Mahotsav is an annual tree-planting festival celebrated in the first week of July. In fact it is with a sense of tribute to the founder father – Kulapati Dr. K. M. Munshiji who has been the progenitor of the concept of Vanamahotsava for the Nation, that the tree plantation is carried out like a “Mahotsava”. The event is one more effort of the College to inculcate love of nature particularly in the minds of the students thereby raising generations of sentinels who will care for the nature and our earth.
We in the College are aware of the value of the College campus – which in fact is a green oasis in a concrete jungle that Mumbai city has become. To ensure that the campus remains green and vibrant, every year Vanamahotsava is celebrated, sometimes jointly with other institutions on campus and tree plantation drive is undertaken.
Principal Speaks on
In the middle of the 20th century, we saw our planet from the space for the first time. From space it was seen as a small, fragile ball dominated not by human activity and edifice but by a pattern of clouds, greenery & soils. Humanity’s inability to control its number and to fit its activity into that pattern is changing our planet and the way we live, that too at an alarming and frightening rate.
Let me explain the time dimension.
Considering present moment as 12:00 midnight at the end of a twenty four hour day, if we compress the history of our solar system into a single 24 hour day, earth was formed between midnight and 1 a.m. Earliest life forms appeared at about 7:00 a.m., by 9:00 p.m. the only living things were only bacteria; dinosaurs – (made famous by the film Jurassic Park) ruled the world between 11:15 – 11:40 and were gone by 11:45 p.m. 3 minutes before midnight, at 11:57 p.m. our human ancestors walked out of forests onto grasslands, and started using tools. 1 minute before midnight, modern humans had evolved and less than one second before midnight human beings began living on farms. The industrial revolution and explosion of population started only a few milliseconds before midnight. For most of our evolutionary history, human beings were hunter-gatherers – collecting plants and killing animals for food. Then came agricultural revolution with environmental impact in terms of population growth, destruction of natural habitat and species, soil erosion and food simplification. Industrialization accelerated every kind of human impact on environment. Urbanization and technical revolution have further added to the woes of the planet.
UN Secretary General Koffee Annan, in his millennium report in April 2000, issued a stern warning that far too little concern was being given to the sustainability of our planet. To quote him: “we are plundering our children’s heritage to pay for our present unsustainable practices …..” Habitat destruction and deforestation are amongst the most important irresponsible practices spelling doom for biodiversity and under writing human peril. Nearly three thousand years ago, the Greek poet Homer reported that cutting down trees caused flooding and soil erosion, which destroyed ancient cities. In fact planting & felling trees has been intricately interlinked with human evolution, & civilization. Many plants have changed the course of history. Americas were discovered by Europeans as a byproduct of their search for pepper. A prosperous trade in spices flourished between Europe and Asia.
The discovery of a plant that controlled malaria had even more dramatic and cascading effects on recorded human history. The only effective treatment for malaria was discovered in the 17th century in Peru when the Countess of Cinchon recovered from malaria after drinking tea made from bark of cinchona tree. Its active ingredient quinine is sold today as chloroquine. Tonic water is quinine dissolved in carbonated sweetened water. Gin & tonic was invented, to make the daily dose of bitter quinine, more palatable. This South American tree singularly affected world history because Quinine permitted northern Europeans, to establish vast empires in tropical areas. It also permitted Europeans, to move about 20 million Indians and Chinese, from their homes to tropical areas. Huge new industries were based, on these population movements. Sugar in Indian Ocean and Caribbean, tin and rubber in Malaysia, tea in India & SriLanka were all made possible by quinine. The drug probably permitted, the Allies to win the Second World War in the Pacific.
During that war, 25 million people in the allied armed forces, travelled to areas where malaria was epidemic; areas where many of them, would not have survived without quinine. If one species of tree affected world history in all these ways, I wonder, in destroying unexplored tropical forests, mankind has deprived us of how many products whose value we cannot even imagine.
Apart from the use in medicine, trees play a far far more significant role in ecology. When a tree is felled, it is not just the tree that is destroyed: every other plant or animal that occupies or is associated with it, for however tiny period of time, suffers. Trees spell INTERDEPENDENCE. They fill our lungs with life giving oxygen and take in the CO2 discarded by other organisms to nourish themselves. To reward others, they give wood, fruits, rubber, nectar, gum, food and medicinal substances. They afford protection from sun and rain, help stabilize the ground which we make our home. Trees offer lessons in peaceful co-existence, communion with nature, symbiotic relationship, self-reliance, virtues of charity, giving, growing closely yet individually, standing tall yet bending with their own weight without throwing it around.
