‘Now have I praised the Forest Queen, sweet-scented, redolent of balm,
The Mother of all sylvan things, who tills not but hath stores of food.’

Book 10, Rig Veda.


Much like the Greek dryads and nymphs, Indian mythology is replete with nature deities who are either calm, beautiful and peace-loving or mischievous and wild-spirited. Such a beautiful forest goddess is Aranyani, the ethereal beauty of the grasslands and deep jungles. A magnificent lyric-prayer in the Rig Veda is dedicated to this particular goddess who dwells in the forest corners.

She is mysterious, fond of quiet places of repose in meadows and glades, and fearless when travelling through lonely spaces. With anklets tinkling on her divine feet, the goddess can never be seen, but her anklets can be heard from loud and far. The sounds are carried by the wind and forest spirits, and is a reassurance to the lonely traveler who feels forlorn and abandoned by the higher powers. How often we have heard faint melodious sounds rustling in the leaves during patches of peace in the daytime and at midnight in forests.

The worshipper is amazed at the power and strength of this wondrous divinity. Though she tills no land, she can feed everyone. She risks going far away from civilization without feeling scared or alone:

‘How is it that thou seekest not the village? Art thou not afraid?’

The goddess is also naturally skilled at dancing. We can equate the dance of Aranyani with the animation of life that the forest presents us with. The dance of life is an important symbol of creation for Hinduism. Motion shown by the plants and wildlife in forests is an intrinsic part of the joy and vibrance of that dance. Aranyani’s dance sets the whole forest buzzing with life. The sound of her anklets protect and guard the forest beings. The elusive beauty is a symbol of the heart of greenery.

Her worship seems to have declined, but believers find no dearth of assurance that she exists, if only to create merry ripples in the wind and watch the leaves dance.


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Sharad Vats

Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered. Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park. Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here's a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger. Buy now on Amazon