey is associated with Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God.The snake too is considered sacred in Duggar by many clans and Lord Shiva is always shown wearing a Nag (Indian Cobra) around His neck as ornament.There is a particular festival called Nagpanchami in which people offer milk to the snake and then worship it.Lord Vishnu is shown to be under the Serpent etc.There are temples dedicated to the Cosmic Serpent Vasuki Naag, especially in the mountainous regions of Jammu Division. Most of the the Bowlies (springs of fresh water) in Duggar have motifs of Nagas or Snakes carved which are worshipped. The crow is offered food when some food is offered to Deities or Shradhs are observed by Dogras. Water is kept and grains are scatterd for the birds and sugar is thrown to the ants as part of everyday life of Dogras.It is considered a sin to kill any live creature including snakes which are worshipped as their family deity by many Dogra families.
In Duggar,mountains too are considered sacred. The Himalayas, the long chain of mountains is considered sacred and many Rishis and ascetics undergo meditation there.Mount Kailash is considered the abode of Lord Shiva and Hindus undertake the arduous pilgrimage to Mount Kailash every year.In fact,mountains are considered as Dev bhumi as various gods and goddesses are believed to have their abode there.The holy shrines of Amarnath, Budha Amarnath and Mata Vaishno Devi ji, Mindhal Mata etc which attract lacs of pilgrims every year,are located in the Himalayan or Sub Himalayan regions.Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva is considered to be the daughter of King Himalaya.
Besides the mountains and trees, rivers and lakes too are revered in Duggar as gods and goddesses.Devika,being the elder sister of Ganga,is considered to be the most sacred river in Duggar and thousands of Dogras visit its banks at various places to take bath to purify themselves and get rid of sins.At some places,Fairs too are organised on its banks on certain occasions.Ganga jal or water from Ganga is put in ritualistic pot and used at the time of various rituals by Dogras.Tawi,which is also known as Surya putri is also worshipped as the Daughter of Sun.Lakes such as Mansar, Surinsar, Kailash Kund etc are considered sacred and pilgrims throng these lakes in large numbers on various occasions. At the Baba Chamliyal Dargah located on the border in Ramgarh sector about 45 Kms from Jammu, devotees irrespective of communities and religion, throng the shrine in large numbers on occasion of a Mela organised here,use local sacred clay (Shakkar) and sacred water (Sharbat) to cure themselves of skin diseases and a truckload of the Shakkar and Sharbat is also delivered to the Pakistani Forces, who offer a chadder at the holy shrine.
In the same manner, various other manifestations of Nature such as rocks, hills, celestial bodies etc too are held sacred by Dogras.Various festivals such as Vatvriksha puja, Chhath puja, Rutt raades, Navratras etc are celebrated in Duggar to owe our gratitude to Nature for ensuring life on the earth.Celestial bodies such as the,moon, the sun, the Jupitor, the Mars and constellations are believed to have a great impact on our life.
Therefore, Nature is worshipped in Duggar to acknowledge her power and the bounties it provides us.In other words conservation and preservation of Nature is an important objective of Dogras.Its obvious analogy is that we should not destroy what we worship.Therefore various festivals are celebrated and rituals observed to remind ourselves of the need to conserve nature and protect natural resources from over exploitation and degradation.Thus, many Dogra festivals and rituals are directly concerned with the conservation of nature.
The writer is serving as Sr.Lecturer (English), Govt HSS, Thial (Udhampur)