Updated: Jul 20, 2020
by Minaz Ansari
photo courtesy Anirban Shahoo
Water, one of the five elements of nature, is perhaps the most tantalising and mysterious of them all and the most revered in various cultures for its sacred values. This ‘sacredness’ of water has been underlined in my life repeatedly through various childhood experiences.
Brought up in an environment open to various faiths and their rituals, I came upon the role of water as a sacred element in multiple forms. From the holy water that anointed ones forehead at the doorstep of a church, to the waters of the Abe Zamzam - a sacred medicinal spring in the deserts of Mecca, to the shallow pools that one dipped our feet in before entering a gurudwara and of course the holy mother Godavari around whose ghats meandered the city that I grew up in. The sanctity of water thus echoed repeatedly.
However, many monsoons after, as I think back at all of life's journeys that brought me face to face with water and its various forms and I am compelled to expand on this idea of ‘sacred’ in water. As I reconnect to all the natural water bodies that I have experienced; rivers, lakes, oceans and seas across various geographies, I ponder over the millions of life forms water supports. I think back at the innocence of raindrops as they gather into puddles and fill up lakes and at the youthful babbling of the streams as they gurgle along mountain slopes. I visualise them spurting out of rocks as majestic waterfalls and appearing elsewhere in the form of mysterious hot springs. I close my eyes and relive the strong yet gentle flow of the rivers and the infinite vastness of the oceans and seas.
I marvel at man's intervention at containing this life-giving water into stunning stepped wells and serene ghats, transporting this water across miles through massive aqueducts and containing them in sprawling tanks. I admire the role that women have played in transporting water from distant sources to quench the thirst and fulfill the needs of their families back home and the grace with which they have been doing so for centuries. I delight in the beautiful arts and crafts that are built around water; from exquisite water containers to sculptures and fountains dotting the cities. I cherish the epics and folk lore that celebrate water and connect generations to its stories.
I am amazed at the fact that this life-giving water is available to me and millions of others in our homes at a simple turn of a tap and whisper a prayer of gratitude for every drop that I have consumed so far. I look beyond and realise that 1/3rd of our earth is covered in water, the only planet with water that we have discovered so far. And when I look further within myself, I discover that most of my physical being is made up of water and that this one mystical element, the giver and nurturer of life, connects me to all life forms by an invisible thread.
And in one such ephemeral moment, as I surrender myself to the vastness of the ocean and allow its waters to engulf me, a realisation dawns, that every form and every drop of this precious elixir is sacred beyond measure.
About the Author: Minaz Ansari
Architect and dreamer, teacher and traveller, art and history nerd, book and nature lover, Minaz Ansari designs, teaches, makes short movies and writes (and not necessarily in that order). Minaz is a published author, having written for various newspapers and publications. She has authored a book NESTING IN NATURE - SANJAY PATIL that has sold copies worldwide. A lover of all forms of art, she lives by the mantra "Art is Oxygen"