In fact civilization and oriental cultural values and practices, are woven around trees. It was Bo tree under whose shade Gautam attained enlightenment and became known as Buddha. Genesis makes mention of the tree of knowledge planted by God along with tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Ancient Indian and religious texts extol forests and trees as life-enhancers. Vedic wisdom expounded on the need for conservation of natural gifts. Green living was a way of acknowledging the divine nature of forests and trees. Ancient Indians considered it important to respect the interconnected nature of life.
The history of India and particularly traditions of Maharashtra, have been dominated by influence of the saints.In the days goneby, for many women, the day used to begin by wateringand worshiping Tulsi plant. Every house front had one. Probably even today many women start their day like this. A banyan tree, anywhere, is a favourite for many to gather around and enjoy each other’s company, share each other’s joys and sorrows.
Our huge campus has a huge banyan tree, not to mention the sylvan oaks and other green friends on the campus. These friends were invited and protected on the campus by none other than the founder President of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kulapati Dr. K. M. Munshiji. Munshiji had a keen concern for environmental quality and the role of common man in preserving the same. In Munshiji’s own words I quote: “Our great task is to teach the man who plants a tree to adopt it as a child and rear it as such; this has to be a part of the national education Vanamahotsava alone will inculcate this habit in the nation. The value of such national movement lies not in what is achieved in a single year, but in its cumulative effect over a series of years. It is forest-mindedness which maters in the long run, not the number of trees already planted.” Unquote. The tree planting movement in India originated in July, 1947 after a successful tree planting drive was undertaken in Delhi, in which national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad & Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad participated. The week was simultaneously celebrated in many states.
The concept of this great festival for the nature lovers was first initiated by Kulapati Munshiji. Unique indeed is a sense of a visionary like Munshiji who perceived the simple act of planting tree as a “celebration” – A Mahotsava. Again to express the idea in Munshiji’s own words: “ It was to arouse mass consciousness regarding the signifi cance of trees and to revive the adoration for these silent sentinels mounting guard on Mother Earth that I thought of Vanamahotsava”. It is due to the vision and wisdom of this great leader that our campus is one of the greenest of any College campuses in this city of Mumbai, a city which is fast turning into an area crowded by billions of men and mansions. This has happened just in a matter of few years. The trees that have been felled irresponsibly for and by mankind…….MANKIND – Kind? If we want to be kind to ourselves, we need to save our environment.
Conservation is a state of harmony between man and land. The purpose of conservation is the greatest good to the greatest numbers of people for the longest time. If there is one lesson to be drawn from the history of environmentalism, it is that governments act to protect environment only when economic interests are directly threatened. Environment takes no account of national boundaries. Whether we like it or not, the environmental practices of people in any country can affect the chances of a sustainable world for us and our children. Ecological work is not one person’s work. It is everybody’s work because all of us breathe, all of us eat and every one of us takes something from the plants and the planet.
Planting trees is not the sole objective of Vanamahotsava. Awareness has to spread; for without people’s participation and support, trees cannot survive. We need to look at trees not as a product to be exploited but as a life form you live with. Trees are our close relatives. I would like to quote Mahatma Gandhiji “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffi ce to solve most of the world’s problems”. Because humans cannot survive except in social groups, one can make almost any change in society if you can convince enough people that it is the right thing to do. Although none of us alone can save the world, individual actions rapidly add up to the progress that can make a difference.
The vision of Munshiji itself is a sapling which needs nurturing. Dr. M. L. Shrikant, a dynamic visionary himself has re-initiated the festival, not as an activity to be taken up by an individual, but as a campus movement. Munshiji’s vision is our mission. Vanamahotsav is to inspire us to commit ourselves. I am sure months and years down the river of time, students and staff of the campus in particular and populace of Mumbai in general would benefi t by our commitment to plant and nurture the trees. Let us “Green” our thoughts, let us lead a green life style and help repair the environment – the only environment that we have. We need to inculcate new ethic of global stewardship. Stewards are those who care for something from natural world or from human culture – something that does not belong to them, something that is not theirs, and something that they’ll pass on to the next generation. Munshiji’s vision, rekindled by Dr. Shrikanji is our mission.