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“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” – M.K. Gandhi

Patanjali (184- 148 BC) in his ‘Yoga sutra’ describes both inner and outer cleanliness ‘the Yama’ as the first limb of his eight-limbed Yogic practice. So when Gandhi the father of the Indian nation had given this famous quote. It was drawn from the depths of a civilization that has always accorded the highest priority to cleanliness. Yoga is one of the unique exports of the Indian civilization. Yoga is often misunderstood in the west only as a set of Asanas (poses). Various practices of Yoga intend to cleanse the inner organs of the body and mind. If practiced well Yoga frees the mind of thoughts and an individual moves from thought to thoughtlessness and merges them with the infinite reality.

The Sages from ancient India called Rishis and Munis, the founders of more than 6000 years old Indian civilization had always realized that all living entities are inter-connected. It is thus important to keep the environment clean and not just oneself clean. Thus they came up with the sewage systems and the world’s earliest known pour-flush toilets to keep their cities and environment clean. Evidence of such sewage systems and pour-flush toilets is found in the excavations of Mohenjodaro-Harappa [1]. Apart from toilets there used to be community public baths [2], to ensure the wellness and hygiene of all as a society. Several such baths are found in the excavations of Mohenjodaro-Harappa (see images).

Wet toilet of Harappan Settlements, India, 2500 BCE [1]

Wet toilet of Harappan Settlements, India, 2500 BCE [1]

Great common bath at the Mohenjodaro Harappa excavation site [2]

Great common bath at the Mohenjodaro Harappa excavation site [2]

Sophisticated Water Reservoir at Dholavira , Mohenjodaro-Harappan [2]

Sophisticated Water Reservoir at Dholavira , Mohenjodaro-Harappan [2]


But Indian civilization had gone much beyond just keeping the self and the environment clean. It strived hard for a clean society. A society where there are no crimes against the innocent. A society free of social, gender and racial bias. A society where every living being is treated with respect and where peace and justice reins supreme. Thus they came up with three fundamental Yogas, Karma Yoga (determined by actions in life), Gyana Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge ) and Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion). All different forms of Yogas together were a complete package to keep the self, the environment and the society clean, so that we can all practice simple living and high thinking, free from greed and selfish egos. Put into practice it heralded an age where science and technology flourished without causing serious environmental damage as we see today.

The Indian society in the last 1400 years have gone though tremendous tests. It had been subjected to invasions and colonization often putting entire population into jeopardy.  Lot of ancient knowledge was lost as a consequence. Since attaining independence in 1947, the nation has made great strives; yet it failed to make cleanliness a movement. The new government in power has come up with a movement called “Swachh Bharat” where government initiatives have been interwoven with corporate social responsibilities, individual and societal awareness drive. 4 million toilets have already been built and 100 million is scheduled to be built in the next 5 years. The leader of the new government in power, Narendra Modi is himself a regular practitioner of all forms of Yoga. With 175 nations approving the UN resolution, to have an “International Yoga Day” a movement to have an ecologically friendly, clean and peaceful earth is taking wings from India.

In the words of the ancient Sanskrit text, this movement promises:

Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah

Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |

Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu

Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |

Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Om, May All become Happy,

May All be Free from Illness.

May All See what is Auspicious,

May no one Suffer.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace.




-Contributed by Souptik Mukherjee

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