Once I saw a man standing near an anthill, his eyes closed and hands folded. Over with his silent prayer, he started offering rice, milk and sugar at openings of mini tunnels in the earthen, mound like nest of white ants.
This took me back to a scene in Nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clezio's novel, Onitsha, set in Nigeria, wherein he portrays a black native boy admonishing his white playmate for demolishing in a fit of rage a termite fort. "We never break them, they are gods," he says remorsefully.
Nagapanchami (July 26 last) is the day when conservative Hindus worship snakes as gods and feed them milk. Khushwant Singh's short story, The Mark of Vishnu, is critical of such superstitious practices, but Romulus Whitaker, internationally acclaimed expert on King Cobra who helped create a snake park in the jungles of Agumbe in Karnataka, has only words of praise for local forest dwellers who never do any harm to these reptiles.
A recent news report spoke of fishermen of Karwar releasing back into the sea the dolphins that get trapped into their nets accidentally. A marine biologist said though fishing nets get damaged, local fishermen never kill dolphins as they are considered sea gods.
It might appear strange to a rational mind to elevate termites, snakes and fish to the level of gods, but it is a fact people across cultures find ways to live in harmony with nature and its creatures. Such acts are unique ways of communing with God and a desire for peaceful coexistence.