Asiatic lionsPhoto © Sanat Shodan

I sat for two hours in the leaf litter and summer dust of Gir in the company of a lioness and her three cubs. Watching her watching us watch her cubs, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace envelope me. Interrupted by nothing but bird calls and the hum and buzz of insects, my lifelong belief that ‘there is no God’ was momentarily forgotten.

Just then, I remembered that in the same forest a huge concrete temple had been built ‘to please God’. This temple had once been beautiful and tiny, but like any commercial organisation, it wanted to grow, and grow… and grow. Soon it was willing to drive lions from its turf… so that its plastic-bag-toting devotees could come closer to god in greater comfort than ever before.

So which God should I trust and follow? The one that created all those bright and beautiful things… those creatures great and small that are programmed to flow with nature’s tide? Or the ‘other’ one… the one that inexplicably granted the power to refashion the world to just one animal – the ape that hunts?

They are two different Gods? Right?

They certainly seem to have two different sets of  rules. One God asks that we obey the Sun, heed the waves, worship the rain, fear the tiger and protect the mountains. The ‘other’ suggests that it is not only acceptable, but necessary to remodel earth’s climate, melt its glaciers, extinguish its forests, kill olive ridley turtles to build ports, deprive the birds of Bharatpur of water and hand over forest lands to millions in a suicidal but populist explosion of political largesse.

So which God should I bow down to? Which one should I worship, deify, revere and love? The one that has created a biosphere so complex that all living things are able to find food and shelter in perpetuity? Or the ‘other one’ that has us so unquestioningly convinced that turning paradise to trash is the master key to development?


 Bittu SahgalBittu Sahgal is the Editor of Sanctuary Asia.



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