India has been a wonderland from many perspectives. Starting from people, language to flora, fauna and geography – the diversity is enormous and is very complex. Have we ever wondered how these diversities played out in managing our natural resources? Let’s take the example of forests.
The question which always comes to our mind is – in spite of diversity, how aware were ancient Indians about forests and have they documented the knowledge? Did these forests exist? How were they taking care of natural resources, especially Flora (forests in this context)? Did they even think of managing them? What were the guiding principles? Were they aware of sustainability? Etc.
The answers are well documented and some of the methods used for food produce as well as for purposes of building homes and preserving (keeping sustainability and rejuvenation in mind) are pertinent even today.Ancient Indians were well aware about forests and its importance. The earliest references we find about forests are well documented in Vedas, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Valmiki documents 140 species of plants in Ramayana which are said to be seen by Rama during his 14 years of vanavasa. These have been documented from Chitrakoot, Dandakaranya, Panchvati, Kishkindha, Ashok Vatika and Dronagiri. The astonishing fact is, geographical location and species composition of forests described in Valmiki Ramayana is still more or less same — whether it be finding Saal and Sagaun in Dandkarayana in Central India or Chandan and Raktchandan in Kishkindha region (Bellary in Karnataka) or Seeta, Ashok and Nagkesar in the evergreen forest of Sri Lanka where Ashok Vatika was situated.
Veda Vyasa in Mahabharata documents the creation of the Indraprastha, the capital of Pandavas which was done by burning down the forest around River Yamuna and is known as Khandava Dahana (the burning of Khandava Forest). It’s believed that a curse was given to Pandavas by the inhabitants who got affected during the burning down