Veda is never “proven” via chemistry or physics, but scripture and science are so far apart in the popular mind, it dazzles people when a researcher objectively demonstrates a spiritual concept. Yet our science against Veda is only the echo of a strong, true word. We hear the weak and dying sound, and begin to remember, like briefly stirring from a dream. This is why I look to Veda, and let slip away the school-learning that used to shape my thoughts.
Still, once in a while some piece of knowledge surfaces, and when I caught the faint fragrance of wet earth in the afternoon, it pulled a memory. The inimitable aroma that seeps up from dry ground at the rain. Mitti is the attar of this divine scent in India. The unusually poetic technical term is petrichor, stone ichor, nectar of earth.
In drought, plants secrete oils to slow growth, self-preservation as oils that soak into the soil. At the first touch of moisture, the volatile oils are released, reborn as a sort of territorial signal; they essentially clear a no-sprout zone, keeping other plants from invading the newly-enlivened earth. Beauty in the struggle for survival, like birdsongs reverberating from nests and branches. As if the growing things whisper, Not here, elsewhere while they soak up the precious drops. Petrichor as fast and feast, and war.
No laboratory can duplicate these astonishing connections. And science cannot recreate the wonder. And nothing “rain” scented ever smells right. But the intertwining of water and earth in Veda is always magical. I search, and read; the praise is of Soma, but the scent of rain seems twined in the words: We solicit from you, O Divine Waters, that pure, faultless, rain-shedding, sweet essence of the earth…
The rain, with its dark clouds and dazzling flashes, bathes the entire earth with its splendour.
I was thinking of this today while I walked, and found it vaguely interesting to remember war and rain together in the personality of Indra, and to consider the strange poetry in the earth warming with fragrance at the rain, like a delicate shiver of delight tinged with fear.
I lay my heart before the lord praised as Ambudeśvara, yet almost never can bring myself to ask for his most obvious gift. How could I begin to comprehend even a small part of the swirling, rushing, enmeshing embraces of winds and waters and warmth on this earth, much less ask for them, as if I perfectly understood the effects of that request? When even a single hint of scent in the rain brings such astonishment to this foolish mind?
I feel that whoever interpreted this verse (quoted as originating in Ṛgveda I.6?) has either a different copy of the text than I do, or has more poetry within them than I have read in other translations. But it is beautiful, and suits my thoughts today.
“Nature’s beauty is an art of God.
Let us feel the touch of God’s invisible hands in everything beautiful.
By the first touch of His hand rivers throb and ripple.
When He smiles the sun shines, the moon glimmers, the stars twinkle, the flowers bloom.
By the first rays of the rising sun, the universe is stirred;
the shining gold is sprinkled on the smiling buds of rose;
the fragrant air is filled with sweet melodies of singing birds.”
(Updated 27 October 2012, to add an interesting article about petrichor that may be found here.)
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