‘Apas’ is water. Water perhaps is one substance for which many names exist viz. jalam, ambu, toyam, teertham, udakam, and more. ‘Pancha Bhutas’ are deemed to be essential for life. The Akasha (space), Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Apas (water), and Bhumi (land) support life on earth. Though each of these is important, water supports life more than any. Historically, it was observed that many civilisations existed along the banks of perennial rivers. Life converged and grew along the banks and in the proximity of rivers, Nile to Volga to Ganga. The storage through tanks and groundwater exploration for exploitation started much later and hence the heavy dependence on rivers for the initial civilisation’s survival.
We know that life is continuous. The execution of the ‘coming back’ call is said to happen through very water. The ‘prana’ enters the rainwater, goes into the earth, the grains carry the spirit of life, and it enters the human. All this happens through the water as the ‘carrier’. The life of the unborn baby survives on water. The born baby subsequently is dependent on water for different activities. Water supports.
Water is a great cleanser. Showering the irritations off is an experience for all. However, beyond some level, the water too needs to be put through the cleansing process. The familiar ‘water cycle’ is such a natural purification process. Both purifications of physical impurities and energies contained in the water happen here. The fire element in the Sun/Surya causes the evaporation and formation of clouds aided by the Earth/Bhumi element, and the forests on Earth/Bhumi attract the rains. The cleansed water is again on Earth for life’s sustenance.
We know that most of the human body and planet Earth comprise water. Also, most of the air around comprises water in the form of humidity. Human life begins with water and when the end comes, it is water with which the final sending-off happens; through tilodaka (tila+udaka), meaning sesame and water. The traditional wisdom tells us that life enters through water and leaves through the water. We know that in between, it survives with water. Hence, is the importance of water for life and the need for conserving and using responsibly ‘apas’, as it is our ‘jeevanadharam’.
(Dr. S. Ainavolu is a professor at VPSM, Navi Mumbai. Views are personal. Find more articles at: https://www.ainavolu.in/blog)