Sudipto Basak, HPCL

Amongst the umbrella heads rising from the log of wood, one could see fine translucent green shoots coming out. Soon, green shoots with little green leaves were seen sprouting from all parts of the log overshadowing the fungal growth. In a few weeks, they were everywhere. Rising tall, they formed the dominant layer in this newfound and unlikely habitat – a dead forgotten tree.

Struck down by the fury of a storm, the piece of log was once part of a magnificent tree of ever so green HP Nagar east, the company housing colony. In its heydays, the tree rose to handsome height. Its branches spread far and wide, almost touching its compatriots rising from the other side of the road. Many storms had gone past and many furious seasons of monsoon had spewed their fury onto the tree, but it withstood them all with stoic resilience.

Change, however, is the only constant of Nature. The old must give in to the new, the dead must give in to the living. 2020 and 2021 had been those kinds of years, which have taken living beings across the world by storm. . After fighting many monsoons, the tree finally gave in to the tempestuous monsoon of 2020 and the dead log of wood lying near the side of the road is all that is left of it. But as nature has its ways, it now bears a micro-ecosystem full of thriving fauna and flora.

The lesson that this piece of log, lying by the side of the road teaches us is Resurrection. After every end, there is a new beginning. We have romanticized this notion not today, but for thousands of years now.

Demeter and Persephone

Classical mythology incorporates this observation into the belief system of the ancient Greeks. In the Greek world, they noticed the changing of seasons and set out to explain what was happening in terms of the experiences of the Gods.

The Greeks would observe that plants would undergo a cycle of living and dying each year. In the spring and summer, the plants would be vibrant, colourful, and lush. In the winter, all the vibrancy would fade away, leaving only remnants of branches, twigs, and trunks devoid of any plant life.

The Greeks surmised that their deities were undergoing some experience. They developed the myth of Demeter and Persephone. According to the story, Demeter was the goddess of plant life and the harvest. Along with her daughter, Persephone, her job was to ensure the evergreen presence of all plants on earth.

Hades, the god of the Underworld, fell in love with beautiful Persephone when he saw her picking flowers one day in a meadow. The God then carried her off in his chariot to live with him in the dark Underworld.

Due to Persephone’s abduction by Hades, Demeter went into mourning and refused to let plant life thrive. Soon Zeus and the other deities intervened and struck a bargain. Hades would get Persephone for a particular period each year and Demeter would get her for the rest of the year.

Every time Persephone went to Hades, Demeter mourned bringing winter. When Persephone returned, she would rejoice and bring fruitful seasons for the plants.

What this myth tells us is that humans, in their own understanding, we’re able to take the observable realities of general revelation and conclude a cycle of death and resurrection. Things die in one season, and resurrect, in the next season.

This realization developed across cultures. Even the Egyptians had a resurrection deity in Isis and Osiris. Similar conclusions were made by different groups of people based on what they observed in nature.

The Legend of Phoenix

The Egyptian folklore of the legend of phoenix also dwells upon the same concept. In ancient Egypt and in Classical antiquity, Phoenix is a fabulous bird associated with the worship of the sun.

The Egyptian Phoenix was said to be as large as an eagle, with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry. Only one phoenix existed at any time, and it was very long-lived—no ancient authority gave it a life span of less than 500 years. As its end approached, the phoenix fashioned a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, set it on fire, and was consumed in the flames. From the pyre miraculously sprang a new phoenix, which, after embalming its father’s ashes in an egg of myrrh, flew with the ashes to Heliopolis (“City of the Sun”) in Egypt, where it deposited them on the altar in the temple of the Egyptian god of the sun, Re.

The two dominant cultures of their times, The Greek and the Egyptians believed in the concept of resurrection and it formed part of their cultures. The idea did not die with them but got ingrained in a different form in varied cultures across the world.

Resurrection in Religion

The resurrection of Jesus is, without a doubt, one of the most prolific ideas that exists around the world and has influenced billions of people. It forms the core of the Bible and its teachings. Christian theological debate ensues with regard to what kind of resurrection is factual – either a spiritual resurrection with a spirit body into Heaven or a material resurrection with a restored human body.

Islamic eschatology is the aspect of Islamic theology incorporating the afterlife and the end of the world. Qur’an lays special emphasis on the inevitability of resurrection, the final judgment, and the eternal division of the righteous and the wicked, which take place on the Day of Resurrection or Day of Judgement.  In Islamic eschatology, the Day of Judgement is characterized by the annihilation of all life, which will then be followed by the resurrection and judgment by God. Multiple verses in the Qur’an mention the Last Judgment.

Hinduism also has references of resurrection on two accounts. The cycle of life and death and the existence of the eternal soul is one of the accounts. It suggests that the body perishes but the unperishable soul goes from one body to another giving rise to new life. The re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Matsya Avatar to save Manu and his wife along with selected species from the flood that destroyed the world is another reference of resurrection in Hinduism.

This all points to one phenomenal fact. From the beginning, the concept of resurrection is there in our ecosystem. Planetary rotations, lunar tides, shifting seasons – they all play a part in the life cycle on earth. From the bush fires of Australia, flash floods in Indonesia, volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, Cyclone Aampahan and Taukate in India – Bangladesh, Assam floods, Locust Swarms in India- Pakistan to the dreaded Covid-19 Pandemic, the years 2020 and 2021 have caused death and destruction across the world in quantum unseen before. In these years of widespread death and destruction, the belief that we will be back to normalcy and rise from this melancholy is what will drive us to work. How the world bounced back after World War II, we should believe that it will bounce back again, resurrect again.

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