THE FIVE PRIMORDIAL ELEMENTS OF NATURE-“PANCHA MAHA BHOOTA”
Nature(Prakriti) supports and sustains life on this planet. Nature operates through five life giving forces or energies known as Sky, Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire. These five forces existed from the very beginning prior to the arrival of life forms on this planet.
NATURE’S BOUNTY – BLUE SKY
Planet Earth is a very unique and special place in the universe that we know today. Man is privileged to live under the blue sky. In popular opinion, sky is the expanse of heavens that forms an apparent arch over the Earth. The sky provides the background for the clouds, Sun, Moon, and the stars and as such they are generally viewed as a part of the sky. In spirituality, sky symbolizes the infinite universe. The story of creation in the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, verses 6, 7, and 8 describe as to how God had created an expanse above the waters of the Earth and called the expanse “sky”. Sky is viewed poetically as a solid arch or vault and is known as firmament or a strengthening support.
In reality, this apparent enclosing dome known as the sky is caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. The sky is generated by the interaction of light and the gas molecules in the atmosphere. The dome like contour is attributable to Earth’s shape and curvature. Atmosphere( Greek -atmos means vapor) is the gaseous envelope surrounding the Earth. It is 21 % oxygen, 78 % nitrogen, and 1 % other gases. Because of Earth’s gravitational force, the gaseous atmosphere rotates with the earth. The atmosphere exerts a moderating influence upon temperature. In the absence of atmosphere, Earth would experience the extremes of temperature variations and practically life becomes impossible.The air in the atmosphere is in constant motion, with both horizontal and vertical air currents. The natural movement of air, the wind flow is very important for control of climatic conditions. The earth’s atmosphere is the environment for most of its biological activity and it also exerts a considerable influence on the ocean and lake environment. The atmosphere protects Earth’s life forms from harmful radiation and cosmic debris. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere protects Earth from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The moment we exit from Earth’s atmosphere and enter the outer space, we would miss seeing the beautiful blue sky. Moon has very thin atmosphere and a person standing on Moon would not be able to see the blue sky. The atmospheric conditions on Venus, Mars, and Mercury are very different from Earth and hence they can not offer the blue sky. The atmospheric conditions on other celestial bodies is not yet fully studied and very little is known and the right conditions to witness a blue sky may not exist at all in rest of the universe that we know.
WHY SKY IS BLUE IN COLOR ?
The blue color of the clear day time sky results from the selective scattering of light rays by the gas molecules, minute particles of dust and water vapor in the atmosphere. Physicist Lord Rayleigh provided the explanation for the sky color and the phenomenon is called “Rayleigh’s Scattering”. Sun’s light when it enters Earth’s atmosphere, the light rays with longer wavelengths such as the reds and yellow pass through most readily, whereas the shorter wavelengths such as the blues are scattered and are seen by the observer on the ground causing the apparent blue sky. Humans are also capable of color vision and animals that lack this ability of color vision can not appreciate sky’s blue color. The sky appears dark at night time as the level of illumination from Moon and the stars is not adequate to scatter enough blue light. Blue sky is a natural gift to people who inhabit planet Earth.
BLUE IS THE COLOR OF GOD
Blue is the color of the sky and blue is also associated with sea and water. Blue is the color that symbolizes the spiritual. The Egyptian God of heaven, Amon Ra and the Greek God Zeus are associated with blue color. The Nordic God Odin’s cape is blue. Virgin Mary’s cloak is blue and she has been called the Blue Lily. In the Bible, blue signifies celestial love of truth, because blue is the color of the sky and is thought to signify truth from a celestial origin, which is truth from God. Across different cultures on this planet, blue color is related to Heaven and to God. But all of those cultural beliefs outside of India are of only of academic interest as blue color is not currently used by those people to project their present religious/spiritual beliefs.
Indians are fascinated by the blue color of the sky to a far greater extent than anyother people upon this Earth. This fondness of blue color has become a visible feature of Hindu belief. Hindu God Vishnu, the Preserver and His popular reincarnations of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna are represented in Indian visual arts as persons with blue colored skin. Traditionally, in Indian Literature and the scriptures, these Gods are described as black in color and the blackness is described in words such as “GHANA SHYAMA”(of great black color) or “MEGHA VARNA”(the color of very dark rain bearing clouds). Bammera Potana( 1450-1510), a very famous Telugu poet had described these Gods as of black skin color. Visual artists generally tend to depict persons as described in popular literature but they made an exception and had selected the sky blue color as the color of these very popularly worshipped Gods. Blue color became the chosen medium to represent the infinite nature of the Supreme God. Today, most Indians visually identify Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama, and Lord Krishna by their sky blue skin color.
THE BLACK TO BLUE TRANSFORMATION
This transformation of skin color from very black to sky blue may have happened because of the artists desire to produce a more visually appealing picture. It may have started with drawing pictures of Lord Shiva(The Changer of the Hindu Trinity) who is also popularly known as “NILA KANTHA” in Sanskrit and it specifically refers to the color of His throat which changed in its appearance when He swallowed an extremely poisonous substance and held it in His throat and protected mankind. The word “NILA” actually means black but the word also refers to a plant known as ‘NILA’ which provides a blue pigment. As plants are a common source of pigments and dyes, in common usage the word “NILA” is also described the blue color. Lord Shiva is believed to be grey in color for He would always fully cover His body by smearing it with ashes. Lord Shiva is an ascetic who has no materialistic desires. He had literally burnt down all of His desires and had reduced them to ashes and had used the ashes to cover His body to declare His victory over materialisic desires. An artist trying to draw a portrait of Lord Shiva would face a challenge as a black colored throat would not offer a visually pleasing contrast with rest of Shiva’s grey colored body. Hence, I would think that the artists had exercised their freedom to interpret the word “NILA” as blue color rather than as black color. Lord Shiva’s images showing Him with a blue colored throat had become extremely popular with Indian people. This might have given an opportunity to the artists to use the blue color for drawing images of Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama, and Lord Krishna whose skin color is often described in Sanskrit as that of ‘NILA MEGHA’ which means a very dark, black rain bearing cloud. Since the word ‘NILA’ has dual meanings, the artists interpreted it as blue color eventhough there are no blue colored clouds. It did not raise any controversy as in the popular opinion clouds are seen as part of the blue sky. The blue colored images and drawings of Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama and Lord Krishna became immensely popular all across India. However, some artists also portray Lord Krishna as a very dark black colored person. Blue and Black are the natural colors of the Sky and the same word could be used interchangeably to describe the color of the Sky. Black horses and Black Lotus flowers are also described as ‘Nila’ or ‘Neela’.
The blue sky on one hand represents nature’s life supporting energies and on the other hand it defines the Indian Identity and symbolizes their belief in an infinite God.
The Sky is Blue and this visual sensation is the direct evidence that man exists in a world that is created for him.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S. Class of April, 1970.